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With: Susumu Kurobe, Sandayuu Dokumamushi, Masanari Nihei, Hiroko Sakurai, Akiji Kobayashi, Akihiko Hirata, Bin Furuya, Peter Fernandez (voice), Corrine Orr (voice), Earl Hammond (voice)
Written by: Tetsuo Kinjo, Mamoru Sasaki, Shinichi Sekizawa, etc.
Directed by: Akio Jissoji, Hajime Tsuburaya, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 450
Date: 03/19/2013
IMDB

Ultraman: Series One, Volume One (1966)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Giant Robots

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Part of the appeal of packaging television shows in DVD box sets is nostalgia. Distributors hope people will want to re-live the favorite shows of their youth. But the problem is that, in our youth we lacked the proper logic and intellect to discern how good or bad the shows really were. A show I once thought was quite good, say "The Dukes of Hazzard" or "Miami Vice," now turns out to be rather embarrassing, seen in the cold light of adulthood. Perhaps these shows are better off buried in our memories and imaginations.

Or at least most of them. I've found that in certain cases, some older shows spring back to life. Certain shows are so old that they become new again, and other shows have a camp value that lasts the test of time.

I used to watch "Ultraman" on Channel 2, book-ended by a show called "Captain Cosmic and 2T2." It first aired in 1977 in a blatant attempt to cash in on the sci-fi and "Star Wars" frenzy. Captain Cosmic was played by Bob Wilkins (also the host of "Creature Features") and 2T2 was a painted, oversize sardine can. The Captain would come on, do his shtick and show episodes of "Ultraman," dubbed into English.

"Ultraman" came from Japan, in the great tradition of Godzilla. Each half-hour episode tells the story of a NASA-like band of astronauts, pilots and scientists, one of which receives a mysterious gift from a visitor from outer space. When he pushes a button, he turns into a giant robot that can battle any giant beastie that comes along, whether it be sea monsters, flying monsters, invisible monsters, electricity-eating monsters or even stranger creatures. Of course, each combatant has his own brand of laser beam to fire at his opponent.

Ultraman himself usually does not appear until the final minutes, leaving time for some plot threads, slapstick, and even a few heroic turns by young boys.

BCI Entertainment has released a wonderful new box set, featuring the show's first 20 episodes (all airing between July and November of 1966). They have thankfully included both the English-dubbed audio tracks (for when I feel like being a kid again) and the original Japanese audio tracks with subtitles (for when I feel like being a film historian).

An eight-page booklet provides some background information, and a new featurette interviews the English-language voice cast, which also dubbed the famous "Speed Racer" cartoons in the same period. We also get a "monster encyclopedia" and the alternate American credit sequence.

This is one DVD set I will treasure.

DVD Details: BCI Eclipse also released "Series One, Volume Two" with 19 more episodes on three discs.

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