• Film reviews

    #551 – Three Supermen in Santo Domingo (1986)

    Three Supermen in Santo Domingo (1986)

    Film review #551

    Director: Italo Martinenghi

    SYNOPSIS: FBI agent Brad Scott is once again required to team up with the international thieves known as “The Supermen,” this time they travel to Santo Domingo in South America to disrupt a money counterfeiting operation by some local crime gangs.

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Supermen in Santo Domingo is a 1986 film and the final instalment in the Three Supermen series of films. The plot is fairly typical and familiar to those who have watched any of the other films: an FBI agent has to team up with the international thieves known as “The Supermen,” this time travelling to Santo Domingo to stop a counterfeiting operation run by a local gang. There’s no time travelling or outlandish elements in this film; it’s just a simple crimefighting, slapstick bit of fun, although obviously the supermen still have their bulletproof suits, that villains never quite work out that they could just shoot them in their uncovered heads. There’s a variety of action scenes (which consist of a fair amount of speeding up and reversing footage instead of actual stunts), and setups involving disguises, and elaborate plans, but nothing too exciting.

    As always, the film revolves around the three supermen, and once again, they are played by different actors; all with the exception of one, Sal Borgese, who has been playing the mute superman since the second film (in the ones which you could consider “canon” anyway). The names of the characters also change quite a lot, and this time it seems like they’ve just resorted to calling Sal’s character Sal. The other two actors change every film, and this time the change is quite apparent, as they are obviously a lot younger than Sal. One of them is Stefano Martinenghi, who is the son of the director, and clearly only got the role because of this: he doesn’t really fit the role of the charming, cheeky lead. The actor playing the role of FBI agent Brad Scott also doesn’t really work because he seems way too young, and typically the role goes to someone who is older and more straight-laced, to balance with the supermen’s goofiness. There are glimmers of that personality, but not much. The rest of the cast aren’t really worth mentioning, as the villains don’t really stand out, and the supporting cast barely exist on screen.

    It’s perhaps worth mentioning at this point that this film series has been going on for nearly twenty years at the time this film was made; and there is no reason for it to have done so. The original was a cheap b-movie that spoofed sci-fi and spy films that were popular in 1967, but had a somewhat interesting twist by having professional acrobats play the lead roles, which led to some fun action scenes and well-choregraphed fights. The first film, while nothing more than a typical b-movie, did everything it really needed to, but for some reason it became a series that went on to satirise other types of films, such as Westerns, cold war plots, martial arts films, and even got a Turkish rip-off version…which further still, somewhat fused with the Turkish rip-off scene when production of the films moved to Turkey. The whole production of this series is all over the place, but I suppose credit should be given to the films somewhat adapting to changing to cultural trends. Three Supermen in Santo Domingo doesn’t really offer anything special in this regard though, and while it keeps things simple, it definitely feels like a format that is well past its sell-by date in 1986, and since this is the final film in the series, the makers probably knew this too. Definitely deserves credit for going for twenty years, but its last hurrah is uneventful.

  • Film reviews

    #549 – Three Supermen Against the Godfather (1979)

    Three Supermen Against the Godfather (1979)

    Film review #549

    Director: Italo Martinenghi

    SYNOPSIS: A scientist has invented a time machine, and uses it to travel back in time in Turkey to the fall of Constantinople, to learn the location of the treasure hidden before the city was sacked. The two thieves known as the supermen learn of this, and decide to try and take the time machine for themselves. But they’re not the only ones interested in it, as an Italian mafia boss, foreign powers, and once again, FBI agent Brad is sent to work with the supermen (against his will) to secure the time machine and protect the inventor…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Superman Against the Godfather (released as Süpermenler in Turkey) is a 1979 film and another instalment of the Three Supermen series of films. This time, the supermen are after a time machine invented by a scientist (not the same one who invented a similar time machine in Three Supermen in the West, of which there is no mention), with the aim of going back to the fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century, to find out where the royal treasure was buried before it was lost. The two international thieves known as the supermen learn about the machine and decide they want to steal it for themselves, but an Italian mafia boss and some foreign powers are also after the device and the professor; and as always, FBI agent Brad (or whatever his name is this time) is sent by the U.S. to secure the professor and the machine himself, and is ordered to cooperate with the supermen, which he is reluctant to do because of the constant shenanigans he gets caught up in whenever he meets them. The film feels like a return to the classic formula of the films; after the Hong Kong co-production Supermen Against the Orient, which was more of a typical martial arts film that substituted the classic acrobatics with said martial arts, and also messed up what little continuity the series had. While it is a return, it should also be noted that this “original formula” was itself all over the place: some films were science-fiction based others were parodies of spy films, westerns, and so on. With this one, it’s obviously riffing on The Godfather and mafia films, and the sci-fi element of time travel doesn’t really factor into the film at all: they only travel once in the beginning to demonstrate that it works. 

    As always with the Three Supermen films, the main actors have a bit of a shake up, with only Sal Borgese as the mute superman keeping his role as he has through most of these films. To make things even more confusing this time, Aldo Canti, who played one of the supermen in the first film, returns to the series, but he is instead playing the role of the FBI agent this time, with the other role going to prolific Turkish actor Cüneyt Arkın. The choice of actors doesn’t really make too much of a difference, as their characters aren’t too developed in any particular way, but it’s just interesting to follow this revolving door of casting. The reason for Arkin’s casting is because the film’s production has moved from Italy to Turkey, and I guess his casting would have some appeal to the local market.

    The reason for the move from Italy to Turkey is fairly interesting: Italian media became more focused on television, and moved away from cinema in the mid-late 70′s. As such, there was an exodus of sorts of Italian filmmakers to Turkey, where their type of cinema was still more popular. Nevertheless, it would seem this film was hardly released to any cinemas at all, and is probably the most difficult to get a hold of in the franchise. While the film does have the usual slapstick moments, scantily-clad women, and some stunts, we don’t get the typical acrobatics we usually do, probably because the newer cast aren’t actually acrobats, and the older cast probably can’t pull the feats off anymore (remember that this franchise would have been twelve years old in 1979). Overall, Three Supermen Against The Godfather is, for better, or worse, a return to the typical Three Supermen formula that is full of a heap of different ideas and directions that don’t really cohere, but it’s still just a bit of silly fun.