Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Pumaman

Go To
That's no moon; that's the gods' spacestation.

The Pumaman, also known as Puma Man, The Pyooma Man, Thep Yewmaymin, or L'Uomo Puma, is a 1980 superhero movie produced by Italians in English.

Dr. Kobras (Donald Pleasence) has gotten his hands on a huge golden Aztec mask, which contains alien circuitry that allows it to control minds. He plans to use it to dominate world leaders, and already has a collection of papier-mâché heads signifying his mental conquests. Only one man can stop him: the eponymous Pumaman, the scion of a line of "man-gods" sired by ancient spacefaring Aztec alien puma creatures. He's an American living in nearby London, so Kobras sets off to determine who his foe is by hurling potential candidates out of windows.

Our hero is Tony Farms (Walter George Alton), an American paleontologist who is quickly discovered by Vadinho (Miguel Ángel Fuentes), an Aztec priest of the space-gods. Tony is reluctant to get involved in all this, but after mind-controlled love interest Jane Dobson (Sydne Rome) is used to lure him into a trap, Tony finally accepts his heroic destiny and a magical Aztec belt, transforming into the mighty Pumaman.

Now firmly allied with Vadinho, Tony sets about mastering his puma-derived superpowers to get the sacred mask out of Kobras' hands. He is super-strong, can see in the dark, sense danger, leap great distances, teleport, feign death quite convincingly, and his fingers can act as super-strong claws. With these skills in hand, Tony heroically attacks Kobras' mansion stronghold, is defeated, gets caught by Kobras' hypnosis, retreats, loses his superpowers through Kobras' mental commands, is nearly Driven to Suicide by Kobras' mind games, and heroically plays dead until the villain's minions go away.

Vadinho then leads his own assault against Kobras, using a suicide belt to bluff his way inside. The Aztec resists the villain's hypnotism and demolishes his command center, while Jane Dobson smashes Tony's papier-mâché head, removing Kobras' mental control over him and restoring his powers. Pumaman quickly teleports to the rescue and helps the Aztec take down wave after wave of mooks, prompting Kobras to make a run for it. In the end, Tony is able to cause Kobras' helicopter to crash, the golden mask is recovered, Vadinho gets beamed up by the alien gods, and Tony and Jane join the Quarter-Mile-High Club.

It was the featured film in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Pumaman contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower:
    • Because his mentor forgot to mention that "your hands are claws" during the earlier orientation. Though Tony might have been able to extrapolate this from his name if his powers weren't so random.
    • Later, he is told he has the ability to fake his own death just as Kobras commands him to kill himself. This apparently satisfies the command, because the compulsion is gone when he wakes up.
  • The '80s: Though the film came out early on in 1980, meaning it had most likely been filmed prior to the end of The '70s, not to mention the disco-esque music & other things.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: For some strange reason, Donald Pleasance pronounces Pumaman as "PEW-ma man".
  • The Alleged Car: Tony's dorky little Eurocompact counts, given that Vadinho can tear it apart with his bare hands.
  • Ambiguously Human: Vadhino initially seems like a normal Native American man who just happens to have a wealth of obscure mystic knowledge. But he also demonstrates abilities that should be impossible for an ordinary human, like healing himself and ripping cars apart with his bare hands, and ends the movie leaving with the aliens who made the mask. Tony asks Vadhino if he's one of the aliens, to which Vadhino gives the non-committal answer "we all are, a bit".
  • Ancient Astronauts: Traveling in space bathyspheres. Who apparently look like pumas, have terrible taste in fashion, and tend to leave mind control artifacts lying around.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Pumaman's powers are only vaguely catlike, though. Vadinho does refer a few times to the Great God Puma, so Pumaman may derive thematically from a catlike Aztec god, not from the cat itself.
  • And I Must Scream: The characters are very aware that they are under Kobras' control, but they are tormented with excruciating pain if they go against Kobras' orders.
