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  3 Fantastic Supermen, The Tremendous Trio
Year: 1967
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Stars: Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Aldo Canti, Carlo Tamberlani, Rossella Bergamonti, Bettina Busch, Jochen Brockmann, Guiseppe Mattei, Valentino Macchi, Sergio Mioni, Enzo Maggio, Salvatore Borghese, Jeff Cameron, Gloria Paul, Jelena Zigon, Sabine Sun
Genre: Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: FBI agent Brad McCallum (Brad Harris) has laid a trap for two tricky customers, a pair of seemingly invincible thieves who have been helping themselves to the local banks and valuables. He tracks them to their castle lair and sets his men on them, seeing to it that the duo are outnumbered, but it does not make the slightest difference, the criminals Tony (Tony Kendall) and Nick (Aldo Canti) outsmart them at every turn. They jump higher than the agents can reach, Nick can knock them over with his metal yo-yo, and they have suction on their boots which enable them to walk up walls and onto ceilings, not to mention their outfits are bulletproof. But this has actually been a test, for Brad wishes to hire them...

This was the film that kicked off the long-running and even globetrotting Fantastic Supermen franchise from Italy, an amalgam of the James Bond series and the Adam West Batman adventures, meaning the characters acted like spies but got into fistfights with bad guys and battled outlandish villains. The initial entry was fairly basic stuff even for yet another Italian spy flick, but it struck a chord across the world and proved to be a highly lucrative venture, hence the amount of follow-ups and imitators, which was apt since this was an imitator in itself, the costumed hero genre having been established in Italy sometime around the point that Mexican wrestling movies had already won an audience.

As the Supermen of the title (presumably DC comics were looking the other way when that title was chosen) Harris had established himself as a muscleman in peplum films, the sword and sandal epics on a budget that Italy was so keen on churning out, though by 1967 the craze was significantly dying down, hence the move to superheroes and spies. Kendall was one of Italy's most popular actors, a suave operator who excelled in slick thrillers so it was amusing to watch him let his hair down to some extent here. Meanwhile, the third of the team was, for this first effort at least, laughing mute Aldo Canti, a convicted thief for the Mafia who after his movie career petered out was shot dead in an apparent gangland hit.

The next decade would be better equipped to handle that sort of intrigue in Italian cinema, but this movie was purely designed for fun, something for families to go and watch and forget their troubles as they watched the frequently absurd shenanigans play out on the silver screen. Fair enough, there was nothing taxing about the Supermen, whose powers rested on their athleticism and those bulletproof suits that made them look as if they had stepped from the pages of a comic book - the lead trio assuredly had the physiques to carry that off, though Kendall looked less happy in them than he did in his sharp suit and tie, as evinced by his dancing when he was so attired. What was more lacking were the ladies, as they were more or less there as decoration and not offered much in the way of personality.

The actual head villain was Wilfried Gottlieb (Jochen Brockmann), a rotund, Goldfinger-type figure whose main device was his cloning machine that he uses to create exact copies of various characters, though they had a tendency to disintegrate into what look like coloured rocks when bested. The plot was not so much convoluted as it was random, with the trio, once they had established Tony and Nick were now on the side of good, mostly getting into car chases and punch-ups, making use of hidden (and not-so-hidden) trampolines to demonstrate gymnastic abilities (though Harris excused himself from flinging his body about too much). It was ostensibly a comedy, as a fair number of Italian superhero movies claimed to be, but as with those others it looked to be taking itself very seriously under the fixed grins and straining for high spirits, so do not be surprised if you barely cracked a smile. What it did have in its favour was exuberance, its wild plot twists and anything the budget would allow atmosphere going some way to carrying off its entertainment. Infuriatingly catchy music, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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