The Pumaman (1980)

Notorious for being mercilessly spoofed by MST3K in one of their best episodes, Alberto De Martino’s “The Pumaman” is an atrocious and pretty awful movie even without the riffing. It’s a movie that increases in quality, however minimal, thanks to the benefit of the trio from the Satellite of Love. It’s an arbitrarily titled Italian fantasy superhero movie about a man given a funky belt that allows him the qualities and powers of a puma. This involves leaping in the air to attack like a puma, slowing down his heart like a puma, uh—flying like a puma, teleporting… like a… puma…? And he even goes so far as donning a cheap excuse for a superhero costume that’s very un-puma like. If funky bellbottoms and a costume color scheme that looks like it was taken from the back of a cab is what you’d envision for a puma-esque (pumatic?) superhero, then this is up your alley.

“The Pumaman” is a convoluted and weird movie that involves a mild mannered professor named Tony Farms who is the descendent of an Aztec Puma God. Or is a part of an ancient breed of Aztec aliens that were Pumas. Or is descended from Aztec aliens that resembled anthropomorphic Pumas? I was never sure. He’s pursued by Vadinho, a large man who stalks Tony and seeks to help him claim his destiny by giving him an ugly belt. Said belt either helps him channel the powers of the God Puma (or harness them) to fight evil. Even though he’s not the titular hero, Vadinho can call on the gods to cure his wounds, allowing him to help Tony realize his destiny and fight an evil organization named Kobra. They’re led by Donald Pleasance who is Kobras, who is dressed as a community theater version of a James Bond villain.

He is in possession of a weird hypnotic mask that he plans to wield to control the world leaders. Or something. He can also create wax replicas of their heads to help him control their minds. How did the mind control Aztec mask get in his and Kobra’s possession? Damned if anyone knows but it at least allows them a link to Pumaman. Either way, Kobra led by Kobras and Pumaman begin to clash as he plans to thwart their scheme by taking on their goons, and seizing the mask to return to its rightful owners. Tony is mostly a boring and whiny hero who is only entertaining because of what hilarity the character is put through. He is pushed out a window by Vadinho just to prove he can land on his feet like a cat, and flies in a variety of directions in the guise of the Pumaman. I’m not even sure what the cape is for since when while he flies, it doesn’t even flap in the wind

But hey, at least director Alberto De Martino puts the blue screen to about as much use as humanly possible. Even when the occasion doesn’t call for it, Pumaman flies high in the air exercising the city stock footage, dagnabit. Vadinho is mostly the hero of the picture, as he’s an actual Aztec man who does most of the strong arm work for his white master, despite being captured by just about everyone in the picture at some point or another. Pleasance lends this trash some class, but it’s mostly an experience you can ignore, and isn’t exactly crying for a reboot. If you’re the kind of person that wants to see a superhero movie directed and written by someone who probably has no idea what a superhero is, then I’d say “The Pumaman” is probably for you.