Today’s feature is undoubtedly one of the worst superhero movies of all time: 1980’s Pumaman.
Pumaman was directed and co-written by Alberto De Martino, who was also behind such low-budget fare as Holocaust 2000, Miami Golem, Dirty Heroes, and Gladiators 7. The other credited writers on the film were Massimo De Rita (Blood in the Streets, Everybody’s Fine) and Luigi Angelo (Black Killer).
The cinematographer for Pumaman was Mario Vulpiani, who primarily worked on Italian movies throughout his career. However, he did wind up shooting Stuart Gordon’s cult classic H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, Castle Freak.
The editor on Pumaman was Vincenzo Tomassi, who frequently worked for Lucio Fulci on films like The Beyond, Zombie, and The New York Ripper. He also cut the infamous film Cannibal Holocaust, as well as the monster movies Killer Crocodile and Killer Crocodile 2.
The music for Pumaman was provided by Renato Serio, who also composed the score for 1982’s Alone in the Dark. The theme song to Pumaman might be the most notorious and memorable aspect of the movie next to the hilarious flying effects, and I wish everyone luck in trying to get the song out of your heads.
The cast of Pumaman included Donald Pleasance (Halloween, The Great Escape, Escape From New York, Warrior of the Lost World, Django 2), Walter George Alton (Heavenly Bodies), and Miguel Angel Fuentes (Fitzcarraldo, Herod’s Law).
The plot of Pumaman centers around a young man who is given an assortment of super-powers by Aztec gods / an amulet / aliens / his genetics, and has to hunt down a sinister madman who is trying to use an enchanted mask for nefarious purposes.
It has been reported that Donald Pleasance regarded Pumaman as the worst movie he ever participated in, though I haven’t been able to dig up a source on that outside of the IMDb trivia section.
Pumaman is primarily known by bad movie fans because it was featured in a 1998 episode of the hit show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was known for digging b-movies out of obscurity to comedic effect.
The reception to Pumaman, particularly following being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, was hugely negative. It currently has a 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, along with an impressive 2.1 rating on IMDb, ranking it in the Bottom 100 films on the website (which is how I initially came across it).
The attempted flying effect in this movie is just pathetic, to the point of being absolutely hilarious. It is something that you honestly need to see to believe. There are a number of other thoroughly unimpressive attempts at special effects scattered throughout the movie, including a spaceship that looks either looks like the Monarch’s cocoon from The Venture Bros or a Christmas ornament, depending on who you ask.
The acting is unsurprisingly sub-par throughout Pumaman, but Donald Pleasence does ham up his role quite a bit. There are a number of moments where you can tell that he knows how bad this movie is going to be when all is said and done, but he still puts effort into it regardless. It is also worth mentioning that it has to be difficult to effectively act when you are having to peek out from behind a giant, ridiculous mask prop for nearly the whole movie.
The story to Pumaman makes very little sense. For instance, I’m still not clear on why the main character is a “puma” man, given his powers involve teleportation, flying, and (oddly) faking suicide. Are those typical puma behaviors that I just wasn’t aware of? It is also a bit unclear as to what the origins of his powers are. While it seems that they are granted to him from aliens, it is also mentioned that the powers are somehow hereditary, which doesn’t make much sense to me.
Overall, Pumaman contains a fantastic brew of honest incompetence that generates a genuinely entertaining product. It is absolutely terrible in every technical aspect I can think of, which makes it a bafflingly hilarious experience to watch. It confusedly stumbles its way through the run time, and never fails to be a spectacle of low-budget determination devoid of talent. For fans of bad movies, this is an essential flick to check out, with or without the accompaniment of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Most MST3K fans are likely familiar with the movie “Pod People”, a poorly constructed and confused mess of an ET ripoff film that was famously featured on the show.
I almost feel like this movie could have been decent. If someone has taken a keener eye to the script and done some better camera work, this might have been a perfectly mediocre movie. As it stands, it is an incredibly bad, confused mess of a film. There are some laughs to be had at the poor special effects and horrible acting, but in general the writing is too unfocused to keep your attention throughout the movie. The famously bad recording studio scene is about the only part of this movie worth watching, save for the poor effects during little Trumpy’s tirades. The plot just takes too long to get moving, and there are too many threads introduced too early in the movie. If you can stay awake through the first half-hour though, you are golden for making it through the rest of this mind-numbing movie.
About the only thing I can credit to this movie is that it was easy for the MST3K crew to tear to shreds. Their riff on this one is one of the better episodes of the show without a doubt, and is the only way I could possibly recommend watching this movie. Otherwise, it is just an incredibly boring time killer.
I have been ruminating on this one for a while. I initially procrastinated writing out my review on this so that I could read up more on the fascinating man behind this film, Ted V. Mikels. There is certainly a lot of interesting reading about his career and personality, and he has a lengthy filmography of crap to sift through.
Now, after sitting on this movie for a while, I think I actually like it.
This isn’t as good of a bad movie as “Manos” or “Plan 9”, but it really is an enjoyable watch if you are hunting for a B-movie. The acting is all way overdone, which is exactly what you want to see in a film like this. The same goes for the writing and dialogue, it all just hits the spot for what this movie is. The editing mistakes are actually pretty entertaining as opposed to jarring, which is ultimately a boon to the entertainment value of the film.
Last but not least, I think I have actually come to like the music in this movie. The whole film relies on the intermittent musical numbers, which alternate between Critter’s sappy acoustic bits and the backing band’s rock(?) numbers. The main theme is actually pretty catchy, and the others can actually grow on you if you aren’t careful. Kind of like “Hear the Engines Roll Now” in Pod People, they are sort of endearingly terrible. Honestly, I think that sums up the whole film: Endearingly Terrible.
