Infra-Man (international title Super Infra-Man) is probably the best tokusatsu movie that I’ve seen. Released in 1975, it’s loaded to the brim with goofy monsters, kung fu fighting, sci fi gizmos, and a bug-eyed crimson cyborg Superhero; it’s the Citizen Kane of tokusatsu movies.
The Princess of a legion of evil mutants unexpectedly arrives out of the blue and attacks Earth, causing earthquakes, fire and destruction. She then calls for the humans to surrender to her, so she can rule the world. Little does she know that the brilliant professor Liu, who works for some sort of scientific brigade of researchers who know kung fu, has been developing a way to turn a man into a cyborg superhero with advanced strength, speed, energy, x-ray vision, and weapons.
Whip wielding (and humorously dubbed) Wicked Dragon Mom calls upon her mutant monsters (including the imaginatively named Giant Flying Lizard, Giant Beetle Monster, and (my favorite) the shaggy haired wild Laser Horn Monster (you can tell the people who named these monsters in English just weren’t really into it, tho they did step out of their uninspired drudgery with the unusually enthusiastically named Emperor Of Doom, who shoots a torrent of fire out of his mouth and has a big, red Pringles guy mustache (they should have named him Fire Breathing Mustache Monster)) to help her defeat the benevolent scientists, sending the Driller Beast to kidnap one of them for brainwashing, and the Octopus Mutant to attack their base.
Meanwhile, the Professor has shown Rayma, one of his most heroic disciples, the Infra-Man program. Rayma very excitedly volunteers to become Infra-Man (even tho it is horribly painful and he might die).
The base is attacked by the Octopus Mutant, which disrupts Rayma’s transformation into Infra-Man, so he’s not as powerful as he would be if he completed the transformation, but more than enough to defeat the Octopus Mutant.
Wicked Dragon Mom sends her skull-faced football helmeted henchmen ( who whoop like flying monkeys) with the Drill Beast to kidnap the Professor’s daughter and demands he surrender himself to her. Can Infra-Man save the professor and his daughter and defeat the evil Wicked Dragon Mom and her monsters? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Infra-Man was the first superhero movie out of China, and was produced by the Shaw brothers (of course). The story is fun and interesting and fairly sophisticated for this sort of thing (Roger Ebert even called it “classy and slick”), and the direction and acting is competent (the hero Rayma is played by Danny Lee, who went on to star in a lot of John Woo’s films including The Killer and City On Fire (which Tarantino ripped off for Reservoir Dogs). An actor named Kin Lung Hung plays the tough sergeant of the Science headquarters, who is very good at kung fu. Hung changed his name to Bruce Le later, and appeared in many kung fu Brucesploitation movies of the ’70s and early ’80s).
The monsters are quite goofy and entertaining, but also very imaginative looking. A lot of tokusatsu is rendered almost senseless by an incomprehensible plot, bad editing and a hyperactive pace and tone (which a lot of people like), but Infra-Man is more kaiju-esque in that it has a slower, more straight forward plot and everything is played seriously (except the monsters, but a lot of that is the English dub). The music is also delightful- that old school ’70s analog Moog keyboard driven sci fi sound. Gotta love it. If you’re only going to watch one vintage cyborg superhero vs monsters movie, this should be the one. It’s very charming and a lot of fun…
view the trailor HERE (note: this movie came out at the height of the popularity of the television show The Six Million Dollar Man, so the trailor trys to capitalize on that).