#561 – Riders to the Stars (1954)
Riders to the Stars (1954)
Film review #561
Director: Richard Carlson, Herbert L. Strock
SYNOPSIS: A group of twelve men highly specialised in various fields are recruited for a top secret project. They undergo various physical and psychological tests until only four remain and they learn the secret of the project: to travel into space and collect a meteorite to discover how they exist in space despite being bombarded by cosmic radiation…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Riders to the Stars is a 1954 independent sci-fi film. The film’s story centres around twelve men, including Dr. Richard Stanton, who are highly trained experts in their field, all invited to a secret project, where they are put through a series of physical and psychological tests to determine their suitability for the project. When only four remain at the end, including Stanton, they are told the purpose of the project: they are to go into space to collect a meteorite, to see how they survive in space despite the large amount of cosmic radiation, which destroys man-made material. The story mostly revolves around these twelve men undergoing the various tests associated with space travel, including zero-G training. The film has quite a lot of detail and there’s obviously some knowledge and consideration about what would actually be required for a human to go into space, even though in 1954, no one would have done so, so it is a bit speculative. The trouble with all of this is that the film is that everything is so boring, and it doesn’t really bring the science or danger alive thanks to dull characters and long-winded exposition. There’s some discussion about how they need to go into space before their enemies (Soviets, presumably) so they can “keep space free,” but one of the men points out that position is no better than their enemies from conquering space, so the film does have a bit more depth than simple U.S. propaganda in the “space race,” but again, this often gets forgotten over the low energy of the overall plot and progression.
The cast of characters don’t really stand out from one another: the twelve candidates are all middle-aged men with short dark hair that are barely distinguishable from one another. There is, of course, one solitary female character in the main cast, but she is an actual scientist herself (with the “Dr.” title too), which is very rare. Unfortunately, her role devolves into being just a typical romantic interest for the male lead, which is disappointing. The finale of the film does have a bit more energy, as the three rockets head into space to try and collect meteorites, and Stanton being the only one who survives at the end. The cast learn that meteorites survive cosmic radiation by having a thin layer of carbon surrounding them (like diamond), and so presumably they can build satellites and space stations now thanks to this information. Obviously this isn’t really what happens in space, but again since nobody had been to outer space at that point, it probably seemed more believable at the time it was released.
Despite being an independently produced film, Riders to the Stars has a fairly good look and feel to it: the sets are detailed, including a Zero-G testing machine for the candidates, the attention to detail on the science is pretty good, but as mentioned, it does result in long scenes of people explaining things without being able to translate that knowledge into something interesting to watch. Also of note is that the film was filmed and released in colour, which most of these cheaper films of the time were not. A lot of stock footage is also used near the end of the film, including mice in a Zero-G environment, and some of the first footage taken of the Earth from space, but again, it doesn’t really accomplish much in the context of the film. Overall, Riders to the Stars has a decent amount of effort put into it’s production, and is obviously well-researched into what it would take for people to go into space, but the problem with this is that the film is often just dull exposition and dialogue, rarely able to bring the ideas and knowledge it is grasping with to life. Perhaps interesting at the time of release to show viewers how space travel would actually work, nowadays it is wholly unremarkable.
#559 – The Magnetic Monster (1953)
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Film review #559
Directors: Curt Siodmak, Herbert L. Strock
SYNOPSIS: The Office of Science Investigation (OSI), made to deal with new threats in the atomic age, send their agents, led by Jeffrey Stewart, to investigate a case of strange, powerful magnetism. It turns out that the incident is caused by the research of a scientist who has created a new element that is feeding off energy, and threatens all life on Earth…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Magnetic Monster is a 1953 science-fiction film. In the opening, we get a monologue about the threats faced in the new atomic age, and in response to this, the Office of Scientific Investigations (OSI) is established to counter this new threat. One of their A-men, (atomic-men) agents, named Jeffrey Stewart, is called to investigate a strange case involving items becoming magnetised, and stumbles upon some dangerous research and a new element that could threaten to destroy the earth. The film has a very serious tone to it: the narration by the main character is very dramatic and dry, and reminds me more of what you would find in a crime-noir film. The plot itself is decently structured, with some mystery that unfolds at an even pace. The narration helps explains the story, but perhaps overdoes it by relying on it too much rather than showing the story.
