Here’s a dirty little secret about the Europeans: They love our movies. In fact, they love them so much that they spend a lot of time (if little money or logic) aping them. Except in France, of course. While American films do as well there as anywhere else, this is to the horror and frenzied hand-wringing of the Intelligentsia.
Being French (i.e., a bunch of Sartre-Reading Snail-Eating Chain-Smoking Wine-Drinking CafÃˆ-Sitting Beret-Wearing Long-Bread-Making Maginot-Line-Building War-Losing Nose-Looking-Downing Bastards), they write impassioned polemics over this grim state of affairs. For instance, much sniffing arose over the extraordinarily success of the French flick La Femme Nikita. The hoi poloi was aghast at how, well, un-French the film was. In fact, they maintained, it was, well, positivelyâ€¦American! By which they meant that it was suffused with typically American lowbrow elements, like a plot. The most damning evidence: It was entertaining. How dreadfully bourgeois!
Meanwhile, other countries on the Continent, Spain to a lesser extent, but mainly Italy, expend much effort ripping us off. (The Germans are too busy watching talking penis movies to pay much attention to us.) The Italians are especially fixated with our genre films, perhaps as much as the Japanese are. (Which is to say, a lot.) I’m not just talking the obvious Spaghetti Westerns here, either.
For instance, when the Italians like a certain movie, man, they’ll rip it off six hundred ways from Sunday. Films like Night of the Living Dead and Escape from New York have inspired seemingly unending parades of ineptly made ‘hommages.’ As well, you can be sure that any big genre film will receive at least some measure of the sincerest form of flattery. For instance, Jaws begat Tentacles and Devil Fish (recently spotlighted on Mystery Science Theater 3000).
And I only know of the films that actually make it back over here. After all, a little dubbing, perhaps the hiring of a down-on-his-luck American or British ‘star’ to play the villain (Donald Pleasance in Puma Man and Warrior of the Lost World, Vic Morrow in Escape From the Bronx), maybe give the Europeans in the credits phony but ‘American’ sounding names andâ€¦presto! A film that is sure to fool the most stupidest of audiences!
Which brings us to Supersonic Man, a Spanish/Italian co-production that rips off (and if you haven’t figured this out, you should now leave the room) the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner flick Superman.
However, a film made by not one, but two European Countries cannot be constrained to ripping-off only one movie. So we open in space, looking up at the bottom of a spaceship as it goes by the camera. This is like Star Wars, or would be, if Stars Wars had featured spaceships that looked like they were constructed with left-over parts from old Aurora model kits. And then not painted, so that the ‘ship’ retained that generic plastic gray color. To be fair, though, our ship here is better than, say, your average spaceship from Dr. Who.
This ‘well, it doesn’t suck too bad’ assessment doesn’t last long, however. For we duck inside to view a large chamber. There’s a big black circle on the rear wall. In front of it is a table, lit from above by what appears to be a tremendously embiggened crystal saltshaker. On the table lies a figure.
‘Space’ type music plays. An Alien appears on the black circle, now revealed to be a viewscreen. While somewhat humanoid in appearance, we know he’s a Space Man because his image is negatively exposed. Also, his shirt features what appears to be a circle with a lightning bolt on it. Apparently The Flash is really big in Outer Space.
“Supersonic,” he commands, “return to Life!” (If the Alien were smart, he’d be exhorting the audience to do the same.) As a sign that we’re in a New World of Futuristic Technology, Supersonic’s bed begins to rotate. As the speech continues, the camera moves in, allowing us to see that Supersonic is attired only in a blue, spangly half-face mask and blue, spangly Speedo-esque shorts. Considering that he’s alone on a spaceship in some sort of suspended animation, you wonder why he bothers.
The Alien, whose name is presumably something like Expositor, continues: “You have been chosen to carry out a difficult and dangerous [not to mention tedious and laughable] mission! Your spaceship is heading for the Planet Earth, third planet of the star Soul [sic]. That is your destination.”
“We have come to realize that the men who inhabit this planet insist on employing their intelligence in a most dangerous manner. They are making use of powerful forces, not fully under their control. They could easily destroy their entire world, and produce immense shock waves throughout the galaxy! You must prevent this!”
“The ship’s memory banks will provide you with all that you need to know about Terrestrials, so that you may circulate freely, speaking and behaving like one of them. We will provide you with a body and endow it with exceptional powers, that will make you almost invincible. Use them with discretion, and only when the Truth requires it [?]. Take care that your new being does not control your true nature [i.e., don’t fall in love with some Earth Chick. As Ro-man so eloquently said, “To live like hu-man, to be like hu-manâ€¦Why is this not in the Plan?].” Actually, I think he already has his indestructible superhero body, and will instead be ‘provided’ with a flimsy human body for cover. But whatever.
All this recalls nothing so much as the Japanese kids’ superhero Starman. In the four films that were released here, Starman was periodically sent to Earth by a panel of goofy Aliens (although, again, that was in a show designed for children). Like Supersonic Man, he had a silly outfit, could fly through space, was bulletproof and would occasionally assume a human identity. However, Starman was only employed when Alien menaces threatened the Earth.
Instead, we here get the old “could send shock waves through the galaxy” ploy to justify Supersonic’s involvement. Yeah, right. As Jason noted in his Highlander II piece, destroying the Earth is pretty much beyond our capability. Sure, we might eradicate Human life, but the world will eventually cleanse itself. Meanwhile, the idea that we’d pose a threat to other planets in the ‘galaxy’ (do these people have any idea of the distances we’re talking here?) is pretty much right out.
At this point, Expositor narrowly avoids crossing directly over into LawSuit Land. “May the Force of the Galaxiesâ€¦” he concludes, “â€¦.go with you!” With this, the Giant Crystal Saltshaker starts strobing like a Discotheque light fixture. This results in Supersonic’s nearly naked form gaining a rather goofy looking set of sparkly red underalls to accessorize his spangly blue mask, briefs, gloves, boots and cape. Not to forget the obligatory chest emblem, featuring a lightning bolt (again with the lightning bolts!) upon an elongated triangle.
Supersonic now leaves his ship, which in an awesome display of Super-Science transforms into a Rear-Screen Projection. Then he begins to fly to Earth under his own power (again, considering the whole concept of ‘Space,’ well, I hope he can fly really, really fast). To which I say, “Hey, dummy, you’ve got a spaceship!”
This awesome visage sets up the opening credits, accompanied by a blatantly obvious rip-off of John Williams’ Superman theme. At least, were it performed on a cheesy home synthesizer and recorded with an old tape recorder whose batteries were dying, so that the sound was all slurred.
Another item of interest is how Supersonic’s cape keeps flapping around. This seems a little weird, given how there’s no air in space. Meanwhile, he keeps switching from a ‘both arms thrust forward’ flying posture to the Christopher Reeve ‘one fist thrust forward, the other fist at his waist’ position. However, every time he assumes the latter we just see his arm disappear underneath his cape. This led me to wonder whether he was just scratching his ass or pulling his Super-Speedos out of his butt crack or something.
Even more oddly, he on occasion turns into a really stiff doll. This economic ‘effects’ prop will undoubtedly be employed for flying sequences throughout the movie. It’s easily as realistic as the average dummy used to portray somebody falling out of a window or off a cliff or something. In other words, not very.
Then we start getting those obviously bogus ‘American-sounding’ names: Michael Coby, Richard Yesteran, Diana Polakow. At least second credited Cameron Mitchell is a real name. So too bad they spelled it Cameron “Mitchel”(!). Then they give up the pretense entirely, and the rest of the credits are wholly in Spanish, including the job titles: efectos visuales, direccion, etc.
And then we see the Earth. Presumably this is in front of Supersonic, as he’s supposed to be heading there. However, just as we see stars moving away behind Supersonic, like on Star Trek or Star Wars, we now see stars moving past the Earth. OK, where to start?
First, unless Supersonic is moving at ‘warp speed’ from a very long distance away, they’re no reason that we’d see stars whipping past him. (Actually, of course, he’s whipping by, not the stars. But as we’re moving along with him, that’s how it appears to us.) Assuming that his ship got him at least somewhere in our Solar System, the stars would be so far off as to remain fixed in position.
Second, even were he moving the vast distances and speeds required so as to cause stars to fly past him, why would they be whipping past the Earth? It’s not moving (at least not through a vast succession of Solar Systems). This only makes sense if the Earth were moving through space directly in front of him and matching his speed. This seems, uhm, unlikely. (And let’s not even get into how the matte shot is so poor that the Earth is rendered transparent, allowing us to see stars coming racing right through her.)
