Fantastic Argoman (1967)M

Half a capeTentTentHalf a tent

This is also known as The Incredible Paris Incident.

The evil character we meet in the opening minutes of this film is certainly menacing enough. He has mind control powers, and no compunction about using them. The first thing we see him do is escape from military capture by mentally forcing an entire platoon of soldiers to murder each other. The next thing he does is march into the sanctum of the dubious characters who hired him to do the job where he got captured, and pick out a priceless little artifact that one of them has, and declare that he owns it now. The third thing he does is mentally manhandle a woman so’s he can get her in the sack. (This being the swinging sixties, the aforementioned sack is literally swinging — it hangs from the ceiling by ropes.) Clearly, this character is both dangerous and ruthless, highly powerful and utterly unethical, and would make a worthy foe for any costumed crusader who needs a tough supervillain to battle.

But wait — there’s just one little problem... in this movie, the character we just watched doing things that would scare the bejebus out of any decent citizen if they happened in real life, is our hero.

What the fuck!? We’re supposed to root for this guy? I’ve heard of antiheroes, but this guy makes Diabolik look like a role-model of sober upstanding propriety.

This is superficially a British movie, with the action taking place in England and France, but actually it’s Italian. And it’s as cheap and crazy as Italian movies can be. Only in an imaginary swinging London seen through Italian sunglasses could a character like this be the hero of an adventure story.

Fortunately, the other thing that’s Italian about it is the laughable cheapness that pervades the production. They can’t even make the super-costume look halfway decent... it’s so rumpled it makes our muscly hero look like a disheveled super-wino. And if something as well-understood as a costume is that poorly done, you can imagine what happens when you fill a room with super science equipment. On that level, at least, the movie is quite entertaining.

Given the cheapness and Italianness, it might perhaps seem natural to compare this movie to Supersonic Man, but that doesn’t begin to have the weirdness of this exercise. What I found myself constantly thinking of as a referent was, of all things, Ray Dennis Steckler’s Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. It is said that the reason that film ended the way it did was because Steckler couldn’t pass up a free gorilla. I think the guys who made Argoman were of like kind, and probably would not have been able to turn one down either.