This one can be filed under “So bad, it’s good.”
Recently I was thinking about my childhood influences. Long before there was ever a “Power Rangers”, I was watching Japanese Giant Monster TV Shows. These definitely had a hand in my love of B-movies. And well, there’s also the obvious, the name of my website.
In the late 1970s, when I was three or four, a local TV station in Detroit used to show “Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot” and “Ultra Man” back-to-back. I loved them and watched them everyday. (Though I’ll admit that the swirly colors at the beginning of “Ultra Man” scared me for some reason.)
These shows were actually made ten years earlier and were a direct response to the popularity of all the Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra movies. They featured the formula that is familiar to fans of Japanese Giant Monster TV Shows of any era. A team of good guys (often young and possibly with a kid) fight a constant battle against a team of bad guys (possibly from outer space). Both sides make use of Giant Monsters (read “guys in rubber suits stomping on models”) to battle each other for control of Earth. The good guys either have control of Giant Monsters / Robots or they turn into them, while the bad guys usually just pull the strings of their enormous minions from afar.
I decided to see if I could track these shows down. I found that NovaRose sells both series on DVD. Their prices are great and the quality is quite good for 1960s TV shows with rather low production value to begin with. (I can’t really comment on the legality of these DVDs. I don’t know and I didn’t ask. I know for a fact that neither show is actually sold on DVD or VHS in the US. But that doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t own the rights. It’s up to you. I will say though that the guys at NovaRose are very nice and very helpful.)
Since the DVDs arrived in the mail today, I decided to sit down tonight and watch the first episode of each.
They’re definitely dated, and if you thought the special effects were cheap in 1950s Godzilla movies, these are extra cheap. But they’re a hell of a lot of fun. I smiled and laughed my way through both “Johnny Sokko” and “Ultra Man”.
Johnny Sokko is a young boy who just happens to get shipwrecked with Jerry Mano, an agent of Unicorn (the good guys), on an island controlled by the Gargoyle Gang (the bad guys) and Emperor Guillotine (the evil alien from outer space) when their evil Giant Monster sinks the ship the two are on. Got it so far?
Johnny and Jerry discover that Guillotine and the Gargoyles are trying to build a Giant Robot to destroy the world. Luckily Johnny takes control of the robot and saves the day. Super cool.
“Ultra Man” on the other hand is an entirely different kind of story. Science Patrol (the good guys) flys around in cool rocket planes protecting Earth from bad guys. When an evil meteorite with an evil Giant Monster inside crashes on Earth, Hayata of the Science Patrol crashes into a good meteorite with his rocket plane and is merged with the good Giant Monster, Ultra Man. Then the two Giant Monsters fight. (Ok, maybe it’s not so different.)
I did notice that with “Ultra Man” it’s actually geared towards older viewers. Something that my four year old brain could never understand. In fact I discovered that it’s actually a show secretly meant for fetishists. If nothing else you have the swell uniforms that Science Patrol gets to run around in:
But the real proof is in the blatant use of rubber-suited monster porn that is all over this show:
I don’t know why my mother ever let me watch it. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the shows!