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  Super Infra-Man All hail Princess Dragon-Mom!
Year: 1975
Director: Hua Shan
Stars: Danny Lee, Terry Liu, Wang Hsia, Yuan Man-Tzu, Lin Wen-Wei
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, Science Fiction, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: A devastating earthquake unleashes an invading army of shape-shifting beasties led by Princess Dragon-Mom (Terry Liu), a whip-wielding, mini-skirted, blonde vixen who also sports a rather chic Viking helmet. World domination is what she’s after, but Hong Kong will do for starters. Hordes of giant monsters proceed to stomp Hong Kong into dust. Hapless citizens scream and flee while the jumpsuit-wearing, hi-tech defence force struggle to fight back. Danny Lee, future co-star of John Woo’s The Killer (1989), play Raymar, the only man brave enough to endure a brilliant scientist’s mad experiment that transforms him into - drum roll, please - Infra-Man! In his silver mask and red spandex, Infra-Man rockets across the screen. He rescues the professor’s pretty daughter and bratty kid brother, battles giant spiders, super-powered dinosaurs with drills for arms and slinky cyborg agents, before leading an acrobatic, kung fu squad for an explosive assault on Princess Dragon-Mom’s lair.

In the seventies, unauthorized reprints of manga such as Doraemon and Mazinger Z sold like hotcakes off newsstands in Hong Kong, while Cantonese re-dubs of Japanese superhero or sentai films like 5 Masked Riders against the Devil (1974) were big draws at the kiddie matinees. Shaw Brothers studios, best known for their historical martial arts pictures, wanted a piece of the action. The result was Super Infra-Man, eighty-four minutes of non-stop, kung fu superhero thrills, laser battles, exploding aliens and rampaging prehistoric monsters, shot in glorious Shawscope. Barely a second passes by without some fantastic feat or death-defying stunt performed by Shaw Brothers’ crack team of martial artists, captured in candy-coloured cinematography by director Hua Shan and his mentor, cameraman Ho Lan Shan (a pseudonym for the Japanese Tadashi Nishimoto. Brought over by Bruce Lee to film Way of the Dragon (1972), he influenced a generation of Chinese cinematographers).

Super Infra-Man offers no plot intricacies, zero character development and little in the way of subtext. For most movies, these would be major deficiencies, but its single-minded dedication towards offering children the wildest thrill-ride possible endeared it to a generation. Those of us who caught the movie as part of television’s Black Belt Theatre have never forgotten it, including high profile fans like venerable film critic Roger Ebert. Initially available on region 3 DVD from Celestial, as part of their ongoing Shaw Brothers restorations, Infra-Man’s status as a cult favourite prompted a region 1 release from Image. Considering the film was one of Shaw’s biggest international hits, it is surprising there was never a sequel. Hua Shan is best known in Hong Kong for The Criminals, a series of true-crime pictures released throughout the seventies. The visually gifted director was something of a jack of all trades, dipping his toe into horror, drama, martial arts and sexploitation pictures. Of all his films, the charming fairytale Little Dragon Maiden (1983) comes closest to matching Infra-Man’s breakneck invention.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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