The Super Riders V3 (1975)

Directed by: Lin Chung-Kuang
Written by: Li Chuan
Producers: Wang Chian-Cheng
Starring: Li I-Min, Wen Chiang-Long, Woo Gwan, Sung Ling-Yu, & Chang Feng

Featuring the Japanese tokusatsu superhero Kamen Rider created for TV and in manga form by artist Shotaro Ishinomori, its apparent PanAsia appeal was spotted by the Tung Shing Film Company who made a deal with Toei of Japan and rented sets and costumes which resulted in three Taiwanese features across 1975 and 1976. The Super Riders V3 dropped first, then Superriders Against The Devils and The Five Of Super Rider the following year. All done by the same cast and crew such as Lee I Min (Mystery Of Chess Boxing, 7 Grandmasters) Wen Chiang-Long (Mars Men) and director Lin Chung-Kuang previously helmed the special effects heavy Feng Shen Bang (about the protection deity Nezha) in 1969. Now, the Taiwanese Kamen Rider movies weren't all made and scripted as entirely new films despite the rented production materials. In the case of Superriders Against The Devils it was more of a partial re-shoot of the feature movie Kamen Rider Versus Shocker (made in 1972 and consisting of three short episodes, two of which were remade by the Taiwanese crew). Seamlessly entering into and out of the Japanese action footage, the re-filmed narrative made for an energetic, competent whole and now Taiwan had tokusatsu entertainment for the local crowd.

As for The Super Riders V3 and where the Japanese footage was pulled from, research gets a little conflicted as it's said to be using elements from the TV-series Kamen Rider V3 (aired between 1973 and 1974) but while Kamen Rider Versus Shocker actually matted the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the show to widescreen for one of its episodes, the rest of the movie was filmed with widescreen in mind and same applies to The Super Riders V3 mixing Taiwanese made and older scenes. Using action footage from Kamen Rider V3 Vs. The Destron Monsters (1973), the Taiwanese makers weren't adhering strictly to the scripting of the Japanese big screen original (lasting only 30 minutes) and largely made their own, expanded plot here. So perhaps using production materials and a few year's worth of Kamen Rider TV- and movie stories, the crew played their rightful card and structured a new or variation of a storyline that could easily come out of the universe at hand. Getting into The Super Riders V3 requires buying into concept, visuals, atmosphere and that this is escapist entertainment for kids though. Already acceptable on that level, the fact that the Taiwanese crew has a knowledge on how to stage Kamen Rider stuff makes the final product even more admirable. In fact, it's hard to even spot when it's Taiwan doing their thing and when they're letting loose the Japanese creativity.

A monster and his henchmen attack a man with a fluid that dissolves his entire body. Witnessed by Lin Ying Kit (Woo Gwan), he survives multiple attempts on his life and is also helped out by Super Rider 1 (Lee I-Min) and Super Rider 2 (Wen Chiang-Long) who along with a professor untangle a plot involving General Scorpion (who works for the unseen evil mastermind Dr. Frankenstein). When trying to save the Super Riders himself, Lin Ying Kit is fatally injured but is rebuilt into The Super Rider V3 and together they set off to Singapore trying to find Frankenstein's new laboratory and stop him from acquiring more of the crucial mineral that makes up his horrible, dissolving weapon. There's also the sister of the doctor who made the discovery, Lily (Sung Ling Yu), to keep out of harms way but she's capable and soon joins the team as the 4th Super Rider.

Available to the reviewer in a shortened, German cinema version, there's a case for The Super Riders V3 needing no more room to play as tight, always eventful, visually creative elements are on full display. By not thinking that much about whatever events are thrown at us (opening murder), what characters and monsters (including suit actors and the skeleton henchmen who are more less wearing pajamas) are here, it's easy to accept the tone, content and writing. It's simply a delight knowing this world is populated with these world altering threats and they're usually represented by monster costumes of a great variety. It's also a world where we don't need to know the in's and out's of why Wen Chiang-Long and Lee I-Min are Super Riders (granted, the 1976 movie Superriders Against The Devils) acts as an origin story). Just like we don't question that there's crazy looking Shark, Lizard, Drill, Scorpion and other kung fu monsters here. Add to this suitably colorful lairs of the villain General Scorpion, delightful inclusions in the design such as a pillar of human skulls and nothing is done with gags in mind either. It's suitably straightfaced because Japanese AND Taiwanese makers knew this would translate as fun anyway.

Both sets of crews deserve credit but in reality director Lin Chung-Kuang has crafted a new film here. By the middle point they match up the plot of Kamen Rider V3 Vs. The Destron Monsters and the narrative beats are similar for a while. But unlike Superriders Against The Devils, there are not many re-staged scenarios here since Taiwan is working off a bigger story and lead up. So a good amount of suit action is not pasted in from Japan but it matches the physicality and features as much acrobatics performing in these suits will allow. It has the effect of Lee I-Min, Wen Chiang-Long and Woo Gwan feeling less pasted in and actually present and it's only some of the bigger brawls and action scenes that are inserted from Kamen Rider V3 Vs. The Destron Monsters. We're not talking the amped level of an Inframan but Kamen Rider, even when it felt sluggish, had tone, ideas, execution in its favour and was very much apt at going all the way with monster design. To get an half an hour burst of this material on a weekly basis would be neat but to see Kamen Rider material replicated elsewhere to fine effect, by a director who knew what to look for and bring in, is largely irresistible here in movie-form. So Taiwan didn't make something redundant with what they imported. They made their own Rider.