We cut to a big laundry truck approaching a gated complex. The fact that the truck has ‘Canton Laundry’ printed on the side cleverly fosters the illusion that these events are taking place in the States. (Wow!) A guard inside the gate tells them to take off. However, a Bad Guy (these are attired in gas masks and black uniforms with a silly green chest emblem), who conveniently has somehow already gotten inside, knocks him out.
The truck enters, accompanied by more of the film’s inappropriate and poorly composed music. Additional Bad Guys jump from the truck and fan out over the base. They manage to take out the base’s guard personal without sustaining any casualties.
This probably sounds more impressive than it really is. None of the base’s soldiers, for instance, takes a defensive position and lays a suppressing fire down upon the invaders. Instead, pretty much to a man, they practice the unusual military technique of running straight at the Bad Guys, their guns held unfired. They also tend to do this in ones and twos, while running at groups that contain many times their number. Unsurprisingly, this technique results in them being quickly shot down by the Bad Guys, who, amusingly, are armed with laser rifles (or some such cartoon ‘ray’ weapon).
The base appears to be some sort of scientific facility. For instance, it’s contains a large radar dish. This sets up the next surprise from the truck: Two guys in silver radiation suits. (Amazingly, there are not accompanied by a fellow in a yellow chem suit.) After dropping these guys off at the main building, the truck heads on over to the radar dish.
There they reopen the truck’s rear doors, and out comes another big bunch of soldiers. They are followed by the single cheesiest ‘robot’ since Torg from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. And at least that film had some excuses: First, it was a kid’s movie, and wasn’t supposed to be ‘realistic.’ Second, that film was made for a shoestring. While Supersonic Man hardly rates as a big budget picture, it should have been able to do better than this.
And then there’s the truck: These guys must have gone to Clown College. I mean, first they pack in at least two dozen soldiers. Next, two guys in bulky radiation suits. Finally, a big, lumbering robot. In a truck compartment, yet, with zip circulation. It must have been a fun trip over to the base.
Back in the first building, the guys in the radiation suites are entering an area marked (duh) ‘Danger – Radiation Area.’ This ‘area’ is in no way sealed off from the rest of the building (well, by a chain link gate, but you know what I mean). It just sports cheap looking cardboard signs and is guarded by soldiers who aren’t wearing any special gear. Sure enough, these run straight at the Bad Guys, and are soon taken out.
At the second building, the Robot is using a flame-thrower (!) built into its arm to melt the lock off a door. (This is simpler than bringing a little plastic explosive along?) Inside, a scientist (you can tell, he’s wearing a lab jacket) is trying to reach the guards on the phone. “No one answers!” he exclaims. Since there’s no one else in the room, this seems a little odd.
The door crashes open, and the Robot comes lumbering in. (This must not have been a very enjoyable gig for the poor schmuck in the Robot suit.) Looking shocked, the scientist blurts out the immortal line “What tomfoolery is this?!” The Robot begins to stalk him, and we see that there’s a camera lens mounted in its head.
At this we cut to Cameron Mitchell, watching these events from his secret headquarters via the Robot’s camera. Mitchell here succeeds at looking very much like William Shatner, and pretty much acting like him too. The Robot completes its task by spraying the Scientist with sleeping gas. Hmm, I wonder if that’s what they used on the audience.
Being the heavy (in more ways than one), Mitchell starts gloating in a broad, hammy fashion. “Now I have you,” he proclaims. Then he points at himself, just so that we get who ‘I’ is. “I have got you now, Professor” (Yep, you just knew that the scientist guy was going to be referred to as ‘Professor,’ didn’t you?) Then Mitchell laughs and starts clapping like one of the toy monkeys. “You are in my hands,” he continues, strangely not pointing at his hands so that we get what he means. “In my power!”
On his viewscreen we see a shot of the Robot holding The Professor. This is odd. How can the Robot be shooting himself when his camera is embedded in his head? It’s almost like some kind of lame continuity error.
I should also note that it sounds like Mitchell was dubbed into the English language version by another actor. Of course, considering that they misspelled his name in the credits, chances are that Mitchell had little to do with the picture once principle photography was done.
We cut to Radiation Suit Guys, who are manhandling a big MacGuffin box out of the Danger Area. They toss it into a golf cart and withdraw at the same time that the Robot is loading The Professor into the truck. (Like it wasn’t crowded enough before!) Soon, everyone is sardined back in and they’ve made their escape.
We cut to Paul, a vaguely early-Burt Reynolds looking dude wearing a brown turtleneck and tan slacks. He’s in his apartment, watching a news report on the events at the Center for Energy and Space Research. (Uh, shouldn’t that be the Center for Energy, Space and Giraffe Research? I mean, while we’re consolidating our Centers and all.) We learn that eight guards were “mortally wounded,” that radioactive material was stolen, and that the missing Professor Morgan was a “well-known scientist.” Ever notice how many more ‘well known’ scientists there are in movies than in real life?
The Reporter interviews the unfortunately named Colonel Johnson (believe me, any name with even the vaguest phallic connotation is bad news in the Military), Head (*snort*) of Security. When asked how this attack could have occurred, Johnson replies in what I think is code. “Well, I’m not prepared to be categorical on that,” he helpfully begins. “But my men can demonstrate the attackers were not only perfectly familiar with the layout here, but knew our system of alarms as well.”
Plus, they had this big-ass Robot. Too bad the base doesn’t have security cameras, or they might have known that. Johnson (hee hee, ‘johnson’) notes that it would take “profound knowledge of [the] mechanics” of the alarms to neutralize them. He’s apparently referring to the when the Robot used a blowtorch on them.
The Reporter asks if they have any clue as to Professor Morgan’s whereabouts. Johnson (*snicker*) admits that they don’t. This seems like a pretty open reaction from the Military, to be sitting around yakking about their inadequacies to the Press. We also learn that Professor Morgan helped to design the alarm system. Oh. Right. He’s a movie scientist. I forgot about how they’re proficient in any and all scientific and technical disciplines.
A camera cut reveals that Mitchell (who I can now verify is definitely being dubbed by another actor) is also watching the news. He’s telling Prof. Morgan how carefully planned this raid was, even to implicating him in his own kidnapping (i.e., it was designed to look like an inside job, thus casting suspicion on the Good Professor).
We cut back to the Reporter, who’s attempting to interview Patricia, the Professor’s daughter. (Oh, brother!) She’s fairly attractive, meaning that she has ‘Love Interest’ written all over her. She, of course, bristles at any insinuations that her father was in on the raid. When Prof. Morgan expresses his sadness over his daughter’s grief, Mitchell tells him not to worry. Apparently, he’s made arrangements for her to join her father in captivity, the better to blackmail him. He then again bursts into maniacal laughter, as if he were a refugee villain from a Dudley Do-right cartoon. This annoying trait is the closest Mitchell comes to providing characterization here.
Paul, who is (duh) Supersonic’s human identity, holds the arm bearing his wristwatch up to his face and begins to speak. “May the Great Force of the Galaxies (‘dramatic’ pause) be with me.” A bright spotlight over his head comes on (like on Touched by an Angel) and he transforms into Supersonic.
In case you don’t ‘get’ it, they’ve separated Supersonic and Paul into two different beings. That way there’s always the chance that the human Paul will be killed before turning into his invulnerable alter-ego. See, this provides Dramatic Tension. No, really. I swear. Or he could lose his watch, which activates the transformation. Or maybe lose his voice, so that he couldn’t pronounce the necessary mantra. See, many, many things could go wrong.
Supersonic exits through his window (supposedly) and we see him standing on a tall building. Since I have a fear of heights, I can only consider the actor to be a moron for standing on top of such a high building, much less while wearing that goofy outfit. He ‘jumps,’ and is soon seen flying via Special Effects magic that more calls to mind the George Reeves’ TV Superman of the ’50s than the big budget Christopher Reeve’s Superman of the late ’70s.
This flying sequence, again accompanied by the execrable Supersonic Man Theme, is laughably intercut with a few shots of people staring and pointing up into the skies. You will believe that a man can fly! The background footage tries, and miserably fails, to convince us that Supersonic is flying over New York City.
