Monday, July 18, 2016

Cool Ass Cinema Presents: An Interview With Kung Fu Film Star/Action Film Director, John Cheung

Born on July 11, 1957, John Cheung (John Chang; John Chang Wu-lang) has worked in every major aspect of the Hong Kong film industry during the three decades of his most active period in the film world. A real martial artist of various styles, he has shared the screen with many of the genres most celebrated stars both in Hong Kong and in America. He has not only worked for all the major studios (Shaw Brothers; Golden Harvest), but many of the independent companies as well (Goldig). He has had the good fortune of appearing in a handful of Hollywood productions and served behind the camera as an action choreographer; bringing Hong Kong's unique brand of action design to America, on films like Rob Cohen's DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY from 1993. 

Mr. Cheung was kind enough to consent to an interview about his lengthy and varied career, and I thank him for his time.

John Cheung in SHAOLIN MANTIS (1978)

Venoms5: Can you tell me about your childhood, when you became interested in martial arts?

John Cheung: I loved physical activities when I was a kid. I enjoyed mountain climbing, swimming, any kind of field sport. I was influenced by many people I knew who were studying different styles of Kung Fu. Back in those days I trained in Nanquan Sanda (Southern Fist) for physical fitness. As a young kid I was able to pick up the various styles very quickly and even used them to protect others.

V5: At what point in your life did you decide to become a film star and who was your biggest influence in getting into the film industry?

JC: When I was in elementary school back when we only had a B/W television... no color. I would often see Kung Fu action films of Wong Fei Hung. When i was sixteen or seventeen, I loved the Shaw Brothers action movies. David Chiang and Ti Lung were my idols at that time.

John Cheung can be seen 2nd from left, front row.
V5: Do you recall your first film role and how you got the part?

JC: SPRING COMES NO MORE (1974) starring Nancy Kwan was my first film work after I graduated from Shaw Brothers Training School in 1971. Director Liu Fang Gang was my teacher and he hired me for the picture.

John Cheung plays supporting bad guy role in BRAVEST FIST.
V5: You were also a fight choreographer. Do you remember your first job as a fight director and what that experience was like?

JC: My first time choreographing fights was on MOUNTAIN TIGERS (BRAVEST FIST [1974]). Chan Wai Man was the main actor, but he arranged for me to choreograph the fights in the film. He's a very good actor and fighter. He and I worked well together. He had no trouble performing the action I designed for him; but Mr. Chan also had his own ideas that made his fighting style look better onscreen.

V5: Did you ever have a time where you were dissatisfied with your work due to time or budget constraints?

JC: The shooting problems were a lack of money for production costs. Other than that, I usually handled my work promptly, never going over-budget, nor working overtime.

Top 2 photos: John Cheung in CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS; bottom 2: EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN (both 1976)
V5: How did you get on at Shaw Brothers? Were you allowed to make films elsewhere or were you exclusive to the studio at that time?

JC: When I finished studying at the Shaw Brothers Training Facility I was offered a contract of $500 a month for five years. I didn't sign the contract and worked as a freelancer instead.

V5: How did CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD (1975) come about?

JC: I went back to Shaw Brothers in 1975. One day, I was near the makeup room and the director, Chuck Bail, saw me. I didn't know who he was at the time, but he liked my body shape and my looks and sent someone to ask me to go to the casting director. They had me read some lines in English. Mr. Bail liked me very much. He gave me a great opportunity. I really appreciate him giving me a chance to be in a Hollywood picture. To be so early in my career, I never thought I would be in such a prestigious production.

V5: At Shaw Brothers you worked mostly with Lau Kar Leung. Can you tell me about working for him?

JC: Lau Kar leung was my sifu. It was he who hired me for EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN and THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN. Back in those days, Lau sifu asked me to train Lau Kar Fei (Gordon Liu) to stay in shape; in return Lau Kar Fei would teach me Hung Gar Tiger Crane. We worked very well together.

HK Movie News ad for THE HUNTER, THE BUTTERFLY & THE CROCODILE (1976), November 1976
V5: When you left Shaw Brothers you began getting lead roles. Was this a reason for leaving the studio?

JC: About 1976 I had already joined TVB and signed a contract as an actor. I was only a freelancer at Shaw Brothers and never signed with them. I did later sign with Goldig Films and made a total of eight movies where I was the lead character.

V5: Did you ever work on a film without a script or a production where the script changed daily?

