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December 1, 2021

Static Age #19: Ultraman Ace (1972 – 1973) [Complete Series 05]

Ultraman Ace (1972 - 1973) BD box art


This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Ultraman Ace (1972 – 1973), ‘Ambassador from the galactic federation’ as per the front cover tagline of Mill Creek Entertainment’s excellent Region A Blu-ray box-set [Complete Series 05], which contains of all 52 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).


Riding high on what is now defined as the second wave of kaiju entertainment from Japan, this new Ultra incarnation is significant because for the first time the series employ a story arc narrative that is prevalent throughout its entire run, instead of the usual one-offs or two-part episode format of the previous years. Said story arc finds the mean Yapool and his “Terrible-Monsters” experiments (kaiju much more powerful than what we were used to) attempt to push forward their plan for world domination, and it is up to Ultraman Ace to stop them!


‘Shine! The Five Ultra Brothers’ introduces us to Ultraman Ace, the fifth Ultra brother of alien saviors, who has passed his transformation ring to Seiji Hukuto (Keiji Takamine) and Yuko Minami (Mitsuko Hoshi), and the union of the couple upon cases of emergency will transform them to the superhero – and what do you know, the first emergency comes in the form of the fire-breathing monster Verokron that wreaks havoc upon the city of Fukuyama. A mysterious, oversized, silver egg that devours people makes an appearance in ‘Surpass the Giant Terrible-Monster’, before the ancient Chameleking monster shows up to battle with Ultraman Ace. In ‘Go Up in Flames! Terrible-Monster Hell’ the skies break and unleash the Vakishim monster. ‘A 300-Million-Year-Old Terrible-Monster Appears!’ is a very grim episode in which manga artist Mushitaro Kuri drugs Mikawa and keeps her prisoner in an attic with a dead body (such scenarios wouldn’t fly in today’s television), not to mention that he also unleashes the Garan monster. In ‘The Giant-Ant Terrible-Monster Vs. The Ultra Brothers’, young women disappear in moving sand as the ground opens in the middle of the city, and the only common denominator is that they all have type O Blood. An possessed-by-an-alien astronaut won’t remove his gloves because his hands have eyes in ‘Solve the Mystery of the Transforming Terrible-Monster!’. ‘Monster Vs. Terrible-Monster Vs. Alien’ is featuring an impressive monster showdown and the story continues in blood-soaked fashion in ‘Life of the Sun is the Life of Ace’. A pictures transforms a newspaper editor into the Gamas monster in ‘100,000 Terrible-Monsters! Surprise Attack Plan’. An evil version of Go is back in ‘Duel! Ultraman Ace Vs. Hideki Go’, but is it really him? In the otherworldly and a bit sexist ‘Terrible-Monster is Ten Women?’ the Unitang is really the women! The structurally unorthodox ‘The Red Flower of a Vicious Cactus’ has Ultraman Ace fighting the Sabotendar monster early on, before it transforms into a regular-sized cactus, albeit a carnivorous one. The series go Christian-themed in ‘Execution! Five Ultra Brothers’, in which the Ultra brothers get crucified, thanks to the Anti-Universe also known as Golgotha – the story continues in5 Stars Scattered in the Galaxy’, in which Ace-Killer also appears. ‘Summer Horror Series: Curse of the Black Crab’ is featuring Ultraman Ace sumo-wrestling a crab monster. ‘Summer Horror Series: Scary Story of the Cattle God-Man’ is about a man that transforms into the Cowra monster, a creature resembling a cow. The titular presence of ‘Summer Horror Stories: The Demon Woman of Hotarugawara’ causes car accidents. ‘Give the Pigeon Back!’ is featuring the Black Pigeon monster. ‘The Mystery of the Haunted Kappa Mansion’ is one of the best episodes in the series and it includes a terrible monster that comes out of a swimming pool and steals people’s bellybuttons (you can’t make this up!), while some of them also happen to be eerie robots on the inside! ‘Stars of Youth is the Stars of Two’ is featuring a flying ship, as well as the mandatory terrible monster, not to mention TAC team members’ disbelief of the former sighting, as if the twice-a-week destruction of Tokyo by numerous kaiju is not as strange. ‘I Saw a Vision of the Celestial Maiden’ is an episode about the aforementioned beauty becoming a monster. Featuring fascinating kills and an amazing terrible monster, ‘Vengeance Demon Yapool’ is truly one of the greatest episodes in the series.A Game Changer! Here Comes Zoffy’ is about old men luring children into ceremonial chants before they disappear (in today’s world this scenario wouldn’t fly, let alone in a children’s show); it’s your only chance of seeing a finale that has children falling from the sky, as if there was not enough bad shit in the air anyway.Behold! Midnight Transformation’ is featuring raining blood, but instead of the metal band Slayer, you get another awesome kaiju! ‘Pyramid is a Terrible-Monster Nest!’ is about Michiru and her dangerous red smoke games, until the story escalates to a Pyramid that is housing a Pharaoh-like monster. The five Ultra brothers finally meet their match in the form of the Hipporit monster in ‘Annihilation! The 5 Ultra Brothers’; the story continues in ‘Miracle! Father of Ultra’, in which the Ultra father saves the day. The landmark ‘Goodbye Yuko, Sister of the Moon’ episode is horror-themed, featuring a werewolf-like terrible-monster, as well as the departure of Yuko, leaving Seiji the sole Ultraman Ace ringmaster. The dangers of alcoholism, as well as a monster that comes out of a graveyard are covered in ‘The 6th Ultra Brother’. ‘You Can See the Star of Ultra’ is featuring the Red Jack terrible-monster.