  • And Starring: Both Sydne Rome (billed as "Special Guest Star" — she was popular on the Continent at the time) and Miguel Ángel Fuentes (who gets a "With").
  • Angel Unaware: When Vadinho is about to leave with the aliens at the end, a question occurs to Tony.
    Tony: Tell me the truth, Vadinho; are you one of them?
    Crow (as Vadinho): Who, me? No, I'm Jewish.
  • Artistic License Geography:
  • Badass Normal:
    • Vadinho, though how "normal" he is (he's strong enough to rip apart cars with his bare hands, and can magically heal himself) could be up for debate.
    • Given the fact he is just a portly old man, Kobras is able to physically grapple with Tony during his attempted helicopter escape despite the fact Tony is both super strong and able to rip apart metal and stone with his "claws".
  • Badass Preacher: Vadinho's a preacher who is strong enough to rip apart cars with his bare hands.
  • Bald of Evil: Kobras. "Someday I hope to be as bald as you, sir."
  • Brandishment Bluff: Vadinho bluffs his way into Kobras' mansion with a bomb strapped around his chest to get near Kobras' command center.
  • But Now I Must Go: The gods at the beginning of the film. Later, Vadinho, who hitches a ride back to the Andes Plateau from the gods when the mask is recovered.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Quite literally, as Vadinho even confronts Tony in his home.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: In a scene deleted from the MST3K version, Vadinho lifts up the back end of Tony's car off the ground to stop him from escaping, rips the lock and handle off of door of the car and once blocked inside, rips off the steering wheel and bends the gear shift to escape. Granted, Tony drives a tiny classic Volkswagen Beetle, but it is still impressive.
  • Chest Insignia: If Tony ever forgets what the MacGuffin looks like, he can just look at his shirt.
  • The Chosen One: Tony, allegedly. But everyone knows the real hero of the story is Vadinho.
  • Chroma Key: Used to create the scenes of Pumaman jumping/flying. Unfortunately, the background plates 1) are not properly color-matched to the foreground elements (actors); and B) were filmed at odd angles and tilts with plenty of herky-jerky camera shaking.
  • Combo Platter Powers: Pumaman's displayed powers include Super-Strength, Super-Reflexes, flight, teleportation, intangibility, the ability to see in darkness, a Danger Sense and the ability to send himself into a death-like coma.
  • Covers Always Lie: Take a good hard look at that poster up above. Now go watch the movie. Now laugh derisively.
  • Danger Sense: An awkward implementation. It manifests by giving him a headache and/or a dizzy spell several minutes before the actual danger occurs, and gives him no indication of what the danger will be or where it'll come from. Worse, half the time he just ignores it. (For example, Vadinho warned him that his life would be in danger at the Dutch embassy, his danger sense goes off at the Dutch embassy, but he's still taken completely by surprise when Kobras' thugs attack him at the Dutch embassy.)
  • Destination Defenestration: Remember, the best way to spot your local Pumaman is to chuck people out of windows until one of them survives. The film puts a little too much effort into making us wonder if maybe Vadinho's one of the guys who's chucking random Americans out of windows, looking for the right one, with how he stalks around wordlessly looking all creepy, tearing through all obstructions with his bare hands to get to Tony, and then suddenly grabbing him and shoving him out a window. Since he actually works for the aliens sponsoring Pumaman, you'd hope he'd have less murder-y methods for finding the right guy at his disposal. But it turns out it's not Vadinho, however — there's a quick glimpse of the two people, neither of them Vadinho, who throw one of the other victims out a window — but the movie doesn't go out of its way to make that clear.
  • The Dinosaurs Had It Coming:
    Jane: So dinosaurs became extinct because they no longer knew how to love each other. Is that right?
    Tony: Exactly. And I wouldn't want our species to end the same way.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kobras uses the mask to convince Tony to commit suicide. Vadinho prevents it.
  • Driving a Desk: Director Alberto De Martino said that the producer had bought a special camera in Germany for the flying effects, but his technicians didn't know how to use it properly. To avoid going over schedule, they shot all the flying with bluescreen in two days.
