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Argoman is practically invincible with powers beyond the scope of mortal man. Who is Sir Reginald Hoover, he seems to know what mission Argoman is involved with? Will Jenabell become the Queen of the World and achieve her wishes to outsmart Argoman? Written by
A wild mix of the Batman series and thirty years of US comic culture, Euro pulp villainy a la Fantomas and Judex, self-referential `masked superhero' genre goofs on Diabolik and Superargo, exploding 60s pop-art cinema, James Bond recycling and fertile Italian filmic cross-pollination, all wrapped up in a cut-rate package with a yellow body stocking.
After a brief credit stroll past Buckingham Palace, Scotland Yard's Inspector Lawrence discovers the Crown of St Edward has been stolen from the Tower of London in a daring daylight robbery. All fingers point to arch masked criminal Argoman! The Inspector calls Argoman's (unbeknownst to him) debonair alter-ego Sir Reginald Hoover in a vain effort to locate him. Hoover (Roger Browne) is an English adventurer (despite an American accent), scientist, arch criminal with a luxury French villa crammed with the Mona Lisa and other antiques, and a compulsive womanizer, although he confides to his turbaned butler Chandra (Eduardo Fajardo) that he loses his powers for six hours after being with a woman. His non-sexual superpowers, however, are extraordinary: ESP, super-hearing, and more than personal magnetism. Says `scientist' Hoover confidentially to the Inspector, `His abilities are truly metaphysical.'
Meanwhile the crown's real thief, super female criminal Jenabell (Dominique Boschero), now in not-so-plain clothes as Regina Sullivan, motors by Hoover's coastal sex palace in her personal hovercraft. As Argoman, Hoover concentrates his ESP ability to draw the craft off course and come flying onto his private beach literally into his lap. He then presents his willing victim Regina with a simple task - shoot an arrow on a button on the wall and you get a Rolls and a box of emeralds. If he shoots the button, then `hubba hubba'. Guess which arrow goes purposefully off course.
Jenabell soon declares herself `The Queen of the World' (Modesty she ain't) and returns to crown to an increasingly befuddled Inspector Lawrence, adding she intends soon to demonstrate her amazing power. It turns out the `power' comes from a huge diamond found in the base of an atomic explosion which radiates gamma rays and so forth (the muddled pseudo-science becomes too much at this point); with the diamond and her army of `automatons', a slave race of human robots, at her command, she then pulls off her second daring plan - robbing the Bank of France with her leather-suited henchmen (vague shades of bondage chic) and littering Paris with the banknotes from a plane, quite an effective setup in front of the Eiffel Tower. Using his new girlfriend, the glamorous English nymphet Samantha (Nadia Marlowa), as bait, Hoover hides in one of the trucks and emerges triumphantly after a brief punchup in his trademark Argoman suit: a yellow body stocking, black mask with red psychedelic spiral on it, red cape and flashlight eyes through a slit. It's a hoot to behold.
Argoman now allows himself to be abducted and taken to Jenabell's underground lair, a bizarre modern art gallery fronting a futuristic Bondian laboratory. Jenabell is now truly in her element, parading around in a veritable rat's nest of garish 60s fashions, careering through a change of wardrobe every few minutes from Black Widow to Queen of Outer Space via a snake bikini and tinfoil fright wig. After a brief fling Argoman is given the choice to be her `consort' (i.e. love slave) or run-of the-mill slave; `Your instincts are diabolic!' he hisses (or is that Diabolik?) before choosing to save Samantha instead from the menacing advances of a metallic robot and then attempt to save the world.
Roger Browne had spent a number of years showing his chiseled features in supporting roles in peplums and as a lead in Super Seven Calling Cairo (1965) before teaming up with director Grieco in two other spy/crime features Password: Kill Agent Gordon and Rififi in Amsterdam (both 1967). Grieco chose Browne wisely for the lead, as Argoman's cartoonish visage lends itself to Browne's molded plastic head - even his hair seems completely immovable. Not so the plywood sets at the low-rent end of Rome's Cinecitta studios, although Hoover's coastal love shack, naturally dwarfed by Diabolik's incredible underground lair, has promise. What little money there was evidently went on nicely compact location shoots in England and France, and spare use of effective visuals (Jenabell's hall of mirrors, oversized ray machines). Argoman's real disappointment is its lack of movement, both in the flat dialogue scenes, and in the comic-book action sequences where you at least need to tilt the camera on occasion - didn't the Batman TV series teach Grieco anything? Good try though, and a triumph of visual flair over limitations, budgetary and otherwise.
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