At a time of cheap b-movies which were cheap looking that leads them to not being taken seriously, The Magnetic Monster does put some effort into treating the new era of atomic warfare seriously, which presented science almost as if it was exclusively a weapon of war. As mentioned, the narration gives the film a very serious tone, and there’s not much light-heartedness or humour to supplement it. There’s also not really that much action: the “Magnetic Monster” is just some sort of…radioactive element that can only be seen through a microscope, so it limits how much of a threat it can be perceived it to be, but the effects it makes look quite nice. The characters are all fairly bland and similar: just middle-aged men in uniforms talking or arguing with each other, with a grand total of one female character, who’s only role is as Jeff’s wife.
Despite being an independently produced film, there’s some good points about the production: there’s a variety of sets and locations, and they’re fairly detailed so you get a sense of the different locations. The huge machine at the end of the film is quite impressive, but the footage of it is taken from the 1934 German film Gold, and the finale of The Magnetic Monster essentially revolves around the use of the footage from Gold, taking place in an underwater facility that provides the climax for a series of explosions. The Magnetic Monster feels like something a bit different from the usual 50′s sci-fi b-movie. It takes the spirit of the time seriously and delivers a sombre and straight story without any cheesy monsters of special effects. the downside to this is that it’s not that entertaining, and a lack of action and energy might this film difficult to concentrate on through it’s runtime.
#558 – Return of Mr. Superman (1960)
Return of Mr. Superman (1960)
Film review #558
Director: Sabir Manmohan
SYNOPSIS: A child from the doomed planet Krypton is sent to Earth as the last of their kind, and lands in rural India. A farmer finds the ship and the child inside, and takes them back to his wife, where they raise the child themselves. They realise that the child possesses super powers, but keep it a secret. As an adult, he moves to Bombay to work as a newspaper reporter, and also stopping criminals in his secret identity as Superman. However, when an imposter starts committing crimes dressed as the Superhero, Superman becomes wanted by the law, and must fight to clear his name…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Return of Mr. Superman is a 1960 Indian film and an unlicensed adaptation of the Superman character. The film starts out like every version of the Superman origin story, with Superman as a child being loaded onto a spaceship on the doomed planet Krypton, and sent to Earth to escape the planet’s inevitable destruction. The ship lands in rural India, where a farmer discovers the child and takes him back to his wife, and the two agree to raise him together. They learn that the child possesses extraordinary powers, including beating other children at wrestling, and finding a buried treasure (presumably via his x-ray vision or something). When the boy, now named Jairaj, grows up, he moves to Bombay to work at a newspaper, and starts to lead a double life; fighting criminals as “Superman,” and alerting the police to criminal activity. The story in this respect follows the origin story of Superman reasonably accurately (apart from the ship landing in rural India instead of the rural U.S.), and it has everything it needs to be a Superman story, even if it is unlicensed.
The main plot of the film revolves around a criminal smuggling gang hatching a plan to get revenge on Superman by having an imposter commit crimes dressed as him to turn the police against him. It’s really not an original plot, and one definitely not suited for Superman: how do you imitate someone with superpowers? The plot is a little all over the place, and doesn’t really go anywhere beyond where you would expect it to. The characters are all pretty bland, including the Lois Lane replacement, the comic relief of Johnny (probably meant to be the Jimmy Olsen character), and the criminal gang who serve as the villains not really having much to do with anything. Superman barely even does anything anyway: he usually just calls up the police inspector to report crimes. I don’t know if there is a limit to how much a film at the time could show someone being a vigilante rather than just calling the authorities (The U.S. film serials abandoned the “vigilante” role as someone who works outside the law around the time of the second world war), but either way, it makes the film really boring when you’re expecting Superman to do something and he picks up a telephone.
