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August 1, 2021

Static Age #17: Return of Ultraman (1971 – 1972) [Complete Series 04]

Return of Ultraman (1971 - 1972) BD box art

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Return of Ultraman (1971 – 1972), ‘On a mission to save Earth, Ultraman has returned’ as per the front cover tagline of Mill Creek Entertainment’s excellent Region A Blu-ray box-set [Complete Series 04], which contains of all 51 episodes in their original Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) with optional English subtitles and a stunning 1080p High-Definition 1.33:1 transfer. The set also comes with a booklet that is featuring an introductory article to the series, and several guides (hero, episode, kaiju, character, and key technology).


Although Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) was planning to wrap the Ultra series with its previous installment, fan demand and merchandise sales forced the studio to bring Ultraman back, this time a little different. Fans originally called this version of the hero New Ultraman, but later went with Ultraman Jack.


The first episode, ‘All Monsters Attack’ is epic in scope, as Weather awakens all monsters and all hell breaks loose, but it is also a fascinating episode in terms of story as we are introduced to our hero, as well as in terms of visuals especially when director Ishiro Honda opts for psychedelics and weird sci-fi. Ishiro Honda’s second chapter, ‘Takkong’s Great Counterattack’ brings more mayhem as the titular monster is unleashed again. ‘The Monster Realm of Terror’ kicks off with a mysterious monster roar and then it is all about kaiju battles. ‘Fatal Attack! Meteor Kick’ is featuring the awesome Kingsaurus III monster, that Ultraman will be able to defeat only with a special kick. The title of ‘Two Giant Monsters Attack Tokyo’ is self-explanatory, but it should also be added that they resemble nasty cockroaches. The battle continues in ‘Showdown! Monsters Vs. Mat’. The chameleon-like Gorbagos monster makes an appearance in ‘Operation Monster Rainbow’ and MAT will try to defeat it by painting it in the rainbow colors, giving an extra queer touch to the proceedings. ‘Monster Time Bomb’ is about Ghostron a monster with a time-bomb in its body, threatening to explode a dynamite factory! MAT’s New York headquarters develop a special monster detector in ‘Monster Island S.O.S.’. Biology in general and evolution in particular come up front in the eerie ‘Dinosaur Detonation Order’ episode when Stegon, a sympathetic dinosaur fossil comes to life. The Mognezun monster swallowed poison gas in Poison Gas Monster Appears’ and is now far more deadlier. In ‘Revenge of Monster Shugaron’ we’ll get to find out whether the titular monster has a connection with a famous painter or not. In ‘Terror of the Tsunami Monster: Tokyo in Peril’ the Seamons and Seagorath monsters initiate large and deadly waves; the story continues in ‘Terror of the Two Giant Monsters: The Great Tokyo Tornado’. In ‘Revenge of the Monster Boy’ the Eledortus monster gets his power by sucking up electricity! In the eerie ‘The Mystery of Big Bird Monster Terochilus’, unexpected snow and a mysterious red gas cause misery and madness; the story continues in full action mode in ‘Monster Bird Terochilus Big Air Raid of Tokyo’. The Bemstar monster that resembles a flying turtle and that is sucking up gas cannot be defeated by Ultraman, so ‘Here Comes Ultraseven!’. Ultraman returns solo to fight Sartan, a monster that resembles an elephant, in ‘The Invisible Giant Monster from Outer Space’. Ultraman has to fight the Magnedon monster that resembles an alien bull in ‘The Monster is a Shooting Star in Space’. ‘The Monster Channel’ is as eerie as it sounds. Ultraman has to face a trash-eating, web-spitting, and missile-catching monster in ‘Leave this Monster to Me’. In ‘Spit Out the Stars, Dark Monster!’ we are introduced to Zanika, the Cancer monster. In ‘Horror! Birth of the Apartment Monster’, a kid grabs a small part of an alien creature recently destroyed by MAT and nurtures it until it becomes the dangerous Kingstrom monster. ‘Leaving My Home Planet, Earth’ is less about the monster on display, but rather about a kid obsessed with guns.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


The cast of Penny Dreadful - Season 3
The 3rd season of Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2016) finds Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) separated in various far away locales around the world, as we are also introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) and Count Dracula. In the meanwhile Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney) acquires the help of Frankenstein’s monsters and other misfits in order to aid him with the world domination plans that he has.


Stunning art from Doctor Who - Season 9
The 9th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) continues with more adventures of the titular time-lord (Peter Capaldi) and his sidekick Clara (Jenna Coleman). Airplanes are stuck in the sky in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, and Clara looks for explanations as well as the Doctor. Clara does find both in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’, but the Doctor has to employ his rock star qualities in order to save the day. The U.K. cultural phenomenon keeps on getting better and better. ‘Under the Lake’ brings The Doctor and his sidekick to a secluded underwater facility, the inhabitants of which live under the terror of the local ghosts; the story continues in ‘Before the Flood’ in which we are introduced to the evil Fisher King and get to question the origin of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. In ‘The Girl Who Died’ we are introduced to Vikings (sometimes I wish today’s people would be as tough as Vikings, because due to us citizens being vanilla, we exchanged our privacy for access to social media, essentially becoming as dumb as to swallow laws that destroy many of workers’ rights and project no sense of reaction to our future being stolen by the ruling class) and Ashildr (Maisie Williams), who in the next episode, entitled ‘The Woman Who Lived’ becomes the beauty in a sort of Beauty and the Beast tale set in 1651 England. ‘The Zygon Invasion’ is about the titular aliens who have integrated well on planet Earth, until some of them betray the mutual trust between them and humans; the story continues with Clara playing a double part in ‘The Zygon Inversion’. By employing the legend of the Sandman as well as shaky video footage, ‘Sleep No More’ is one of this season’s most eerie episodes. The very original ‘Face the Raven’ episode is about a strange number tattoo initiated by a raven and is basically a countdown to the person’s death; the story continues in the excellent one man show episode ‘Heaven Sent’ in which The Doctor has to deal with loss; and the story concludes with the season’s grand finale in ‘Hell Bent’.


Knives Out (2019) poster
Also, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…


Knives Out (2019) takes the whodunit genre to exciting horror comedy territory, benefiting from an unconventional, intelligent, and original script by Rian Johnson (who also directed) and a great cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It comes highly recommended and I can’t wait for the sequels.


And finally, I would like to let you know that I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions… Stuart MacBride’s ultra-violent police procedure thriller Flesh House (2020), Stephen King’s kinetic and frenetic Firestarter (1980) and the non-fiction opus Danse Macabre (1981), and six books by Roberto Saviano [Il Contrario della Morte (2007), Il Bellezza e L’inferno (2009), Vieni via con me (2010), ZeroZeroZero (2013), La Paranza dei Bambini (2016), and Bacio Feroce (2017)].

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