Meanwhile, Patricia is leaving her house in her Herbie-esque white Volkswagen Bug. She gets out to close the little gate to her driveway (which all American homes possess) and is hailed by a comic relief bum accompanied by a basset hound for ‘cute’ points. He solicits money for some relief agency, although it’s ‘comically’ indicated that he’ll use the money to purchase further intoxicants. A smiling Patricia (of course she’s smiling, the guy’s Comic Relief) ignores him and drives off.
To make sure that we ‘get’ it, we cut to a close-up of the fellow, bearing signs with slogans like “Alcohol is Death.” He’s lamenting the fact that Patricia didn’t give him any money. “The whole city is corrupted by sin,” he notes to this dog, while downing a shot from his pocket flask. See? He’s carrying signs against alcoholism, yet is himself a drunk. Comedy! By the time you get to his scene-ending belch, you’ll be in stitches. Trust me.
Patricia’s Bug is cruising down the street, and soon ends up being followed by a rusty, smashed up old jalopy. Apparently, Mitchell’s henchmen procure their pursuit vehicles from Rent-A-Wreck. (I hope they got a receipt for their expense report.) This scene, hilariously, is accompanied with a jazzy drum solo. Some more stock footage tries to convince us that the ‘chase’ has taken them to New York City.
Riding about six inches to her rear on a road with about half a dozen cars on it, Goon #1 unconvincingly notes that “She might shake us in this traffic!” So when she stops at a red light, they start to make their move. Now, I’m no criminal mastermind. Still, wouldn’t it have been better to grab her when she was in the comparatively secluded suburban area from which she came, rather than waiting until she was in city traffic? (Admittedly, not a horrifically busy part of the city, but still.)
Suddenly, though, the light turns green again (after being red for all of ten seconds). Patricia, alarmed by these suspicious characters, takes off. Then she’s right back out of the city again. (Apparently, you can drive completely through New York City in about five minutes.) One goon sagely notes that “She’s trying to get away!” Hey, ever notice that people who are being followed never just drive to a police station? Patricia, however, is apparently pursuing another plan: Keep driving until the pursuing car runs out of gas, while her thrifty Bug continues on. (This would certainly work if she were being pursued by the film itself, which ran out of gas some time ago.)
Finally, since we have a movie to get on with and all, the Goons cut her off, forcing her down a dirt road. This, conveniently enough for the kidnappers, sends her into a secluded forested area. For no reason whatsoever, they begin shooting at her. You’d think that if they accidentally killed her, her value as blackmail bait would be somewhat diminished. But what do I know?
Proving to be one of the world’s best shots, the Goon manages to blow out her tire. This, while shooting from a moving car that’s behind, not alongside, her car. And with a snub-nosed revolver, yet! (As well, he somehow shoots out one of her left-hand tires, although he’s leaning out the right side of his car.) Careening out of control, Patricia almost fatally smashes into a very weird piece of heavy construction equipment. (See the above note re: her death impacting her worth to Mitchell.)
We soon see why the steamroller (or whatever it is) looks so weird. It’s because it’s clearly constructed of balsa wood spottily coated with yellow paint. We see this when Supersonic makes his well-timed appearance, lifting up the goofy looking vehicle before Patricia smashes through it, er, crashes into it. Patricia drives under it and then Supersonic puts it back down in front of her pursuers. Since they can’t actually hit it (because then we might note how it’s made of wood and all), they instead swerve and end up driving down a not very steep incline. Oh, and ten points to anyone who wondered if their car inexplicably bursts into flames: Why, yes, it does.
Patricia, whose car also went down the incline (without, of course, blowing up), recovers to find Paul asking about her health. (Paul/Supersonic is one of those transformers whose clothes conveniently change with their identities.) Oddly, she’s in what appears to be Paul’s car. Soâ€¦what? He intuited where the chase would lead, drove there, changed into Supersonic, more or less killed her pursuers and then changed back into Paul? Hmm. Well, when you put it that way, it all makes sense. Paul also notes that the other car went over the “cliff,” which seems a somewhat grandiose designation for a slightly graded thirty foot incline.
We next see them driving back to the city that night. Apparently, neither has suggested contacting the police or the National Security apparatus. Patricia tells him that at first she thought her pursuers were just “drunken bums or something.” It wasn’t until the gunplay started (this after they followed her for what appeared to be hours and then tried to cut off her car) that she got “awfully scared.” Proving that her dad has all the brains in the family, she hasn’t yet considered the possibility that this incident could be tied in with her father’s disappearance.
Patricia speaks of the mystery man who raised up the ‘steamroller.’ Paul mocks her, apparently trying to make her skittish about telling this tale. Patricia finally asks why he didn’t call the police. Paul notes that Patricia was OK, and that there “was nothing anyone could do for the others.” Paul also notes that the police don’t much like private detectives, which is what he is. (Probably because they drive witnesses away from crime scenes.)
Patricia notes that, since her car was left at the crime scene, they’ll have to contact the cops at some point. Paul thinks about this and concurs. (Duh!) So he suggests stopping at a French Resturant he knows, grabbing a bite, and calling the police from there. (Yeah, it’s not like the cops will order them to immediately come down to the station or anything, and then arrest Paul on about half a dozen different charges.) Patricia, being in the kind of movie that she is, agrees.
(For those keeping track, this, almost half an hour into the movie, is when we are finally apprised of the names of our main characters.)
On the way to dinner, the car passes a marquee for a theater playing Buck Rodgers. This, I presume, is supposed to be a joke, if not a very good one. Then, in a truly shocking scene, we cut to the resturant, where we see Patriciaâ€¦smoking! In a public building! Well, maybe Mr. Big Shot Supersonic should do something about that! (Of course, it is a French resturant. When in Romeâ€¦on the other hand, she’s not acting particularly rudeâ€¦hmm.)
We now casually learn that some guy named Harrison has offered Patricia info on her father for $5,000. Boy, is that guy dead meat! First, never betray a supervillain. And if you do, ask for more than $5,000. Paul warns her that cases like this always attract “sharpies.” (Man, they’re got that American street lingo down!) Paul, of course, volunteers his professional services.
(In a nicely goofy little continuity error, Patricia has the hand holding the cigarette up near her face in the medium shots, but has the arm tucked down on the table in the close-ups.)
I should also note that the, uh, actress portraying Patricia has so far played role with a sense of exaggerated nonchalance. This, despite her father being kidnapped, herself almost getting abducted or murdered, and seeing a guy lift a, er, steamroller. As she explains this possible lead to her father’s whereabouts, her boredom is palpable.
In fact, continuing as if she were reacting to Paul’s request for a pen, she notes that Harrison “gave me a phone number. I was supposed to call him from a bar on 72nd street.” When Paul suggests calling the number, she continues, still as if comparing fabric softeners. “I wasn’t supposed to call him after seven under any circumstances.” Let me guess. If she does, he turns into an evil Gremlin. Ooh, Patricia, don’t get him wet! Don’t get him wet!!
Paul, hoping to move the film along (please!), still favors calling, even if it is after seven. Patricia, without expressing any qualms that this might ill effect her father, agrees. She gets up and they head for the phone.
The number proves to be for the switchboard at the cheesy Rio Hotel. Patricia gets connected to Harrison’s room, but the switchboard guy listens in. (Which is why you don’t run a blackmail scheme from a hotel with a switchboard.) Harrison answers, annoyed at Patricia for not following his instructions. Still, we never actually learn why she wasn’t supposed to call after 7:00. My guess is that he didn’t want her calling in the middle of Friends.
She tells him she has the money, and he gives her the address of a bar. They’ll meet the next night. She asks how she’ll recognize him, and he tells her to listen for a “western record.” (Would that be like spitting chaw eighty-seven feet?) Then we cut down to the switchboard guy, to remind us that this is a doomed venture. (It’s amazing how Super-villains always have these extraordinarily extensive intelligence networks.)
Paul drops her back at her house, and tells her to lock up. Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. As he leaves, he bumps back into Comedy Relief Drunk Guy. (Thus confirming our worst fears: He’s a running character.) CRDG asks for a couple of bucks, saying that it’ll make him a new man. Paul notes that he himself is a new man, one from space, and that it’s no big deal. (Well, it’s certainly no big deal in this movie!). This is supposed to be ‘humorous,’ and CRDG replies with a ‘comical’ reaction. Then he talks to his dog and draws on his flask again. Man, my sides! No, wait. That’s not my sides. It’s my stomach. I knew that something was achin’.
