Ultra Q – Episodes 3 and 4 (Review)
Ultra Q Episodes 3 and 4
The Gift from Space and The Mammoth Flower
Episode 3 The Gift from Space directed by Hajime Tsuburaya
Episode 4 The Mammoth Flower directed by Koji Kajita
Once again we dip into the world of Ultra Q, the Japanese TV series. A precursor to the Ultraman series, Ultra Q features many giant monsters that our plucky heroes have to deal with. Previously we have gone over the first two episodes, and now we deal with episodes 3 and 4. In addition to the 28 episodes of Ultra Q, a movie was produced in 1990 titledUltra Q: Star of Legend. A follow up series aired in 2004 titled Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy.
Tsuburaya Productions Co. created the TV series, which started to air in 1966. Before it became Ultra Q, however, it was known as Unbalance. As it became less Twilight Zone and more monsters, the name turned out to be a problem, but luckily a sports move called the Ultra C was gaining popularity, and thus Ultra Q was coined. Several artifacts of the original concept remain, including the very Twilight Zone-ish main title theme, as well as a narrator (but one used less frequently.) Several episodes would be somewhat independent stories that barely featured the main characters, and still other episodes would have ambiguous endings.
Thanks to recent Region 2 DVD release, these shows are now available to a whole new generation. However, they aren’t available to me in their entirety, as there are no English subtitles! But that’s where making up what we don’t understand comes in. Plot synopses and visual clues help us get the gist of the episodes, but the subtle parts we are just winging. That actually makes the show a bit better, as if we found out something was lamer than we though we might not like it as much. Such is the way of things.
The main cast list is done, so we jump into the episodes!
Episode 3: The Gift from Space
Episode three of Ultra Q gives us a new main character and the most Twilight Zone ending so far. But it is still a solid episode, and the monster from Mars Natnegon has become one of the signature monsters from the series. This episode also is the first involving aliens in the Ultra-universe, who will turn out to be very pesky indeed with their constant monster attacks. Stupid aliens! I shake my fist at you! Invade some other planet for once. I hear Neptune is nice, or Krankor. First the guest cast, and then let’s get started with the episode.
Guest Cast –
The show starts out as Jun and Ippei are flying Yuriko around over the ocean, and they notice a space capsule falling back to the earth, with parachute. It splashes into the sea, and the opening credits roll. After the credits, our mains are back on solid ground, outside the Space Exploration Bureau, and are sprinting to get inside. They brush past an important military man who is being interviewed by many reporters, and he tells them something that shocks people. Exactly what, I am not certain.
That doesn’t paralyze our heroes, who are soon chilling in Dr. Ichinotani’s house. I guess he lives at the Space Explorations Bureau, or at least a homey office. The office is also equipped with a massive amount of large beakers, Bunsen burners, test tubes, and weird liquids. We soon see that all of this equipment is used to make coffee and tea for his guests. I guess this is before the days of Mr. Coffee! It would also land Dr. Ichinotani a fat fine for safety violations in today’s labs. Ippei is making the tea in this scene, and the other characters discuss the space capsule. As we see in the next sequence in the Space Explorations Bureau’s command room, there were two gold balls left inside the space probe that weren’t there when it left. The President has his own label of “President” in front of his desk, while Dr. Ichinotani is labeled “Doctor”. Ever other character is named “Observer” (but not the MST3K type.) Toho supporting actor Saburo Kadowaki are supposed to be in this episode as well, I am not sure who he is but believe that he is probably one of the “Observers”(or might have been the important military man.) There are also odd photographs that are passed around to the various guests, showing snippets of bizarre alien body parts. They look like those “Nessie” photographs you sometimes see that are just of a flipper or something similar. The two golden balls are put in a safe.
Safes in TV shows never live up to their names, as seconds later this safe is being blowtorched into by a random criminal, here called Gangster Number 1 (as a second shows up later.) He quickly breaks through, and then grabs the massive piles of cash the Space Explorations Bureau keeps around the office (I guess they are planning to buy their rockets in cash or something!) The Gangster also snags the two gold balls, which ought to make this episode more interesting. Gangster takes a taxi to the hanger, where Jun is waiting his next fare. Jun is suspicious, and Gangster Number 1 pulls his gun on Jun. Jun fights back, and the chaos causes one of the two gold balls to go rolling across the room, unnoticed by the battling men. Jun is defeated, and forced to fly Gangster Number 1 to a secret location, where Gangster Number 2 is waiting to signal him in. For some reason, Jun is not killed, and can fly off to identify Gangster Number 1 in a police lineup, assuming Jun ever reported what happened (it seems like he didn’t, though.)
