Three Supermen Against the Orient (1973)
Film review #546
Director: Bitto Albertini
SYNOPSIS: FBI agent Robert Wallace is once again summoned on a mission just as he is about to get married: this time, he must find six agents who have gone missing in Taiwan. While there, he meets up with his old acquaintances Max and Jerry, the international thieves “The supermen,” and the three reluctantly team up once again to accomplish their goals: Robert to rescue the agents, and Max and jerry to rob the U.S. embassy…
THOUGHTS/ANSLYSIS: Three Supermen Against the Orient is a 1973 martial arts/comedy, and the fifth film in the Three Supermen series, released the same year as the previous Three Supermen of the West. The film follows the typical premise of these films, with an FBI agent teaming up with his old acquaintances the two international thieves, this time to save a group of six agents who have been kidnapped and are being held in the far east. The most notable thing about the film is, if you’ve seen the other films in the series, is that is completely incompatible with them in terms of continuity. For example, the three main characters know each other, which means their previous antics in the other films probably still happened, but the main issue is that the supermen don’t have their bulletproof suits, which is their main selling point. They get them about half way through the film when FBI agent Robert Wallace manages to persuade the American ambassador to hand them over, and the supermen are surprised by them being bulletproof. Adding this up, it seems that the previous films happened, but also didn’t happen at the same time? As far as I am aware, this is the first Three Supermen film to get an English dub, so maybe they wanted to reintroduce the suits for first-time audiences, but then why have the characters know each other prior to the film? It’s very confusing. On the one hand, there’s not too much continuity between the films, as they are self-contained adventures, but at least they didn’t contradict each other.
Apart from the continuity issues, the film feels very much like a typical martial arts film. The supermen don’t even appear until thirty minutes into the runtime, and all this time is spent Wallace wandering around the wrong city before he finally goes to Hong Kong. In some respects, it just feels like a standard martial arts film with the Three Superman shoehorned in, but the director of some of the previous films directs this one, so there is come continuity behind the scenes. There’s still the comedy elements of the franchise and a little bit of slapstick, but it doesn’t go so far as to spoof martial arts films, like it spoofed some other genres in the previous films.
As with some of the other films, the actors have been swapped around: this time, only Sal Borgese, who plays the mute Jerry, returns, with the other two being new actors. In fact, there names are different too, but they are supposed to be the same characters, which again makes the continuity even more confusing. The other characters don’t add too much, but fill their parts just fine. The typical acrobatics that the series is known for is put aside in favour of martial arts, and it’s a shame we don’t get a mixture of the two (the new actors probably don’t have the expertise too). The martial arts was choreographed by a young Jackie Chan, and on the whole it’s well executed and polished, but nothing overly special in the larger context of the huge volume of martial arts films from the seventies.
Overall, Three Supermen in the Orient combines the silliness of the franchise with yet another genre in the form of the martial arts films. However, it sidesteps the spoof and satire in favour of simply making a competent martial arts film with some slapstick western comedy thrown in from time to time. The plot makes no sense in the continuity of the series, but they’re all mostly standalone films anyway, so it can be overlooked. The film doesn’t really add anything to the series, or distinguish itself as a martial arts film, but it’s a decent balance of western comedy and eastern martial arts, backed by competent choreography that might appeal to a broader audience. however, fans of the series may not be too impressed with the riding roughshod over the continuity of the series, and having the main characters rake a backseat.