JC: We always had scripts, but back in those days, they would often change. For example, export markets would require additional scenes so we would change the scripts for those markets--Europe among them. This was a problem for the movie companies in those days, but the foreign audiences--like the Americans and the Europeans--really liked our action movies.

WRITING KUNG FU (1979); photo courtesy John Cheung.
V5: One of your more interesting lead roles was in WRITING KUNG FU (1979). Can you tell me about making this movie and being directed by Bolo Yeung?

JC: My little brother, Johnny Cheung, is in this movie with me and Bolo. He was also an action choreographer for Jackie Chan and was a stunt double doing dangerous scenes for Jackie and other actors. The action design in WRITING KUNG FU was done by me, my brother, and Bolo, who also directed the movie.

John Cheung with Sharon Yeung Pan Pan and Simon Yuen Siu Tien in KUNG FU MASTER NAMED DRUNK CAT.
V5: How was making films at Goldig compared to other independent companies?

JC: I made eight movies for them, and each one had its own characteristic. SNAKE IN THE MONKEY'S SHADOW (1979) and TWO WONDROUS TIGERS (1979) were successful pictures. KUNG FU MASTER NAMED DRUNK CAT (1978) was a very funny comedy movie! Candice Yu On On, who is in this movie with me, was Chow Yun Fat's first wife. Back then Goldig was a top movie company in Hong Kong. Chow Yun Fat started out there. He and I made THE HUNTER, THE BUTTERFLY AND THE CROCODILE (1976) for them. Yuen Woo Ping's father, Yuen Siu Tien, he and I worked together on KUNG FU MASTER NAMED DRUNK CAT. He was also my half master. Many years ago he did Wong Fei Hung pictures for TVB. He taught me how to use the Red Tassel Spear (Hung Ying Qiang).

V5: You worked with Wilson Tong a few times where he was action choreographer.

JC: I made two movies with Wilson Tong designing the fights; these were SNAKE IN THE MONKEY'S SHADOW (1979) and DUEL OF THE BRAVE ONES (STRUGGLE [1980]). The former was the more interesting of the two. You know the scene where I am watching the monkey and snake fighting? The film company had purchased a monkey and a snake so they could fight on camera. Just like in the movie, I watched the movements of the monkey, his survival instincts, and applied them to my own techniques and they turned out well onscreen.

John Cheung with Hau Chiu Sing in a promotional still for SNAKE IN THE MONKEY'S SHADOW.
V5: What about Hau Chiu Sing who played your master? He did very few movies in the industry.

JC: Master Hau is from Mainland China. We worked together very well and his Drunken Fist is good. I liked him. He was a very nice, very good man.

John Cheung and Hwang Jang Lee in EAGLE'S KILLER.
V5: You did one movie with Hwang Jang Lee, EAGLE'S KILLER (1981). Can you talk about that one?

JC: We began shooting that around 1979 or 1980. Master Hwang is a Korean, a Tae Kwon Do fighter. He's very powerful. I enjoyed working with him, although it was painful at times! We shot that one in the summer time. The heat was scorching and we were fighting hard towards the end to finish it and make it look good. The film made a lot of money so the boss was very pleased. We were also happy so we forgot about how difficult it was making it (laughs)!

V5: With so many real martial artists in the industry at that time were there ever rivalries among your group?

JC: None that I recall. Back then we were all working extremely hard to do good work in the industry. So any rivalry was limited to making the best movies possible. As long as the audience was happy, that was what was important to us; and back then there were so many action movies to choose from!

V5: You were action director on those ninja movies for Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai. Do you recall anything about them at all?

JC: I met Godfrey Ho at Cannes Film Festival in 1986. While I was there we talked about filming a movie together. When we returned to Hong Kong I helped them shoot about 20 movies.

V5: How was it working with foreign actors like Richard Harrison, Stuart Smith and Mike Abbott? Did you ever double as a ninja in any of those films?

JC: I only designed the fighting scenes in those movies. It was nothing but a positive experience for me working with them, and Godfrey Ho as well. It was a lot of fun working with those those guys. I always took them out for tea.

John Cheung in PROJECT A (1983). Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao also pictured.
V5: You were also working with Jackie Chan on some of his most successful films at Golden Harvest around this time. 