The two Gangsters go into a nearby cave to divide the loot, Gangster Number 1 getting a very large percentage. Neither of them notices the second gold ball go rolling away and into some of the hot spring mud bubbling around them. They don’t notice the egg grow massive, and then crack up. Soon, two goofy-looking eyes on stalks shoot out, followed by the rest of Natnegon’s body. The Gangsters are rather panicked, and take to shooting at the massive space slug. However, Natnegon shoots his sperm rays at the two Gangsters, and they are done for. Seriously, Natnegon’s eye-beams look like swarms of sperm as they are blasted at his enemies. What a perverted monster!
See the sperm rays in action!
A giant space slug killing people is going to get noticed, and soon newspapers are contacted. A reporter for the Daily News is told by Editor Seki to go cover the story, but he is too cowardly. A thousand generations of shame on his family. The cowardly reporter was played by Haruya Kato, who was in several G films including Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. Yuriko gets tired of his whining and declares that she’ll cover the case, and soon gets Jun and Ippei to fly her out. On the plane, Ippei presents Yuriko with a necklace made of the first gold ball, which he found at the office earlier. Both Ippei and Jun join her at the entrance to the cave. They are led by a police officer (played by Shigeo Kato) and see several local men guarding the entrance. Just like in Episode 1, Jun and Yuriko go inside the cave to explore while Ippei stays outside. They see the two Gangsters, who have become immobile. Jun grabs the gun from them, while Natnegon appears and soon goes after them. Jun fires as he and Yuriko run out the entrance of the cave. Natnegon bursts out the side of the mountain chasing after them, and Jun keeps luring it toward him by firing his gun. After a few moments that look like chase sequences from Scooby-Doo with everyone running in the same direction, Jun starts to lure the monster in a new direction. This direction is near a cliff, which Jun hides just over the edge of. Natnegon is not the best at being sure-footed, and soon goes plummeting off the edge of the cliff into the sea below. We all know that slugs and salt don’t mix, and neither to space slugs and salt water. He gooifies. The menace is over, for now.
The characters return to Dr. Ichinotani’s for more science equipment-made tea, with Yuriko cooking it this time. Dr. Ichinotani speculates that the eggs were probably left by aliens who are upset at the Earth’s space probes. Even though from the photos it looks like the space slugs left the eggs themselves, not some smart aliens, so this is probably just some wacky contamination issues from evil gravid space monsters. As we still have a few minutes to go, the episode isn’t as over as it seems. Yuriko gets her necklace a little too close to the flames of the Bunsen burner, and soon the gold ball is growing bigger and bigger. They rip off the necklace and throw it on the couch, where the ball soon gets bigger than a large watermelon. They chuck the egg out the window, as it grows to car size, and a new Natnegon hatches out. Natnegon II starts on his journey of oozing along, looking like the monster from The Creeping Terror with eyestalks, as the mains stare and the narrator narrates, making the ending the most Twilight Zone-esque ending you could imagine, until the episode Jun sees something on the wing of his plane.
This episode also exists in English, apparently dubbed to try to sell it to foreign markets. Jun is renamed Jim and Ippei renamed Happy. Hopefully I can track it down soon to see if anything else changed.
Rated 7/10 (Parachute, Observer, Observer, egg burning, egg growing, egg cracking, Observer)
Episode 4: The Mammoth Flower
Episode 4, The Mammoth Flower, was initially conceived when Ultra Q was still Unbalance. Thus the monster is less of a city-destroying type, and more of a menace just due to being big and weird. They tried to spice it up by having the giant flower have movable roots/vines that seek out people to try to eat, which made the episode more interesting. Dr. Ichinotani has a bigger role in this episode than normal.