Speaking of Superman, the most notable thing about this film is probably his costume: forget everything you think you know about Superman’s iconic outfit, this one is clearly cobbled together with whatever the filmmakers could find lying around: driving goggles and leather helmet, complimented by a towel wrapped around his neck to serve as a cape of sorts. It looks like there was no thought given to the costume’s design, but thankfully you don’t see it very often. The film has the typical musical numbers you expect in Indian cinema, but the first one doesn’t show up until over thirty minutes in the film, but then they become constant. The songs also lack the usual dancing and choreography, so they’re not very interesting. This is the third Indian Superman film I’ve watched (the others were released in 1980 and 1987), and it’s easily the worst, although the others aren’t exactly great. The plot is all over the place and fails to provide anything unique or interesting. The costumes and production lack any kind of consideration, and the characters are barely established, leading to a dull and incomprehensible mess.
#556 – Superman (1987)
Film review #556
Director: B. Gupta
SYNOPSIS: As the planet Krypton is about to be destroyed, the parents of a baby boy send him to Earth to escape the destruction. He lands in India and is raised by a couple who soon realise he has superhuman powers, but keep his powers a secret, naming him Shekhar. As an adult, he travels to the city in search of his childhood, Gita, while his old rival for Gita’s love, Verma, is a tycoon and super-villain who aims to become rich by causing a series of natural disasters across India and buying up the land cheap…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Superman is a 1987 Indian film and an unlicensed adaptation of the comic book superhero. This is not the first adaptation into Indian cinema either, with similar (unlicensed adaptations) in 1960 and 1980. The film’s story follows the typical Superman lore fairly accurately, as in the intro, we see the planet Krypton about to be destroyed, and a young baby boy being sent to earth as the only survivor. However, rather than landing in the rural U.S. as is canon, he instead lands in India, where a young couple find him and give him the name Shekhar. They soon learn he has superhuman powers, but tell him to keep them secret. When Shekhar is grown up, he heads to the city to find his childhood Gita, now working as a reporter (the “Lois Lane” of this version), while his old rival for Gita’s affections, Verma, is now a crime-lord who attempts to get rich by creating a series of natural disasters across India in order to buy the land up cheap (being the “Lex Luthor” of this film). The story, apart from being set in India, fits the established story quite well…a little too well, as it is essentially copying the 1978 Superman film point-for-point. The capsule which takes Superman to earth as a child is the exact shape as the one from the original film, but obviously made from silver foil rather than expensive (for the time) CG. Also, it straight up steals footage from the 1978 film’s ending, where Superman flies around the Earth so fast he turns back time, alongside using the John Williams theme is definitely has no permission for. As such, we can’t give the film too much credit for it’s story if it’s just taking it from an other successful film, but it follows the beats of the film fairly well. It also adds in some usual musical and dancing numbers, but these feel quite underwhelming compared to other films I’ve seen; almost like they were focused on making a Superman clone and had to add in musical numbers because that’s what Indian cinema does. Alongside this, they also use Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” in one dance scene, which again I’m pretty sure they did not have the rights to do so.
As mentioned, the characters from the Superman franchise are all recreated here quite faithfully, although being based in India rather than the U.S. Superman/Shekhar has Clark Kent’s naivety and Superman’s bravery, Gita has Lois Lane’s dogged determination, and Verma has Lex Luthor’s evil streak. We see the planet Krypton at the start of the film, adorned with a cheap set full of random coloured blocks, and there is also the fortress of solitude, where Superman goes to learn about his home planet, all loving recreated with nowhere near the budget of it’s Hollywood counterpart. Superman seems to have all of his powers such as super strength and flight, but also has telekinesis for some reason too, shown in a scene where he unwraps food and sets a table with his mind. The film has a decent mix of humour, action and drama, so it’s not uninteresting, although being released nearly ten years after the very successful film it is copying, I’m not sure if the audience would have already seen the original film subtitled or dubbed by that time. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a pretty good adaptation of Superman, only because it is ripping off a good Superman film beat for beat. Otherwise, the obligatory dance and musical numbers are poor and uninspiring, and a bloated runtime of over two hours to incorporate more typical drama elements weighs the film down. The choreography, in both the musical numbers and the fight scenes is pretty dire, as you can obviously tell that none of the punches are connecting to anyone. Despite all this, it is still one of those films you really need to see to believe, so if your curiosity is piqued, then maybe you’d better put two hours aside to savour this cinematic wild ride.
