This is my contribution to the White Elephant Blog-a-thon over at Benjamin Lim's site Lucid Screening. The premise is simple: pick a really awful movie and then that film is randomly assigned to a fellow blogger who has signed up for the blog-a-thon. You can read the rest of the entries here. I nominated Nightmare City, one of my favorite bad movies, so it should be interesting reads all around as we all try to make sense out of the really bad films that were chosen for us.
Kaliman is a Latin American icon. One quick Google search and another quick perusing of Wikipedia and you find that it was famous comic book read with millions of fans, the comic then spawned a radio show – and so naturally they decided to make a film version. The 1972 film was apparently three hours long and cut down for television. It was shot on location in Egypt with actors from Italy, USA, Canada, and Mexico. It was so popular it was in theaters for an entire year. However, the film I viewed was not the original 1972 Kaliman, which I’m sure isn’t any better, but that’s what I thought I was going to review; no, this is the 1976 sequel called Kaliman in the Sinister World of Humanon. I think Netflix screwed up here, because the film I rented was what I thought was the 1972 version, but it turns out their listing on their website and their DVD sleeve for the film was wrong. But I’m glad I got this film. It seems like it’s much worse than the 1972 film sounds and it contains the world’s greatest villain and zombies that roar like lions! I can’t make this stuff up.
The sequel, filmed four years later, was also shot on location in Rio and looked to have a decent sized budget. But wow what an awful film. One of the things my brother and I like to do when we watch truly awful movies (which is often) is re-cast the film or mention which characters look like recent celebrities. It’s a snarky exercise, influenced directly from our upbringing with “Mystery Science Theater: 3000”, but it’s really the only thing one can do in order to remain sane through such an awful affair.
The film involves Kaliman (Jeff Cooper), a superhero who uses telepathy and words to destroy his enemies (sorry kids no violence), and his sidekick Solin (he’s one of those little annoying sidekicks who says cutesy things, even amidst violent moments) who arrive in Rio for the convention on telepathy (or as they call it in the film the Congress of Psychology) and learn of a conspiracy to bring down his fellow doctors and scientists. That’s your basic setup as you get inane scene after inane scene of horribly edited filler. Lots of shots of the locations (they had to make good use of them) and lots of footage of a bare-chested Jeff Cooper walking through the jungle.
Eventually Kaliman is led to a mysterious jungle locale where there are exotic animals and people known as numbers (hmm, because that doesn’t sound familiar) and are not allowed to have individual thoughts. They are ruled by the coolest villain in all of film: Humanon. This guy looks like a deleted Mortal Kombat character. His red hood and aviator sunglasses really evoke a sense of evil and dominance over his peons. This is simply some of the laziest costuming I have ever seen. They essentially just went wild at the local costume shop and donned all of their characters with what they found there. They even use noises on the island and in the diabolical Humanon’s laboratory that are straight off of a Halloween sound-effects tape.
Anyway…Humanon is amazing. We learn that he is lured all of the doctors and scientists to his island in order to turn them into mutants. Now about these mutants: earlier in the film there is an amazing villain who looks like a cross between Burt Reynolds and Dave Wannstedt. He wears the same brown turtleneck throughout the entire film and he unleashes a band of lion-roaring zombies called “zombie-tronic’s”.
Just brilliant stuff. Okay, so Kaliman learns of Humanon’s diabolical plan to turn all of the smart people into zombie-tronic’s, you see that way there won’t be any original thoughts in the world. That dastardly Humanon. The most maniacal plan of Humanon’s (who spends about 50% of his screen time laughing diabolically) is at the end when we see that he’s kept the missing professors head (this is the guy that Kaliman was meeting in Rio, sorry if this is confusing, I didn’t get it until I looked up the plot synopsis) hooked up to all kinds of wires and plugs. In order to make sure he gets what he wants, Humanon threatens to kill him (the head, mind you) if he doesn’t obey. Is it just me, or is there something irrelevant about threatening to kill a severed head?
Another bizarre thing about the villain is his penchant for hiring little people. One is a crazed, whip-happy warden of the zombie-tronic cages, and the other is a bizarre woman who is always by Humanon’s side, laughing when ever he laughs. She’s his MAD cat. In an utterly bizarre and wonderfully hilarious moment she disappears at the end while watching Humanon die. But she doesn’t go out without style, she laughs and then disappears to a BOING sound that is straight out of Benny Hill.
The entire film plays like a Saturday morning cartoon. And that’s probably what they were going for, but there are many moments that seem straight out of Inspector Gadget or Scooby-Doo (there’s a reveal at the end where we find out who Humanon really is, and it has the same effect a Scooby-Doo reveal has). The action is incredibly lame as there is a lot of kick and punch with people barely hitting each other (or missing altogether); the other usual bad movie elements apply here. The music is something out of a swinger’s party. It has flute and jazzy piano aplenty, and it reminded me of times of the “MST3K” classic Manos: The Hands of Fate, where the viewer is left watching lots of scenery scenes with this wacky, jazzy music playing in the background. There are other wonderful moments like when a guy who looks like Billy from Predator falls off a roof and explodes with sparks and all! Or how about when the little person with whip is out of line for beginning a sentence with "I thought..." and thus has to face his punishment, which is a swift kick in the ass. I can't make this up people. It's just an amazing film.
Jeff Cooper as Kaliman is amazing, too. Not to be outdone by his villain, this is a superhero that can break a gun over his knee as if he were Bo Jackson. He also grunts a lot, and laughs a lot, too, although he’s more jovial than Humanon. He’s a ladies man as we find that telepathy has its advantages with the fairer sex, as long as what they’re thinking is nice. (BOING, indeed) Kaliman has a lot of fun as he and his sidekick go on some wacky adventures, tour the city, learn about Rio's rich history, and take time to realize that you're never too old or too powerful to learn something from somebody else. It really makes you think, no? He also likes to walk around without his shirt on, so naturally if this film were remade today there is no doubt in my mind that McConaughey would be the perfect choice to play Kaliman.
Films like this are always a fun experience. They entertain because of their awfulness alone, and they’re short enough so really they aren’t too excruciating to get through. The film is awful no doubt, but if you’re anything like me and you’re idea of a fun night of movie watching is really bad cinema, then Kaliman is sure to satisfy.
I even wrote some poetry to describe the lesson I learned from the movie. (Ahem):
Will win the day.
That’s the Kaliman way!