To start off with, the movie isn’t unwatchable. It is bad in just about every way, but it isn’t particularly difficult to sit through. That is about the only thing positive to say about it.
The practical effects in this movie are somehow not over the top enough, believe it or not. There are times when zombies are briefly on screen when I’d swear they didn’t have any make up on the extra at all. The ones that they do put effort into came out way too cartoony if you ask me, and i just didn’t buy them. I actually think in this aspect Boll was a little too loyal to the games, whose zombies are a bit too sci fi and not very horror.
Speaking of loyalty to source material, this is a mighty inconsistent movie. Boll goes so far as to splice in direct shots from the game for transitions, but can’t be bothered to actually set the movie in a house. I actually appreciate that he tried to give the movie a video game feel with the death screens, but he didn’t do those consistently with every character. Even the few things he does decently wind up being used ad nauseam or inconsistently applied, which dulls down the whole movie. There were times I would groan at yet another bullet shot, and be let down when I anticipated a death screen.
The special effects are typical Uwe Boll schlock. A ridiculous amount of slow motion is used, along with inexplicable fireballs and CGI gunshots. That’s basically a trade mark of his movies at this point.
The acting is actually not particularly bad for low-level horror movie, with the exception of “Captain Kirk”, who I swear starts drifting into a Russian accent at one point. In general, these people had to do what they could with the script, which wasn’t doing them any favors.
Speaking of the script, the writing is just miserable here. The dialogue is all pretty forgettable, but the story really disappoints. We are treated to the legend of the island well past the halfway point, and the truth behind the island is all crammed into the last few minutes. At that point, why even bother? Nothing bothered me about this quite as much as the botched attempt at a “The Reanimator” ending. For all I can say about “The Reanimator”, the last scene / shot of that movie is awesome. This movie tries to do the same thing, but decides to cut that crucial shot, instead just telling us what happened over the course of the helicopter ride home via voice over narration. There are so many better ways to end the last couple of minutes of this movie that it is actually infuriating to watch this happen. You don’t even have to tweak the outcome or story in any way, and you could dramatically improve the effect of this ending. Did Boll not put any basic thought into his finale at all? “Show don’t tell” ring a bell, dude? Surely he’s seen “The Reanimator”, or he wouldn’t be blatantly ripping it off here. Maybe he just needs to take better notes the next time he makes a movie.
Speaking of blatantly ripping off other movies, there is a baffling and unnecessary sequence that directly rips off “Fellowship of the Ring”. Remember when Frodo famously hides behind the log when being chased down by the Nazgul? It is a really fantastic sequence that is impressively creepy and builds a lot of tension. Well, this movie decided to do that exact same shot, but without any of the ambiance or tense buildup that made the original sequence so excellent. It is painfully obvious that the scene was taken from LOTR today, so I can’t imagine how blatant it looked for people watching this in 2003. Just a really lazy move by Boll to throw that in, especially since it contributes nothing to the movie. The character who is hiding is caught and killed literally seconds after the shot concludes.
There are so many more things to complain about in this movie, but I don’t really want to write a novel on how much Uwe Boll sucks. This movie has rocketed from #25 to #16 since I froze the IMDb bottom 100 for this project, which doesn’t surprise me. This movie has the internet’s nerd rage and Uwe Boll’s unpopularity as both a filmmaker / human being working against it, which is obviously going to show up on a democratic ranking. For what it is worth, the movie is watchable. It is worse than a typical Hollywood box office bomb, but not nearly as bad as the stuff you would find in MST3K. It probably belongs on an objective list of the worst somewhere, but this is honestly mostly a victim of the democratic nature of the Bottom 100. I could actually recommend this one to people who enjoy crappy horror movies. There isn’t much in the way of laughs to get out of it, but it is an interesting one to dissect in order to see how it ticks.
I watched this movie twice, just to make sure I caught everything.
This is a very bad movie. A very bad, amazing movie.
The trailer alone lays out most of what you need to know. The attempted flying effect in this movie is just pathetic, to the point of being absolutely hilarious. It is something that you need to see to believe. Aside from that, there are a number of other really unimpressive attempts at special effects, that mostly come down to shaking the camera. It does not come out well.
The acting is unsurprisingly sub-par, but Donald Pleasence does ham it up a bit. There are a number of moments where you can tell that he knows how bad this movie is going to be, but he still puts a little bit of effort into it. It has to be hard to effectively act like a sinister villain when you are having to peek out from behind a giant ridiculous mask prop the whole movie. I’m amazed he put any effort at all into this movie, especially since he apparently listed it as the worst movie he was ever involved in.
The story makes very little sense. I’m still not clear on why the main character is a “puma” man, given his powers involve teleportation, flying, and faking suicide. Are those typical puma behaviors that I wasn’t aware of? I also particularly like how his powers are granted from aliens in a way that is directly hereditary(?). I’m going to try not to put too much thought into that, but I will note that the alien spaceships look like the Monarch’s Cocoon from “The Venture Bros.”, or alternatively like leftover Christmas ornaments. Clearly a lot of effort was put into this film.
This movie has been moving up the Bottom 100 with all of the grace and stealth of an actual Puma. It popped into the top 20 just recently, and is sitting at #19 currently. I am actually perfectly happy with that placement at this point, because this movie is a fantastic brew of various incompetencies that churns out a genuinely entertaining product. It is absolutely terrible in every technical aspect I can think of. It is a hilarious experience to watch it confusedly stumble its way through the run time. This is one that I may honestly go back and watch again just for the fun of it.
Reviews/Trivia of B-Movies, Bad Movies, and Cult Movies.