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THE INCREDIBLE PROFESSOR ZOVEK (1972).

René Cardona Sr. directed some of the great Mexican cult films of all time -- NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, SANTA CLAUS, THE BATWOMAN -- and this wonderfully over-the-top, cut-rate superhero romp is at the top of that heap. A showcase for "Professor Zovek" (a.k.a. Francisco Xavier Chapa del Bosque), who became a south-of-the-border celebrity in 1969 for his televised physical feats (e.g. doing 17,800 non-stop sit-ups in 8 hours), this screen do-gooder didn't need spandex tights or a mask. He instead dressed more like a modern-day Tonto, with a fringed buckskin jacket, white turtleneck and a headband marked with the letter 'Z' (though sometimes he'd ditch the shirt altogether, in order to show off his muy macho bare chest). Zovek leaps into action when mad scientist Dr. Druso (José Galvez) plants a briefcase bomb on an airplane in order to fake his own death and kill all of his competitors. This nutjob is your typical, megalomaniacal supervillain, complete with an ornate lair and throne; a deadly, trained hawk; trippy hypnotic wheel; makeshift surgical area where he can pop-top skulls; shirtless, muscular henchmen armed with bullwhips; and a dungeon full of caged, snaggle-toothed, half-human/half-animal savages -- the result of botched experiments. But he's still no match for Professor Zovek! More than just a physical dynamo (he can fend off four guys at a time, with wrestling moves thrown in for good measure), Zovek's mighty mind can control lesser mortals from afar, or hypnotize a flight attendant into recalling exact details of this aforementioned doomed flight. Of course, he's also a babe magnet and TV-superstar. Alas, while Zovek (in a flashy gold costume that'd make Siegfried & Roy drool) captivates a nightclub crowd with escape artist tricks, his two trusted assistants -- a chauffeur (German Valdez "Tin Tan") and cute girl friday (Nubia Marti) -- are captured by Druso's flunkies. Zovek soon joins them, with our hero chained up to pillars like Samson, battling feral midget-monsters and an imposing Black brute, and saving a buxom blonde (Tere Velazquez) who gets sucked into this wacky adventure. Although this Spanish-language print lacks English subtitles, the plot is ridiculously simplistic, and at only 75 minutes, the film rarely takes a break from its absurd laughs. Zovek himself is indeed incredible -- and incredibly pompous! -- and I particularly loved the little touches of lunacy, such as when Zovek attends a funeral, but never takes off his dumbass headband. This was the first of nine proposed films that Zovek was set to star in, and this guy was on his way to becoming a Mexploitation legend. Unfortunately, he never even finished his second feature, LA INVASION DE LOS MUETROS, and died in March 1972 at the age of 31, following a 200-foot fall from a helicopter.

© 2010 by Steven Puchalski.