Ultra Q Episodes 1 and 2
We have special treats for the last two segments of March of Godzilla 2. Unfortunately our attempt to get more editions of Super Scary Saturday fell through, but instead we have some things almost as good. First up, many of you are aware that Godzilla appeared in a few guest shots on TV shows, most notably Zone Fighter. In addition, the old Godzilla costumes were used in several Japanese series to become generic monsters. In this review, we will be watching the first two episodes of the Japanese TV series Ultra Q, where the monsters are modified costumes of Godzilla and King Kong.
Tsuburaya Productions Co. created the TV series, which started to air in 1966. As they also did the costumes for Toho’s movie productions, they had the monster suits lying around, and Godzilla effects master Eiji Tsuburaya was in charge of making new monsters for the TV show (after the series was decided to be more monsters and less Twilight Zone.) Several of the old Toho suits made appearances. In addition to Godzilla appearing in Episode 1 (as Gomess) and King Kong appearing in Episode 2 (as Goro), we had Manda in Episode 6 (as a dragon), Baragon in Episode 18 (as Pagos), the giant octopus in Episode 23 (as Sudar), and Magma the giant walrus from Gorath in Episode 27 (as Todola). Ultra Q was popular enough that it eventually spawned into the Ultraman series, and many of the monsters that originally appeared in this show turned up to fight Ultraman. I never saw any of these as a child, so this is all new territory. In addition, the DVDs are not subtitled in English! But that has never stopped us before! We may pepper more reviews of episodes throughout the year, as short episodes are easy to write if graduate school suddenly becomes much harder (which it will soon!)
The main cast list is done, so we jump into the episodes!
Episode 1: Defeat Gomess!
We open with miners and construction crews working on digging a tunnel. A monster is lurking beneath the ground, we only see bits and pieces of him, but he is already recognizable as Godzilla. The credits roll as 1960s funky music plays. A machine driver played by Senkichi Omura tunnels through into the room the monster is in, and we see Gomess for the first time! The man screams, and we cut to outside the mine, where workers are carrying the hysterical vehicle driver away from the cave. Reporter Nitta is there for some reason, and becomes intrigued by the man’s plight. He is also intrigued by the giant metal sphere they have just taken out of the ground as well. At this point I was thinking Horta from Star Trek, but the story is less complicated than that. Meanwhile, at the Daily News, Editor Seki is on the phone with an important story, and Reporter Yuriko Edogawa overhears about the mine troubles, and grabs her camera to investigate (after getting the go-ahead from Editor Seki.)
Yuriko pilots over thanks to the two helicopter pilots that are flying for Hoshikawa Aviation. I guess the newspaper can afford to rent private vehicles for its staff. Ah, the days before the Internet and cable news…. The pilot is Jun Manjome and copilot is Ippei Togawa, and the three talk amongst themselves about the mine and other things I am not sure about due to my lack of fluent Japanese. Back at the job site, two old men who are obviously the owners of the construction company refuse to answer reporters’ questions, even after getting called out by Reporter Nitta on the strange occurrences at the mine. He storms off and they look at each other with sheepish concern. Probably over their profits.
Soon the three main characters and Reporter Nitta are all admiring the metal sphere at the mine site, and are joined by a Local Kenny named Jiro. Jiro is perhaps the geekiest Kenny of them all. He is even mocked by the other construction workers. I am not sure why he hangs out there; he is either an intern or someone’s son. Eventually, Jun and Yuriko go inside the cave to check it out, while Jiro takes Reporter Nitta and Ippei to a temple, where they meet with a monk. The monk gives them an ancient parchment that has pictures of monsters battling on it. It shows the story of Gomess, who will awaken to destroy the earth when the egg of Littra is found. But Littra will hatch and kill him dead before he can. The parchment drawing of Littra attacking with Citronella acid ray makes it look like Littra will vomit on Gomess.