JC: Back then it was decided there would be a new style with Jackie Chan--a variety of action styles including hazardous maneuvers, a lot of property destruction, and lots of comedy. Of course, his movies became extremely popular. My brother, Johnny Cheung (Zhang Hua) was behind the scenes working on several of them.

John Cheung in PROJECT A 2 (1987).
V5: You reunited with Lau Kar Leung on TIGER ON THE BEAT 2 in 1990. Can you discuss this picture and also working with Conan Lee?

JC: Master Lau Kar Leung shot this movie very well. He was very creative on this production. At that time, I had a good working relationship with Conan Lee. A hard worker. Unfortunately, he got severely injured doing that jumping stunt onto the light pole.

John Cheung in BLOODSPORT
V5: You did some Hollywood movies with Jean Claude Van Damme on BLOODSPORT (1988) and DOUBLE IMPACT (1991) and DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY (1993). What is your opinion of American martial arts movies at that time?

JC: I worked with Van Damme on three films, BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER and DOUBLE IMPACT. I can say that, had he not shot those films in Hong Kong, no Chinese people would have helped him, and maybe he wouldn't be successful today. On DRAGON, I was one of Jason Scott Lee's trainers. I had my brother and our stunt team on that picture. Hong Kong action, martial arts and the stunt work is the best in the world. American martial arts movies of that time could not compare.

John Cheung in DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY (1993).
V5: You've worked with so many famous stars in the industry. Would you care to talk about any of those you've worked with over the years?

JC: All Hong Kong actors, from all various genres, we all live under the same sky. We all try to make a better future for Hong Kong while trying to let the worldwide audience know our tiny Hong Kong is the Pearl of the Orient. There has been no one before or since like superstar Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee influenced the entire world with his Kung Fu movies. One of my earliest jobs as stuntman was on Bruce's ENTER THE DRAGON (1973).

V5: Like many of your colleagues you have directed a movie, as well as writing and producing on TREASURE HUNTER (2000). What was the experience like for you?

JC: I lived in Los Angeles for a few years, between 1995-1998. I also worked on some foreign films during this time. I returned to Hong Kong in 1999 and made TREASURE HUNTER! The story was my own, but I hired Xu Guang Tong to write the screenplay. My younger brother was the producer and action director. He also is an actor in this picture. We shot a lot of underwater photography, some in the ocean. We didn't use any computer graphics to enhance these scenes. All the underwater scenes were real as I am a diving expert with the US NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors). I am a three-star coach with the Chinese National Diving Association; so I am also a director of underwater photography! Prior to this in 1989, it was me who designed all the underwater action stunts in Stephen Chow's WHEN FORTUNE SMILES (1990). In the old days there was nobody who could do that in Hong Kong. I was the first Chinese who could do underwater action, stunt fighting, design and photography.

V5: Looking at the Hong Kong action industry today, how does it compare to the old days? Do you think it's better in some ways and not so in others?

JC: Today in 2016, the HK action movie industry is fading because the Hong Kong government does not properly support it; so some actors went to Mainland China to further their careers. It's not impossible, though, to return Hong Kong movies to its former glory. However, we have to work hard and put a lot of effort into doing that!

V5: Looking back on your career what work are you most proud of and is there any film you worked on you wish you hadn't accepted?

JC: When I think of the past, I was a leading actor once upon a time--between 1976-1980. Sometimes I was shooting three to four films all at the same time; shooting three to four end fights all at the same time. That kind of pain I cannot say for others. At that time in Hong Kong we were filming in the New Territories. We would film action scenes from sunrise to sunset every single day. You can imagine the physical exhaustion! There were no computers then. I didn't have many stuntmen working with me so I had to handle all the action by myself! I remember one morning a member of the film staff called me at home saying, "We are waiting outside to pick you up to drive you to the set". After many days of filming fighting scenes I was so fatigued and in pain and all I could think about was how badly I no longer wanted to be the main actor (laughs)!

V5: What are you doing nowadays and do you think about returning to the industry?

JC: To all my fans, I can say I am back! I am ready to return in a big way! At the moment I am designing large stuntmen diving projects in Mainland China. I have also written a script for a new movie! Please wait and see what the future holds! I wish everyone to be in good health and I will see you all again!

I would like to once more thank Mr. Cheung for taking the time to do this interview. I wish him continued success and all the best in his future endeavors.

