Hi! They say that every blog post could be somebody’s first, so here’s a great litmus test for whether you might like me and UnitedMonkee. Does the above image give you huge amounts of joy? Then, not only can we be best friends, but you should find a lot of things on this blog that we could high five about.
As I’ve said here and here, I’ve recently become super interested in the Japanese subgenre dubbed tokusatsu, which covers just about any live action thing that’s got a lot of special effects. It’s actually a pretty braod genre that covers super heroes, sci-fi and even kaiju (giant monsters). I’m just getting into all of this — I’ve got my Ultraman, Iron King and Super Robot Red Baron DVD sets to watch — but I’m already super happy I dove into this pool because I’ve watched Super Inframan and it’s everything I wanted it to be and more. Better yet? It’s on Amazon Prime, so you can watch it and get in on the action too! And you should because I’m going DEEP on this one.
For a little bit of background, shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider were super popular in the late ’60s and ’70s, so the Shaw Brothers Studio decided to get in on the action with 1975’s The Super Inframan! The superhero-like character was created by Science Headquarters leader Professor Liu Ying-de after a threat known as Demon Princess Elzebub (delightfully referred to as Princess Dragon Mom in the dub and the screen grabs posted here) starts wreaking havoc. When she first appears — as a dragon — she nearly kills a bus filled with kids, causes an avalanche and destroys a few cities before making the baller move of just telling the world that she’s now in charge. As you can see above, she’s crazy fierce.
The doc uses one of his best agents, Lei Ma, to convert into the nuclear-powered hero who now has weapons and other cybernetics implanted under his skin. While this is going on, Demon Princess Elzebub sends two of her monsters, Plant Monster and Mutant Drill, to destroy science headquarters. The former literally plants himself nearby and grows gigantic vines to attack everything while the latter kidnaps one of the super scientists named Zhu Ming for nefarious purposes.
Even though the power goes out during the attack, a brave agent gets it back on which allows the doc enough time to finish creating Inframan. I love this scene not only because it’s crazy to see huge vines attack a bunch of dudes all dressed exactly alike, but also because I can imagine how challenging and fun it was to film. This part goes on to feature the first real appearance of Inframan, one guy taking a circular saw to a vine that then grows back and an epic battle where Plant Monster returns to his humanoid form in which he can teleport and spray exploding goo. But, of course, he can’t win.
With the first Inframan mission a success and Science Headquarters relatively safe again, Elzebub plans her next move which revolves around painfully brainwashing and sending him back to base in order to steal the Inframan plans. Even though no one in the history of the world has ever looked more brainwashed, his pals think he’s fine and allow him to do exactly that. Lei Ma gives chase on his motorcycle which leads to another battle, this time with some Skeleton Ghosts minions as well as Spider Monster.
We soon learn that, in addition to a high level of fighting ability, Spider Monster can also shoot out a kind of hardening web-net that leaves its opponents in a kind of super-hard cocoon. Oh, and also shoot fire spray goo. Eat your heart out, Spider-Man! Anyway, the ScienceDudes also show up to jump in on the fight action which allows for Lei Ma to turn into Inframan and battle both Spider Monster and Long-Haired Demon. They start out zapping each other, but soon find themselves being thrown into and attacking from a nearby pond.
Inframan takes out L-H D before taking on a kaiju-sized Spider Monster by himself growing to epic proportions. With two more of her goons defeated, Elzebub orders Mutant Drill to attack Science Headquarters once again with help from the still-brainwashed Zhu Ming. Even though the villain rigs up some explosives, he ultimately fails by also tying up some of Lei Ma’s friends and trying to explode them too.
Next, the professor upgrades Inframan with Thunderball Fists just before Elzebub sends her goons to kidnap his daughter. Resigning himself, Professor Liu Ying-de surrenders to her minions and takes a dragon-themed boat to her (apparently) island headquarters. Of course, Lei Ma and the rest of the Science Squad isn’t far behind and an epic, ridiculously enjoyable battle kicks off for the last half hour or so of the film.
The rest of the film involves scenes where about 30-40 people all fight each other wearing amazing costumes. Mutant Drill throws down with Inframan as does Fire Dragon. Inside the evil HQ, Ezelbub freezes the professor and his daughter. Eventually, Inframan gets inside where he faces the dual threat of the Iron Armor Monsters which look like IG-88, the first Iron Man armor and Inspector Gadget had a wild time and produced a new cyborg warrior.
Of course, the real battle comes down to Inframan and Demon Princess Ezelbub at the end of the film. There’s a lot of jumping around, flips and blasting away at one another. Oh, and a surprising number of regenerated heads, but ultimately Inframan walks away the victor after defeating the villain, saving the innocents and sailing away on a boat with his fellow heroes (and a pair of kids who had no business being there) to celebrate their win!
You might be thinking that I liked this movie purely for its camp value, but you’d be mistaken. I very earnestly appreciate the craft and effort that went into making a film like this. From costumes to fight coordinating, everyone involved in this film seemed to give their all and give someone like me plenty to dig into. When Sandy Carpenter appeared on an episode of Killer POV, she said one of the major differences between low budget horror of the 80s and the Syfy-style stuff of today is that, back then, people still really tried their best to make something look amazing, while today, some present bad effects and then try to laugh along with the audience about lame it looks. There’s none of that in Inframan. I mean, just look at how crazy the Science Headquarters set is!
As a longtime fan of superheroes, comics and action films, it’s also great to stumble into this genre that mixes all of those things and did such an amazing job of it several decades ago! That means that, hopefully, I’ve got a lot of fun to dig into as I continue to explore this awesomely widespread genre that’s almost completely new to me. Okay, bye!