#555 – 400 Days (2015)
400 Days (2015)
Film review #555
Director: Matt Osterman
SYNOPSIS: Four astronauts are chosen to undertake a psychological experiment to survive 400 days on a simulated space journey to another planet, undertaken in an underground bunker. As the crew loses contact with the outside world and the long journey takes its toll, the crew emerge into a changed world, and the distinction between what is a simulation and what isn’t begins to blur…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 400 Days is a 2016 science-fiction film. The plot revolves around four astronauts who are chosen to undertake a simulated mission to another planet for 400 days in an underground bunker. As the mission progresses, they are expected to deal with the psychological challenges and unexpected issues that arise. However, as the mission nears completion, the crew start to feel like something is amiss, and leave the bunker into a completely different world, and the question of what is a simulation and what isn’t becomes increasingly prevalent. The film is a suspense/thriller film, but there is nothing really suspenseful or thrilling about any of it. Firstly, we hardly see any of the 400 day journey, apart from the beginning and a scene about halfway through, so we don’t really get a sense in the change of the character’s psychological state and how they are faring. Even when the characters emerge from the bunker into a strange new world, there’s not much more that’s added to the suspense and mystery. Any actual suspense is completely ruined by any jumpscares being telegraphed a mile off, with the pre-silence before a sting being so completely obvious you’ll know what is coming. Coupled with the cliché dialogue, there’s little to immerse you in the environment that the film creates.
The first thing you’ll notice about the characters is that none of them seem to be the type of people you would expect to be astronauts: their dialogue, on top of being cliché as mentioned, just seems uninterested and almost naïve: they definitely don’t seem to be the type of people you would lock together in a confined space for four hundred days. The acting isn’t bad. but the actors really aren’t given much material to work with. There’s a typical romance subplot that doesn’t really add anything, and the conflict that is generated between the crewmembers is ineffectual, and dissipates fairly quickly.
The film almost completely different during the second act: the crew emerge from the bunker after their 400 days to find that apparently the world has been plunged into darkness because the moon exploded and all the debris fell to earth causing some ecological apocalypse or something. Wandering around in a now b-movie plot, the crew stumble upon a town of survivors who all seem a bit mad, but the film just decides to constantly cast doubts on whether what they are experiencing is real, or just another part of the simulation, or it’s all in the astronauts imagination, which maybe was caused by the injections the medic was giving them under the guise of immunisation boosters? The film just throws more and more questions and points that contradict one another, but does it in such a haphazard way that you can’t really form a coherent opinion on what you think is happening. The whole idea that the moon exploded for some reason and somehow all the moon dust fell to Earth and destroyed everything is pretty farfetched, but a lot of the film feels unbelievable anyway, from the corny dialogue to the seemingly inept characters.
The worst part of the film is most certainly the ending: you probably know what is going to happen, as the crew are congratulated on surviving the simulation apparently, and just before they leave the bunker, the film snaps to black and the credits roll, leaving the question of what actually happened up for interpretation. However, this only works in films if what is up to interpretation is constructed properly, so you can somewhat imagine what has happened based on what you have experienced. This film throws out so much smoke and contradictions that it is almost impossible to imagine what happens next. The different possibilities have to be believable or derived from what the film gives you, but there’s just none of that here. The issue is definitely not the low budget either, it’s definitely a case of overwriting an idea and running away with it. Overall, 400 days is a bit of a mess, and undermines itself as a thriller, and falls short of being credible science-fiction. If you want a space-based psychological film, you can watch Solaris, and if you want a sense of mystery that gives you space to interpret the message, you can watch Inception.
#554 – Superman (1980)
Film review #554
Director: V. Madhusudhana Rao
SYNOPSIS: Raja, a young boy, witnesses the death of his Mother and Father at the hands of burglars who have infiltrated their home. Raja prays to the God Hanuman for a way to avenge his parents, and is granted superpowers. He keeps the powers a secret until he is an adult, when he happens to find one of the men who killed his parents, and sets off to avenge them…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Superman is a 1980 Telugu film based on the DC comics superhero, although is definitely an unofficial and unlicensed adaptation. The opening sees the young boy Raja and his family on the eve of Hanuman Jayanthi, preparing for the day. While their preparations are underway, three burglars enter the home and kill Raja’s Mother and Father while he hides. Raja prays to Hanuman for the power to avenge his parents, and is granted super powers. When he grows up, he begins tracking down his parents murderers. As you can probably tell, the plot has absolutely no correlation with the “official” superman story. In fact, Superman barely figures into the movie at all; it’s mostly just a typical family drama about romance, and Raja’s adopted sister bringing shame to the family by becoming pregnant outside of marriage, and Raja having to get her to marry the man that got her pregnant. The whole vengeance story arc is interweaved with the plot, but it’s not really enough to make the film stand out, and the only superman bits are very typical scenarios where he saves out-of-control vehicles and such, made possible by some very cheap special effects and just reversing the footage.