***An immense thanks to actor/martial artist Ron Hall and musician Mr. J. Cheung, John Cheung's godson, for setting up the interview; and to Dan and June for translations***

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #28


Directed by Kazuo Mitsuda

"When I was in elementary school, a small firecracker factory in my neighborhood exploded. I saw all the people dead from the accident. It was awful.... their arms and legs were all over the place!"

A highly volatile chemical agent called Spiner is destroyed while being transported by plane to the Terrestrial Defense Force Japan Branch. With various nefarious factions wishing to obtain the formula, Dan hits upon the idea of transporting the serum in the African car rally. Naturally, the forces of evil are onto them and Dan and Amagi run into trouble during their race to deliver the Spiner serum. A mysterious race of aliens who use Earth-like weaponry and appear human try to stop Dan and Amagi. When their initial plan fails, the aliens use their last resort, a reptilian monster merged with hardware, the Dinosaur Tank--an enormous, and bizarre looking monstrosity.

One of the strangest entries of ULTRASEVEN is brought to you by director Kazuo Mitsuda, helming his 9th of 14 episodes. Up to this point, Mitsuda has guided some of the best entries such as the frightening episode 9, the King Joe two-parter (episodes fourteen and fifteen) and the fantastic episode 25. All of these are very different from one another and this installment is unique as well. Mitsuda is easily one of the most interesting directors of these programs and the presentation of the alien threat and the cyborgian monster in this particular installment is radically disparate from the normal Tokusatsu TV shows.

Shozo Uehara's script includes elements of the spy craze that was running high at that time. ULTRASEVEN has previously flirted with spies in the earlier, and aforementioned two-parter of episodes 14 and 15. Tetsuo Kinjo wrote those two, perfectly capturing a James Bond feel, integrating it into the SciFi scenario. Uehara's take on the material is much darker, and not kid-friendly...

The tone is most certainly adult-oriented. If it isn't the alien terrorists blowing people up it's Amagi's fear of explosives over a childhood trauma. Filled with intense scenes and sweaty closeups of faces, Uehara's script is one of the most heavily infused with human drama. Before the monster appears near the end, this installment seldom feels like Science Fiction at all. The spy-thriller aura is enhanced by the Ultra Garrison members all disguising themselves to keep an eye on the transport of the Spiner explosive. At one point Captain Kiroyama is playing a Biwa that isn't an ordinary string instrument--containing a machine gun hidden in the neck! Moreover, the rally car Dan and Amagi are racin' around in has a hidden laser weapon and some retro rockets that allow it to land safely on the ground.

The aliens, while never referred to by name onscreen, are known as Alien Kill. Presumably their world is a bio-mechanical planet, utilizing similar Earth-like weaponry with a slightly different look. They never transform into their true forms (if they have one); looking exactly like humans. The only way to discern them is when they're shot, they evaporate into a flash of light.

The fight at the end is a lengthy one. Seven is about as confused as to how to combat the monster as we are at its curious appearance. Seven debuts the Ultra Shot, putting Dino-Tank out of its misery. The peculiar looking Dinosaur Tank is half monster and half machine. It rides atop a gigantic tank; its body seemingly fused with the machine. Kunio Suzuki is inside the Dino Tank suit.

Another quirky U-7 episode, the reliance on characterization and a Bondian spy atmosphere will possibly irritate some expecting a more traditional piece of Tokusatsu action. Mitsuda is back in the directors chair for the next episode, and it's yet another interesting take on familiar trappings.

WEAPONS: enhanced rally car; machine gun biwa

To be continued in Episode 29: THE FORSAKEN EARTHMAN!!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #27


Directed by Toshitsugu Suzuki

A meteor housing a UFO crashes into Asahi swamp. Shortly thereafter, Nogawa, a radio operator for the Ultra Garrison, is taking his fiance, Sanae, home. The UFO emerges and sucks the car inside before descending back below the water. Sanae is later found unconscious but no sign of Nogawa. Dan and Soga, Nogawa's friend, go to the site to take her to hospital. Aboard the UFO, a race of female aliens called Vorgs perform experiments on Nogawa, implanting robotic chips into his brain. They send him back to destroy the Ultra Garrison headquarters by setting a multitude of time bombs. Once their plot is discovered, the Ultra Squad bombards the UFO with heavy artillery. Meanwhile, one of the Vorg aliens attempt to set off the bombs inside the base, but is thwarted by Dan, leading to a fight between Seven and the Vorg.

