Also known as: L’uomo puma (Italy)
Release Date: February 14th, 1980
Directed by: Alberto De Martino
Written by: Alberto De Martino, Massimo De Rita, Luigi Angelo
Music by: Renato Serio
Cast: Walter George Alton, Donald Pleasence, Miguel Angel Fuentes, Sydne Rome
Saber Productions, Bryanston Distributors, 88 Minutes
What a strange and weird movie The Pumaman is.
Made by Italian director Alberto De Martino, the film is a 1980 superhero action film. It plays more like the pilot of a bad television show from that era. A show that would have never been picked up.
While the Italians could do a lot with very little resources, something as ambitious as this, couldn’t keep up with the special effects it needed. It was more ambitious than it was able to be and thus, we get an incredibly cheesy comedic romp. The picture is lighthearted and is meant to draw some laughs but in the case of The Pumaman, audiences will laugh for the wrong reasons.
It also doesn’t help that the plot is way too busy with all sorts of strange ideas. It is convoluted and frankly, an epic mess. You have aliens, Aztec mysticism, a mad scientist with a brainwashing mask and several ancient cultures overlapping in a way that just doesn’t add up. The whole premise of the film is confusing, as is the motivation of the characters in it.
For example, the hulking Aztec sidekick dumps the hero out of a window from high above ground just to see if he is the Pumaman. Then he’s all of a sudden a gentle giant who doesn’t come across as someone who would just dump people out of high windows looking for the chosen one.
The Pumaman costume is awful. It is pretty much khaki pants, a brown sweater with an Aztec emblem and a red pimp cape. The hero also doesn’t make any effort to conceal his identity.
Furthermore, his powers are all just kind of random. It feels like the character was just written in whatever way served to move the messy plot forward. In one scene, he walks through a wall which jump cuts to him sitting in a car. Did he teleport? Was something cut out? Who the hell knows. Don’t even get me started on how bad the flying sequences are.
There are two positives however.
The first is Sydne Rome. She is gorgeous. The type of gorgeous that is otherworldly. But that is really all she brings to the table.
The second is Donald Pleasence. He plays the villain and even though this is one of many bad films he found himself in throughout his long career, he is committed to the role regardless of how ridiculous his lines are or how stupid the situations are that he finds himself in. Pleasence is still great though in that Donald Pleasence sort of way. He is like Halloween‘s Dr. Loomis turned mad, dressed like a BDSM dungeon master and has a giant gold mask that makes gorgeous women do his bidding.
Oddly, the film has some charm and is enjoyable, even if it is stupendously hammy and a chaotic tapestry of baffling clutter.
And, like many films of this quality, you can watch it get riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’d suggest watching that version.