Friday, September 6, 2013

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #19


Episode Nineteen: PROJECT BLUE **1/2


"...There were no living creatures in your galaxy except on Pluto. However, we annihilated them because no other beings besides us should be in this galaxy!"

Dr. Miyabe is working on Project Blue, a plan to develop a defense barrier around the Earth to protect from alien threats. Late one night after returning home to be with his wife, the doctor sees a monster in his room. The next day, he discovers an underground laboratory beneath his kitchen! Descending the labyrinthine stairs, he's captured by an alien being known as Bado. After an informative discussion, Bado demands Miyabe hand over his plans for Project Blue (or as he says, 'Project-o Brue') so Bado's alien brethren may enter the Earth's atmosphere to destroy the planet. It's up to the Ultra Guard and Seven to rescue him.

'Project Blue' presents some fascinating ideas as well as some surrealistic shots amidst some choice, if highly improbable situations. Among these are quite a few SPX shots. One of note is a mirror that acts as a doorway into Bado's underground lab/spacecraft (When Seven touches it, the mirror turns into a watery, liquid substance). It's never revealed just how the alien managed to situate his vast facility below Dr. Miyabe's house without any detection. This is science fiction, after all. 

Regarding Dr. Miyabe, he is a likable, and uniformly formidable character for the series. It's a shame this character doesn't turn up again. 

The Seijin Bado is a nicely eerie creation in some of the earlier shots. Seen in daylight, he's rather laughable; but this adds to the shows enjoyment. The creature has this scaly body, curly-toed boots and a head that, in some shots, looks like a big butt. The bulbous head is a typical alien design, yet resembles a deformed human bearing vampiric fangs. Bado's voice is also a hoot. One area where Bado differs from other U7 kaiju is that there's a bit of a backstory revealed about him. The creature states he had visited Earth once before when it was but a ball of fire; and also claims Pluto was once inhabited by lifeforms before he wiped them all out! 

The end fight between Seven and Bado appears to be intentionally ridiculous -- backed by that typically playful U7 music. Both beings use brawling style tactics (headlocks and haymakers) for their battle -- whacking wildly at one another. The finish is sort of bloody, though. Bado incorporates a lot of acrobatics, too. The rocky terrain acts as a wrestling ring. U7 bashes Bado's big head into some mountains at one point.

The end of the episode reveals one final Bondian strand of Miyabe's genius that was a creative, if unlikely bit of scientific ingenuity.

This episode is at least unique in that it mostly takes place at a single location -- both in and under Dr. Miyabe's house. It's a quirky show, tinged with a bit of horror (such as the scene where Miyabe spots a cloaked figure walking in the fog towards his house) and capped off with an immensely goofy, but fun giant monster battle. The last scene is the sort of comedic coda that dominated cartoons and situation comedies for decades. It's one of the more childish episodes, but fans should be pleased with this breezy, effects-filled Tokusatsu programmer.

MONSTERS: Bado (Budd)

To be continued in Episode Twenty: DESTROY EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER X!!!

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #18


Episode Eighteen: ESCAPE SPACE X ***


"Have you ever heard this saying? -- Knowledge without God creates devils."

On a skydiving exercise, Amagi and Soga disappear, landing in a fog enshrouded forest in what seems like some alternate dimension. Separated from Soga, Amagi is immediately attacked by small blood-draining leech creatures; and a giant spider that emits noxious gas. Finding Soga and finally regaining contact with the Ultra Guard, the two Garrison members find themselves trapped within a monster-filled "Virtual Space" created by a race of Seijin known as Bells, insect-like creatures with the power to cause ear-piercing sonic attacks on their enemies.

This is another action episode with a decent story to boot. Why they chose to call the Seijin (aliens) seen here Bells is anyone's guess; but they do produce a loud, disruptive sound that's anything but music to the ear. The single Bell alien we see looks like a giant humanoid beetle.

The 18th show contains numerous kaiju perils such as this spider monster that spits poisonous gas from three nodules above its mouth. There are also small, leech-like monsters that appear twice, and also some enormous killer vines.

Not much is explained about the race of Bell aliens, nor the purpose behind the Virtual Space. Commander Morabe mentions it in passing that he had experienced it before. The action rarely lets up, so the storyline suffers. Still, it's an enjoyable 25 minutes that flies by. We can just assume an insidious plan of world domination is lurking around in there somewhere.

This show is also of interest in that we see Ultraseven transform in a different fashion than the norm. Dan isn't seen using the Ultra Eye. He lies on the ground and disappears, only to reappear in giant form as Ultraseven. Up to this point, we've not seen him transform in this manner. His return to human form is also seen differently -- first seen in episode nine. Seven shrinks to human size, boards the Ultra Hawk #1, then transforms back to Dan.

The last battle between Seven and the Bell beast is a creative one -- going from an otherworldly swamp setting, to the sky, and back to the ground again. Wrestling fans will enjoy Seven's grappling skills displayed here. Minimalist, but elaborately effects heavy episodes like these are a treat and posit a nice balance for the occasional cerebral shows that sneak in once in a while.

MONSTERS: Blood Drainer, Bell alien, Gumonga, Sunflan II
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk #1 and #3

To be continued in Episode nineteen: PROJECT BLUE!!!
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