Guest Cast –
Hey, while the cast is away, the mice will play! So let’s get started with the actual episode. Once again, Tokyo is virtually abandoned at night as a lone policeman patrols streets devoid of pedestrians and vehicles. The police officer then sees something trying to burst through the pavement in the middle of the road, and begins to panic. The shaking beneath the earth causes weakness on the surrounding buildings, and debris reigns down, hitting the street and our policeman, who doesn’t look like he is killed but we will never find out, as the series has jumped to the opening credits! The Not Quite Twilight Zone music plays, and the pavement continues to buckle as the credits go on. When the credits have empties, Jun and Ippei are going to an office building to collect some mail (I guess they are supposed to be shipping it) and inquire as to why the advertising office is in a state of disarray. The male employees don’t seem to want to give them the time of day, but a female employee named Icha explains that there was a small earthquake recently to Ippei as she hands him the packages.
Ippei and Jun leave the office, and just happen to run into the third main character Yuriko right outside. The three talk a bit before all piling into Jun’s car. At the river, tourists notice a big vine floating in the water. A crowd gathers, which soon includes our three mains, despite the fact they were driving off somewhere just seconds before. The crowd panics as the vine starts to thrash around, but our three heroes are the only ones who stand their ground (and thus get splashed.) Yuriko snaps some pictures, and the team goes to Dr. Ichinotani’s. I’m sure those packages aren’t important mail at all. Dr. Ichinotani says some stuff I am guessing is theorizing about the giant plant. Although I don’t know Japanese, I am going to assume that Dr. Ichinotani always knows what will happen.
Chatting at Dr. Ichinotani’s is over quick, as soon we jumpcut to businessmen being attacked by plant vines in a basement. Our heroes seem to have developed supernatural abilities to detect the trouble, and arrive there mere seconds later. A businessman is entangled by a vine, and two of his friends are attempting to rescue him with butcher knifes, but are getting knocked aside. Jun has a plan: he grabs a wine bottle, breaks it, and moves in to stab the vine. Ippei picks up on his lead and grabs a fire extinguisher and starts to spray the vine with it as Jun stabs. Are plants affected by fire extinguisher spray? Well, gigantic mobile plants are, as it helps distract the other vines so Jun can stab through and get the businessman out. They escape, and seconds later three Japanese policemen come in and fire their guns at the vines.
See the daring rescue here!
Soon the Ultra Qs are speaking with the Police Chief and some other cops, examining part of the vine. They chat a bit, then an announcement plays and the Ultra Qs rush to their car. Dr. Ichinotani is being interviewed, and says something dramatic, probably that there is a giant flower growing in the city. The Ultra Qs arrive at the advertising agency office as they are evacuating, grabbing as much office supplies as they can. Yutaka Nakayama is here, as well as the Manager played by Sachio Sakai. Icha is also there, and Ippei helps her get a desk as Jun exits with the rest of the office carrying some other supplies.
The building then begins to crack and crumble. Remember that Ippei and Icha are still inside. They try to escape, but debris falls on them, and soon we get an extended special effects sequence where the building cracks more, and rips open. Dr. Ichitani is talking with the military men and Dr. Genda, as Dr. Genda seems to take exception to what Dr. Ichinotani is saying. They are interrupted when they notice the giant flower blooming out of the office building and growing hundreds of feet in the air. The flower blooms and makes a weird visage upon the desolate urban landscape. Jun tells some of the arriving military men that Ippei is still inside, and they go in to search for him.
Ippei and Icha are all right; they get up and pull debris off of them. Some of the military men inside get sprayed by glittering pollen from the giant flower Juran, which starts to coat them like Mothra webbing. Ippei and Icha are found, and taken out, missing another vine that bursts in looking for them. The military guy who saved them pulled out a six-shooter revolver and shoots ten times without reloading at the vine. That’s Japanese efficiency!
Dr. Genda comes up to Dr. Ichinotani and apologizes for doubting him, then opens a case of Fixed Carbonic Acid that he and Jun will drop on the monster flower Juran by airplane. As Jun flies over, Dr. Genda drops the acid, in a case that lowers by parachute. The case sprays acid as it slowly descends, getting all over the bloom of Juran. Down on the surface, two flamethrowers are set upon the flower as well. The combined effort weakens the plant, and soon the acid is dissolving the petals away and the flower collapses, finished off by the flamethrowers. The audience cheers and the narrator finishes with his latest ending line, something about how flowers look pretty but one day might grow big and eat us. The end.
Rated 5/10 (Acid weapon, spray timer, screaming cop, happy photographer, LOOK AT THAT!)
And now a very special interview, with Natnegon the Mars slug and Juran the Mammoth Flower!
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Some information from: KAIJU-FAN.