Back in the cave, Jun and Yuriko find nothing for a while, then stumble upon Gomess! They run and Gomess smashes stuff trying to get them. Nitta, Jiro, and Ippei run back to the mine to tell the Mine Foreman there is really a monster named Gomess in the cave. Gomess has managed to block the cave exit by smashing stuff trying to get to Jun and Yuriko, and the miners begin to clear it. Jiro figures out that Littra is hibernating in his egg, and can be woken up by being warmed with fire. I don’t know how he knows this, maybe he took Daikaiju 101 at cram school. Jiro and Ippei start to warm the egg with some conveniently placed fire buckets.
Jun and Yuriko are still running around in the cave. They think they are safe, but then Gomess rises from what looks like an underground steamy swamp nearby. The two hide behind a rock as Gomess closes in. Gomess just roars and waves his claws menacingly, while Jun and Yuriko take photos of Gomess (only enraging him further.)
Outside, the egg is beginning to hatch! Out pops the GOOFIEST-looking bird in a long while. He would give the bird from The Giant Claw a run for its money. Jiro explains to Littra all about Gomess in the cave, but the bird is ignoring him and looks tired and annoyed. He just flies up to a higher perch and sits. Underground, Gomess is still chasing the two humans. Gomess has a one-track mind. Also, for a monster who lives underground, he sure can’t move efficiently underground at all. Jiro is still trying to convince Littra to do his job, but Littra wants nappy time now.
Jun and Yuriko can escape the cave thanks to the hole the miners made and everyone runs for cover as Gomess also decides to exit the cave. We see Gomess pop out of the cave and smash the rest of the way out. Then he stomps around a bit before falling on his butt because the ground isn’t that stable. He gets mad and starts tossing mining cars around like they are 1/3 scale models. Jiro, who had to be dragged to safety, escapes and continues to plead with Littra to do something. Littra just flies around a bit as Gomess finally notices him. Littra then divebomb pecks Gomess. Gomess manages to tail whip Littra when he tries it again, but Littra is persistent and gets away with hitting Gomess again and again. The two are soon wrestling at close range, and Littra pecks Gomess in the eye. Gomess and Littra back off of each other, and then Littra spits his Citronella acid ray at Gomess. Gomess stumbles around like he’s drunk, then collapses like he’s really drunk. Except he’s dead, which means he’s as drunk as a fraternity pledge during Rush Week. Instead of drawing a picture of a penis on Gomess’s head with a Sharpie, Littra collapses on top of Gomess and also dies. The end.
Actually, that fight was far to little! We demand more monster fighting! With all the build up, all we got was a quick contest and then it was over! I know the show is less focused on monster fighting than all the shows that it spawned, but I still thought we would get more than that. The dozens of shows that have come after have spoiled us who look for action. As for making a science fiction atmosphere, the film succeeded partially, but it comes off as more of a fantasy element with the whole prophecy angle. As several of the later episodes are pure fantasy, it is clear they were experimenting with different directions, and the focus on pure monsters invading hadn’t been perfected yet. Ultraman would cure that. But even though Ultraman had his own disguised Godzilla, we are still here, with the original.
Gomess was not intimidating of a monster at all. Considering he was prophesized to conquer the world and did nothing but wreck a few train cars and scare some people, he is among the worst failed world conquerors in science fiction. Even Butters does better on Southpark when he is Professor Chaos. The defender of the planet is no Mothra, no Rodan, no pigeon from the park. It is a freak of nature that wins far to easily and dies seconds later.
Episode 2: Goro and Goro
Episode 2 has another familiar face, King Kong! Except now he’s dressed up to be called Goro, and is a monkey instead of a gorilla. Much like Gomess, it is obvious who he really is, and thus it makes the episode more entertaining.
It is a normal day as a tour group is taken on a suspension trolley over Arashiyama mountain (aka Monkey Mountain), which is famous for its monkeys (Japanese macaques.) The tourists are having a grand old time laughing at the monkey antics when suddenly a giant 50-foot monkey rises up and starts climbing on the suspension trolley’s cables! Those tourists aren’t laughing now, and are in near panic mode as the trolley is reversed and races to the exit on the other side. The panicked crowd spills out of the car, and flee the scene as Goro the giant monkey watches them with simian glee. And thus the credits begin.
