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Monday, June 3, 2019

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #31


Other titles: The Flower of Death; The Flower of the Devil; Blood-Thirst

Directed by Suzuki Toshitsugu

A young lady named Kaori finds a peculiar flower in a field that, upon sniffing it, falls ill and unconscious. Having mysteriously lost a great deal of blood, Kaori desperately needs a transfusion. Amagi of the TDF has the same blood type so he is instructed to help save the young lady. Moroboshi sees the flower petal still clutched in the girl's hand and recognizes it from somewhere before. That night, Kaori awakens in a trance-like state and injures both a nurse and Amagi who is left with a strange puncture mark on his jugular vein.

After intensive study, the TDF discover the cause of Kaori's malady is a space bacteria called Dally that is living off of her blood and is taking over her body and turning her into a vampire in the process. It soon becomes clear there's no way to save the girl. Moroboshi, though, knows a way. He will transform into Ultraseven and shrink himself to the size of a germ and battle the blood-sucking parasite from within Kaori's body.

Director Suzuki's 10th of 14 episode mirrors some of his other efforts in tone--relying on suspense or horror with little monster action. However, Suzuki's U7 outings are hit and miss; even the traditional ones with plenty of action. His first one being #7, 'Space Prisoner 303', is arguably the weakest of the entire run; while his work on #26, 'Super Weapon R1', is among the most provocative--as well as featuring one of the most shocking scenes of monster violence ever. Suzuki's 'Suspicious Neighbor' of #10 touched on a horror motif that he explores further in the horrifying 'The Human Ranch' of episode #22. The director's penchant for melding SciFi with Horror dominates the segment in review--combining interplanetary vampires with the American hit movie FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966).

Uehara Shozo's script is another case of an intriguing idea clumsily put together due in part to the confines of a 30 minute time frame. Some of it is just sloppiness. There's no explanation as to how Amagi survives the vampire bite; it's simply dropped after a bizarre carousel sequence. The script hints at some potential relationship blooming between the two but it doesn't go anywhere either. At another point in the episode, it's revealed there's nothing the doctors can do for the young girl. This leads to Moroboshi shrinking to minuscule size to save her. When it appears U7 is near defeat at the foam-spitting mandibles of Dally, the scientists suddenly enter the room with a green serum we're never told about that miraculously cures the girl and saves U7 all at the same time. Uehara has devised a good premise just one that's not well thought out; not that there's a great deal of time to explore these ideas anyway.

This is one of the episodes that detours from convention by not having a giant monster or any major action set piece. One of a few compact U7 segments, there's no flying vehicles or anything. It takes place mostly in a single location. The special effects consist mainly of sets meant to look like the inside of a human body where the monster has taken up residence.

The confrontation between Dally and U7 is fairly brief and inconsequential. They never come into physical contact with one another. Dally uses his poisonous foam spray weapon and U7 counters with a silly Ultra Bubble that finishes the creature off after it's weakened by the TDF scientists and their mystery serum.

As for the monster, Dally is a vampiric space germ that travels inside an embryo in the shape of a flower petal. The creature has no particular agenda, it's just an interplanetary parasite that wrecks havoc with any victims it comes into contact with. 

This was the first monster design of the series for art director and future award winner Iketani Senkatsu. Basing the design of Dally (or Darii) on a tick, the creature resembles a beetle but is a parasite that can control its host whilst feeding off of it. The use of fog does well in hiding the fact there's an actor inside the monster suit.

Iketani died October 25th, 2016 from cancer at 76 years of age. Child actor Tetsuo Yamamura is inside the Dally suit. He was 16 at the time and did suit action only three times in U7, performing monster roles in several other Tsuburaya programs.

The last few episodes up to this one saw a decline in ratings and that slump would continue towards the finale when viewership would gradually improve, but not to the impressive degree of the show's first two to three cours.

'The Devil Who Dwells In a Flower' is another episode with exceptionally good material but poorly realized. The idea is there for a stronger show if only U7 was 60 minutes as opposed to 30. If any of the ULTRA programs needed a 60 minute running time, it's ULTRASEVEN.


To be continued in Episode #32: THE WANDERING PLANET!!!

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