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


Handmaid's Tale - Season 4

The 4th season of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 – present) finds resistance leader June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) on the run after managing to organize the capture of several leaders of the tyrannical Gilead misogynist and fascist dictatorship. Boasting great drama as well as starting relevant discussions on freedom versus authoritarianism, this is absolutely one of the most intelligent, important, and relevant television series ever. What’s more this is the series’ best and most engaging season since its first.


Locke & Key - Season 2

The 2nd season of Netflix’s Locke & Key (2020 – present) and its seemingly complicated and difficult to achieve shoot had me thinking that cinema (and nowadays also series) is all about showing you things you hadn’t previously seen whilst maintain a conventional narrative, and this show completely succeeds at this. What is it about? Well, the teenage filmmaking team finds some success but also amidst a chaos involving memory loss, demonic powers, and the keys of course. Although, at the end of the day this is a show about people who lost their keys.


Doctor Who - Season 11

The 11th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is original for both maintaining a story arc for most of its run and introducing the first female Doctor (the quirky and gorgeous Jodie Whittaker). It kicks off with ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ and introduction to the female protagonists and her group of sidekicks as well as an alien menace in the form of an impressive ‘man in a suit’ robot. In ‘The Ghost Monument’ the Doctor attempts to solve the mystery of the Desolation. In the excellent and touching ‘Rosa’ the Doctor and her sidekicks find themselves in 1955 Alabama where they meet Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Part U.S. election satire and part spider horror, ‘Arachnids in the U.K.’ is a fascinating episode. ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ is a decent monster-of-the-week episode. ‘Demons of the Punjab’ is a soapy episode about the marriage of an Indian girl to a man from Pakistan. Although ‘Kerblam!’ kicks-off with an eerie concept, it ends up blatantly preaching anti-capitalist messages – I mean, we already know the system sucks, and it looks a bit naïve having a BBC series to explain this. One of the season’s better episodes is ‘The Witchfinders’ in which the protagonist team finds itself in 17th Century Lancashire amidst witch trials. Set in Norway, ‘It Takes you Away’ is about a mirror that is also a portal to another dimension. The season concludes with ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ and ‘Resolution’.