  • Dull Surprise: Tony Farms, for the most part.
  • Dumb Blonde: She seems like a nice girl and all, but holy crap is Jane not the sharpest tool in the shed. It might by slightly justified as Jane spends most of the movie under Kobras' control.
  • Faking the Dead: Heroically! Witness as Pumaman fakes his own death so Kobras will leave him alone and he can let Vadinho do everything!
  • The Fashionista: Jane has to wear a lot of very odd outfits — i.e., the "S&M Day at the Field Museum" look — and she pulls it off for the most part.
  • Glass Cannon: Tony is super strong and fast and can fly, but the one thing he's lacking from Superman's standard Flying Brick package is the immunity to bullets, so Tony has to dodge gunfire, though Super-Reflexes helps make up for that.
  • Herald: Vadinho, it's one of his jobs, telling the hero he's The Hero.note 
  • Healing Factor In the MST3K version, Vadinho's injuries from being beaten up by Kobras' mooks are inexplicably healed. A scene removed from MST3K has him doing a ritual to heal all his wounds.
  • The Hero:
    • Ostensibly Tony. He's the title character, he has some decent super powers (albeit with some of the worst special effects supporting them) which he gets a handle on how to use really quickly, and he has he occasional good idea to drive the plot forward (like sneaking a tracker into Jane's car to find Kobras' hideout). But he also never resists the powers of the very artifact he's supposed to be protecting, and is also smarmy, whiny, and not very bright overall.note 
    • This makes Vadinho, ostensibly the sidekick and/or mentor character, much more deserving of The Hero title. He's the only one who knows what's going on, and he's the only one actually effective in battle. In a scene cut from the MST3K version, he displays enough strength to lift the rear wheels of Tony's car off the ground, and is able to tear his way inside to warn Tony about a trap at the embassy (Tony goes anyway, falls into the trap). Which raises the question: why does he need the whiny git in the first place?
  • Heroic Willpower: Vadinho, naturally has the willpower to resist the mind-control mask. Even Jane is able to overcome it instead of shooting the Pumaman. Our hero Tony is, well, harder to place. It took Kobras two tries in quick succession to break him, so he might have some resistance. That said, he never overcomes the mask's powers on his own.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Pumaman grabs one of Kobras' mooks and flies him up high in the air and repeatedly drops him to lower heights until Pumaman is satisfied with the information he receives.
  • Idiot Hero: We're probably not supposed to come to this conclusion, but Tony is clearly not a bright man:
    • His theory on the dinosaur's extinction also make one question his qualifications as a paleontologist, though that may have just been a terrible attempt at a pick-up line rather than what he believes. He's very much Distracted by the Sexy in that scene.
    • Possibly the biggest example is when Tony attacked Kobras just after the latter used the mask to brainwash the world leaders, instead of waiting until Kobras wasn't near the mask. Granted, Kobras just used the mask to brainwash Jane, so it might be a case Love Makes You Stupid.
  • Intangible Man: Tony can walk through walls as well as teleport.
  • Landmark of Lore: Stonehenge. Don't ask what it's got to do with the Aztecs.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Vadinho's got a pretty serious case of this. Which works, considering he's far more heroic than our titular 'hero'.
  • Leitmotif: The happy bouncy "flying" music.
  • Legacy Character: The Pumaman is handed down from father to son, for at least two previous generations according to the film (Tony's father and grandfather).
  • MacGuffin: The Mask. Doubles as a Mind-Control Device.
  • Magical Native American: Vadinho uses a ritual to heal himself after taking a beating, is strong enough to tear apart a car barehanded, and has the gods on speed-dial.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: When Tony is Faking the Dead, Kobras' Dragon Ranker suggests they plug Tony's seeming dead body to make sure he's dead. Kobras overrules him, saying it would point to murder, not suicide. Of course, the question must be asked: who would know and who would care? (It's been established that Kobras controls the police and government at this point.)
