Japan TV Classic 'Ultraman' On DVD For Under Ten Bucks
Channel 44 was a struggling Chicago UHF station. There was little on the channel that interested me as a youth in the 70's, until they became the headquarters for exciting live-action Japanese kid's shows. I loved all of these frenetic series, but the one that stands out as the earliest I saw was "Ultraman". Made in the late 60's, it's an early entry into the Japanese TV genre where a regular-sized person transforms into a mega-sized hero to fight monsters.
Ultraman takes place in the far-flung future year of 1993 (ahem). The earth, Japan specifically, is constantly beset by large-scale monsters. The only organization geared up to protect to take on this threat is The Science Patrol. On one such mission, our protagonist Hyata collides with the ship carrying an extra-terrestrial good guy called Ultraman. Ultraman is so stricken with guilt over killing a human that he merges his essence with Hayata to save them both. Hayata goes back to work, but when monster-sized trouble strikes, he uses the Beta Capsule to transform into the giant Ultraman to take on the rubber menace.
Heady and exciting stuff for a kid, even on a black and white television. Once you hear that groovy surf-guitar opening theme and the loopy lyrics, you're never the same afterward.
The highlight of every show is of course when Ultraman fights the monster of the week. In early episodes, the skirmishes were in a wrestling style, but that changed later to being based on a more martial arts battle. A flashing light on Ultraman's chest blinks when he runs low on juice, while a grave voice-over warns that if the light goes out "Ultraman will never rise again".
In true Japanese style, there have been endless sequel series, and of course many other shows continue to be influenced by the original Ultraman. The series has always been difficult to find domestically, especially at a reasonable price. Mill Creek, a label specializing in retro movies and television, has released the entire Ultraman series in one DVD collection for an already reasonable $14.95, but if you click below you can get the whole set on Amazon for $6.99!
I'm thrilled that the series has finally made it to DVD at such a monster-killing price. The DVD transfers of the original film elements look great - all 39 episodes are spaced out across four discs. You can choose between the original Japanese audio with newly created English subtitles, or the original English dub from the 1960's (my favorite). As a bonus you get an interview with the US voice cast - the same team who did Speed Racer! If you've never seen the series, you owe it to yourself to see the origin of so many ideas that still shape Japanese live-action hero TV. Click on the link below to pick up your copy/ You'll get a great deal on the DVD set, and you'll be supporting Retro Thing in an Ultra way!