By Jonah Walker-Sherman
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for a movie that no one knows about or should care about, so if you think you’re going to watch this movie and don’t want the “plot” to be spoiled, then you should stop reading now. This review wasn’t meant for you anyways.
Yang Suns’ Invincible Super Chan is a film that portrays the state of action cinema in mainland China during the 1970s, a haphazard bandwagon attempt to get in on the money being made by bigger budget action films such as Brothers Five and The Chinese Boxer, which had opened a year prior. Invincible Super Chan was a half-hearted money grab on a niche market unaware of the oncoming monsoon that would dominate the Asian movie scene in the 70s–a shortcoming that would hit hard upon its release in 1971. Big Boss, One Armed Swordsmen, One Armed Boxer, and A Touch of Zen are just a few of the movies that turned the formerly spindly kung fu niche into a full-blown genre. Big Boss alone quintupled its budget and introduced the world to the now universally renowned Bruce Lee. It was honestly inevitable that the Invincible Super Chan would be buried beneath the vast number of Asian action films that would be created in the next 30 years.
The plot of Invincible Super Chan is nothing new. A young swordsman must defeat the man who killed his master, but upon killing him, he finds that his title brings more trouble than it’s worth and he is hunted for the title of “Strongest Under the Heavens.”
Chan’s journey to avenge his master takes two forms. In its first form, Chan must defeat the man who killed his master, Hsiao Lung. However, before he can face Hsiao Lung, Chan must first defeat an army of minions with his bare hands. This army consists of easily 200+ men, which sounds impressive save the fact that Hsiao Lung must have recruited his soldiers at the local hospital as even the slightest push sends every soldier in a 10-foot vicinity flying to an immediate death. Eventually, Chan must have gotten bored because he stopped fighting with his hands and turned to more original methods of fighting, the peak of which saw Chan stuffing a rock down a man’s throat. Eventually, Chan defeats the army and faces off against Hsiao Lung, cutting him clean in half, allowing his body to split apart like a paper plate. The arc ends with Chan being serenaded by his wife against a clearly painted backdrop.
The second half of Invincible Super Chan gets even weirder: after retiring to a life of peace and fishing, Chan is challenged by a general whose weapon of choice is… a flag. Not just any flag though – this flag has explosive telekinetic abilities and can ride on water. After Chan defeats the general, he is recruited to take the job of the general but declines because he prefers his life of fishing. Time passes and Chan has a daughter, a plot development that the movie prefaces by having Chan say, “I work very well with my hands and our house is a happy one.” Chan says this to no one. Chan is then ambushed on the road by a group of bandits one of whom’s weapon of choice is an abacus. While distracted, Chan’s daughter Mei Mei is killed (screen time: 40 seconds). Again Chan must avenge someone’s death, so he kills a guy whose weapons consist of a fan and a slinky. This is the main villain. The film then ends. There are no credits.
My verdict on Invincible Super Chan is mixed. Parts of it are amazing – it’s an action movie that involves more footage of flips than punches, its plot comes through about as coherently as a Bollywood film smuggled across the border. It doesn’t have any of the big budget stars on par with Gordon Liu, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung or Jet Li. In fact, its cover art features an old man who appears in the movie a grand total of zero times.
If you have any interest in action films, there are over 500 films I would recommend before this one. However, there are scenes in this film that are so mind-blowingly original and unexpected that they may never be recreated in my lifetime.