When Judge David Johnson was part of Ultra Seven, he fought the alien invaders with his Amiga.
Hero Seven! Fighter Seven!
It was the 1960s and life in Japan was all about the big-ass monsters. Men in rubber suits were rampaging through mass market media, as viewers simply could not get enough of Godzilla and his cultural spawn. Nothing reflected the public's love of giant rubberized creature stomping more than the "Ultra" shows, productions that showcased monsters, aliens, spaceships, models, pyrotechnics, and one giant dude geared up in red spandex. The hugely popular Ultraman (featuring said spandex-clad gentleman) gave way to this follow-up, which expands on the concept of that show, maintaining the conceit of a jumbo-sized alien-fighting superman, but giving him a team of all-stars to repel the extraterrestrial menace.
Who are they? Ultra Seven, that's who. When it's discovered that aliens are actively infiltrating the planet, poised to overtake our world with their superior lethal technology and ability to produce 100-foot building-stomping monsters, the Terrestrial Defense Force leaps into action! Comprised of the world's (well, Japan's) most brilliant scientists and warriors, the TDF utilizes supersonic fighter jets, an awesome car, and myriad computer workstations to wage all-out war. But it isn't until they receive a visit from a mysterious man from outer space that the scales of balance tip to their favor.
He's the long-lost son of the original Ultraman and brings with him the same amazing powers. This fearless leader is cunning in battle and loyal to his friends. But seriously the guy can transform into a gigantic spaceman and that's why he's on the team.
Episodes follow a similar game-plan, with the threat-of-the-week introduced in the beginning and our heroes coming together to unravel the mystery. Usually, the baddie—or some version of the baddie—will be a regular-sized human, allowing the other members of Ultra Seven to get into the shenanigans. But when it's go time and the aliens decide to crank that mother up, the enlarging begins and Ultraman 2.0 rises to the challenge. He's essentially got all the perks of his dad—the ability to fly, mad space kung-fu skills, and the desire to bellow out the same high-pitched combat yell—but junior also shoots a powerful laser out of his forehead that seems to be startlingly effective against the alien horde. Yet in typical Giant Monster Attack fashion, he opts to screw around with pointless hand-to-hand-combat before unleashing it.
Ultra Seven is a fun show, a goofy little cultural relic that should appeal to Toho fans. The monsters are all crazy and practical. Not sure what prime dope the costume designers were working when they came up with these outfits, but many of them nail that cheesy '60s monster mashing vibe. There's a plant monster, some creature with rotating protuberances on his head that look like radio antennas, another dude just covered in what looks to be Tyvek house wrap, and a multitude of other beasts. It's a fine rogues' gallery and offers a jolt of nostalgic fun, but I have to wonder: Who exactly is this set for?
Granted, I can ask that question of any specialized pile of DVDs, but Ultra Seven: The Complete Series strikes me as limited in its appeal. In fact, it's difficult to discern any specific demographic that'll appreciate it. I got a kick out of spinning through these shows and even though I grew up watching the TBS Superstation monster movies on Saturday morning, I wouldn't shell out real money for this release. Kids today would be bored stiff, unwilling to trudge through the 20 minute build-up of plot and subtitle-reading to get to a brief fight their Power Rangers-addled souls will laugh at. So we're left with genre enthusiasts. Their buying power may not moves units, but Shout! Factory is certainly treating them well.
The series comes via six discs, with episodes transferred in their native 1.33:1 full frame and Dolby 2.0 Mono (Japanese with English subtitles). Your eyes won't melt at the beauty of the picture quality, but it's more-than-decently assembled from the best source masters available. No extras on-disc, but we do get a slick 24-page booklet detailing the making-of the show.
This is definitely a throwback to good times, but I fear its audience potential is severely limited. Still, I don't want to live in a world that doesn't have Ultra Seven: The Complete Series on DVD.
Not Guilty. Hai!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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