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Issue #187 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES November 24th, 2003

The Super Inframan
(1975; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Chung kwok chiu yan
Mandarin: Zhong guo chao ren
English: Chinese Superman

U.S. Title: Infra-Man

A series of natural disasters are actually not the work of Mother Nature but attacks launched by a group of invaders led by the ancient Princess Elzibub (Terry Liu Hui-ru). With her bizarre army of cackling creatures and screeching skeleton men, the Princess demands that all the nations of Earth surrender or face even greater destruction. The fate of the human race lies in the hands of Professor Liu Yingde (Wang Hsia), inventor of the "Inframan," a solar-powered fighting apparatus that melds with a human being’s internal structure. Volunteer Rayma (Danny Lee Sau-yin) undergoes the painful electronic transformation process and emerges as a red suited dynamo equipped with laser beams, X-Ray vision, and the ability to fly. After successfully vanquishing the marauding henchcreatures Mutant Drill and Monster Plant, Rayma must confront the enemy in their Mount Devil headquarters when the Princess kidnaps the Professor and his daughter.

One of the most beloved and widely seen Shaw Brothers productions among Western fans, this wonderfully crazy and colorful sci-fi actioner got a U.S. theatrical release through Joseph Brenner Associates in 1976 as simply INFRA-MAN. This dubbed and slightly altered version was later issued on videocassette by Prism Entertainment and Sinister Cinema (the latter unauthorized but better quality). Now, the film is available in its original Cantonese and Mandarin versions with a vastly superior transfer. The popularity of ULTRAMAN in Hong Kong was apparently the inspiration behind the project, which certainly owes a debt to the various Japanese superhero movies and TV shows of that era. Paramount in this category are the wacky monsters, including a three-eyed lobster/cockroach that can change its size, bouncing rubber monsters with spring-loaded maces, and a giant tentacled something-or-other that lays siege to the heroes' base. Tong Gai's action choreography relies heavily on trampolines and wire-enhancement; martial arts purists may frown but it works wonderfully in this context. Director Hua Shan (aka Wah San) and his collaborators know that children are their primary audience, so the picture is paced like a 90 minute sugar rush. Aside from a sappy sequence showing the professor spending quality time with this daughter (instant fridge/bathroom break), THE SUPER INFRAMAN is scene after scene of monsters, explosions, kung fu, laser beams, lava, instant freezing, and just about every other outrageous sci-fi element screenwriter Ngai Hong could work in. Thankfully, there is a lot else here for adults to appreciate, like the marvellous costumes (particularly that modelled by Terry Liu's whip-cracking, dominatrix-style villainess), peculiar production design (have you ever seen another movie where skulls were the design motif?), and the story's amusingly insular universe (most of Hong Kong goes up in flames in the opening minutes but no really seems to dwell upon this catastrophe).

As with Celestial's presentation of THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN in its original form (reviewed in issue #155a), Western viewers will likely be disappointed to find some of the campiness missing here. Minus Peter Fernandez's aggressively goofy English dubbing, the proceedings play a bit more seriously, though probably not enough to hinder one's enjoyment. Also, the most pleasurable aspects of SB's KING KONG knock-off were unintentional, while most everything here has been designed to leave a smile on one's face throughout. Infamous Bruce Lee imitator Bruce Le plays one of the Professor's men, as does Yuen Shun-yee in a much smaller part.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Danny Lee. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Terry Liu. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

The princess rallies her troops. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Danny Lee. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #100222 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.33:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

85 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains mild fantasy violence

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Nova Scotia: G
Ontario: PG
Singapore: PG
United States: PG

The picture was shot by Japanese cinematographer Tadashi Nishimoto (GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA, RETURN OF THE DRAGON) and one can now finally appreciate his scope compositions and the dazzling applications of color. Hues are rich and gorgeous but, every once in a while, the image buckles slightly at the point of some shot changes, presumably the result of the negative's splices starting to separate. These distractions are momentary and do not detract much from the otherwise beautiful presentation. Taking the PAL source into account, this version runs approximately 1 1/2 minutes shorter than the U.S. variant but nothing of great significance appears to be missing. The audio is a bit strained in spots but sufficient (the Cantonese track features different music in spots and may have been prepared later). The Brenner version was purportedly in "Stereo Infra-Sound" but the Prism and Sinister tapes were monaural; Celestial's re-mix adds some limited channel separations but does not otherwise seem to alter the track to any great extent. It would have been great to see the original HK trailer but we only get some video promo spots and the usual contents of the Movie Information section (the behind-the-scenes photo gallery is worth stepping through).

THE SUPER INFRAMAN is available at Poker Industries.

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