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!!!

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