After the rocking guitar intro song, we jump to mute Goro cleaning up some trash while two researchers, wise Ono and short-tempered Matsuzaki, prepare to do some work, only to notice their cabin has been vandalized! Matsuzaki runs out and accuses Goro, dragging him back in and yelling at him. Ono uses his brain and points to chimpanzee prints that are on the floor (full-sized prints, which don’t match macaques OR the giant Goro, but never mind…) and Goro is let go. Goro runs off, because Mastuzaki still yells at him after he is proven innocent. Ono then shows Matsuzaki that something got into the walnuts filled with Helipron G. A military man also arrives and informs the two researchers about the giant monkey flinging poo at tourists.
At the hanger of Hoshikawa Aviation, Jun and Ippei read a letter from Yuriko, who is at Iliyan Island. She sends a photo posing with some natives, and mentions giant Orangutans in her letter. Their fun is interrupted by News Editor Seki bursting in with a random News Reporter played by Nadao Kirino. They’ve heard of the large monkey and are prepared to get the scoop on photos, I guess none of the many tourists with cameras bothered to take pictures. Jun and Ippei fly them out in a helicopter. By the mountain, Goro the monkey scares a truck driver into running away from his truck (why do these people always leave their truck instead of driving away? Does this make any sense to anyone?) As the driver is busy trying out for the Olympic sprinting team, Goro is free to try to drink the milk jugs in the back of the truck. Try is the operative word because the suit actor Yukio Fukutome manages to just spill the milk all over his costume.
Goro the mute then comes up and whistles hello to his friend, a not very convincing giant monkey hand picks him up, and we cut to Goro the monkey holding a doll that is supposed to be Goro the mute. The helicopter with News Editor Seki and his photographer flies over the ridge, and they get lots of action shots of the monkey jumping excitedly at seeing the helicopter. Seki wants them to land nearby, despite Ippei being afraid of being squashed by the giant monkey. The copter lands, and the pack of main characters run into the two researchers, who explain about the Helipron G and how it is a growth hormone that caused monkeys to grow to amazing size. That is why they store it at Monkey Mountain. Seki ends up getting the newspaper scoop, and all his employees congratulate him.
Yoriko has returned from overseas, and is with Jun and Ippei sharing stories. The three head to the mountain again and find Goro the mute being beaten by a mob because he has been stealing food (to feed to Goro the monkey.) The police haul him away to jail, despite the fact there is a really annoying villager who looks like a Japanese Super Mario Brother that should be arrested instead as a bigger monster. Back at the news room, another reporter has also returned from Iliyan Island, complete with pictures of the giant orangutans there that Editor Seki flips through (also, you can show topless photos of native women on Japanese TV!) These giant apes are just the same costume pre-Photoshop photoshopped into pictures from National Geographic.
Goro the Monkey decides to go looking for Goro the mute, in the city, and starts smashing his way through it. The city is abandoned (odd, for Japan of all places!) and two police officers shoot Goro in the butt. Yes. In the butt. Japan is f—ed up! The three Ultra Q Heroes meet up with the two researchers and compare notes, as Goro smashes up a police car that must have been filled with napalm, and smashes power lines because they are shocking. Smart police get Goro the mute from jail, and bring him out. Editor Seki has also arrived, and he brought another jar of milk, except it is drugged. Goro feeds it to Goro the monkey, who soon falls asleep. Goro the monkey is to be sent to Iliyan Island to live with the giant Orangutans. Thus the show ends, even though it has the same giant simian relocation device as every King Kong film, drugging the ape! At least this time they save the primate instead of killing him dead. That shows that even Japan loves King Kong. As the show ends with the drugged monkey, we have ended this episode block. If these reviews prove popular, we might revisit the show before the next March of Godzilla. Only 26 episodes to go!
Before we go, we must have our interview!
Some information from: KAIJU-FAN.
Rated 5/10 (Monkey Surprise!, Does a body good, Picture suprise!, ancient Littra, ancient Gomess)
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