Keisuke Fujikawa's second of five scripts is a standard alien invasion plot rife with tension and darkly lit corridors but loses its momentum with a lousily realized finale. His previous assignment for episode 16 was even more unremarkable than this one is. Sadly, the show begins on a high note with some nice SPX work from Toru Matoba's team--only to nosedive when the monsters take over at the end. Fujikawa's original script was a bit different; a much darker episode with a different nemesis, Alien Zanba--a creature that would turn up in the animated Ultra show, ULTRAMAN JOE (1979-1980).

Suzuki's direction works wonders at capturing an element of fear and suspense (evident in some of his previous episodes like #22, 'The Human Ranch') but the sections dealing with the monsters is among the most lax of the series; which is surprising considering director Suzuki's approach in the previous episode--one of the best, and most controversial of the series.

A bit part actor before becoming a director, Suzuki debuted in command behind the camera on the 32nd episode of ULTRAMAN (1966). He directed a total of 14 episodes; some of which are among the best and the worst in this series. His last known work was on the television series DINOSAUR EXPEDITION: TEAM BORN FREE (1976). His birthdate and death remain a mystery.

Actress and singer Rei Maki (Keiko Miyauchi) plays Nogawa's love interest, Sanae. She appeared in many television programs. In one of her few movie roles she played one of the Kilaaks in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968). 

Like the Toho favorite, the Vorg are a female race of aliens. As with all other intergalactic invaders, they're the most intelligent beings in the galaxy if only for 25 minutes. There's two of them present on the UFO but we only see one change. When she transforms into her true form the Vorg resemble the undersea gill-men from the 1929 version of THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND.

As for the end battle, it feels rushed and slapped together. There's more of the Vorg running around cackling than actual brawling going on. The fight is poorly shot since the giganticism rarely convinces. Both U-7 and the Vorg appear human-size from one shot to the next; especially when Seven tumbles over a cliff. Normally he towers over such terrain but Toru Matoba's SPX for these shots are ineffective. When Seven disposes of the Vorg, there's not even an optical when he throws his Eye Slugger to decapitate the alien.

Kunio Suzuki, a suit actor inside numerous monsters on U-7, plays the Vorg Alien. He began his career as a bit actor in episode 2 of ULTRAMAN (1966) before stepping into rubber suits starting with episode 19. On U-7 he debuted on episode 3 as the monster Eleking.

Definitely not one of the best episodes. Oddly, it works best when the monsters aren't needed in front of the camera. If I saw this episode as a kid I'd of been very disappointed. ULTRASEVEN was very different from ULTRAMAN. The later series' would transform even more in terms of content, veering away from pure SciFi tales. As for U-7, it would continue to produce adult-styled stories with a dark, more mature edge than its companion series'. The next episode is definitely unique in both story and its monster.

MONSTERS: Alien Vorg
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk #1

To be continued in Episode 28: THE 700 KILOMETER RUN!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Ace Episode #8


Directed by Masanori Kakei

Last we left Ace, he is was in a bit of a jam with 3 monsters to fight all at once. The fighting field is leveled somewhat after Ace's reflexes results in the gruesome demise of one of the monsters. With his Color Timer blinking, Ace is forced to once more use the Ultra Barrier to temporarily encase his opponents in a state of suspended animation. After using the energy draining maneuver a second time, Yuko is nearly dead. Meanwhile, Yamanaka, against Captain Goro's orders, intends to avenge Maya's death by attacking Alien Metron Jr. while it's incapacitated within the barrier. Taking Konno with him, Yamanaka's impulsive actions frees the alien instead. At the same time, Gorath nears the Earth's atmosphere causing natural disasters to occur just as Maria II is ready to launch. Suddenly, both Alien Metron and Doragoris appear and attempt to destroy it. With Hokuto having taken the terminal Yuko out of the hospital, she manages enough energy to transform into Ace. With only half his energy, and Gorath blocking solar power from the sun, Ace and TAC join together to stop the cataclysmic threats to Earth's existence.

Ending on a fantastic note, the second two-parter thus far is a highlight that will be hard to top. Masanori Kakei's second time billed as a solo director (co-directing the first two episodes), his name is dotted periodically throughout the series--always in pairs--for a total of 14 episodes (including the last two). Possessing a good eye for action, Kakei keeps things moving at a breakneck pace and never lets the sloppiness in the script catch up to him. One of the most striking aspects of this 'part 2' is the level of brutality present in the script...

