Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Italian Superhero Roll Call: Goldface

Goldface, the Fantastic Superman (1967). Dir. by Bitto Albertini. Along with 3 Dev Adam, Goldface, the Fantastic Superman is a perfect example of the international influence of the Santo films. Something of a Spaghetti Lucha, if you will. Robert Anthony portrays the crime fighting masked wrestler Goldface. Of course, because this is 1967 -- and the influence of the Batman TV series cannot be escaped -- Goldface is also provided with a secret identity, a departure from standard lucha movie procedure that tells me such conventions were too weird even for the Italians. That alter ego, Dr. Villar, is a horndog scientist with a bevy of giggling, nubile lab assistants. (We know that he's a scientist because, at one point, he looks up from a microscope and spews some nonsense about the "sex organs" of a certain "species" of "microbes". We know that he's a horndog because anything any of his young female assistants says provides an opportunity for him to toss off some kind of witty double entendre, usually something on the level of "Yeah, in my pants!")
Goldface is the type of movie whose vision of the Swinging Sixties leaves no doubt as to precisely what it was that was swinging, buttressed by the kind of jazz pop chorale soundtrack -- all folks going "bwap-wa-waa" and "dooba-dibba-dip" -- that screams out "I'm a cheerfully sexist Italian movie from the 60s, dammit!". On the other hand, vintage can neither excuse nor prepare one for the appearance of Goldface's faithful sidekick, Gotar, a large, bare-chested black man who wears a crocodile tooth necklace, spouts gibberish while making moon eyes, and calls Goldface "Bwana". This character is just one of Goldface's many instances of intentional camp, but the movie lacks any of the sophistication that might suggest we should give it any more weight than any of the other kitschy anachronisms that are glibly trotted out for our amusement. So shame on your racist gold face, Goldface!
Goldface's foe here is a fellow called The Cobra, who runs an outfit called Cobra, which is involved in something called Operation Cobra. As you might imagine, The Cobra is prone to making super villain speeches that are extremely repetitive -- so much so that, after a point, every time he started talking, all I could hear was "cobra cobra cobra cobra cobra" -- but he does have one great line, in a scene where he executes one of his minions, saying, "You are guilty of being and acting incredibly stupid". The Cobra also wears a cloak with a wraparound collar that covers his face up to his eyes, which gives him an appearance reminiscent of Mort from the old Bazooka Joe comics.
Despite an obviously tiny budget, Goldface does an admirable job of keeping things moving along, giving us a variety of vehicle chases and a lot of fist fights in addition to the requisite two wrestling matches (one of which, following a grand lucha movie tradition, involves an evil Goldface impostor). The film even manages an acceptable pass at the old 007-style "climactic siege upon the villain's compound", employing some tricky editing that disguises the fact that there were only about eight people involved.
At the film's close, there's a wrestling match where Goldface's aggressive love interest jumps into the ring to challenge him -- and, after she pins him, we learn she meant "with tongues". Those crazy Italians!

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