We cut to a rocky Atoll, which houses a very lame miniature set of Mitchell’s underground secret headquarters. As if this wasn’t insulting enough, a patently bogus toy helicopter is on hand as well. ‘Inside’ the ‘copter, a couple of guys request permission to land. This is granted, and camouflaged doors open to admit the vehicle. It’s like a James Bond movie, but one where Blofeld only had about seven hundred dollars to build his base. I really have to reiterate that this sequence showcases some of the cheapest and lamest effects I’ve ever seen. And I’m saying that I’ve ever seen.
The white-haired occupant of the helicopter is Peterson. (Wow. Peterson. Harrison. They must have really wracked their brains when naming the characters here.) Mitchell is waiting to meet with him. Now we finally learn that the name of our villain is Dr. Gulik. (The Internet Movie Database failed to provide character names here, so I’m spelling them as they sound.) Gulik informs Peterson (and us) that he’s only lacking one ‘shipment’ before he can put his evil plan into effect.
Peterson wants to wait for the final supply raid because Prof. Morgan’s disappearance has “put the whole country in a panic.” Hence, security has been increased. (Yeah, you’d think.) Gulik, of course, will brook no delay. “I don’t allow failure,” he notes. “I hope you understand that.”
Well, he does if he’s ever seen a movie with a Supervillain in it before. To my utter amazement, they even do the “I thinkâ€¦” “No, you don’t think” exchange. I mean, oh, brother! Even worse, Gulik, who’s being played by Cameron Mitchell, orders Peterson not to think, but to “act!” Imagine! Cameron Mitchell telling someone else to act! I can’t stand it!
Gulik asks about Patricia, noting that she must be “absolutely functional.” (Too late! And given what we’ve seen from her so far, I hope that he doesn’t intend to order her to ‘act.’) Gulik, needless to say, is dismayed to learn that Patricia’s not in their hands. Nor does he probably want to hear how Peterson sent two doofi in a broken down junker after her, who shot at her and then almost caused her to crash fatally into a steamroller. I have a feeling that this would have left her less than ‘absolutely functional.’
Despite the fact that Gulik ‘doesn’t allow failure,’ he merely rolls his eyes at Peterson’s news. Peterson laughably continues that “we’re keeping close tabs on her.” He plans to have the bar where she’s to meet Harrison staked out. You know, if I was the number one henchman of an evil Supervillain, and the woman I was ordered to grab was alone in her house, and I had dozens of trained commandos and a big-ass Robot at my command, well, I might just go in and get her now. But what do I know?
We cut to the bar, a seedy place populated by a bunch of comic relief rummies for ‘color.’ Patricia is waiting for Harrison to make his appearance, with Paul undercover at the bar. Harrison enters, and plays a record on the jukebox that sounds like player piano music. (I’ll bet that’s a popular selection.) Then he starts towards Patricia’s table. However, the patrons are a rowdy bunch, and trip Harrison and start hassling him. (Boy, first he picks a hotel where a guy listens in on his phone, then he chooses a bar where he get beaten up by boozehounds. This guy’s not exactly Professor Moriarty or anything.)
Paul starts to intervene and, sure enough, we end up with a rather incongruous ‘bar fight.’ Like all such scenes, this one is intercut with ‘comical’ incidents, like the bar owner getting hit with a plate of spaghetti as he tries to call the police. (Don’t ask.) We get all the de rigour elements: People getting smacked with candy glass beer bottles, balsa wood tables getting smashed, the guy who flies over the bar, the fellow tossed out the front window, the barmaid who hits a guy with a serving tray, the patron who calmly continues eating in the middle of the fight, etc.
Peterson, meanwhile, who indeed has staked out the bar, has Patricia grabbed. They drive off with her as Paul basically gets his butt handed to him, eventually getting knocked out. Somehow, though, Peterson has intuited that Paul was with Patricia. He orders, rather conveniently I might add, to have him brought along.
Why? I mean, let’s buy that they’ve somehow figured out that he’s with her. Even so, the most logical conclusion would be that he’s a bodyguard or undercover cop protecting her. In which case (or in any case), what would be the point of bringing him with? Other than the fact that otherwise our ‘hero’ would never be able to find the Supervillain’s secret base.
We catch up with Paul, who’s been tossed into the rear compartment of a truck. His hands have been tied behind his back, meaning that he can’t, that’s right, raise up his watch in order to change into Supersonic. To our horror, we see that the twosome driving the truck are a couple more ‘comedy’ relief (as in, “PLEASE, I NEED SOME RELIEF FROM THIS ‘COMEDY!!'”) goons. We know this because one of them is fat and the other one (get ready to guffaw!) stutters. How does Gulik plan to take over the world with this lame bunch?
They’re planning on how to dispose of Paul. Uhm, well, why didn’t you just shoot him in the head when he was unconscious? I know, I know. Because then he’d be dead. And why didn’t they just leave him in the bar, again? Back in the rear, we see Paul pretty much just slip the ropes off his wrists. Wow, that was a masterful escape.
Paul quickly transforms into Supersonic. He leaps, I mean, flies from out of the back of the truck. Turning into his flying doll form, Supersonic’s soon standing in the road in front of the truck. However, the goons can’t stop the truck because all of the sudden, as we’re told, “the brakes don’t work!” (Man, I’ve seen some lazy scripting in my time, butâ€¦) However, Supersonic is able to stop the truck with a tap of his hand. He then leaps backward. This, I guess, is somehow supposed to have dispersed the truck’s kinetic energy, since the truck is unscathed by it’s instant stop. Or something.
Fat Goon opens fire with a submachine gun, which apparently has one of those four thousand round ammunition drums. We watch little cartoon bullets bounce off our hero’s chest. Then he waves his arm and (?) the barrel of the machine gun bends. This somehow, instead of causing the barrel to burst and tear it’s user’s head off, redirects the bullets into the truck’s front tire.
The two frightened hoodlums run off together (in spite of the fact that they got out of opposite sides of the truck). However, Supersonic again points his arm and materializes a flying net (look, I’m just reporting this stuff) to land atop of them. Then, when the guys threaten to clam up, our hero waves his hand, producing a red cartoon haze over the truck, which dematerializes.
This leads (groan) to a ‘humorous’ bit where the frightened stutterer starts flawlessly pouring out line after line of dialog. After Supersonic learns of a farmhouse where they were to go after bumping him off, he lets them go. As the bad “Oh, Suzanna” music from the bar plays again, the twosome runs away via some speeded up footage, like Benny Hill would use for his comical chase scenes. Gee, couldn’t we have worked a pie fight in here somewhere?
Dr. Gulik is taking Prof. Morgan on a tour of his base. Now we (finally) learn Gulik’s objective. Morgan has invented a super fuel, one which can be used to “increase the power of the laser, to the point that it becomes a veritable Death Ray.” (Sheesh! Supervillains and their Death Rays!) I’m not quite sure how a ‘super fuel’ would, in particular, increase the power of a laser, but then I’m not a scientist.
Morgan, of course, refuses to cooperate. Gulik, in turn, offers to make him “the richest man in the world” (what would Gulik be, then?) or “the most miserable. It’s your own option.” Morgan, continuing to cover all the clichÃˆs, asserts that he has “no fear of death.” Gulik counters with a hammy speech in which he invites Morgan to think it over. In the end, though, he saves the obvious ‘daughter’ threat for later in the picture.
We next see the SM Doll ‘flying’ through some steam meant to represent a cloud. This is no more effective than when they did the same thing in The Giant Claw. At least it obscures the doll, though, which we realize when it next flies openly over a doll house. Said miniature, apparently, is meant to represent the farmhouse mentioned by the Comic Relief Goons. It also, at best, looks like a school project as executed by a fairly talented fifth grader.
We cut to Supersonic ‘landing’ in front of what is now a real house. Since he has superpowers, he ‘waves’ the front door open. Hey, any schmuck can twist the knob, am I right? He wanders through the unfurnished abode as ‘action-suspense’ music kicks in. The use of such music usually indicates that something exciting is about to occur. Here, however, nothing much happens. The effect of watching our hero walking through a series of empty hallways while accompanied by bombastic ‘Peter Gunn’ style music quickly becomes more than a little comical.
