Friday, June 7, 2019

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #33


Directed by Hajime Tsuburaya

Paris's division of the Earth Defense Army ships a top secret document to the Ultra Garrison via submarine. While this secret mission unfolds, strange incidents take place topside. A pale-skinned man with no ID and wet hair that smells of Formalin walks out into the road and is struck by Furuhashi and Dan on their way to base. A number of other men with the same symptoms arrive at the TDF base. The Ultra Garrison soon learn the ten men on ice were already dead and stolen from a lab. Meantime, Furuhashi and Soga keep guard on the vault where the secret document, a microfilm with a list of all the secret bases of the EDA around the world, is being kept.

To their surprise, the list is stolen anyway; although the only thing sighted was a shadow. Dan figures out the corpses are being controlled by a telekinetic force. At that time, he's attacked by the zombies and, after changing into Ultraseven, is shrunk to minuscule size after being blasted with a mist-like weapon. Dan manages to escape after setting off a fire alarm that alerts Captain Kiriyama and the others. The Garrison members find out too late the otherwordly intruders have transferred the information from the microfilm and it's a race to stop them before they can transmit it to their base in outer space.

Eiji Tsuburaya's son, Hajimi Tsuburaya, directed this, his third of four U7 episodes. Becoming president of Tsuburaya Productions in 1970 after his father's death, he too would die three years later after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage upon waking up on the morning of February 9th, 1973. He died a short time later in hospital. He was 41 years old. 

Aside from directing, Tsuburaya was a writer of screenplays and lyricist of many theme songs on these programs. Sources state that Hajime encouraged directors to write scripts for the shows they directed, usually under a pseudonym. Tsuburaya was said to have contributed to ULTRA scripts, but remained anonymous so as not to take away from the credited writer.

Hajime was at the helm of the series opener (actually the fifth produced but first aired), 'The Invisible Challenger' and the fifth episode, 'The Lost Hours' prior to this one. His last work before his death was supervising the production of ULTRAMAN ACE (1972-1973).

Uehara Shozo's script is one of the best of the series, accentuating an atmosphere of horror and tension other episodes weren't always successful at maintaining. Nearly the entire segment takes place at night or in darkened hallways and rooms. Some creative editing using rapid cuts is a unique choice to heighten the mystery present in this episode. This mystery extends to the origins of the villains since we never learn exactly who they are; nor are they actually seen. Prior to filming, the alien antagonists were indeed visible, so to speak.

Aside from a reference as "invisible enemies", the enemies are never truly visualized. In Uehara Shozo's script, however, the galactic villain was called 'Shadow Man'; although it's never referred to as such during the episode. In the original draft, the antagonist was described as the Uley Alien. Ultimately, Iketani Senkatsu's creation was never seen onscreen, opting instead for a more mystifying approach. However, the design for the Uley Alien (see insert) can be seen in the Time-Slip Files book and DVD (runs 30 minutes) on the making of the U7 series. There are two images of the design in the book, a 120 page hardback edition featuring dozens of behind the scenes photos and concept art from every episode of U7.

In the episode, the invisible alien or aliens initially use unclaimed male corpses to get inside the Ultra Garrison base. They then use the souls, or shadows, of the dead men to steal the top secret files. The alien powers are a mist-like spray that can either shrink an opponent or render them unconscious. It's a unique villain and opting to not reveal who and what they are, or where they come from, was a novel approach that adds to the appeal of this segment.

In the last ten minutes, the sinister aura switches to typical SciFi trappings when the action shifts outside Earth's atmosphere for a battle in outer space. U7 and the Ultra Hawk 2 engage the alien spacecraft and its fleet of ships for a satisfyingly old-fashioned finish to an enjoyable segment of this often adult-accented series.

MONSTERS: Unnamed invisible alien beings
WEAPONS: Submarine S; Ultra Hawk 2

To be continued in Episode 34: THE VANISHING CITY
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