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Superargo
(a.k.a. Superargo And The Faceless Giants)

(1968)

Director: Paolo Bianchini 
Cast:
Ken Wood, Guy Madison, Luisa Baratto


As a movie critic, I know what it's like to have big disagreements with other people, not just with other movie critics. There are thousands of things that people disagree about. But one thing I am pretty sure the majority of people think is that there is a lot of crime in this world of ours. It ranges from petty stuff like shoplifting or littering to drug trafficking and murder. You have to wonder what this world would be like if there were no police of any kind patrolling our streets. I am personally thankful not only that there is some kind of police just about everywhere,but those boys in blue are fighting against what often seems to be terrible odds. When I wrote my review of Busting, I discussed the often horrible and taxing conditions many policemen find on the job. You have cops finding that they often can't just act on a suspicion, but have to find absolute one hundred percent proof in order to get a conviction. With criminals that happen to have deep pockets and can afford the best attorneys, policemen not only have to have that one hundred percent proof, but that this proof has to be processed and presented in just the right way so that the case against the criminal is not dismissed on a technicality. Such frustrations as these can often push policemen to bend the rules, to do activities that are forbidden by the law so that they can lock up criminals. There have been times when policemen have gone even further, and broken the law in order to get a criminal. And there have been plenty of times when citizens, frustrated by the law process, have taken the law into their own hands. In other words, these people went vigilante.

The idea of someone becoming a vigilante has sparked the imagination of many people creating fiction over the years. It's pretty easy to see why. I think that just about everyone has some frustration with "the system" at one point or another. Imagine doing something that would immediately get rid of some kind of criminal problem, big or small, that affects your life. Wouldn't that be great? But almost immediately after your typical person thinks about taking the law into his own hands, they see a number of problems that might possibly come up. Some criminal sources are far too big for the typical person to handle. Even for criminal sources that are much smaller, there is still the chance something might go wrong when executing your vigilante plans. Even if you successfully execute your vigilante plan, there is always the chance the police will track you down and arrest you. It should come as no surprise, for example, that many of those vigilante fiction writers come up with vigilante heroes that not only practice a brand of vigilantism that works for them every time that they practice it, but for one reason or another they stay untouchable from the authorities. The most obvious example of such a vigilante is Superman. With abilities like super-strength, the gift of flight, and heat vision, he can really do it all. If he lived in our world, nobody would be able to touch him. We would be really screwed if he got angry at mankind and decided to do something about it. Or maybe not - I found out that that krypton gas is in our atmosphere, so he would be screwed if he existed in the real world.

Then there is Batman. At first he too might seem he's got it made. He's fabulously wealthy, so he can acquire anything he wants. He's an expert at martial arts and deducing. But if he were in the real world, he would be screwed as well. Maybe the cops couldn't (or wouldn't) track Superargohim down, but the C.I.A. could and would, thanks to all their equipment such as tracking satellites. So shortly afterwards Bruce Wayne might get into an "accident", or else be blackmailed to work for the government to handle what they think is most important. "Colorful" vigilantes like Superman and Batman may be hard for me to imagine really happening, but there have been plenty of times when I've found their fictional adventures fun. That's one reason why I picked up the European superhero movie Superargo. Another reason why I picked it up was that the description of it sounded so goofy and absurd that I would appreciate it on another level that the filmmakers didn't intend. Don't deny that you share how I felt by the following plot description: Athletes all over the world are being kidnapped by so-called "faceless giants", which are best described as medieval helmet-wearing normal sized people with white stockings over their faces, though we see enough of their faces to see features like the fact that they have their eyes closed most of the time even when walking around. The police are stumped, so after a little discussion they decide to enlist the services of one Superargo (Wood, Crime Busters), a former champion wrestler who wears his old wrestling costume - a black party mask and a red stocking that covers almost all of his body - even when he's not in the field. With the assistance of his sidekick and mystic teacher Kamir (Aldo Sambrell, Navajo Joe), who has taught him tricks like reading minds and how to levitate oneself, Superargo is determined to track down whoever is behind the "giants" and the kidnappings.

