Kalimán en el Siniestro Mundo de Humanón/Kalimán in the Sinister World of Humanón (1976)

‘Professor Rataban is a little mutated right now…’

A superhero arrives in Rio de Janeiro to attend a congress on psychology. On arrival, he discovers that one of the delegates has been mysteriously decapitated and two other scientists have disappeared. After an attempt is made on his life, he finds himself going up against the schemes of a hooded supervillain…

Outlandish fantasy sequel from Mexico featuring the further exploits of ‘Kalimán, the Incredible Man/Kalimán, el Hombre Increíble’ (1972). Canadian actor Jeff Cooper returns in the title role, along with director Alberto Mariscal, but they could not recapture the first movie’s box office success, and a series never materialised.

Rio’s congress of psychology is in a spot of bother. Two delegates have vanished without a trace, and one has been murdered. Suddenly, regrets and cancellations are flooding the desks of the organiser, Professor Pheraul (Alberto Insua) and his blonde secretary, Shiomara (Lenka Erdos). So, it’s a great relief to welcome guest of honour, Kalimán (Cooper) and his pre-teen ward, Solin (Manuel Bravo). Apparently, their presence is sufficient to save the congress (whatever it was!) as no one ever mentions it again.

However, the duo barely have time to settle into their hotel before Cooper has been subjected to mind control by strong-arm man, Cabaledo (Carlos Cardán) and Bravo has been snatched and buried in a crypt on the other side of town! Luckily, Cooper is able to locate his burial spot using his telepathic abilities, encouraging Bravo to focus on the magnetic emanations that come from his body. Still, they need the help of a mysterious figure dressed in a skeleton costume before they can escape.

These events are the work of the fiendish mastermind, Humanón (Milton Rodríguez), resplendent in an ensemble of scarlet robes, pointy hood and sunglasses. He’s busy mutating scientists into ‘Zombie-Tronics (take that spellchecker!) These are human slaves mutated by the addition of animal brains (or something?) Anyway, they obey Rodríguez and his agents without question, roar like lions and burst out from the trunks of parked motor vehicles. Rodríguez keeps them in cages outside his HQ, where they are looked after by elderly, whip-wielding lieutenant Perfecto (a wildly over-acting Alonso Castaño).

On the docket for a future experiment is Insua’s daughter, Juarina (Angelina Fernández), and the professor is being blackmailed as a result. The same is true of his assistant Erdos, whose husband was the man who was beheaded before Cooper’s arrival on the scene. What kind of hold can Rodríguez possibly have over her then if he’s already dead? Well, his head was never found; let’s leave it at that. After the usual round of assassination attempts, escapes and captures, this ragtag group find itself trekking through the jungle under the guns of Cardán and his Zombie-Tronic troopers on their way to a deadly rendezvous.

The character of Kalimán was created in 1963 by Rafael Cutberto Navarro and Modesto Vázquez González and was the star of a popular radio show. He was a mystic and adventurer with martial art skills and mental powers such as telepathy. The show was so successful that a tie-in comic book was published that ended up running for over a quarter of a century, although it reached the peak of its sales in the mid-1960s when editions were selling around three and a half million copies. As the comic book’s title included the phrase ‘The Incredible Man’, Marvel sued the makers in 1974, alleging infringement on their ‘Incredible Hulk’ property. Marvel lost the case, but the proceedings may explain why this film has a 1974 copyright date but did not reach theatres until November 1976.

This film has all the ingredients for a cult classic, and there are some wonderful moments of hilarious insanity. Most of these come courtesy of our evil megalomaniac, of course, whose costume alone is likely to provoke laughter. The scene where he berates underling Castaño for daring to think for himself is a comedy classic, and such moments compiled into a trailer would make the film look unmissable. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many examples in the finished article, and the flat-footed direction of Mariscal lacks any dynamism or style. It’s often hard to tell whether the film is a knowing parody or a serious adventure, and there are more than a few dull stretches to get through.

Care was taken to be faithful to the accepted lore surrounding the character, though. Kalimán never had a specific origin, although it was suggested that he was an Indian foundling raised by a prince and part of a dynasty who wandered the world delivering justice for the goddess Kali. Despite this, he was always depicted as caucasian, even in the comic books. So the casting of Cooper in both films was not inappropriate, and actor Luis Manuel Pelayo dubbed all his dialogue. Pelayo had played Kalimán in the radio series, which provided continuity.

Although the previous film had been a big hit in Mexico and had enjoyed some distribution in Latin America, it seems that the sequel was never released outside its homeland. The English name given for this review is my literal translation of the Spanish title. No further episodes followed, and the character became embroiled in a series of court disputes concerning ownership rights. A third film was announced in 2011, but it wasn’t until four years later that all the legal difficulties were resolved. However, no new film has surfaced in recent years.

Cooper began his screen career in the early 1960s on network television, playing supporting roles on shows such as ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’, ‘The Virginian’ and ‘Perry Mason’. A move to the big screen resulted in only a handful of assignments, such as an uncredited bit in the Western ‘Duel At Diablo’ (1966) which starred James Garner and Sidney Poitier. Work picked up a little after his Mexican exploits in the early 1970s, and he starred as the lead in martial arts film ‘Circle of Iron’ (1978) with Christopher Lee and David Carradine. Unfortunately, it did not prove to be a launching pad for greater things, but he did snag a recurring role as Sue Ellen’s psychiatrist for 19 episodes of CBS super soap ‘Dallas’ in 1981. He retired from the screen in 1986 and died in 2018.

Some great moments of cheesy insanity make for a fun watch, but it could have been so much more if the filmmakers had truly embraced the silliness of it all.


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