SM enters the basement and halts in front of a brick wall, seemingly at random. He then stares while a light strobes over his head. This is meant to portray his use of X-Ray vision. Sure enough, behind the wall we see Peterson, on a secret radio call to Gulik. Luckily, Our Hero has managed to show up at the exact second when Peterson is explaining where Patricia will be handed over to Gulik’s agents. (Fortunately, SM also appears to have, uh, X-Ray hearing.)
Peterson goes on to helpfully blab where Gulik’s next shipment of supplies is being held. Surprisingly, he doesn’t conclude by saying “Good-bye, my Evil Boss Dr. Gulik, and I’ll see you at your underground secret base on Antwerp Island, Latitude 130âˆž, Longitude 80âˆž, tomorrow morning at 10:00 Greenwich Mean Time, exactly two hours before you plan to use your Laser Death Ray to destroy the major world capitols and take over the Earth.”
Meanwhile, a camera in the basement (which is oddly tied in at Gulik’s end, rather than Peterson’s, who, after all, is actually in the house) has spotted Supersonic. So. He can wave open doors and see through walls, but he can’t spot a big, black, clunky security camera sitting right out in plain sight. Supersonic waves his hand again (what does he do when he wants to get someone’s attention?) and makes the camera (*gasp*) disappear. (Why bother? They already saw him.) This Movie Magic is achieved by the ultra-sophisticated ‘turn off the camera, remove the item, turn the camera back on’ technique. Then he runs into the secret room, but Peterson has escaped.
We cut to the next day. A car containing Patricia and some goons is heading towards a rendezvous with Gulik’s agent. One thug, rather implausibly I might add, notes that they better hurry up or “that bastard on the yacht may leave!” Yeah. Sure. Dr. Gulik has made it clear that his plan is stalled until Patricia is safely in his hands. So his henchman, waiting for this vital hostage, is going to get bored and leave. “Hey, screw it, man. I clearly said 11:00. I’m out of here!” (On the other hand, the sentence is rich in expository information: Their contact is meeting them on a yacht, and was born out of wedlock.)
We have some time to waste, so we stay with the occupants of the car for a bit. Even though the car fails to swerve or shake and appears to be going pretty slowly, the two goons in the back seat start saying things like “Hey, are you trying to kill us?!” Hmm. Perhaps they’re talking to the director about their future careers as actors.
We cut to a very bad process shot of Supersonic suspended on wires in front of a stock shot of the Statue of Liberty. (“Give me your poor actors, your tired scripts, your huddled masses sleeping in their theater seatsâ€¦”) This is intercut with footage of the car, which is obviously in no way even in the same part of the world as Supersonic. Nonetheless, I believe that the intercutting is meant to imply that he’s following Patricia’s car.
Cut to a rather unspectacular little ‘yacht,’ where two other hoodlums are waiting. The Goon Car arrives, knocks over a bunch of stacked boxes for no reason (it’s like when Lt. Frank Drebin parks on the Police Squad TV show), and stops near the walkway to the boat. (Amusingly, we can see the wind still blowing one of the boxes around, confirming that they were empty.) The goons jump out, a struggling Patricia trapped between them.
Supersonic ‘lands’ and waves his hands, causing two guns to fly away and the third to turn into a banana. (Look, I’m just telling it as it is.) To heighten the ‘hilarity,’ the owner of said gun reacts by noting that “I don’t like bananas!” and tosses it aside. Actually, I’m surprised he got rid of it. It was the only thing in the movie with a peal! (Get it?! “A peal“?! BWAHAHAHAHA!!) Then the guy splits!! HA!! I KILL ME!!
Leaving Patricia on the beach, the goons jump aboard the yacht to make their escape. Rather than ‘waving’ the boat into non-existence (or changing it into a horrendously big cucumber) or, better, flying up and following the boat to see where it goes, Supersonic merely helps Patricia up and they walk offscreen.
We cut to a military ‘convoy,’ represented by one jeep and a truck. Suddenly, a stock f/x explosion occurs, followed by some poorly cut footage meant to indicate that the jeep’s been destroyed. We then see the soldiers laying on the ground, their vehicle on its side at their feet.
The soldiers quickly come to, only to find the Robot stalking towards them. This is a really, really bad idea on the filmmakers’ part. The scene is shot outside in glaring sunlight, affording us a distressingly clear view of the film’s goofy robot suit. Let’s just say that the sight doesn’t exactly aid our suspension of disbelief. (Oh, and I personally found it odd that the purported American troops are carrying submachine guns with the clip attached at the side, like a British Sten gun. I’m not sure what they are, but they’re certainly not American issue.)
They open fire on the Robot, to (duh) no effect. (Why are robots always more bullet proof than, say, cars?) The Robot retaliates with one of the goofy toy rockets attached to its head. The soldiers taken care of, some of Gulik’s gas-masked storm trooper manquÃˆs run out to check the truck. The cargo proves to be a stainless steel MacGuffin Box, with which they abscond. This precious whatsit secure, Dr. Gulik’s evil plans can now proceed.
Some ‘excitement’ is added when a shot of a toy helicopter is inserted, then ‘blown up’ by the Robot’s second toy rocket. This doesn’t exactly rate with that helicopter that goes up with the White House in Independence Day, but hey, they’re trying. The Robot also, for seemingly little purpose, blows up the truck, apparently under the principle that anything that explodes is interesting. Which, we quickly discern, is a lamentably false premise.
Back to Headquarters. Dr. Gulik and Prof. Morgan get into one of those bad “The Philosophy of Evil” debates that all Italian Villains with learned captives seem to engage in. When Gulik asks Morgan if he thinks that Gulik is the only ‘greedy’ man on the planet, Morgan replies no, but that he is the worst. As proof of this contention, he notes Gulik’s “complete lack of honesty!” Then he notes that anything Science can invent can “be used for bad as well as good.” Hmm, this is a formidable intellect indeed!
Back to, uh, New York. Paul’s in bed, being awakened by the phone. It’s Patricia, and Paul pretends to be relieved that she’s OK. (OK, so, what? Patricia is rescued during the day, but doesn’t call ‘Paul’ until the next morning? Or did Supersonic drop her off, fly home, change into his PJs, go to sleep, and then get awakened shortly after when Patricia phones?) He makes plans to meet her for dinner.
We cut to a restaurant. Paul asks how she escaped, and Patricia mentions the “supersonic stranger.” (Did he introduce himself, or did she just ‘happen’ to pick that adjective?) Paul, of course, pretends that he still doesn’t believe her. He wryly notes that, given her heroic protector, it doesn’t seem like she needs him much. Patricia demurs, noting that Paul’s “been a lot of help!” (which he hasn’t, other than giving her a ride home that first time), and pleads with him to continue aiding her.
Meanwhile, Dr. “I don’t accept failure” Gulik is petulantly calling his henchmen liars, upon hearing about how Supersonic saved Patricia. (Look, have you even attempted torturing Prof. Morgan yet? You never know until you try!) The goons babble on about how their bullets had no effect. Personally, I thought the ability to transmute a gun into a banana to be a more noteworthy trait.
Dr. Gulik has a Light Bulb Moment. “Patricia Morgan is the key,” he exclaims. “If we can get her, we can force him to cooperate.” Then he tells Peterson that he (Peterson) is his assistant, and that he (Gulik) won’t tolerate failure. (Contrary to all available evidence.) My guess here is that Gulik has incipient Alzheimer’s, given how he’s just ‘discovered’ about three things that he’s known since the beginning of the movie.
A disgusted Gulik has the two lesser goons dragged off. Peterson, though, notes that the truck drivers also told of “this mysterious person who calls himself Supersonic.” Now, Gulik might doubt the superpowers part, but he saw a guy in a silly suit on the security camera earlier, another thing he seems to have ‘forgotten.’ In fact, it’s Peterson who makes this connection. (Perhaps he should be the Evil Supervillain.)
This possibility perplexes Gulik. “Who sent him?” he queries. “Who is he? From where? More important: Why? Why?! WHY?!!” He rants on. “We must find this strange devil, or whatever the hell he is, before he panics my entire organization!” Because you know what happens then. Word leaks out onto the Street, and your stock price plummets. When Peterson asks how they’re to find him, Gulik notes that he always shows up wherever Patricia is.
We cut to Paul and Patricia leaving the restaurant. Paul provides evidence that he’s a professional private detective with the following brilliant deduction: “I don’t think you ought to go home. Those guys aren’t going to leave you alone!” However, she intends to stay there, in case news of her father comes in. Paul offers to drop by that afternoon, to make sure that she’s OK. She, in turn, offers to make him dinner. “Great!” he replies. “I’ll bring the champagne!” Yeah, you two getting blotto will definitely help if the bad guys show up.
