Shortly after the kidnapping of a famous surgeon Professor Becker, American journalist and science correspondent Mike Harway (Guy Madison) finds Becker’s associate Karl Bloch murdered in his Rome laboratory. Attracted by Becker’s daughter, Christine (Luisa Baratto), and anxious to promote his own career, Mike decides to hunt for the missing professor and agrees to let Christine join him. Their search takes them to an area of the North African desert where nomadic tribes live in terror of the mysterious Black Riders, whose equestrian sorties from the old fortress of El Faium result in the disappearance or savage mutilation of everyone who crosses their path. Christine is captured by the black riders and Mike succeeds in following her into the fortress where he finds that Devilman, a hypnotic villain who conceals his hideously scarred face beneath a scarred mask, has built an all-powerful artificial brain which he hopes to have transplanted into his own head. To this end he has kidnapped and brainwashed Becker, whom he now order to perform a trial operation on Christine. Devilman’s sadistic assistant, Kuhn, realising that a successful operation will mean the end of his own usefulness, helps Mike escape from the fortress. He returns with the nomad tribe of Tuareg warriors whose chieftain’s daughter was one of the Black Riders’ first victims. In the violent fighting that ensues, Devilman is destroyed when his machine overheats and blows up the entire fortress, from which Mike, Christine and Becker escape in the nick of time.
The routine formula of the power crazed scientist whose manic schemes are thwarted by an inevitable final holocaust is here lifted out of the rut by some splendid desert locations and a fine fortress whose traditional exterior, evoking all the vintage struggles of the foreign legion, conceals some austere chrome and glass SF sets.
[This is an absolutely loopy film which makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s also very entertaining, made by Paolo Bianchini when he was just starting out and establishing himself as one of the best Italian action directors of the 1960s. Most reviews are negative, which makes the broadly positive views of the above piece refreshing. For more information on this film check out the forthcoming Fantastikal Diabolikal Supermen book!]