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  Invincible Space Streaker Fighting crime before bedtime
Year: 1977
Director: Yu Chik-Lim
Stars: Lin Hsiao-Hu, Chan Pooi-Ling, Woo Yue-Hong, Michael Fung Kin-Kuen, Li Ming-Chun, Chin Liu, Lan Yun
Genre: Martial Arts, Trash, Science Fiction, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Little Taiwanese tyke Hsiao Po (Lin Hsiao-Hu) gives his weak-bladdered friend Hsiao Wen a stern telling off for peeing his pants during a school football match. When schoolteacher Mrs. Lin (Chan Pooi-Ling) orders Wen to change his pants the fat brat shoots her with his slingshot and gets scolded again. To cheer Wen up, Hsiao Po and friends go skinny-dipping in the river where the naked boys are approached by Dr. Mou, a creepy guy in a black cloak with a gold medallion. Kids, if a creepy guy in a black cloak with a gold medallion offers to turn you into a superhero if you go home with him, for god's sake just say no! Unfortunately, Hsiao Po and his friends are idiots. They follow Dr. Mou back to his candy-coloured space age underground lair and barely bat an eyelid at his staff of hairy werewolves, moth-men and skull-masked biker ninjas. So they really shouldn't be all that surprised when Mou straps them one by one into a weird contraption that turns them into a monkey, a pig and other decidedly non-superheroic animals. Luckily, midway through Hsiao Po's ordeal Wen urinates on Dr. Mou and his hi-tech which enables both kids to escape. To underline how hilarious this all is the film cuts to a close-up of Wen's pee-spurting wang, because that is just what kids want to see in a superhero film, right?

Poor Hsiao Po emerges from this traumatic experience with a single wacky antenna protruding from his head. Hiding from the police, he considers himself a freak until his sweet friend Li-Li (Li Ming-Chun) persuades him to return home. Kindly Mrs. Lin brings Hsiao Po to wizened old genius Professor Pau, played by the same actor playing Dr. Mou, who not only saves his life but also enables him to transform into a bug-eyed PVC clad masked superhero. Whereupon the Invincible Space Streaker (though everyone insists on calling him "Superman") embarks on an endless string of explosive battles with Mou's monstrous minions.

Exploitation filmmaking is a game of dominoes. Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio made Super Infra-Man (1975) to cash-in on the Japanese craze for sentai superhero films and in turn inspired this cut-rate Taiwanese effort. Whereas the Shaw film was aimed at kids but dealt with adult heroes Invincible Space Streaker ups the ante by making its superhero a child. It is not far removed from the many Asian fantasy films where little kids wield awesome mystical martial arts powers, e.g. The Dwarf Sorcerer (1974), Silver Maid (1970) or Watari Ninja Boy (1966), except in this instance the whiny heroes are none too sympathetic and viewers have to wade through a lot of lachrymose soap opera melodrama to get to the superhero stuff. The film is part spoof, part straight science fiction adventure, part stern moral lecture on how kids ought to behave in polite society. Which based on the example given means hold hands and sing all day. Or perhaps as Mrs. Li tells Hsiao Po: "Study hard and dedicate yourself to your country."

Looking like a cross between two seminal Japanese sentai, Kamen Rider (1971) and Moonbeam Mask (1958), Hsiao Po unusually finds no joy in being a superhero. Pursued by paparazzi and autograph-seeking kids, he only wants to go back being a regular kid. Although Po handles all the monster fighting most of the plot concerns the heroism of other ordinary children including plucky Li-Li and lil' wet pants Hsiao Wen. In fact the climax is entirely devoted to the latter's attempts to retrieve a crucial gadget. As he runs across a minefield and crawls in agony the film opts for Sam Peckinpah style slow-motion and plays this tragic sub-plot surprisingly straight. Perhaps even more jarring is the scene where one red-bearded evildoer disguises himself as Li-Li in an attempt to sexually molest Hsiao Po ("Li-Li, you are acting like an adult. It's disgusting!") Compelling only by way of its relentless weirdness, the plot falters partly because the exact nature of the villainous Mou's plan for world domination is none too clear. What's more the goofy bad guys are a scarcely credible threat to humanity given their tendency to fall for childish pranks. The colourful sets and costumes are eye-catching in suitably comic book hues but the action is sloppy compared with other equally outrageous Asian superhero films from this era. Also the themes of child abduction and exploitation sit uneasily with the garish sci-fi action while those with a wicked sense of humour will struggle not to laugh at the closing scene which has the kids frolicking naked in the river again alongside the farewell caption: "Thank you for your coming." What the hell kind of audience was this movie aimed at?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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