Flashman (1967)

Flashman (1967)‘I’m afraid you’re wasting your bullets. They only tickle.’

Thieves murder a professor for his invisibility formula and use it to help them rob a bank. Unfortunately, a lot of their ill-gotten gains had already been replaced with counterfeit notes by a gang of beautiful women and, worse still, the chief teller is actually crime fighter Flashman in disguise.

Painfully uninspired cross between a caper movie and a superhero flick, which struggles throughout to find a focus for its rambling storyline. ls it Paolo Gozlino’s ‘Flashman’, a hero with a silly costume and not much else? ls it Claudie Lange’s girl gang, who cosy up to bank staff at work and swap out real currency with funny money right under their noses? Or is it lvano Staccioli’s cigarette floating in mid-air and chair cushions sinking under his invisible arse? Well, it’s all of these things, and none at all, really.

We open with a swinging montage of bright, primary colours and the camera zooming crazily in and out on tinted stills from the film. Girlie singers sing the name of the movie. Yeah, it’s the Sixties, baby! This Italian movie tries desperately to mine that ‘anything goes’ vibe but fails miserably to capture the spirit of the age with a pedestrian, laboured script which is little more than a scribble on a table napkin.

Our main man is Lord Burman, working undercover in his own bank to foil the counterfeiting ring, and then getting the blame for the more direct methods of the invisible bank robber and his pals. A quick exit is necessary through a convenient window, which leaves the guards flummoxed as he simply disappears! l guess it’s because he has a silly costume back in his closet at home. Also along for the ride is sister sidekick Ann Marie Williams, who contributes a series of silly outfits, outlandish makeup and little else. Flashman’s main squeeze is Micaela Pignatelli (from ‘Goldface, The Fantastic Superman’ (1967)!!), who ends up tied to the train tracks to the accompaniment of tiresome ‘comedy’ music (note the inverted commas).

Flashman (1967)

‘Something for the weekend, sir?’

No, the film doesn’t take itself very seriously, which is a bonus, so there is a fair bit of knock about humour, usually at the expense of ‘the man’, in the form of Police Inspector Baxter (Jack Ary). Sadly, it lacks, wit, style and any kind of madcap sensibility that might have provided some entertainment value. Instead, we have a succession of lifeless developments that really go nowhere, and painfully obvious pratfalls. ln the end, the film simply disintegrates into an extended climactic, chase sequence, which sorely tries the patience.

The only notable creative touch comes from director Ernesto Gastaldi, who sometimes favours close-ups so huge that we can only see part of the actor’s faces. But I guess we have to be kind and assume that it’s some kind of aspect ratio issue, rather than a testament to the amount of strange substances consumed on set.

Enough material for an unfunny comedy sketch does not make for a good film.

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Goldface, The Fantastic Superman (Goldface il Fantastico Superman) (1967)

Goldface_The_Fantastic_Superman_(1967)‘Goldface, what you suggest is madness! But I guess sometimes madness pays off…’

Mysterious supervillain Cobra starts bombing factories as part of a huge blackmail scheme. Industrial leaders agree to pay his ransom but, luckily for them, wrestling star Goldface has become involved. Cobra plans to rub out our masked hero but finds that he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

The Italians have a long association with comic book culture, so the notion of masked heroes and villains was not new to them. The international success of their ‘Sword and Sandal’ epics had put the national film industry on the world map, but their popularity was waning by the mid-1960s, and, when the Adam West ‘Batman’ TV show went global in 1966, producers were quick to jump on the bandwagon with characters like ‘SuperArgo’, ’Argoman’ and ‘Goldface.’

Goldface (Espartico Santoni) is a champion wrestler like SuperArgo (and masked Mexican legend El Santo before them), balancing a life fighting crime with his grappling exploits and being a top scientist (or something?) His weapons are…mostly fisticuffs. His hi-tech transport is…a normal motorbike. His go-to gadgets are…well, he uses a telephone quite well. Yes, I’m afraid this is all rather cheap and cheerful, with our masked hero making do with his natty costume, peanut-chewing sidekick Lothar, and…well that’s about it really.

The Cobra (Hugo Pimentel) is planning world domination (somehow or other), but needs plenty of cash to do it and so begins his reign of terror and blackmail, aided by statuesque blonde Evi Maranfi, who’d had a prominent role in Mario Bava’s ‘Planet of the Vampires’ (1965). The Cobra’s various tiresome plots and schemes include holding pretty Micaela Pignatelli at his island base (of which we see two rooms and some minions in a tower), as well as eliminating our caped hero with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately for him, Goldface and the forces of law and order storm the island in a truly Bond-like finale (on a slightly smaller scale!), and his men are a bit rubbish in a fight. Actually, despite the obvious limitations of overacting stuntmen and actors who don’t know how to make a prop gun look real, this is the best sequence in the film.

Goldface_The_Fantastic_Superman_(1967)

‘If you’re going undercover, may I make a suggestion?’

Goldface infiltrates the secret base by simply waiting around in the bushes to overhear the password – ‘The Cobra is Everything’. He then mutters it to a couple of sentries and he’s in (told you The Cobra’s men were rubbish). Later on, when faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the guards in front of Pignatelli’s prison, he simply walks up to them in costume and starts hitting them. As you can probably tell, it’s all top quality stuff. Proceedings climax with some poorly matched helicopter stock footage.

Although the adventures of fellow Italian wrestling crime-fighter SuperArgo weren’t exactly compelling, they were still much more fun than this; a tatty, dull affair bereft of any invention or interest. The inescapable conclusion is that this was knocked out quickly as a cheap cash-in on a current trend. In a lot of ways it resembles one of the old Republic movie serials; masked hero, mysterious supervillain, and plenty of (unconvincing) fisticuffs.

Only without the entertainment factor.