Infra Man (1976)


aka The Super Infra-Man
(Jung Gwok Chiu Yan)

Hong Kong. 1976.


Director – Hua-Shan, Producer – Runme Shaw, Art Direction – Johnson-Tsao. Production Company – Shaw Brothers


Li Hsiu-Hsien (Rayma/Infra Man), Weng Hsieh (Professor Chang), Terry Liu (Princess Dragon Mom), Yuan Man-Tzu (Memi), Lin Wen-Wei (Chu Ming)


The Earth is suddenly under attack by monsters, earthquakes and ray beams. Scientists observe as the dormant volcano Mount Devil opens up and Princess Dragon Mom and her army of mutant creatures emerge. One of the scientists, Rayma, volunteers for an experiment in which he is implanted with electronics and becomes the powerful Infra Man with super-strength, incredible martial arts abilities, x-ray vision and built-in raybeams and rockets. As Infra-Man, he sets out to take on Princess Dragon Mom and her army.

There is nothing else on Earth like the Asian fantasy film. From Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) onwards, there has been an extremely prodigious output of rubber monster films from the East, which have become increasingly bizarre as the initial underlying message the film was made to convey became increasingly less important. From Ultraman (1966-72) through Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-6), there has been an equally prodigious output of masked superhero films. This Hong Kong superhero film comes clearly inspired by Ultraman and the Godzilla films.

Infra Man has a wilfully colourful bizarreness that verges on outright surrealism. None of it has been intended to be taken seriously. It comes filled with leaping acrobatics and chop suey martial arts, rocket boots, a whip-cracking alien princess in a pointed brass brassiere, lots of explosions and badly animated ray beams, and characters who conduct impossible flights through the air after being hit. There is an extraordinary menagerie of alien monsters – triangular orange rubber things; one with a hideously unconvincing blonde wig atop of which are horns that fire ray beams; one mutant that is like a bipedial fish with spade-shaped hands; attacks by giant tentacles and skeleton servants. Although the most inventive creation is two robots with giant mace fists and heads that pop off on springs. There is an hilarious scene where Infra Man becomes giant size, reduces the giant bug to normal and then squishes it in under his foot. The film, although little seen, was celebrated for its hallucinogenic pacing in the 1970s and has taken on somewhat of a cult aspect these days – “This film may, in fact, be better than sex,” Sticky Carpet Digest called it.

Infra Man was one of the more bizarre oddities made during the 1970s by Shaw Brothers, the most prolific Hong Kong production company, known for a prodigious output of martial arts and swordplay films during this period. Director Hua-Shan was a former cinematographer who directed several films for Shaw Brothers during the late 1970s/early 80s. His other genre works include:- the wu xia/horrors Bloody Parrot (1981) and Portrait in Crystal (1983); and the wu xia Little Dragon Maiden (1983).

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