Much like the GAMERA movie series, there's this odd melding of extreme monster violence with the rubber suit action. It's a bizarre marriage; akin to watching episodes of THE MUPPET SHOW where Kermit, Piggy, Fozzy and the rest slaughter each other in spectacular displays of gory muppet mayhem. It makes for some striking imagery that, despite the obvious fakery, would never pass for a kid's show in America.

During the opening, we pick up right where the previous episode ended. Ace is in serious trouble. Another monster, Muruchi II, emerges from underground and joins Alien Metron II and Doragoris. Muruchi II is a younger offspring of Muruchi, a monster that appeared in the 33rd episode of THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN. A fish-type monster, his underground containment in that series episode is explained (also written by Uehara) but remains something of a question mark in his surprise showing in this ACE installment. It doesn't matter much as Muruchi's arrival is very brief. Ace dodges its attack, sending the fish monster right into Doragoris; who responds by throttling the creature before ripping its jaw off! The violent Doragoris isn't finished crudely carving Muruchi up; the moth monster then rips its leg off! This sort of gory action would have likely resorted in outraged parents in America but was prevalent in Japanese kids shows of that time period.

Apparently Muruchi was a scripting replacement for Seagoras (or Seagorath), the Tsunami Monster--a rhino-type aquatic beast that appeared in THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN two-parter from episodes 13 and 14. Incidentally, Uehara wrote those two as well.

The monster gore doesn't stop there. During the well choreographed, cliffhanger-packed finale, Ace has only half his power due to Yuko's weakened state. He still manages to showcase two new maneuvers--both of which are devastating in doling out monster carnage. After Gorath is obliterated by Maria II, Ace, in a weakened state, gets his energy replenished by the sun. Having been a punching bag for Alien Metron II over the course of two episodes, Ace has had enough and unleashes the Vertical Guillotine to quickly finish him off. This is similar to the finishing move on VOLTRON (1984-1985) only more gruesome since Ro-Beasts have no alien innards to spill out all over the countryside. 

Ace then turns his rage to the equally enraged Doragoris; bashing the monsters head against a rock then using the Ultra Punch to literally punch its guts out! Putting the Super-Beast out of its much deserved misery, Ace whips out the Ultra Blade and decapitates Doragoris samurai style. He finishes the job with his Metallium Ray, blowing the outsized moth to kingdom come. Brutal monster deaths have always been in these shows, but this level of sanguinary shenanigans is unusually excessive; yet add to the appeal.

As mentioned previously, writing duties were split between the two episodes--Shozo Uhehara picking up the pen for the second half. The balance of human drama and monster battles is virtually the same; only the former is arguably more poignant since Yuko has a near-death experience after using the Ace Barrier for the second time. 

Regarding the Ace Barrier, it was depicted by Ichikawa Morichi as a rip in space that holds the monster for a 24 hour period. It's visualized in Shozo Uehara's script as a type of bubble (akin to the method of transport for Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X in MONSTER ZERO [1965]) that holds the monsters in a temporarily frozen state. Which brings us to the furthering of Yamanaka's revenge....

Instead of making him pitiable, he comes off as intolerable. Disobeying orders, he intimidates one of his teammates to aid him in an attack on Alien Metron while it's encased in Ace's barrier.  His selfishness turns Yuko's self-sacrifice into a possibly vain act of martyrdom. What's worse is he gets barely a slap on the wrist for being inadvertently complicit in Earth's near destruction. Yuko's character shows there's hope for humanity by requesting Hokuto take her out of the hospital to fight whether she dies or not.

A really impressive duo of episodes, Tokusatsu fans will have a good time with these. Lacking the surrealism of ULTRASEVEN; or the bridging of the dramatic with the comic book of THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, the heavier accent towards super heroics will appeal to a broader audience for this genre; that is, those who enjoy the wackier side of small screen entertainment as opposed to those with genuine affection for Japan's unique SciFi programming. Overly ambitious as it is, this sort of crescendo is normally reserved for a series finale. Not yet ten shows in, U-ACE goes from 0-60 in a matter of seconds... but can it maintain this speed for the remaining 44 episodes?

MONSTERS: Alien Metron II; Doragoris; Muruchi II
WEAPONS: TAC Space; Maria II (missile); TAC Guns

To be continued in Episode 9: 10,000 SUPER-BEASTS! THE YAPOOL'S SURPRISE ATTACK PLAN!!!

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