Monday, March 12, 2012

Mars Men

I found this poster on Alex Wald's Tumblr a day or two ago, but it merits a little discussion. Besides, I've been excluding most tokusatsu from the Tumblr lately (long story), and this is likely to get a little involved. And it's not like anyone reads Tumblr, amirite?

MARS MEN is one of those movies that turned up in trading circles many years ago as a cool oddity. It was a Jumborg Ace movie, but it had a cast separate from the TV series. It seemed to be from Taiwan, just like the ersatz "Super Riders" movies that had surfaced. The issue was clouded a little by the subsequent revelation of the existence of this release. Maybe the Jumborg Ace movie was Thai, like 6 ULTRABROTHERS VS. THE MONSTER ARMY?

Oh, and the only copy of MARS MEN available was dubbed in Italian. There was that, too.

Inadvertently, M.J. Simpson helped clarify a few things for me when he reviewed MARS MEN and YAK WAT JANG WU JUMBO A and discovered they were two separate films with footage in common. You would think this would only confuse matters further, and admittedly, it did at first. But based on the evidence at hand, I now have a theory regarding MARS MEN and most of the other hybrid Japanese/Chinese/Thai superhero films that came about in the 1970s.

First, let's be clear: MARS MEN - the original MARS MEN - is Chinese, not Thai. Look at the names on the poster. Those are Chinese names. Additionally, the human hero of the movie (seen under Jumborg Ace's arm) is also one of the Super Riders. So I think we can safely say that the movie was made in Taiwan.

So how did the Thai version come about? Well, as I said, I have a theory about that. It ties into another Thai superhero movie. Ironically, it is not 6 ULTRABROTHERS VS. THE MONSTER ARMY! But I will get to that in another entry (I hope).

Please also notice that the poster for MARS MEN is, in fact, an ENGLISH LANGUAGE poster prepared in Japan by Shochiku. I don't know the precise timeline, but I do recall that Shochiku was distributing Tsuburaya's Ultraman films by the late 1970s. It isn't much of a stretch to presume they were acting on behalf of Tsuburaya for this Jumborg Ace movie, too. That would seem to indicate a level of involvement from the Japanese companies in these Taiwan films beyond just licensing them.

At some point, I want to untangle some of this and spell out my thoughts on these movies. But for now, a cliffhanger! And sadly, I still can't explain how Pink Floyd's "Time" ended up as part of MARS MEN's music score.

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