This is an utterly bizarre adventure film which is apparently aimed at kids, although cult fans should enjoy it too. The Moon Mask Rider (or Gekko Kamen as he is known in his native tongue) is apparently a big comic book figure in Japan, or at least was in decades past. While I can't comment on the book itself as I've never heard of it, let alone read it, I would classify this movie as a good example of a comic-to-screen transition because it survives the transformation well; there's a lot of silly action up on screen and it looks and feels colourful and cheerful.
Some scenes in this movie really do have to be seen to be believed. It opens with one of the oddest bank robberies in screen history, as the red caped robbers jump through the air and releasing hundreds of sparrows into the sky, at the same time attacking video cameras with plungers fired from guns. Why? Hey, I don't know, I only watched it. A second robbery, ingeniously employing the use of a hearse to divert suspicion, follows quickly but it's not long before the bad guys are foiled by the Moon Mask Rider, a white-suited dude with a natty red-lined cape and silver gloves who does impossible stunts on his super-powered motorbike. What follows is a very bizarre film, sometimes successful and sometimes failing where it should be suspenseful. I wouldn't call it a complete success but there is plenty of stuff here to enjoy.
Amongst other things, the Moon Mask Rider has access to a remote-controlled suitcase which shocks passers-by and shoppers alike as it hurtles through the street! This good-natured superhero takes a 10 or 20% commission off all the stolen money he recovers and gives it to charity, thus making him (as one character points out) a modern-day Robin Hood alike. Other weirdness includes a large-scale martial arts battle with balaclava-wearing bodyguards, a toy helicopter which attacks to the tune of "The Ride of the Valkyries", a battle with a samurai (?) warrior in a factory, a man who throws killer boomerangs and much, much more.
The film does get a bit bogged down, I feel, in the second half, with the Moon Mask Rider disappearing off the screen for a long period while the viewer becomes too involved in the machinations of the Red Masked Gang and their brainwashed cult. However, things pick up for the cheesy action-packed finale which sees our caped hero battling the chief villain on an airborne helicopter! Speaking of the villain, the person doing the dubbing gives him a Christopher Lee-like voice and he has loads of hilarious dialogue like "Kill him! All who interfere must die!" and "Die, Moon Mask Rider, die!". It's all great fun for the family.
The acting seems to be pretty proficient, although as always it's difficult to tell with the cheesy dubbing job going on. The action scenes are athletic and sometimes incredible (with the Moon Mask Rider spinning through the air), and topped off by funky music. At point point in the film we see a band playing on stage dressed up as the Moon Mask Rider! If anyone has any idea what this is about then please tell me - I'm clueless! Otherwise, switch off your brain and sit back to enjoy a unique slice of Japanese absurdity.
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