Being an Indian film, there’s plenty of dancing and musical numbers interspersed throughout the film, although none of it is fairly memorable or impressive, which is odd, because this is the one element that these films typically excel in. The one that sticks out is the bizarre musical number with Superman/Raja picking up his wife and taking her to the moon or something? The shots of the moon and Earth floating around as the two sing is…very disorienting. The characters also have some some bizarre outfits, including “Superman’s” own outfit, adorned with a “H” on the chest, rather than the typical “S” (to represent “Hanuman” I suppose). The villains are overly dressed up in an almost comical fashion, with one wearing an oversized Stetson, and the main villain being absurdly overdressed like the cartoon version of an American businessman. Still, at least it makes the characters distinguishable.
Overall, Superman doesn’t really make use of the titular character it is unofficially using, and is overshadowed by a more typical family-based drama and romance that you would expect to find in this type of film. Even then, the usual musical numbers, dancing and costumes are also underwhelming. The special effects are daft, the fighting silly, and a surprising amount of obviously fake blood makes this a somewhat entertaining film to watch only based on how absurd it is, and how little they adapt the source material they do not have the rights to.
#552 – Marching Out of Time (1993)
Marching Out of Time (1993)
Film review #552
Director: Anton Vassil
SYNOPSIS: Fred Johnson is constantly hearing noises from his neighbour’s house, and is determined to find out the cause of them, much to his family’s annoyance. It turns out his neighbour is conducting experiments in teleportation. However, his experiments seem to interfere with a similar Nazi experiment in 1942 to transport troops to England, and instead they emerge in the teleportation device in suburban U.S. Fred and his neighbour must stop the Nazis from returning to 1942 with all the information they have gathered about all the mistakes that cost them the war, and rewriting history to make themselves the victors…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Marching Out of Time (also known by the debatably better title, Back to the Fuehrer) is a 1993 sci-fi comedy film. The film is set in the suburbs of the U.S., where Fred Johnson is becoming obsessed with noises coming from his neighbours house, much to his family’s annoyance. He breaks into his neighbour’s house and discovers Dr. Memo, his neighbour, is working on a teleportation device made from a pair of fridges. Unfortunately, the experiment goes wrong, and interferes with a similar experiment from 1942, which involved attempting to transport Nazi troops from France to England. The result being that the Nazis, led by von Konst, arrive not in England, but in Dr. Memo’s basement in the 1993 U.S. learning about this, they change their mission, and gather historical information about all the mistakes the Nazis made that cost them the war, and aim to return to 1942 with that information to ensure that they are not made again, ultimately winning the war. The stakes are raised and Frank, Dr. Memo, and a low-level cop must fight to prevent the Nazis changing the course of history. The film is a comedy film so everything is all a bit slapstick and silly. It definitely feels like Back to the Future, but instead of Biff Tannen trying to change history, it’s Nazis. The story is fairly linear and doesn’t really build up to anything, so it’s just an excuse for a bunch of silly scenarios and slapstick violence. There is one scene in the middle of the film in which the serious repercussions of the films events are highlighted, but that’s the only one. There’s other typical scenes like the Nazis “disguising” themselves in tie dye shirts and exploring the local area to “blend in,” but that doesn’t really go anywhere, or provide any funny situations. There’s not much laugh-out-loud comedic moments, I think it’s humour is more situated in the whole ridiculous scenario, and Fred being the last person on earth who should be stopping a Nazi invasion. Also, I guess this is technically a Christmas movie, as Fred is supposed to be going away with his family for the holidays, but stays behind to deal with his neighbour. However, this is the only real reference to Christmas in the film.
