It is with absolute confidence that I call “Infra-Man” one of the most memorable films I have ever seen. That’s because I have yet to forget the sound the movie makes. A Hong Kong knock-off of Japanese superhero TV shows like “Ultraman,” this production from the prolific kung-fu studio Shaw Brothers is an endless barrage of noise. In the United States, it was promoted as “beyond bionics,” in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of “The Six-Million-Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman.” The heroes of those shows had every superhuman action punctuated with a distinctive sound that let you know something bionic was happening. When the sound designers were working on this movie, they wanted to make sure everyone knew that our guy Infra-Man couldn’t take a leak without it sounding like the start of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer B-side.
It gets to be a bit much a bit fast because outside of monster-fighting, there’s 100 percent nothing happening in this movie. If you’ve ever seen an episode of “Power Rangers” and wondered why they do so much talking, this is the movie for you. All the while, that same synthesizer twang keeps pounding your eardrums until you’ll wonder if you haven’t always been hearing that sound.
With nothing resembling a character arc for anybody in it, “Infra-Man” is free to get the heck started right away. An ancient warrior sorceress named Princess Dragon Mom (hope you have a good lawyer, George R.R. Martin) has started a reign of terror by chucking monsters at major cities and burning them down to the ground. The governments of the world are understandably freaking out about it until Professor Chang unveils his ace in the hole. He’s going to choose a volunteer to be transformed into Infra-Man. No word on whether he knew this was going to happen or if he’s just trying to snag a government grant for his weird robo-surgery grift.
A young man named Rayma offers himself up as the guinea pig and is transformed into a shiny vinyl motorcycle suit with big shoulder pads and a bobblehead helmet. He looks like the version of a more-popular superhero who would be dispatched to Toys R Us grand openings. Once Infra-Man gets into costume, the “plot” portion of the movie is pretty much over.
That’s fine, because where this movie shines is in hurling a bunch of weird stuff at you and never giving you a second to catch your breath. Monsters burrow into solid concrete, grow to enormous heights, fire laser beams out of eyeballs in their hands, get decapitated multiple times, burst through walls like the Kool-Aid Man and explode in bursts of colored smoke. It’s all presented at the breathless pace of a Saturday morning cartoon stretched over an hour and change. Along the way, practically every cheap special effect trick in the book gets used. Forced perspective, miniatures, rubber monster suits, wire-fu, green screen – it’s all there.
In a lot of ways, “Infra-Man” is as simple as moviemaking gets. With a nonexistent storyline and effects technology that dates back to Georges Melies, you wouldn’t expect it to be as entertaining as it is. But for me it’s the simplicity of it that makes it so appealing. If you turn the volume down a little, it’s a good time.