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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!!!

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