The Film: Infra-Man (aka The Super Infra-Man)
The Principles: Starring Danny Lee, Terry Liu, Hsieh Wang, Man-Tzu Yuan and Wen-wei Lin. Directed by Shan Hua.
The Premise: The wicked Princess Dragon Mom awakens after ten million years from a volcanic lair and releases her legion of mutant monsters and skeleton-ghosts to destroy the world! In response, Professor Chang turns a young volunteer into the bionic kung fu superhero Infra-Man in order to save the planet!
Is it any good?: My father took me to see this when I was a little kid at a Saturday afternoon matinee double feature along with some Godzilla movie. The imagery was so intensely mind-blowing I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. Produced by the almighty Shaw Brothers and presented in full Shaw Scope, this is a Hong Kong entry into the popular “henshin” style made so popular from the Japanese television series Ultraman. As dated as it is, the film is still just as much fun to watch now as it was when I was seven-years-old.
The movie opens with mass destruction, earthquakes, burning cities and people! A hot ancient sorceress named Queen Dragon Mom (Terry Liu), clad in a black & gold dominatrix outfit, blonde wig and sporting a bullwhip for a left hand, plots to conquer the Earth from her lair inside an active volcano. She awakens her army of skeleton-ghosts and mutant monsters to wreak havoc on the surface. It would appear that all is lost.
But there is hope! The high-tech Science Headquarters run by the brilliant Professor Chang (Hsieh Wang) are ready to test out their secret new project. A willing volunteer named Rayma (Danny Lee) agrees to an operation in which he is transformed into the solar-powered, red and silver armored, bionic superhero Infra-Man. Perfect timing too, because the command center is attacked by a giant vegetable mutant and Infra-Man gets to test out his various abilities while kicking the monster’s ass.
After almost all of the Queen’s mutants are defeated, she kidnaps the Professor’s daughter in an attempt to blackmail him into giving her the blueprints containing the secrets to Infra-Man’s amazing powers. This leads up to a climactic battle at the Queen’s lair that is possibly the most epic guys-in-rubber-suits-fighting-each-other sequences ever put on film. It keeps going for an extended time at a breakneck pace, in which Infra-Man is given the opportunity to showcase his martial arts abilities and make use of a wide arsenal of weaponry, including the recently installed Thunderball Fists capable of destroying any substance known to man.
The response that I and every other child in that theater had on that day was extremely positive. We went ape-shit crazy over it! Hell, even my dad enjoyed it on some level simply because, for what it is, it’s a very well crafted film. The pacing is so fast and filled with excitement, its 88-minute running time flies by at atomic speed. The action sequences are excessively over-the-top epics that are a trademark of the Shaw Brothers slick aesthetic. Also, the sheer imagination that it took to create some of the images here is insanely awesome. My two favorites of the Queen’s monsters are twin robots that have springing metal claws for heads. There’s also a flying dragon creature that gets its head chopped off and regrows a new one repeatedly about ten times before Infra-Man pulverizes it with his Thunderball Fists.
Is it worth a look?: This is after all a Shaw Brothers production, so you’ve got to expect that the movie delivers on every level in terms of action and then some. It’s old school “henshin” cinema at its finest that’s thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. If you’re a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fan, you might want to check out how it all started. This is classic Saturday afternoon science fiction insanity of the highest order!
Random anecdotes: It’s the first superhero movie to ever be made in China. It’s also the first Shaw Brothers production to use a storyboard. It shows!
These are the English dub names of the monsters that Infra-Man battles in the film: She Demon, Emperor of Doom, Giant Beetle Monster, Octopus Mutant, Driller Beast, Laser Horn Monster, Flying Dragon Monster and Iron Fist Robots.
Cinematic soul mates: Ultraman, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, Iron King, Super Robot Red Baron, Ultra Seven and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
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