Next we see Paul at the docks, approaching a warehouse. This is presumably the location where Peterson told Gulik that their supplies were being kept. Luckily, for a site containing the necessary reserves for an Evil Genius Who Threatens the Very Globe, there aren’t a lot of guards around. There is a dog, but it’s leashed to a wall. It does bark at him, though.
The seemingly impenetrable security apparatus thus breached, Paul enters. Inside the huge building, Paul sees a forklift operator, but hides before being spotted. Boy. That was close. Whew. Then a second guy comes up (man, the place is crawling!) and tells the forklift guy that he thought he saw someone snooping about. ‘Danger’ music plays, in case we didn’t get how it would be bad were Paul caught and everything.
Meanwhile, Peterson is approaching their location in a seaplane, speaking with the warehouse via radio. Somehow, the guy there knows that Paul (“the one that was with Patricia Morgan”) is on the premises. This is a pretty big leap from another guy mentioning that he thought he saw somebody, but whatever. Peterson, naturally, tells the guy to have Paul taken care of.
Since Paul is mortal in his human guise, the henchmen hunt him only with crowbars and fists. After all, they can’t shoot him until he transforms, because then he would be dead and the movie would be over. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Paul quickly runs into them and engages in some poorly choreographed ‘fighting.’ Then, for the second time in a row, he gets knocked out during a brawl. I think that if I were Paul I’d just stay Supersonic all the time.
And if I were the Bad Guys, I’d just shoot him while he’s out. I mean, he’s already escaped from them once. But no. They again tie him up, wrap him in a blanket and have him transported to the yacht where Peterson’s waiting for Gulik’s MacGuffin Box. Yeah, I’m a bad guy waiting for highly illegal cargo, and I want a body-shaped package carried in plain sight to my location on a public dock.
Cut to the yacht at sea. Peterson checks in with Gulik, who’s sharing a candle lit dinner with Prof. Morgan. (Supervillains always cultivate such anachronistic flourishes in their super-scientific secret bases. It’s a panache thing.) As noted earlier, Italians, from what I’ve seen, love conversations in which Evil War Lord type characters engage in simplistic ‘philosophical’ conversations with Peaceful Wise Types (PWTs). For another example, see The Blade Master, the second Ator movie, which is better known to MST3K fans as Cave Dwellers.
PWT Morgan is, per custom, taking the ‘It-won’t-work-and-if-it-does-what-will-it-profit-you?’ angle. “Why must you persist in this reckless folly? What advantage can you gain from the illusion of power you can neither understand or successfully control? Don’t you realize that Moral Forces stronger than yourself will ensure that your attempt at usurpation of supreme power must fail?”
“You dream, old man,” comes Gulik’s inevitably sneering reply. “And it’s a bad dream! Morality, what the hell is that? Good over Evil? Morality is finished, it’s over! So naÃ”ve. Who? Who will stop me?! Not this foolish man in red with the blue face. Not this carnival freak. No. You speak of force. Soon you will know the true force.”
As you can see, we’re not exactly squaring off Machiavelli and Spinoza here. Continuing on in the customary fashion, Gulik again exhorts Morgan to join him. He even has the gall to quote Caesar: “And conquer I will: Veni, vidi, vici.” [“I came, I saw, I conquered.”] This, as opposed to my personal experience here: Veni, vidi, snoozi. And if this movie lasts much longer, I’ll be progressing to Veni, vidi, boozi.
Back to Peterson’s yacht. Since Peterson doesn’t want Gulik to have a hissy fit, he and his Sub-Henchman decide to just toss Paul overboard. They haul up the bag he’s enclosed in (this way, the bag is shown being tossed into the ocean, while they can to cut to close-ups of the actor filmed in a swimming pool) and Heave-ho!
Just in case the film wasn’t corny enough, we cut from the bag sinking into the ‘ocean’ to a, that’s right, stock footage shark. We intercut from the footage of the shark swimming in murky water to the interior of the bag with Paul. Oddly, the water inside the bag, rather than being murky, is entirely clear. Almost, one might think, chlorinated. Paul gets his gag off, speaks his magic phrase (despite being underwater) and changes into the Supersonic Doll, which is obviously itself filmed in a fish tank.
The Supersonic Doll ’emerges’ from the water through the cutting edge f/x technique of dropping it in a swimming pool and then running the film backwards. Eat your heart out, Steven Spielberg!
Next, proof that ‘special’ effects can get even cheesier than that. The actor playing Supersonic holds his hands over his head. This is filmed by a cameraman who shoots his torso and arms from a low angle. Since we can only see him from the waist up, shot against the sky, we’re to believe that he’s flying in a horizontal position rather than standing in a vertical position. See. Movie magic. If Jim Cameron had been this clever he could have brought in Titanic for about three hundred bucks.
Sub-Henchman, on Peterson’s yacht, is searching the skies with binoculars. Why? So he can unexpectedly spot Supersonic flying at them. Soon he and Peterson are in a panic. Perhaps they have an irrational fear of extremely poor ‘flying’ effects. Hmm. Nah, then they’d be utterly paralyzed with terror.
Peterson and his crew grab firearms and let fly. “It’ll be interesting,” a scoffing Peterson notes, “to see if this guy is really bulletproof!” Yeah, it’s hard to believe that a flying man could be bulletproof. (Not to mention that, given the shots meant to represent Supersonic’s point of view, he’s flying so high that you couldn’t possibly hit him with pistols and submachine guns.)
Seeing that, much like the film itself, the bullets are having no effect, Peterson orders “Full speed!” He shoots for another bit, then he yells “More power!” Uh, I’m no sailor, but I’m not sure how much “more power” a boat can muster once it’s going “full speed.”
The crew continues to fire hundreds and hundreds of rounds without ever bothering to reload. Meanwhile, we have plenty of time to think that maybe Supersonic should have followed the boat from a distance. See, that way, he’d have learned where they were going. I mean, I’m not a cosmically powered superhero, but that’s what I’d have done.
Sub-Henchman notes to Peterson that they’d better make their escape. Peterson agrees and orders the others to continue firing. Meanwhile, he, Sub-henchman and Gulik’s vital iridium shipment (the MacGuffin Box) take off in a goofy toy submarine that comes out of the ‘bottom’ of the ‘boat.’ If you thought about the size of the boat for half a second, you’d realize that there’s no possible way that it could be holding a two-man sub, but anyway. Then a bad model representing the boat explodes. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps that’s what happens when you demand more power from a boat going full speed.
Back to Patricia’s house. She’s still there, unmolested by Gulik’s men, although completely unguarded. In fact, we can see that she’s even got the rear French doors open a crack. We’re not exactly talking High Security here. She’s laying out dinner gear and futzing with her hair when the doorbell rings. At the door, she asks who it is. When Paul answers, she mischievously pretends that she doesn’t know any Pauls. Ha ha! Man, it’s like she the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker or something!
Having had enough hilarity (I’m with her there), she lets him in. Paul, back in character, derides her talk of this Supersonic fellow. This resembles, none too surprisingly, a very bad imitation Lois Lane/Clark Kent conversation. Showing no shame, they even include the inevitable observation that “You two never appear at the same time.”
Paul, remembering that he left the champagne in the car (what an idiot!), goes to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Patricia pulls this big, flat black waxen disc from a thin cardboard envelope and puts it on this weird rotating gizmo. Then music comes out, like from a CD. Hey, I know that this is a Science Fiction movie, but what’s with the strange gadgets?
Paul gets to his car and looks perplexed. Then we see that Comedy Relief Drunk Guy is in the backseat, drinking Paul’s bottle of champagne. Comedy! Paul grimaces, then moves into plain sight and transforms into Supersonic. Apparently, it’s OK to do this in front of CRDG, since if he tells anyone they’ll just think he’s insane and lock him up in an asylum.
Supersonic flies back to the city. Landing, he enters a restaurant’s kitchen, grabs a couple of bottles, and leaves without paying for them. Hmm, I wonder if this falls under the instructions from the beginning of the movie. You know, about using his powers with discretion, and only when the Truth requires it.