  • Mayincatec:
    • The film creators apparently did a smattering of work on early American cultures and then threw it all out and went with whatever they thought looked or sounded cool. (They thought wrong)
    • Vadinho is described as Aztec but lives on "the Andes Plateau," site of the Incan Empire.note 
  • The Mentor: Vadinho, although his teaching methods leave a lot to be desired.
  • Mighty Whitey: Vadinho is far more capable, but Tony is the main character, because. And it runs in the family as Tony's father was also the Aztec's mightiest protector instead of, say, an Aztec.
  • Mile-High Club: With Tony And Jane at the end.
  • Mondegreen Gag: Tony's friend Martin somehow mishears (or misremembers) "Pumaman" as "Sandwich Man".
  • More Hero than Thou: Even depowered, Tony did insist on going along with Vadinho's suicide mission - but Vadinho really insisted on going alone. With his fist.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling/Spider-Sense: Tony gets headaches when trouble's around. Well, sometimes; he still walks obliviously into traps and ambushes several times.note 
  • Neglectful Precursors: Despite Vadihno's claims that "Each man is free" as a mantra of the gods, they left a mask on Earth that controls people's minds.
  • Neutral Female: Tony gets beaten up by thugs and Jane just sits around looking like she has a slight headache.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Since the Pumaman's powers are never actually defined, pretty much anything he does counts as this. He will constantly be informed of another power just in time for him to use it right then and there. He even discovers the power to temporarily die right when Kobras is trying to make him do just that.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Aztec/alien/precursor/gods who apparently built Stonehenge, bred with humans, and may or may not have anything to do with pumas.
  • No-Sell: Vadinho no-sells a jump kick during the fight at the end.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Jane Dobson is the daughter of the Dutch ambassador. We get no explanation for her (or her dad's) lack of a Dutch accent.
  • Not Quite Dead: One Of Pumaman's powers.
  • Now You Tell Me: The world leaders ponder Kobras' security after they're already in his mansion and effectively in his power.
  • Older Sidekick: Vadinho.
  • Percussive Prevention: When a de-powered Tony tries to stop Vadinho from going on a suicide mission, the priest floors him with one punch.
    Servo: Yes! The Aztec speaks for all of us!
  • Poe's Law: There's a debate whether the movie was intentionally trying to be goofy with the way Pumaman flies. MST3K's Paul Chaplin believes this was a form of subtle humor on the part of the filmmakers while the rest of the writers believed everything was done seriously. Tony's pose was probably intentional (he's trying to imitate a four-legged "pouncing" pose rather than a Superman-like flying pose), but the terrible special effects are probably not intentional.
  • Pointless Doomsday Device: While not technically a doomsday device, the mask is capable of controlling men's minds. For a race that has as a motto "Each man is a god, each man is free," there seems to be no conceivable reason for the aliens to have created this.
  • Porn Stache: Worn by many of the villains.
    Servo: My mustache makes me fall sideways!
  • Power Incontinence: Once Kobras gets a hold of Tony's mind, he starts affecting his powers before attacking his mind.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Apparently doing the nasty while hovering in mid-air is "the only way to make little Puma Men."
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The Pumaman wears Khaki slacks and a half-cape/poncho.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Vadhino tells Tony that he has the powers of "the great god puma". The Aztecs had a jaguar god, Tezcatlipoca, but they didn't have a puma god.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Jane. A character so lacking in personality that she barely qualifies as a cardboard cutout. And yet she still manages to prove herself to have more Heroic Willpower than our "hero" by managing to repeatedly resist (if not completely overcome) Kobras' mind control when he was completely unable to.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Tony's first instinct after learning invulnerability is NOT one of his powers is to fly away. Vadinho quickly points out that since Kobras knows Tony is the Pumaman there's no place Tony could hide.
  • Secret Legacy: Not that you'd want to put "the Pumaman" on your resume or anything...
