Shamara from The Sinsister World of Humanon (1976)

Shamara from The Sinsister World of Humanon (1976)


The Super(natural) Hero

The most interesting thing about Mexican superheroes is that the super is short for supernatural. Where such people in the English-speaking world might inhabit a science fiction, their Mexican counterparts exist in the realm of Magical Realism.

Kaliman has been a beloved figure in Mexico for 50 years. His radio adventures began in 1963. According to the lore, he is part of a dynasty dedicated to preserving justice in the world and another that derives from the goddess Kali. He roams the world in white tights and a turban with a young boy named Solin, who is probably in training to be his replacement. The only weapon he uses is a blowgun with tranquilizer darts, augmented by a ceremonial dagger and some wicked mixed martial arts. Based on many years of radio show plots, he can levitate, read minds, move things with is mind, and play dead in a way that fools the villains into thinking he actually is.

In 1972 they made the first of two Kaliman movies. (Kalimán el Hombre Increible). This movie was shot on location in Egypt and featured an international cast. It has been available from Mexican DVD vendors without subtitles since the advent of DVD. You can also watch the whole thing without subtitles on YouTube.  Although it is technically a better film, it is pretty much orphaned in the English speaking world.

The second Kaliman film is commercially available with English subtitles for a reason. It is like the difference between Batman played by Adam West and all of the “serious” portrayals that follow. Both films star blue-eyed Jeff Cooper, a North American who is nearly invisible on the Internet. His last IMDB credit is from 1986.
The Sinsister World of Humanon (1976) was filmed in Brazil. The viewer is constantly reminded of this fact by the lurid tropical music that is played over every scene with an urban setting. The entire sound design is pretty wild (literally). Recordings of jungle cats are used liberally to signal dangerous plot twists or the presence of Zombitronics. Lush dramatic stock scores are used to evoke a sense of “adventure.”

If your “this is weird” sensors haven’t gone off after the opening scene, in which Kaliman steps off a plane in full regalia with an apparent Catamite in tow, they will when you meet Shamara. Her special gift to the craziness is a religious restriction that requires her to cover the lower half of her face. The rest of her attire makes no other concessions to modesty, and always features cleavage. She is the wife of a scientist that Kaliman (billed as a “scientist”) has come to a see at a conference. The scientists have all been kidnapped by Humanon, a tubby fellow in a red KKK uniform with sunglasses over the hood, who is assisted by a glamorous lady midget. One can really appreciate the gonzo that is Mexican pop culture when a mass media entertainment feels more like a late Mike Kelley art installation.