Back at Patricia’s, he reassumes his human guise. (This is supposedly a suburban residential street, and his transformations are still accompanied by bright spotlight effects, yet, oddly, no neighbors notice.) Then he comically hands one bottle over to the drunk. But wait, the humor’s not over yet. For he’s given CRDG not a bottle of booze, but of soda! Ha! This leads to the inevitable ‘gulp then look shocked’ shot that you always get after handing a movie drunk a non-alcoholic beverage. Amazingly, though, CRDG fails to spit up the soda in a comical Danny Thomas-esque fashion.
Back at Evil HQ, Gulik is ranting about Supersonic’s interference. Oddly, the question that plagues him the most is where Supersonic came from. Personally, I’d be more concerned about charting the limits of his paranormal abilities, but then, I’m not an Evil Maniac Bent on World Conquest. Prof. Morgan asserts his hope that Supersonic kicks Gulik’s ass (although not, perhaps, in so many words). Gulik calls him an “old idiot” for about the hundredth time, proving that a facility for rapier-witted bon mots is not a prerequisite to becoming a World Threatening Supervillain.
We cut back to Paul and Patricia’s dinner party. To our horror, they’re, uh, dancing to some extraordinarily bad ‘romantic’ music. Fulfilling all our worst fears, they begin making out, shot in extremely tight (and nauseating) close-up. This scene is kind of like Tax Day. You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t make it any more bearable.
It’s therefore a pretty big relief when we cut to the Robot again disembarking from his truck. Apparently, they’ve finally decided to go into Patricia’s house and grab her. Just when we’re getting an honest laugh at the Robot again, though, Comedy Relief Drunk Guy reappears. Needless to say, this causes the scene’s actual humor quotient to plummet rather precipitately. He drunkenly asks the Robot for a light for his cigar. Three guesses what happens next, but if you presaged that CRDG would end up looking like Wile E. Coyote after a bomb goes off, you’re in the right ball park.
We cut back to our poorly prancing couple, raising the hope that the Robot is programmed to utterly destroy all bad dancers. Hearing the door being knocked in, or something (it sounds too quiet for that, but whatever), Paul and Patricia decide to check it out instead of running out the back door. They soon confront the Robot, and react in a slightly confused fashion, as if wondering where the six year-old that built this thing is.
Watching via the Robot’s camera, Prof. Morgan protests to Gulik that “Patricia has nothing to do with this!” Gulik, naturally, responds by asking if Morgan can really be so ignorant of obligatory plot devices. (Actually, he asks if he can be so naÃ”ve, but I believe my question to be more relevant.) I mean, really, have you even once seen a Supervillain think this over and say, “You know, you’re right. Grabbing your daughter just wouldn’t be sporting. Well, back to the old drawing board!”
Hilariously, instead of grabbing her, Gulik apparently just sent in the Robot to give Patricia a message. Which is that Supersonic should make an appearance at the farmhouse the next night. This despite the fact that Morgan is obviously concerned for his daughter’s safety, and hasn’t given Gulik the MacGuffin Information he requires to construct his Death Ray yet. And wasn’t it the plan all along to kidnap her? Why not take her and leave the message for Supersonic with Paul? Or leave behind a note of some sort? Does any of this make sense?
Really, I have to wonder if the Aliens didn’t overreact by sending in a Superhero to stop such an obvious doofus. Then again, Supersonic is about as competent a hero as Gulik is a villain. Hmm. Could Supersonic be the inept brother-in-law of some big-wig Alien, who’s using Gulik’s harebrained shenanigans as an excuse to get the big lug out of his hair?
Having delivered this ultimatum, the Robot takes his leave. (Again, wouldn’t a phone call have been easier?) Proving that incredible intelligence runs in her family, Patricia grabs a revolver and fires at the retreating Robot. Exactly why she would do this is left to our exhausted imaginations. Why not instead offer the Robot a dance, or perhaps a glass of milk? These would seem of equal utility. I mean, even if she somehow managed to destroy it, what, exactly, would be accomplished? The only possible outcomes that I can think of, like Gulik getting pissed off and having her father beaten, seem counterproductive from her standpoint.
Deciding to teach her a lesson, Gulik has the Robot set fire to her house. Paul and Patricia run outside, where interior lighting and smoke machines are rather ineffectively used to foster the illusion that the house is aflame. Then Gulik pushes a button, and an unconvincing scale model of Patricia’s house explodes. Uh. So. How did pushing a button do that? And what about his Robot? Wasn’t it still in the house?
Gulik asks Morgan one last time to work for him, and is again rebuffed. He responds by contacting Peterson, informing him to initiate “Plan 247.” This leads one to wonder exactly how many contingency plans Gulik has, and whether Peterson has memorized each and every one of them. You pretty much have to imagine that as soon as Gulik breaks contact, Peterson will hurriedly pull out this thick notebook, murmuring, “247â€¦247â€¦ah!”
Soon colored lights are flashing and goofy ‘Woo-Woo!’ sirens are going off. Dozens of guys in brightly hued uniforms start running around. Man, imagine if Gulik had initiated plan 246! We also briefly cut to an alarm bell. This, actually, isn’t ringing or anything. Still, though. An alarm bell! Pretty cool, huh? Finally, we cut to a model submarine being launched. In most movies, this submarine would look pretty poor. Here, compared with the model work we’ve seen so far, it looks pretty good. Like the work of a talented twelve year-old, rather than a seven year-old.
Back at Paul’s apartment, Our Hero is pouring Patricia a drink. Then he smoothly delivers the best line in the movie: “I’m glad that monster didn’t spoil our dinner!” Uh, didn’t it? I guess you could argue, technically, that the attack came after they were done eating. But that seems like a pretty slim consolation, all things considered. “Well, your house has been destroyed. And your father’s still a hostage. Still, that tuna steak was yummy!”
I’d also like to at least mention the fact that, given all that’s occurred, you’d think some branch of the authorities would be involving themselves with Patricia’s affairs by now. Let’s see. Her ‘world-famous’ scientist father has been kidnapped. Her smashed-up car was left near another wreck containing two charred corpses. She was involved in that bar fight and kidnapped in front of witnesses. Her house has explodedâ€¦you’d think that these incidents would draw some sort of official interest.
For that matter, the villains have twice had Paul in their clutches. Didn’t they even check his wallet to find out who he is? Would Paul’s apartment really be the safest place to hang out? Yes, apparently, because Paul tells Patricia that she should sleep there. (He, of course, will take the sofa.)
We cut back to the submarine model, and now that we’ve got a better look at it, it’s really not that hot. Still and again, as compared to that toy helicopter they used earlier, or the Robot, it’s merely lame, rather than outright farcical. Proving my point, the next shot (why’d they even cut to the sub?) shows the really, really bad Supersonic Doll, ‘flying’ on wires over the equally laughable ‘farmhouse’ model.
Supersonic enters the house. Downstairs, he sees Gulik via a telescreen. Gulik rants for a bit, then demands that Supersonic surrenders. Considering Gulik’s general incompetence, this seems rather bold. He does threaten to kill both of the Morgans, but, come on, they’ve attempted to grab Patricia on numerous occasions without much success. So how worrisome a threat is this exactly?
Even Gulik seems to realize this, and thus raises the stakes. He shows some stock footage of New York City, inhabited, he notes, by “teeming millions of mindless mortals.” Apparently he’s hired Criswell to write his speeches. Also, if he’s going to threaten to destroy New York City, you wonder why he’d even bother to mention killing the Morgans. And if he has a weapon capable of leveling a city, why not target the farmhouse and destroy Supersonic while he has the chance? Supersonic may be bulletproof, but c’mon, how tough could he be?
Instead, we cut to stock footage of a “barren, uninhabited” island. (Wouldn’t an island with a token population be more convincing of his intent to destroy a major city?) Morgan, watching with Gulik, is suitable horrified. “You wouldn’t!” he gasps. Why not? What’s the big deal in destroying an uninhabited rocky atoll? And why would this make Gulik, as Morgan accuses, a “murderous maniac!” More importantly, I thought that Gulik couldn’t finish his weapon without Morgan’s assistance. Why is he even able to destroy it?
Gulik communicates with his sub, so I guess we now know what Plan 247 is. The sub reports that everything is on schedule. The model submarine fires a model missile, and the model island set is engulfed in flames. Gulik claps wildly in response. You know, it’s nice to see someone who really enjoys his job.