  • Shaped Like Itself: During the introduction, the gods assure us that the Pumaman will have all the powers of... a Pumaman (thereby justifying New Powers as the Plot Demands).
  • Single Line of Descent: The opening narration by the space-god establishes that all of his son's male-line descendants should be Pumamen, but Tony is apparently the only one.
  • Sissy Villain: Kobras. And yet our "hero" Tony barely manages to take him in a one-on-one fight.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The main theme would be more at home with a contemporary sitcom than a superhero film.
  • Spheroid Dropship: The Ancient Gods' ship, which on the poster is rendered suspiciously similar to the Death Star.
  • Space Clothes: Kobras' shiny futuristic muu-muu thingy. Which is actually an improvement over the sweaty leather S&M jacket he's wearing when first introduced.
  • Spider-Sense: Tony has a brief dizzy spell when he "senses danger." He tends to end up in danger anyway.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Inverted. The Pumaman can tear apart an old Jaguar (car) with his bare hands and rip into a brick wall, but has trouble overcoming Kobras in a struggle. It's inconsistent whether he's supposed to have actual super-strength, or just super-strong finger "claws" to rip into things. It's mostly shown as the latter, but at one point he lifts up a car and flips it over, and late in the movie he easily breaks ropes that were binding him when he recovers his powers.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Those starfaring Aztec god-aliens.
  • Superhero: Not a very good one, but a superhero nonetheless.
  • Super Hero Origin: His dad was secretly a Pumaman; then, one day, an Aztec introduced him to defenestration.
  • Super-Reflexes: Pumaman doesn't have invulnerability or enhanced durability, he has this instead.
  • Survival Mantra: "Each man is a god... each man is free... each man is a god..." it helps Vadinho resist the mask's mind controlling power.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: One of Pumaman's many powers.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: A bouncy little synthesized tune that surprisingly fits the goofiness of the superhero.
  • Too Dumb to Live: One of Kobras' henchmen tries to shoot Tony during the previously mentioned High-Altitude Interrogation. For once in the movie, Tony is justified in calling someone else an idiot — pointing out to the thug he's interrogating that if he shoots Tony while they're hovering, Tony will drop the thug to his death.
  • Transformation Trinket: The Belt.
  • Trickster Mentor: Vadinho
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: At one point, Tony teleports into his friend Martin's fire truck and asks him for a tracking device. Martin has no idea that Tony became a superhero up to this point, but seems only mildly surprised by Tony's outfit (he thinks it's an advertising gimmick, including misremembering Tony's superhero name as "Sandwich Man") or by the fact that Tony just teleported into the seat next to him.
  • Upgrade Artifact: The Belt. Tony has some powers before he puts it on, but the belt unlocks the rest.
  • Villainous Valor: Once the tables have turned and Tony has Kobras in the eye of the mind-control device, even he is able to better resist it than Tony, leading to his escape.
  • Voodoo Shark: Kobras telling his thugs not to shoot Tony to make sure he's dead really makes no sense. Kobras had no problem chucking four people out of high rise windows in broad daylight before he controlled half the government and the police force. The man can literally get away with murder and already has. It's obvious that the real reason he tells them not to shoot is because then the rest of the movie would be Vadinho cleaning things up by himself and then spending the rest of his days living with the guilt of having gotten The Chosen One killed stupidly. It would have actually made more sense if the thugs just hadn't even brought it up at all.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's unclear where Kobras' second-in-command Ranker disappears to. He spends most of the movie by Kobras' side, acting as his mouthpiece and sounding board, but after checking whether Tony committed suicide, he's reduced to a background character with no further lines. When Vadinho starts fighting in the climactic final battle, Ranker is taken out with one punch and then vanishes entirely, even though all the other nameless thugs take multiple hits from both Vadinho and Tony and keep coming back for more.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Kobras' thugs find Tony playing dead, Ranker suggests putting a bullet in him to make absolutely sure. Kobras says no, because he wants it to look like an accident.

Alternative Title(s): Puma Man