Wednesday, July 8, 2015

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #26



Dubbed title: THE 8,000 MEGATON MISTAKE

Directed by Suzuki Toshitsugu

"General Takenaka... I can't bring myself to hate the creature. We turned this peaceful living thing into a horrible monster with our experiment, and destroyed his beautiful home of Gieron."

Two Ultra Guard scientists, Doctors Segawa and Maeno create a new devastating weapon -- the anti-planet device they christen the R-1. Even in its infancy, the R-1 is said to have the power of 8,000 Hydrogen bombs. With plans to build an even more deadly R-2 device, it is decided a test of the weapons capabilities will be done on the supposedly uninhabited Gieron star, a minor planet in some faraway galaxy. The test proves successful, but a giant flying creature doesn't take too kindly to its home being destroyed. Making its way to Earth, the monster attacks cities and emits radioactive ash. Ultraseven engages the beast in battle.

There's a slight nod to Hiroshima and Nagasaki here in this action oriented episode. Moroboshi is deeply disturbed at the creation of the new R-1 rocket; and considering his symbiotic relationship with U7, his concerns are well founded since we're in the realm of Japanese SciFi-Fantasy, after all. Designed to protect Earth from alien threats, it could be used against the Earth if it fell into the wrong hands. It's interesting to note that he's the only member of the Garrison questioning this new weapon -- everybody else is excited about it noting how it will prevent those pesky aliens from implementing their plans for world domination. 

Unfortunately, little else is discussed beyond Dan's worried expressions and concerns. This is a monster show after all, and the scriptwriters provide a balance; or as much as you can muster for a 25 minute running time. Ironically, the scientists and the Ultra Garrison are the real bad guys here -- mistakenly annihilating an inhabited world resulting in the creatures retaliation. After the big fight takes place, there's a posthumous, half-hearted attempt to draw sympathy for the strange, bird-like Gieron creature that attacks the Earth.

The Gieron resembles Gyaos from Daiei's Gamera series. It looks more like a bird, but it has a metallic shell that deflects weapons; and its wings have a reflective surface that temporarily blinds Seven. In the odd category, the alien bird appears to be stuffed with feathers!

This compelling story about nuclear armaments is disabled, and understandably so, halfway through when the focus shifts to the creatures. The tonal change doesn't alleviate the seriousness all that much, though. ULTRASEVEN was unique among the Tokusatsu genre in that the subject matter was often questionable for younger audiences--such as the banning of episode 12 in Japan after its initial airing in December of 1967. Arguably the most stunning attribute of the U7 series is its willingness to cater to adults in its storytelling while keeping the kids happy with battling monsters. 

On that note, the monster battle at the end is extremely shocking in its violence. The U7 series has already showcased a few examples where the aliens meet unusually gory demises. But the one seen here is easily the most disturbing thus far. Concluding the fight, Ultraseven rips one of the monsters arms off (the feathers really fly here); and while it flails on the ground, he removes his crest (Eye Slugger) and cuts the beasts throat with it! The scene is not only complemented by a geyser of blood spewing all over Seven from the creatures neck wound, but this happens with happy music playing in the background. 

According to sources, this scene raised more than a few eyebrows among viewers at that time. Director Toshitsugu helmed 15 episodes of this series; not all of them of great interest, unfortunately (such as episode seven). Some are quite good, and surprisingly somber such as the psychedelia of episode 10 and the grim episode 22.

'The Created Monster' is an apt, if ambiguous title for this one, what with the KONG level of pitiable quality afforded the alien monster. It could also apply to the scientists who created the devastating planet destroying bomb, or even the bomb itself. Like several other U7 programs, the script has a mature message stuffed in it -- the likes of which would seemingly vanish with later tokusatsu shows. The brutality of the finale is most definitely an eye-opener (and Eye-Slugger).

MONSTERS: Gieron beast
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawks #1,2,3; R-1

To be continued in Episode 27: OPERATION: CYBORG!!!

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Episode #6


Directed by Nagase Samaji

Hoshino and his two friends are playing down at the harbor in Tokyo Bay. One of the kids, Chiro, sees a monster break the water, but the others never see it. An old fisherman explains to the kids that what they saw must of been Gesura, an amphibious, but not giant, creature from South America. Attracted to the cocoa beans, Gesura feeds off of bugs and other insects that eat them. The old man explains that without Gesura, the kids would have less chocolate to eat, so now they're even more smitten with the monster. Meanwhile, a smuggler named Diamond Kick is on the hunt for a shipment of jewels hidden in a consignment of cocoa beans. The kids end up crossing paths with the crooks, and are kidnapped by them. The Science Patrol arrives on the scene just as Gesura appears to ransack the warehouse.

This is one of those episodes that will make you want to revisit your childhood days. Sort of a precursor to Honda's under-appreciated GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969), children play a central role while the adults are more in the background. The paradigm of the innocence and inquisitiveness of the young is the driving force of this entertaining, if simplistic episode. Hoshino and his two friends' interests lie not only in chocolate and the monster Gesura, but the criminal known as Diamond Kick; so for a brief period of time, our trio of youngsters become adolescent investigators. Hoshino acts more like his age this time, nothing like the monster-killer-in-training of the action-oriented episode three. These Japanese Hardy Boys (and girl) get themselves captured, then escape--once from the thieves and again from the rampaging amphibian just in time for Ultraman to arrive and save the day.

Gesura is another Ryosaku Takayama creation. Recycled from his alligator creature seen in episode 26 of ULTRA Q (1966), Takayama gave this modification (see below) a fishy appearance with the addition of fins and an exotic, multi-colored outer skin. We're informed it has poisonous feelers that, when severed from its body, will kill it. Gesura's rampage is relatively brief, as is its fight with Ultraman. The choreography is unremarkable, utilizing the standard chops and wild swinging. The one highlight is where Gesura seems to roughly tackle Ultraman right into a building. The shot isn't slowed down, so it looks powerful against the rest of the fight.

Teruo Arakaki returns for his second time under the rubber on ULTRAMAN. He "appeared" in episode one as Bemular, and played monsters in over a dozen more episodes. As Gesura, he spends the bulk of the episode in the water; one of the most dangerous, and exhausting places to be for a suit actor. Arakaki passed away in April of 2014.

There's some eye-catching composite work and some good models on display; most especially a shot of Ultraman saving Captain Muramatsu and Hoshino who are about to be crushed inside the SP car by Gesura.

Yamada Masahiro, who wrote the aforementioned third episode, handled writing duties on this, and four more episodes after it. 'Coast Guard Command' was the eighth episode shot, but aired sixth.

Not a particularly fantastic episode, merely a serviceable one with some points of interest--particularly the melding of a crime and monster story. This kids vs. criminals motif will be an especially potent winner for that contingent of the audience. Aside from some mauled ships and a couple demolished buildings, there are no explosions, nor does Ultraman use any beam attacks. The next episode changes things up a bit with a new location and a wider expanse of storytelling.


To be continued in Episode 7: THE BLUE STONE OF BARAJI!!!

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