Fantabulous Inc. is a strange little Italian film that has a bit of everything in it. It’s a thriller, it’s a super-hero film, it’s a spy film, and it’s an exploration on civil rights.
The super villain of this piece is Carl Maria Von Beethoven (Adolpho Celi), and naturally enough, whenever we hear his name we also hear a snatch of Ludwig Von Beethoven (Da Da Da Dum). He runs a clinic called Fantabulous Inc., which turns men into super-men.
The film opens in Geneva. Richard Vernon (Richard Harrison) is engaged in a bit of post-coital byplay with his girlfriend, Deborah Sanders (Judi West). But now he has to leave. He works as a banker, and has an important meeting in Milan. Leaving the apartment, he heads down to the underground carpark and to his car. Unfortunately for Vernon, it won’t start. The carpark attendant, who happens to be wearing sunglasses, refuses to help, and only laughs at Vernon’s predicament. Vernon assumes the car is out of petrol and walks around to the nearest petrol station. After an altercation with the attendant, who is also wearing sunglasses, Vernon gets his can filled and returns to the car. Upon his return he finds out that the petrol container has been filled with water.
Even though it is night, there’s a suspicious amount of men with sunglasses around. Vernon doesn’t appear to notice and phones the police to complain about the petrol station, but the police officer on the other end of the line, only abuses Vernon for his trouble. From the phone box, as he returns to his car, it is stolen in front of his very eyes. Luckily a police car happens to be passing as he chases his vehicle on foot. He lodges a complaint, but rather than pursuing the thieves, the police question Vernon at length, and then take him into custody. But rather than take him to the nearest police station, he is taken to the headquarters of Fantabulous Inc. In the Fantabulous carpark, he finds his car. Initially he is pleased, that now he can continue his journey to airport, and then Milan. But before he can do so, one of the police officers produces a hypodermic needle and injects Vernon. He wakes up in the middle of a strange medical procedure, which seems incredibly invasive and brutal (his arm appears to be shorn off).
Next we cut to Deborah, who is an aspiring actress and fashion model. She is engaged in a photo shoot, we she is interrupted by phone. It’s a call from the police. She has to go to the morgue and identify Vernon’s body. There, as his body is slid out of the drawer, it looks like Vernon’s face, but she is adamant, that the body does not belong to Richard.
And Deborah is right. Vernon is not dead. He wakes up in what seems like a hospital room. He is still in fact at Fantabulous Inc., a company that specialises in bio-chemical and bio-physical experimentation.
Behind Fantabulous Inc is Beethoven, who I mentioned earlier, who is the mastermind behind the whole operation. He arranges for the capture of appropriate physical specimens for conversion into supermen. He also is the marketing manager, who sells his creation to foreign powers to control the masses. Also working for Fantabulous is the mad Professor Cronin (Gustavo D’Arpe), who is the brains behind the process. It’s his experiments that have created the super-human beings. As with all good henchmen, Cronin has a physical deformity; he has metal pincers for hands.
Beethoven aside, the music and songs, by Sandro Brugnolini throughout Fantabulous Inc. are catchy and infectious; from gutsy soul based numbers that remind you of Ray Charles or Sammy Davis Jnr to piano driven conga-line numbers. The music certainly helps this film press forward when visually things slow down. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out the name of the vocalist on the soundtrack.
The first half of this film is incredibly entertaining and I challenge anyone to guess where it is going. But the second half gets pretty silly. There’s some not so subtle symbolism and quasi-political mumbo-jumbo about the misuse of power. To give the film it’s due, I am looking at it from twenty-first century perspective, rather than 1967, and maybe the ‘message’ in the last half, was more important back then. But as far as narrative and entertainment go, then or now, the second half veers very wildly from silly super hero cartoon heroics to rhetoric about discipline and authority.
Unfortunately this film only appears to be available on the grey market, (with copies that appear to be of a very poor standard) which is a shame, because I think it is film that will divide people. As I said above I didn’t like the end, but other viewers whose viewpoint is slightly more anarchististic than mine, may think this film is, er sorry, Fantabulous. But without a good DVD of the film on the market, for everyone to view and decide for him or herself, I am afraid it’s a little hard to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of Fantabulous Inc.
This review is based on the Video Search Of Miami USA video cassette transfer