Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On DVD: Ultraman (1966)

In the mid-70's, the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) engaged in a brief exchange of programs with WOR of New York. A year prior, WOR had participated in a similar experiment with England's Thames Television, which led to the introduction of The Benny Hill Show to American audiences. Japan's enduring gift, however, had first reached American shores a decade earlier, right along with the first wave of imported anime.

Ultraman lasted one season of 39 episodes from 1966-67, and had the same taste in rubber-suited monsters as were seen in Toho LTD.'s family of movies ("Godzilla", "Mothra", et al), though from a different studio.

The concept was simple enough. Ultraman, from a distant galaxy, was in an accident with a space cruiser piloted by Shin Hayata, a member of the Science Patrol. Hayata was thought to have been killed, but in truth, Ultraman brought him back to life by merging his life force with that of Hayata. From there, it's a standard monster-of-the-week concept that was picked up by American producer Irwin Allen for 2 of his series, Lost in Space & Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, though that ultimately doomed those series as well.

Ultraman would continue with a change in titles every year or so, including Ultraman Tiga, which flopped when it made its American debut on Fox as a Saturday morning entry in 2002 (and was reviewed on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, a while back). Another incarnation, Ultra 7, was tried out in reruns on TNT as a Sunday entry some years ago, but because of the early airtime assigned to it, few realized it was even there in the first place.

Following is an Americanized version of the show open. The DVD release I have has the original Japanese graphics....

The monster-of-the-week gimmick gets tiresome in a hurry, and the dubbing, predictably, is sometimes out of sync.

Rating: C.

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