Director: Hua Shan
Image Entertainment

Influenced by the 1960s “Ultraman” and a plethora of other Japanese super hero TV programs, 1975’s SUPER INFRAMAN (shown in the U.S. as INFRA-MAN) is Hong Kong’s exciting answer to this Asian cultural phenomenon. Produced by the Shaw Brothers (known for their legendary martial arts epics), SUPER INFRAMAN is an outrageous mix of bionic supermen, monsters, kung fu and various science fiction motifs, all which explode into one of the most entertaining things you’ll ever see in what can easily be labeled the ultimate popcorn movie!

After lying beneath the earth for millions of years, Princess Dragon Mom (Terry Liu) rises to conquer the earth with her small army of skeletal faced soldiers and a line-up of oversized mutant monsters. At the underground Science Headquarters, the brilliant Professor Chang (Wang Hsieh, who looks like he robbed a hairpiece from a JC Penneys' mannequin) and his legion of silver-suited Space Control troops can’t do anything to stop the Princess and her shape-shifting creatures, so the good professor has a back up plan: transform someone into the technically advanced Inframan, a space age super hero with great strength and elaborate weapons, as well as acrobatic talents and the ability to fly and become giant sized. Young and healthy Rayma (Li Hsui-Hsien, who later changed his name to Danny Lee and became a Hong Kong action movie superstar) volunteers and is successfully operated on to become the red vinyl-clad Inframan, and he is able to turn into him at will. The evil mutants seem helpless against Inframan, but when Princess Dragon Mom later kidnaps Professor Chang’s daughter, our hero is lured to their secret lair to face more than a handful of horrors.

SUPER INFRAMAN is a non-stop hodgepodge of Saturday morning live action TV thrills, and despite its ineptitude, paper thin plot, men in rubber monster suits, and overall juvenile attitude, you won’t find a more brainlessly fun piece of cinema anywhere, especially in this age of stuffy CGI overkill. Sure the special effects are dated here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a certain appeal to them, as lots of laser beams are shot, lots of things explode, and monsters and mortals battle in some well orchestrated karate sequences for which the Shaw Brothers are known for. The Toho-influenced monsters (actors in lumpy, rubbery suits) all cause unintentional laughs, especially with the cartoonish voices they’re given in both the dubbed and original versions. Included are a plant monster, a bug monster (who spews orange acid), a scaly monster who resembles the giant Majin, a crazy white-haired bull monster, and Nemesis, Princess Dragon Mom’s right hand mutant: he resmbles a green turd with one drilled hand and boxed scooper for the other. There’s also a sexy scantily clad “She-Demon” who has eyeballs on her palms, and two twin robots with protracting heads that are propelled by coils. Even Princess Dragon Mom, who is garbed in some sort of kinky Viking S&M gear, changes into a flying reptile.

Colorful and imaginative in every way possibly, SUPER INFRAMAN also has some great futuristic sets and costumes, making it even more of a spectacle. Think of a Saturday morning “Sid & Marty Krofft” kid’s show with a high voltage Asian twist and harmless comic book violence, and you’ll know what to expect. Even critic Roger Ebert liked this one when Joseph Brenner released it here in 1976, proclaiming, “When they stop making movies like INFRA-MAN, a little light will go out of the world.” The popular 1990s syndicated kiddie show "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" displays heavy influence from this movie, especially in its "Dragon Mom" like villain and her wacky looking array of monsters. For “Psychotronic” film addicts, this is not to be missed!

The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 “Shaw Scope” aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The source elements are in really good shape, with fine detail and very vivid colors. The transfer does suffer slightly from occasional jerky blurs in some action scenes, but otherwise is looks very good. Three audio options are included, the original Mandarin language mono track, a 5.1 stereo mix of the Mandarin track and the original English-dubbed mono track. The Mandarin tracks come off well, with only the English dubbed track suffering from some hiss and several audio drop outs. The English track is the same as the one that played in U.S. theaters and it carries different music for some scenes, tunes which almost sound liked they were culled from a 1970s era porno flick. Optional English subtitles are included.

Extras include a lengthy section of Shaw Brothers trailers (all which will eventually get DVD treatment from Image) and a separate section of trailers for other Hong Kong films that Image offers. Other supplements include the original Hong Kong trailer, a photo gallery, a promotional art gallery and a text interview with director Hua Shan which is downloadable as a PDF file on your computer. There’s a booklet inside with excellent liner notes by Damon Foster and August Ragone, who give some background on the film’s boob tube influences, the main stars, the special effects person and more. (George R. Reis)