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Saturday, December 22, 2012

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #8

Episode Eight: THE CURSED TOWN (also listed as THE TARGETED TOWN) ****


"...A terrible scheme to exploit man's trust in his fellow man. But please don't worry, this story could only happen in the distant future. Why is that, you ask? Because in today's world, there isn't enough trust to exploit."

In the town of Kitagawa, a string of perplexingly fatal accidents have claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Furuhashi and Soga attempt to find answers regarding this seemingly cursed town. While patrolling the town, a crazed man with a rifle runs through the street shooting at people. Not long after, Dan is intercepted by a gravel truck. Discovering the truck has no driver, he is suddenly confronted by a disembodied voice telling him to leave the town. Later, both Furuhashi and Soga go on a rampage and have to be detained. It's finally learned that space seeds hidden within cigarettes by the evil Metrons drive smokers insane, turning them into violent, potentially deadly killers.

The eighth show in the ULTRASEVEN series is light on monsters and high on intrigue and mystery including some oppressively eerie use of shadows and silhouettes. It's mostly a police procedural in the Ultra Guard's search for answers as to the reason behind deadly violence in the town of Kitagawa.The premise for this episode is unique and deviates from the glut of other 'alien invasion' programmers. It seems to have gotten inspiration from the classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode, 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street'.

It turns out that a race of aliens have utilized these space seeds to push humans into wiping themselves out providing entertainment for the Metrons watching it all take place in front of them. Again, taking a cue from reality, the Metron states that when you strip away the trust from man, they attack. This episode is hauntingly relevant today, most notably in the episodes closing dialog (see at top); also in that smoking is very, very bad for you.

The sequence near the beginning showing a villager going berserk and shooting at women and children with a rifle will no doubt offend some; and raise the eyebrows of many considering the equally inexplicable spate of mass shootings that have occurred over the last few years. The Newtown, Connecticut school shootings of a couple weeks ago instantly come to mind during this sequence.

There's a great scene at the climax where the Metron ship, hidden inside what looked like an apartment building, escapes into the sky with the Ultra Guard in hot pursuit. The red sky provides a gloomy backdrop for the aerial dogfight between the Ultra Hawk 1 and the Metron ship which can split into two separate saucers.

The battle between Ultraseven and the Metronian is relatively brief, but again, the red backdrop adds surrealism to the scene modestly redeeming what is an otherwise uninspired giant monster battle.

Ironically, this astonishing episode works best when there aren't any monsters onscreen at all. The makers of ULTRASEVEN were often prone to experimentation with this series, and this episode is an example of that.

MONSTERS: Metron alien

WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk 1

To be continued in Episode Nine: ANDROID ZERO DIRECTIVE!!!

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