Sunday, June 9, 2019

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Episode #8


Directed by Hajime Tsuburaya

A four man crew of scientists were sent to Tatara Island to study volcanic activity. A week into their stay, contact was lost with the four researchers. The Science Patrol is tasked with investigating the alleged disappearances and, if they're still alive, to bring the men back. Immediately upon their arrival on the island, the Science Patrol runs afoul of several monsters and aggressive plant life. Eventually, Matsui, one of the scientists, is found alive; saved by a kindly, if peculiar looking creature named Pigmon. Meanwhile, the rampaging giant monsters make escape difficult till Ultraman shows up to save the day.

This is a lean, action-packed episode with a simplistic story that delivers everything kids--both young and old--loved about growing up with Japanese SciFi monster programs. This one was frequently aired in my neck of the woods back in the late 70s-early 80s; and was a personal favorite. I remember kids at school talking about the quirky-looking, passive Pigmon monster. If nothing else, it was certainly unique.

This was Hajime Tsuburaya's 2nd of 8 ULTRAMAN episodes credited to him as director. The son of Japan's master SPX director Eiji Tsuburaya, Hajime helmed some of the best segments in the series; including the first episode (he also voiced Ultraman before he took Hayata as his host body), a two-parter, and the finale. He worked as a director on other Tsuburaya programs like ULTRASEVEN (1967-1968) and OPERATION: MYSTERY (1968-1969). ULTRAMAN ACE (1972-1973) was his last work before dying aged 41 from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1973.

Uehara Shozo's and Tetsuo Kinjo's script is bare minimum, and an excuse to trot out as many monsters as possible in 25 minutes. Its streamlined narrative and heavy focus on monster action is one reason 'The Lawless Monster Zone' is a popular episode with fans.

The snake-headed, bulky-bodied Red King is both one of the most ferocious and most popular Japanese monsters. It's the sole original giant monster in this episode, with the others being remodeled versions of previous creations. The Red King costume would likewise be recycled for use as other creatures. Red King would appear again with a darker complexion in episode 25 of ULTRAMAN (as Red King II). Monster suit veteran Teruo Aragaki instills a lot of personality into the showboating beast that has led to the monster's fame among fans. Toru Narita designed the monster while Ryosaku Takayama did the modeling work.

Chandler (or Chandlar), a winged monster with tusks like a wild boar, is a thinly disguised Peguila suit last seen in the ULTRA Q series of the same year. Ryosaku Takayama modeled the monster based on Toru Narita's revised design from Peguila's initial creator, Yasuyuki Inoue. This episode marks the first time in ULTRAMAN where monster gore is seen on-camera. Chandler is already bleeding under one of his arm's when we first see him. Shortly thereafter, he bites down into Red King's arm and blood pours from the wound. The coup de gory comes next when Red King returns the favor by tearing Chandler's arm off! Yukihiro Seino is inside the Chandler suit.

Mr. Seino did a few bit parts and participated mostly in suit work on ULTRA Q and ULTRAMAN. Both Yukihiro Seino and Teruo Aragaki literally worked together on the latter, sharing a two-man suit on two occasions--the first time as Dodongo (a winged horse monster) in episode 12, and again as Pestar (a strange, conjoined twin starfish creature) in episode 13.

Magular is a burrowing monster with jagged rock-like formations on its body. It's a modified Neronga suit; itself created from the Baragon costume seen in Toho's FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON (1965). The suit was refurbished multiple times over. Reportedly, there was talks to remodel Toho's Anguirus suit for this segment. You can read more about the numerous recycling done to Baragon in the review for episode three HERE. Izumi Umenosuke is inside the Magular suit.

Pigmon is one of those bizarre looking monsters in Japanese Tokusatsu that is impossible to forget. Reportedly inspired by the Crocodilefish, Pigmon had a bony exoskeleton with what looks like red barnacles all over its body. Originally appearing in ULTRA Q as the giant robot monster Garamon, the creature's usage in ULTRAMAN is a slightly modified version of Toru Narita's original design, and modeled by monster maker Ryosaku Takayama. Now a human-sized, benevolent monster, the kid-favorite would reappear again in episode 37 of ULTRAMAN. Where Garamon was played by a midget in ULTRA Q, child actor Fujita Shuji plays Pigmon in his appearance in this segment of ULTRAMAN.

Carnivorous plants are among the denizens of this monster island. Referred to as Saffron (or Suflan), this bloodsucking fauna designed by Toru Narita is easily dispatched by fire from Arashi's Spider-Shot.

Up to this point, ULTRAMAN has been an exceptionally consistent series in terms of stories and presentation. Episode 7 hit a peak of excellence in managing an epic scope for a 25 minute time frame; and 'The Lawless Monster Zone' steadies that high bar with a simple story told well; and packed with what has for years drawn fans to Japan's unique brand of SciFi... monsters.

MONSTERS: Red King; Chandler; Magular; Pigmon; Saffron
WEAPONS: Super Gun; Spider-Shot; Jet-VTOL

To be continued in episode 9: OPERATION ELECTRIC STONE FIRE

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.