Infra-Man: Glorious Cheese

Infra-Man hit American screens in 1976.  Known in China as either “The Super Inframan” or “Chinese Superman”.  My first viewing was as a little moppet of seven years old.  Even in a seven-year-old’s eyes, it’s a weird movie.  It’s a Chinese superhero movie with insane visuals, monsters and a lot of Kung Fu.

The Shaw Brothers cobbled this strange gem together, along with some Japanese help.  In appearance, the Infra-Man character looks a lot like Kamen Rider, which is probably intentional.  In fact, all elements of Infra-Man have a “borrowed” or imitative feel.  This doesn’t detract from the cheese vibe of the film, and in fact, enhances it.  It looks like a Japanese production, fights like a Hong Kong film, and has elements from American television.  The Six Million Dollar man was popular at the time and they shoehorned the “bionic” elements as much as possible.

As the movie begins, a Disco-Dominatrix-looking chick named Queen Dragon Mom (Terry Lau) appears from beneath the Earth with an army of monsters.  She blows up a bunch of Chinese cities to demonstrate her powers.  Dragon Mom plans on conquering the Earth (naturally).  The only thing standing in her way is a group of heroic agents wearing shiny jumpsuits.  And motorcycle helmets.  

Don’t overthink it.

Anyway, this group of intrepid agents is outmatched by Dragon Mom’s forces.  So their intrepid head scientist, Professor Liu Ying-de (Wang Hsieh) asks for a volunteer to become Infra-Man.  He apparently had plans for this project, but needed someone to go through the torturous process.  Our hero, Lei Ma (Danny Lee) volunteers to become the bug-eyed Infra-Man, no matter the cost.

The professor crafts Infra-Man with consummate care, which consists of sticking parts from Radio Shack on him.  Combined with blinking lights.  Unfortunately, while the professor works, one of the monsters attacks.  It’s called (I think) “Plant Monster” and looks like a combination of Cthulhu and one of the animated trees from “HR Pufnstuf”.  It plants itself and grows into a giant plant/tree/something and starts smashing up “Science Headquarters”.  The power is cut during the attack and Lei nearly dies on the table.  Intrepid agents restore the power, and Infra-Man is born!  He leaps to the attack and quickly prunes back the arboreal menace.  (Yes, I went there.)

Speaking of the monsters, these are some drug-trippy things.  Besides the Plant Monster, there are: The Spider Monster, which looks like a fat, humanoid spider and can grow to Kaiju size.  The Mutant Drill which is . . . umm, a green scaly guy with a drill for a hand.)  Long Hair Monster (which is like a troll doll without a face,) and lots of others.  There are also the obligatory faceless flunkies of the Skeleton Ghosts.  The Skeleton Ghosts wear black jumpsuits and motorcycle helmets painted up as skeletons.  Yes, I’m serious.

The movie is a series of excuses to have superhero Kung Fu fights and the plot, such as it is, is mostly superfluous.  It culminates in a giant brawl in the volcano headquarters of Queen Dragon Mom, with enough action for a sugar-dose ADHD child.

Infra-Man is gloriously fucking bizarre and cheesy.  It’s not all fun, as the movie drags in places, but when it’s fun, it’s pretty damn fun.  Go ingest your drug of choice and watch it.  Now.

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Moments of Coolness #4: The Incredibles Family Reunion & Dash

the-incredibles-04I absolutely adore Pixar’s The Incredibles.  This is (as has been noted by others) how The Fantastic Four should have been.  Almost everything clicks in this movie.  The animation is great, the soundtrack is stellar and the voice actors are terrific.  This, however, is not the gist of my Moment of Coolness.  There are two moments in it that rise above the rest of the film.

No, I’m not talking about Edna Mode (although I adore her as well.)  There is one scene with Dash and one scene with the whole family.  The scenes are close together in the movie but have two separate impacts.  They’re brief, but rise above the rest of the film in a subtle fashion.

Let’s talk about Dash’s scene first.

On the surface, it’s just a nifty action scene.  Dash runs from the flying evil minions in their hovercraft.  Some people have compared it to the speeder bike scene from Return of the Jedi.  There is some resemblance there, but there’s a lot more to it.  The true Moment of Coolness comes when Dash runs out of the jungle onto a lake.  He didn’t realize it was there, and before he knows it, his feet hit the water.  And he keeps running.  He looks down and realizes what he’s doing and lets out a laugh of pure joy. 

the-incredibles-03This is the first time in his life that Dash realizes just what he’s capable of doing.  He sees what his full potential is and he can’t help but laugh.  No one else is around to hear his laugh or see what he’s doing, but it doesn’t matter–he sees it.  It’s the first time he’s seen his power as a gift instead of a curse.  It’s a powerful–but subtle–scene.  Brad Bird pulls it off beautifully.

The second Moment of Coolness scene happens shortly after the Dash scene.

The family gets reunited in the jungle and there’s a moment of familial affection.  A moment later, the evil minions show up and start attacking.  That’s when mom and dad become Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible.  They take down the minions (who had been giving the kids such fits) in seconds with consummate ease.

the-incredibles-01This is the Moment of Coolness.  For the very first time, Dash and Violet realize that mom and dad aren’t just mom and dad.  Their parents are two veteran, kick-ass superheroes.  This is meant to be a metaphor for the first time children realize their parents had lives before them.  That parents are more than just parents.

This realization is summed up in Dash and Violet in just two words: “Wow!” and “Whoa!”

the-incredibles-05Absolutely brilliant.  Brad Bird, I would bear your children, were I so equipped.

So I guess that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

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