DVD Wishlist: Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot
Just to show what a lifelong fan I am of bizarre science fiction, one of my earliest TV memories is of "Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot". In the early 70's when I was four years old, the live-action Japanese import ran on a Chicago UHF station way up the dial. I saw Giant Robot years later as a movie compiled from TV episodes on local horror show Svengoolie, but that was a very long time ago...
The story follows the adventures of young Johnny who discovers a massive flying robot in a hidden island base. The inventor bequeaths the Egyptian Pharoah styled robot to the boy, giving the child a radio watch to control the massive automaton. The robot's extraordinary design concealed rockets and guns in nearly every orifice - missiles even shot from his fingertips! Every episode pits the robot against giant monster-of-the-week (I remember one being a giant eyeball...) to save the people of a toy-sized Tokyo.
The show's human sized bad-guys are agents of Gargoyle: decked in skull-embroidered berets, 60's Italian sunglasses and beatnik beards. Get this... these evil agents have explosive implants that are set off in case of capture. Whoa.
The show featured a lot of gunplay, including regular scenes of 8 year old Johnny fighting the baddies with a handgun. Imported 70's Japanese animation was always heavily edited for violent content, making it hard to believe that so much of Johnny Sokko's live-action brutality remained intact. Maybe this is why the show has been off screens for decades...
The complete 26 episode series has been issued on LaserDisc and DVD in Japan, but never here in the US (though a revival animated series from the 90's is readily available). Luckily for Chicagoans, the next few weeks will see a new classic TV station - and Johnny Sokko is on the schedule! I may be more excited about Giant Robot coming on TV today than when I was in my formative geek years.