Back at Paul’s apartment, Patricia is dozing through the Robot knocking the bedroom door down. Patricia must be a very sound sleeper, as she doesn’t wake up until the Robot clumps over and sets fire to the bed. (?) OK, so apparently now the Robot has orders to kill her. Why? Then we see: It’s only Patricia having a nightmare! Man, what an original twist. This is why you watch Foreign Cinema, to see different perspectives and stuff. And, hey, look: Patrick Duffy’s alive and in the shower!
Cut to Supersonic Doll, ‘flying’ towards the bad tabletop set that represents Gulik’s secret headquarters. You know, we could waste a lot of time asking senseless questions like “How the heck did he find out where Gulik’s secret headquarters are?” But why bother? After another underwhelming special effects display, Supersonic has smashed his way through the surrounding rock into the actual underground base.
Gulik seems rather nonplussed by this, noting only that his guest has arrived sooner than anticipated. You’d think that having an adversary capable of tunneling though miles of solid granite running around would call for some level of alarm, but I guess I’m just a worrywart. Besides, all Evil Secret Bases come equipped with your standard union Death Traps.
First, Gulik releases “corrosive gasses” into Supersonic’s location. Look, I know that he’s invulnerable and all, but how come a superhero’s uniform never burns off, leaving him starkers? In any case, despite the fact that the gasses are having no effect, Supersonic huffs and puffs, blowing them down the tunnel way. Where, presumably, they find their way into other compartments and horribly kill hundreds of Gulik’s lackeys. Ha! That’ll teach ’em!
Noting that he has more aces up his sleeve (you mean, there’s more than one deathtrap?!), Gulik hits another button. Luckily for him, it turns out that Supersonic has paused on the one exact spot in the tunnel which stands over a trapdoor leading down to a lava pit. Now, one might posit that a trapdoor is not the most efficient trap to use on a fellow who can fly. However, Supersonic shows off by allowing himself to be submerged himself in the lava, apparently just to rub it in.
At this point Gulik is getting a tad worried. “We’ll see if you like the cold as much as the heat,” he sneers. (Frankly, I think he’s just running out of ideas at this point.) The next shot shows Supersonic encased in a huge block of ice (that was quick). If I’m not mistaken, we’re to believe that pushing a button has instantly turned the lava pit into an ice pit. Man, that’s quite a thermostat. However, as you’d expect from a guy who can fly through the rather frigid expanses of outer space, this proves not much of a threat either. He’s soon smashed his way back into the tunnel system.
Walking through another passageway (why doesn’t he just fly quickly through the system?) Supersonic moronically steps upon a rather noticeable steel plate in the midst of the carpeted floor. Another button causes him to be bathed in a red light. Apparently, this trap is some sort of giant fry warmer. Certainly, they never bother to have Gulik explain what this latest master weapon is. Nonetheless, having figured out that there’s nothing inherently heroic or suspenseful about an invulnerable dude yawning his way through some ineffectual traps, they finally have Supersonic react in an agonized manner.
This, by the way, is why Kryptonite so quickly became a vital part of the Superman mythos. Invented by writers of the Superman radio show (just as Superman’s ability to fly originated with the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the ’40s – they found that showing him leaping around, as he originally did, looked too silly), Kryptonite was created to allow the actor playing Superman to go on vacation. A captured Superman, supposedly weakened by Kryptonite and represented only through groans, was featured during the actor’s absence, as other characters sought to find and free him. Still, the writers of the comics found the idea of Superman having an Achilles’ heel irresistible. In fact, there you go – Achilles had to have a heel, too.
Gulik starts gloating to Morgan again. I think his weapon is supposed to somehow harness solar power, but this is left, to say the least, somewhat vague. Meanwhile, you wonder exactly what Gulik needs Morgan’s laser devise for. He owns a submarine equipped with city-busting missiles, as well as the ability to concentrate solar energy so efficiently that it threatens to destroy the mighty (*cough*) Supersonic. Frankly, the ‘Death Ray’ thing seems like small potatoes.
Meanwhile, Prof. Morgan keeps darting desperate glances at the Solar Grid control panel. Which, by the way, appears to be represented by a calculator keyboard. (!) One can only shiver upon imagining the fate that would be visited upon Our Hero were Gulik to push the ‘Square Root’ button.
Morgan saves the day by tipping over Gulik’s chair (!) and knocking his ass to the floor. The Good Professor then manages to deactivate the Solar Grid before being ray-gunned by Gulik’s minions. Freed, Supersonic escapes from the Solar Chamber and makes his way up to the control chamber, all in roughly two seconds. Then, in the scene we’ve all been, uh, waiting to see, Gulik sets Goof-o the Robot against Supersonic to cover his escape.
This leads to a somewhat less than awesome ‘battle royale.’ In a failed attempt to obscure how poorly staged it is (as ‘Supersonic’ is restricted to flying about on wires and given the inherit non-maneuverability of the Robot suit), it’s edited in a choppy, extremely confusing fashion. For instance, the Robot appears to successfully to hold Supersonic at bay with his built-in flame thrower. Apparently, this generates greater heat than the lava pit Supersonic earlier bathed in.
Meanwhile, Our Hero ‘flies’ around and does his arm waving thing, presumably telepathically deflecting the Robot’s various missile attacks. Frankly, I don’t know why he doesn’t turn the Robot into a large banana, or make it disappear like the truck he disintegrated earlier. Maybe they thought that that would be ‘anti-climatic.’
The fight results in the destruction of the control room, which in turn causes the general destruction of the base. Thus we get ‘epic’ scenes of base personnel running around in panicked fashion, meeting their ends via explosions or waters that I presume are supposed to be flooding in from the surrounding ocean. The base’s fate sealed, Supersonic finally, in a blockbuster scene, destroys the Robot by kicking it in the head and knocking it over onto its back.
Gulik, meanwhile, has escaped via a toy rocket. To access this, he had to run some distance through the underbelly of the base (which looks quite a lot like a hydro-electrical plant) and then utilize a series of elevators. This takes him a good five or ten minutes, and you have to wonder if a more efficient Supervillain wouldn’t have kept his secret escape mechanism closer to hand.
The triumphant Supersonic flies off with the comatose Prof. Morgan. He’s soon back in New York and takes Morgan to a hospital. Are we to assume from this that Gulik’s secret island base was right off the shores of New York? I mean, wasn’t there a closer hospital for him to drop Morgan off at, or did he just figure, ‘Hey, I’m heading home anyway, I’ll drop him off on the way.’
Having taken care of the Good Professor, Supersonic flies back off. Meanwhile, Gulik has reached a secret satellite/space platform/whatever. This, as you might have suspected, isn’t the most realistic looking thing we’ve ever seen. Then we cut back to watch the total and final destruction of Gulik’s island base. This is the movie’s big blowout scene, and it looks like they spent much of the budget, likely tens and twenties of dollars, on this sequence alone.
Next we see Supersonic flying at Gulik’s Space Platform. Again, as with the base, we have no idea how Supersonic knew where this thing was, or even how he knew that it existed. Indeed, since Gulik escaped while Supersonic was busy battling the Robot, it seems unlikely that he would even know that Gulik made it off the island alive. Still, it’s time to wrap up the movie, so logic be darned.
Gulik fires some scratch-the-film-negative-with-a-pin lasers bolts at the approaching Supersonic. Supersonic, however, smashes his way through the ship, causing it to explode in a big, multi-colored shower of sparks. Since they never made a Supersonic Man II, I think we can safely assume that Gulik bought it here.
We cut back to the hospital. It’s the next morning, and our leads are visiting the recuperating Prof. While out in the hall, Paul gets a message from Expositor, informing him that his job here is done. He’s to activate the ‘location signal’ on his watch, and then make a rendezvous with his ride in ninety minutes.
Paul, however, has (*Awww!*) fallen for the fair, if not tremendously bright, Patricia. So instead of reporting in, he tosses his watch out the window. Whereupon it lands directly in front of, that’s right, Comedy Relief Drunk Guy, who just happens to be lounging around on the hospital yard. Knowing a cue when he sees one, CRDG grabs the watch and staggers off.
To make sure we appreciate that the movie’s ending (as if there’s any doubt), we are exposed to another nauseating make-out session between Paul and Patricia. Then we cut back to Comedy Relief Drunk Guy, who ‘comically’ gets picked up by Supersonic’s space taxi. The ship starts to leave, but then returns to pick up his dog Sugar. On this ‘hilarious’ note we close, secure in the knowledge that Supersonic Man will never return to plague us further.