Sunday, May 11, 2014

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #23




"Telepathy and other prophetic powers are things that all individuals have a little bit of. If you had prophetic powers, make sure you don't prophesize anything about space creatures. We wouldn't want your life in danger" -- U7's narrator gives good advice.

Captain Kiriyama and Furuhashi find a terrified old man named Yasui being chased by a mysterious driver of a chain-draped dump truck. Later revealed to be a fortune teller, Yasui divulges some information about an impending warehouse explosion where all the Ultra Guard weapons are kept. They search the facility but find no bombs. Yasui then states a UFO will land at Mt. Fuji, and again, nothing is found. The old man begs for protection, but the Ultra Force doesn't believe him at this point. Shortly thereafter, Yasui is kidnapped by aliens. Using a specially made gun, the Ultra Guard are able to locate the invaders and their hidden base where the old fortune teller is being held.

ULTRASEVEN was known for its frequent surrealism, and episode 23 sits among that group in what amounts to a unique half hour of SciFi entertainment. The plot point that an old man (presumably of North Indian origin considering his dress and shoes) predicts disasters only for the Terrestrial Defense Force to not believe him is kind of ridiculous considering the level of bizarre phenomena they've encountered up to this point. This sort of denial by the very organization whose sole existence is to investigate bizarre and otherworldy phenomena crops up in other series', too. It doesn't really hurt the episode(s), it just begs the question why they're in the business they're in if they're going to second-guess some of the potential paranormal, and otherworldly phenomena they're tasked to investigate.

The bits with the old man being chased by the dump truck border on horror what with the large chains dragging from the back. The unseen nature of the driver foreshadows Steven Spielberg's TV Movie classic from 1971, DUEL. There's also an air of BODY SNATCHERS type chicanery when Yasui sees aliens everywhere -- even driving a taxi that magically transforms into the dump truck of terror.

This episode features arguably the most bizarre monster battle up to this point, too. The initial fight between Seven and Gabura (a monster summoned by the Shadow Seijin) is relatively short, but the monsters notably gory demise isn't the end of the lion-headed monstrosity. Its noggin remains alive -- controlled by the aliens -- and flies through the air attempting to take a bite out of Ultraseven! With a poisonous bite, Gabura sinks its teeth into Seven's shoulder.

Regarding the mysterious Shadow aliens, their plan isn't elaborated on, but it's assumed they plan to take over, or destroy the world. The reason they want the old man is because he predicts the destruction they plan to bring. Their usage of a rusty old dump truck with chains dragging behind it is a curious idea, but just one in a long line of peculiarities in this series.

Shozo Uehara was honing his screenwriting skills on U7 before becoming the main writer on RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-1972). He wrote 12 episodes of ULTRASEVEN, two others prior to #23. He collaborated on this one with its director, Nagase Sanma-chi; the latter under one of his alias's, Shimon Dragon.

Viewers will possibly find much to be entertained by in this quirky, quasi-horror tinted episode. The overzealous character of Yasui the fortune teller and that wacky monster battle are enough to make this an enjoyable 25 minutes of ULTRASEVEN.

MONSTERS: Shadow alien; Gabura (Kunio Suzuki)
WEAPONS: Radioactive Beam Shot (detects invisible enemies)

To be continued in Episode 24: RETURN TO THE NORTH!!!

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