Mars Men (1976)

Directed by: Chen Hung-Min
Written by: Lin Ching-Chieh
Producer: Fu Ching-Hua
Starring: Wen Chiang-Long, Wang Pao-Yu, Yeh Hsiao-Yee & Fang Mian

Consisting of footage from the 1974 Japanese-Thai co-production Jumborg Ace & Giant (and some sections also came out of the Jumborg Ace TV-series), with the Japan side represented by Tsubaraya Productions (the special effects studio founded by effects legend Eiji Tsuburaya). Smash cut to 1976 and perhaps it was in the air that producers should look to acquire sets, costumes and footage from Japan to craft Taiwanese giant monster entertainment akin to the tradition in Japan. Because the same year also gave us Superriders Against The Devils (incorporating footage from Kamen Rider Vs. Shocker and new scenes with local actors) and The Super Riders V3. Same deal for Mars Men that adds another special effects tinted entry on editor turned director Chen Hung-Min's filmography. Prime example being his spectacle from the same year The Big Calamity (aka War God) where god General Guan Yu fought martians in footage supervised by Japanese talent as well. It was in the air, Chen was a dependable eye for both narrative and effects footage but now that he only needed to do the former and combine the old, what's a cut and paste production from Chen Hung-Min like?

Finding an old statue of a Thai deity, a boy and his father develop an infection akin to radiation sickness. As if this wasn't enough, Queen Marsha (of Mars I guess) is targeting earth and an ancient stone. Their plan, to use it to kill sunlight, make Earth enter an ice age and hence being easier to conquer. Taiwan scientists working with Japanese counter with a bi-plane and pilot that can morph into a giant robot and the old statue of the deity awakens, grows in size and joins the resistance...

At an disadvantage reviewing Chen Hung-Min's patched together tokusatsu adventure because of the recent English dubbing aiming to be parody when there's simply no need to just because we're dealing with b-movie, sci-fi templates here, nevertheless the intentions for Mars Men ultimately come through visually at least. Chen would be the star of the show eventually making his similar Mars invasion movie The Big Calamity but here he's just providing the standard wraparound to make the prior effects and action footage into a local product. But Chen understands the unconventional, for Taiwan b-movie setup and as standard as that leadup to old footage taking over, there's enough charms to Mars Men if you're a fan.

Decent miniature footage and compositions by Tsubaraya productions rears its head as the flying saucer invasion comes upon us but the stomping on buildings by the Martian duo is way too undercranked to be effective. But definitely adding to the genre charm by the wildly over the top acting from the suit-actors, people running away from effects footage to be added later works in combination with Chen's footage. On its own it doesn't light up the screen but the WHOLE product is fun. Details such as aliens crucifying humans and at points a rather gruesome attack on a city using a death ray stick with you but the big lunar fight consisting seemingly of kung fu, wrestling, judo and dangerous use of pyrotechnics cements both Jumborg Ace & Giant and Mars Men as a fun, respectable time within the genre. Chen Hung-Min would next craft something in this vein but make it all himself. He was up to the task clearly even if he wasn't called upon it here.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson