(A.k.a. INFRA-MAN; THE INFRA SUPERMAN; CHINESE SUPERMAN; ZHONG GUO CHAO REN [original title])
"The Ultimate in Science Fiction".
This 1975 Shaw Brothers production is absolutely barmy, in the best possible way.
It opens with a number of natural disasters occurring simultaneously: fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. A team of ecological scientists led by bearded Professor Chang (Hsieh Wang) strive to ascertain the cause of said events ... eventually pinpointing the source to be coming from the nearby Mount Devil.
Once they hone their cameras in on this destination, they spy the beautiful Princess Dragon Mom (Terry Liu) - who addresses them, advising that she and her legion of monsters (well, men in monstrous costumes) will continue to cause devastation across the planet unless mankind surrenders itself unto her.
Naturally, Chang is having none of this and, following a meeting with various government officials, he decides there's only one course of action left: call on his best man, Rayma (Danny Lee), for assistance. We first meet Rayma in the midst of performing a typically heroic act, saving women and children from a burning building. He receives the call from Chang's headquarters and promptly races there on his motorbike. Sans helmet, naturally.
And so, Chang gives Rayma privileged sight of something he's spent his entire life developing: a super-human recipe, fuelled by - amongst other things - adrenaline injections and a "miniature nuclear reactor". This fusion of creation and man will, Chang believes, be capable of fighting off the Dragon Mom's creatures and save the world. Rayma quickly confirms that he's up for the job. "You'll have to go through the sufferings of Hell and perhaps die" Chang very honestly warns. Meh, Rayma's not bothered - get on with transforming him into Inframan, already.
As Dragon Mom's mutants continue to wreak havoc at her request, Rayma undergoes a series of revolutionary scientific procedures designed to transform him into a superhuman being - complete with the fabled "thunderball fist".
And then? Well, basically, it's clobbering time!
THE SUPER INFRAMAN is a truly demented slice of Hong Kong cinema, chock-full of cheap sets, gaudy colours and loud aural assaults. It's non-stop fun from beginning to end.
Inspired by both kaiju cinema (Asian monster movies such as GODZILLA which were popular at the time) and a Japanese TV show from the mid-60s entitled "Ultraman", director Hua Shan's breathlessly entertaining movie races from one deranged scene to the next while embracing a total disregard for logic, the most amazingly snazzy use of primary colours imaginable and a lively soundtrack which just adds to the pure pop culture nirvana being offered.
Control centres with unconvincing "computers", flimsy backdrops and colourful flashing lights are an early highlight. Cheap and cheesy special effects delight throughout. The villains are men in ropy monster suits, akin to what we see to this day in episodes of kids' TV show "Power Rangers". Sound effects are, of course, exaggerated at every turn. Sets are flimsy but also at times surprisingly artsy - especially Dragon Mom's cave lair.
And then there's prolific screen legend Lee. He's pure charisma and knowing silliness as he takes on the rubber creatures with an amazing level of high-kicking, bouncing conviction.
All told, THE SUPER INFRAMAN is a fast-paced, ridiculous and unexpectedly inventive monster mash-up which will leave any self-respecting cult movie buff thrilled.
88 Films bring THE SUPER INFRAMAN to UK blu-ray in all its chaotic, uncut glory (87 minutes and 36 seconds). The MPEG4-AVC file houses a stunningly vivid 1080p transfer of the film, one which positively throbs with colour, detail and filmic authenticity. The print that's been utilised is an extremely clean one, and the vividness of the colour palettes is met by rich, deeps black which are satisfyingly free from any crushing effect. The film's original 2.35:1 ratio has been adhered to.
A static main menu page allows the option to watch the film either in its original Chinese (Mandarin) language, or in its English-dubbed variant.
Both language options are proffered in lossless mono audio tracks. Either way you choose to view the film, the tracks on offer are reliable, problem-free prospects. Of course, the original Mandarin track is the way to go - but there is undeniable pleasure to be had by watching the film dubbed (clumsily) into English. Optional English subtitles are available for the Mandarin track and are easily readable at all times.
In terms of bonus features we're treated to a lively (and eye-poppingly colourful) 103-second stills gallery set to the film's insanely bouncy main theme tune.
We also have an excellent 8-page colour collectors' booklet which contains details notes on the nature of kaiju cinema and this film's international success in particular. Complemented by a host of most welcome black-and-white behind-the-scenes photographs, this is a most worthy addition to the package indeed.
This release also comes with double-sided reversible cover artwork and, in the case of initial pressings, an extremely attractive slipcase.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|