After not having seen it since a vaguely recalled viewing on Channel 5 while I was still in the single digits, I finally tracked down SUPERARGO VERSUS DIABOLICUS in a widescreen VHS edition thanks to eBay. As you may recall from a previous CINEMA SHITHOUSE posting, its sequel, SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS, is a film so wretched and dull that I still get shit about it from my mother some thirty-seven years after she took me to see it, and I was intrigued to see if the film that spawned such an abomination could have any redeeming merit whatsoever.
SUPERARGO VERSUS DIABOLICUS is yet another of the legion of campy Italian/Spanish 007 and Batman knockoffs made between 1966-1969, this time drawing considerable inspiration from Mexican wrestling flicks of the time (such as WRESTLING WOMEN VERSUS THE AZTEC MUMMY, or EL SANTO VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN), but with a lot more technical savvy behind the camera (namely the film has such frills as editing, lighting, and a frame that moves). The film looks great and moves with a brisk pace (for a while, anyway), employs a score that is equal parts Morricone and Barry, plus the hero is a masked man of mystery, so what’s not to like?
The movie opens with Superargo (Ken Wood, nee Giovanni Cianfriglia) accidentally killing a friendly opponent in the ring and swearing off his wrestling career forever, but his self-enforced retirement from the world of adventure is cut short when he’s recruited by the government as a spy to take on the evil plans of Diabolicus (Gerard Tichy), a mad scientist bent on — what else? — world domination via uranium theft and turning sea water into gold (?). There are a bunch of fights with thugs, lots of pretty-though-G-rated ladies, super-powers without much by way of explanation, and all manner of mayhem common to this kind of thing, but try as I might I can’t make it through to the end of the film. I have tried four times to get to the end, but about three-quarters of the way through the flick, right about when Superargo ends up in the clutches of Diabolicus, the film hits a wall of sheer boredom brought on by an interminable sequence of Superargo swimming the undersea entrance to the bad guy’s lair. As anyone who’s ever seen the actual James Bond film THUNDERBALL (1965) can tell you, nothing brings the action to a screeching halt like stuff shot underwater, an environment that slows down the movements of life forms not designed to be there, such as a goofy-looking Italian wrestler in a red leotard and black leather mask.
SUPERARGO VERSUS DIABOLICUS is worth a look for the curious and those in need of a surefire cure for insomnia. I’m sure my collection could have gone without its inclusion, but I had to measure it against its followup. If I actually make it all the way through it I’ll let you know.