In terms of the characters, Fred Johnson is a typical suburban Dad, and a typical comedic lead: one which you’ll feel like you’ve seen in a movie before (but definitely haven’t, because the actor didn’t appear in any films before or after this). His family are tormented by his nosiness and whining, and you do wonder why they put up with him. Dr. Memo is the typical “mad scientist,” and von Konst is portrayed like every nearly every Nazi officer you’ve seen on film before. the acting isn’t bad at all, and the stereotypical characters have a familiarity to them that allows viewers to focus more on the comedic aspect of the film, rather than the characters.
The film, perhaps surprisingly, is made fairly well: it has the look and feel of a low budget film, but actually probably wasn’t: the locations are fairly detailed and full of props and things, and the camerawork is pretty good. There’s even a few stunts and explosions that, while not overly impressive, would still have taken effort to set up. It’s clear the film wants to situate itself in that low-budget parody genre of films, but it has a bit of budget and expertise to make it properly, without making it seem like the film is trying too hard to be a bad film. Marching Out of Time is mostly forgettable, but is made fairly well, and maintains its energy throughout, while exploring the premise of the film well enough. It definitely feels like a film of its time, riffing on Back to The Future a little, with it’s typical characters that are familiar enough so as to not need to dedicate a large amount of time to introducing and developing them. Predictable, but silly and fun enough to not be a waste of time.
#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.
#550 – Three Supermen at the Olympic Games (1984)
Three Supermen at the Olympic Games (1984)
Film review #549
Director: Yavuz Yalinkiliç
SYNOPSIS: The Three Supermen travel back in time to ancient Greece, where they get roped into the service of the Greek Goddess Artemis, who is fighting off some Romans of some sort.
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Supermen at the Olympic Games is a 1984 film, and yet another film in the Three Supermen series of films. This time, The Three Supermen are sent back in time to ancient Greece, where they meet the Greek goddess Artemis, and are dragged into her service in her conflict with what I think are supposed to be ancient Romans. The story in this film is even less coherent than the others: while time travel is not an unfamiliar concept in this film series, Greek gods is certainly a new one, and I’m not really sure what the purpose of the time travel was, or the source of the conflict between the Greeks and probable-Romans. I was only able to watch the film with partial English subtitles, but I doubt a full translation would have helped: the film is a mish-mash of scenes and flaky ideas that feels like a bunch of unrelated footage stitched together. Also, the film also shoves in parts of the Three Supermen and Mad Girl film at two points; as in it just cuts in parts of that film without warning or reason. On the positive side, at least we get to see one of the worst robot designs ever on screen once again. I think the film was made to coincide with the 1984 Olympics and the hype that surrounded it, but there’s no real relation to the Olympics despite the travelling to ancient Greece. I think the Supermen throw a javelin and a shot-putt once, and there’s stock footage of horse racing at the beginning and end of the film: is that supposed to be the Olympics? I’m not sure horse racing has ever been a part it.
This film is not actually a part of the Three Supermen “canon,” with none of the usual cast or production staff returning: it’s a Turkish knock-off film, but given that the film series moved to Turkey in the previous film to appeal to a different audience, it is a bit confusing. The Supermen consist of one of them being mute, so I guess that is one bit of consistency. The supermen are not the usual international thieves his time though, and seem to be actual supermen, as at least one of them is seen flying through the air like the real superman. They also (in the Three Supermen and Mad Girl footage) have the superman logo emblazoned on their uniform. Oh, and if that isn’t enough copyright infringement, the fighting scenes are constantly accompanied by the John Williams Superman theme, which makes the fights more interesting only because that theme can make anything more interesting. A lot of the disjointed scenes are stitched together by close ups of the characters standing in front of a white background, which are clearly filmed after the other scenes, and are meant to stitch this mess together, but it is so clear what the purpose of these scenes are that they only serve to further highlight the ad-hoc constitution of this film.
Three Supermen at the Olympic Games is even more of a mess than the usual Three Superman films: the very thin main plot is surrounded by a bunch of unrelated scenes and nonsense which don’t add anything, and only serve to extend the runtime. The characters are almost completely different, and the whole thing is just a general mess without direction or ideas.
#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.