That is a pretty goofy premise, I think you will agree, though when you consider such plot points as the psychic powers, I think it's safe to say that screenwriter Julio Buchs (who also wrote the grim spaghetti western A Bullet For Sandoval) wasn't taking things that seriously when he wrote this screenplay. He even admits the ridiculousness of the setup early in the movie, when one character states, "I can't really put very much confidence in an agent who calls himself Superargo and wears a mask and has that strange costume." Indeed, Superargo turns out to be even a more fantastic person than what I have already described. Later in the movie, it turns out that not only does he have strength several times the strength of an ordinary man, he can also leap several stories high (and subsequently jump down from the same height without any effort as well.) The question arises as to just how someone from the wrestling circuit managed to get all of these superpowers, a question that is never answered at any time during the movie. Possibly this was explained in the first Superargo movie (Superargo Versus Diabolicus) Anyway, I was left in the dark. That's not the only problem I had with the Superargo character. One thing that bothered me several times in the movie was his sometimes smug and overconfident attitude. When he returns to the wrestling circuit temporarily to fight someone, he casually says seconds before the fight begins, "This will only take a couple of minutes!" Later, when he successfully executes another plan, he brags, "Our plan has worked perfectly!" Superargo is such a perfect hero, always one step ahead of everyone else that my feelings towards him kept wavering back and forth from annoyance to boredom. If a protagonist never seems to break a sweat, it's hard for the audience to get involved in his plight.

As for the rest of the characters in the movie, it seems that an equal amount of thought - or rather, lack of thought - went into their construction. Kamir could have been an interesting character, being a teacher and mentor to Superargo despite being given the position of sidekick. But as the movie goes on, it becomes clear that he is not really needed. With just a minimum amount of rewriting, Kamir could have been eliminated entirely, since it seems that Superargo comes up with all the plans and gadgets. There are also two female characters in the movie, one a sidekick to the villain and the other working for Superargo, that are also lacking depth. The female villain doesn't get that much screentime, but at least has a lot more than the woman playing Superargo's ally, who gets kidnapped early on in the movie and stays missing until near the end, where in the final scene she reveals romantic feelings to this masked superhero that she could not possibly know much about. Probably the most disappointing character in the movie is the villain. We learn next to nothing about him - I may be wrong, but I don't think his name is ever spoken once during the course of the movie. He is kidnapping all these athletes, but as for the ultimate purpose for kidnapping all these athletes, well, that question is never answered. Much more colorful and interesting than the villain are all these "faceless giants" that he has constructed. Although it is eventually established that they are high tech robots, it is odd that their creator has equipped them not with high tech weapons, but with medieval spiked metal balls chained to sticks. It's also odd that despite having these weapons, these robots never once use them during the course of the movie.

There are a lot more interesting things about these robot faceless giants. Although it is shown that these robots can shrug off getting blasted by a machine gun, not even showing any holes in their clothing, when Superargo later attacks one with a spear, not only does the spear penetrate, this wound to the robot's shoulder stops the robot from functioning. Clearly, not a lot of deep thought went into writing Superargo, though you probably guessed that early on when I gave you that plot description. You might be wondering now if Superargo has a lot of unintended laughs and/or camp charm to make it worth watching. Well, there were definitely a number of moments that I found amusing, even if I didn't actually laugh out loud once. For example, I did smile at the movie's great efforts to pass the events of the movie taking place in the United States (no doubt an attempt to court American distribution), despite all the vehicles and buildings shown to be unmistakably European. But in the end, I didn't think that the movie's goofy nature was goofy enough for my tastes. Although there is amusement spread out throughout, the movie's tone is often so serious and solemn that it was hard sometimes to be that enthusiastic by what I was seeing, not helped by the fact that at the same time the movie's characters weren't also interesting me. If the actors and the filmmakers had shown more enthusiasm for the material, I think I would have caught their spirit and enjoyed the movie a lot more than I did. But at the same time, I do think that there are some people who would enjoy this movie. I feel that viewers who are (1) fans of those Mexican movies with masked superhero wrestlers (which Superargo greatly resembles at times), (2) are really deep into Eurocult movies of this nature such as Danger: Diabolik, and (3) are in a silly mood just before watching the movie would really enjoy Superargo. I didn't fit any of those categories when I watched the movie, so take all those facts into consideration before you decide whether to watch the movie or not.

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See also: Crime Busters, King Kong Escapes, Star Kid

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