Also, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…


The Addams Familly 2 (2021)

The animated The Addams Family 2 (2021), directed by Greg Tiernan and Cornard Vernon, finds the mysterious and kooky cast of gothic characters facing a new challenge, namely a lawyer’s demand for Wednesday to have a DNA test in order to prove that he is not an Addams, but rather the daughter of a mad scientist. Less dark than the first installment, but still a beautiful manifesto on being difference and how weirdness is good, it surprises me in a good way that these old comic strip characters still have an audience today, in a world that being alternative to the instagram-dictated norm is less and less relevant and tolerated.


Director David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills (2021) finds Michael Myers (a surprising but absolutely welcome and honorable return from Nick Castle – one of many tributes to the franchise’s original run) continuing his onslaught of murder and mayhem in Haddonfield, Illinois, preying upon his family members (Jamie Lee Curtis returning) just where he left them off in this trilogy’s first chapter (this being the second). Filled with numerous Easter eggs for fans of the series as well as unbelievable gruesomeness (it’s as if Blumhouse wanted to make the bloodiest entry – it succeeded), and a top-notch score by John Carpenter himself, this is a slasher masterpiece that should not be missed. Now, I can’t wait for the next one!


Stargate (1994) poster art

In Stargate (1994) the action kicks off in 1928 Egypt when a mysterious device is found during an expedition. Fast forward to the present day (i.e. 1994, when this was made) and nerdy linguist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is approached by the military to decipher an ancient hieroglyph. He does so, only to find out that the code unlocks the device’s ability to transfer you in other planets. The scientist takes Colonel Jonathan O’ Neil (Kurt Russell) and his troops to another planet indeed where they find a civilization that worships Ra. Made on a $55 million budget and looking even more expensive and massive thanks to the ambitious staging by director Roland Emmerich [Independence Day (1996)] this takes the conspiracy theory-like plot [ever so prevalent in The X-Files (1993 – 2018) that was already a hit] and takes to another level of entertainment with its Indiana Jones-influenced approach. Grossing a massive $196.6 and defining a generation of sci-fi audiences, it spawned a massive franchise (mainly in television), in which we will dive further into in future installments of this column.


And finally, I would like to let you know that I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…


After criminally neglecting adding Stephen Thrower’s landmark Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (FAB Press) to my collection when it first came out in 1999, I gladly did so with its new and updated 2018 massive hardback edition, which is chockfull of lavish design and high quality picture reproduction from a seemingly endless collection, but its real strength is the unparalleled text by its renowned author, generously unveiling years of hard work, research, passion, and knowledge. An essential work not only for the fans of Lucio Fulci, but also any fan of genre cinema in general.


Stephen Thrower’s excellent mammoth work Flowers of Perversion: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco Volume Two (2018, Strange Attractor Press) is as you might have guessed (in case you live under a rock and haven’t yet heard of this delicious book) covering the second half of anarchist Spaniard director’s lengthy career. By combining academic (but genuinely interesting) analysis with deeply-dug historical fact, all filtered via the witty writing of its ace author, each review is pretty much the final word of the film tackled (the final analysis, as well as the ultimate thesis). Although Jess Franco’s work is so multi-dimensional that I doubt that we will be short of further analyses in the future (a book on the auteur by Tim Lucas is long due), it will be hard for Thrower’s input to be matched. Come to think of it, and in regards to the apparent continuum of Franco’s work – something that is well aided in the book as the films are presented in the order they were shot – I couldn’t help but feeling that it is a pity that his career of excesses and liberation had to end at some point (the moment of the director’s death), because the ideas in his films are like the ‘time’, they just go on infinitively. There are only a few pieces in the puzzle of his filmography that I have not yet seen.  Also included in the limited edition of the package – aside from postcards etc. – is another 100+ pages hardcover book with scanned reproductions of abandoned Jess Franco screenplays and their translations, appropriately entitled The Sinister Case of Dr. Franco.

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