Monster of the Day #510

“For this I gave up an appearance in Destroy All Monsters?! Well, that’s show biz!”

  • Flangepart

    So THAT’S why the power went off. Thought it was just that storm…


  • One of my all time fave Ultra episodes.

  • The Rev.

    Good old Neronga.  This was indeed a pretty good episode.  We first really started to see just what kind of potent weapons the Science Patrol could come up with in this episode, as we really got to see their Superguns in heavy action for the first time, as well as the original apperance of the Spider-Shot.

  • I really, really, REALLY should have watched more Ultraman as a kid.

  • Ken_Begg

    Yeah, I haven’t seen a ton; it was broadcast in a very spotty fashion here in Chicagoland. I think I did buy an Ultraman combo set with a few other programs a few years ago, I should dig that out.

  • Again I ask, why did so few of these shows reach the US mainland? It’s almost criminal! 

  •  I lived around Chicago back in the Seventies, and that’s my memory of it.  I think Spectreman was on more often that it, but I have the general feeling I preferred Spectreman over Ultraman (though don’t ask me why.)

  • Scopi314

    The main reason is that Tsubaraya seems to have it in their head that Ultraman should be shown in prime time, and on a major network. They’ve basically refused all offers to distribute in the US, except for the Fox Kids deal a few year back, and even that they made it clear they weren’t happy with. That and the whole Chaiyo debacle meant that the rights to the earlier series were in a grey enough legal area that no major distributor would want to touch them.

  • Ken_Begg

    That makes sense. Toho is similarly prickly, and has caused a lot of problem on getting the Godzilla stuff distributed here over the years.

  • Okay, that explains Ultraman’s many off-shoots, but think of the huge number of other candidates that never made it over. Jamborg Ace, Megaloman, Fireman, etc, etc, etc. Tsubaraya didn’t make all of them.

    I know we got Ultraman, The Space Giants, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, and two versions of Ultra Seven (unfortunately, only two episodes remain of the serious Hawaiian dub). That’s hardly a sample of what we could’ve seen!

  • Scopi314

    Well, Fireman, Mirrorman and Jamborg Ace were Tsubaraya, so all the same restrictions apply. But yes, there were several other series, but keep in mind the time frame. The original Ultraman came out when the monster craze was at its peak. Giant Robo and Ambassador Magma were some of the first Ultraman copycats. Anything after that and the market for such shows had collapsed in the U.S. Even Godzilla movies had trouble getting on TV, let alone into theaters. By the mid seventies the craze had died out in even in Japan, with the Godzilla, Gamera, and Ultraman franchises all being rested. After that you have Star Wars, and while some man-in-suit series continued in Japan, I don’t think you can really expect many of those to get released in the US after that, beyond bargain basement series like Spectreman.

  • I don’t know if I’d say that. The Godzilla movies were still being released in American theaters to good box-office throughout the 70’s, and were staples of Saturday afternoon Creature Feature shows into the 80’s. Goofy rubber monsters tend to do well in the ratings, for UHF stations in particular. I’m sure kids today might be a little different, spoiled as they are by crappy CGI, but not long ago there was nothing that got a little boy’s attention like seeing there was a giant rubber monster on the tube.

  • Scopi314

    I don’t really feel like arguing what constitutes “good box office” – the fact is that Godzilla movies in the mid-sixties were being distributed by Universal and 20th Century Fox, and Godzilla movies in the seventies were distributed by Cinema Shares, which bought crappy kung fu movies and Italian action movies and released them with the reference dubbing after cutting them down to 70 minutes. And generally being shown on UHF channels was not a sign of financial success, especially in the age before cable when the networks still made a big deal about showing movies. My point is that if even a well known character like Godzilla could only get distributed by going the complete bargain basement route, what chance did something have that wasn’t made as well and was completely unknown?

  • A few minor nitpicks:  King Kong vs. Godzilla was the only Godzilla film distributed by Universal and as far as I know, Fox never distributed any of the G films.  Perhaps you’re thinking of American International Pictures?  While AIP did handle the bulk of the Godzilla films in the 60’s, it was slowly dying during the 70’s (which is presumably why Cinema Shares was able to start snapping up Godzilla films then). 

  • Scopi314

    Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster was distributed theatrically by 20th Century Fox. My point was not that they were the only companies to distributing Godzilla movies in the sixties, but for a few years there the companies involved in doing so were A-list. Later they were not.

  • All reference material I’m aware of cites Walter Reade as the distributor for Ghidrah.  But, getting back to your point, I believe that the demise of AIP (which was the closest thing Toho had to a steady A-list distributor) lead to the rise of Cinema Shares as Toho’s main US distributor.  In any case, you are right about the eventual fall in status. Toho advertised the availability of Terror of Mechagdozilla for years before it was picked up.

  • You might be onto something. The kind of success Cinema Shares enjoyed admittedly came with less financial investment on the front end. For one thing, they didn’t bother with ordering superior dub tracks, and often just released the international prints domestically. (Not sure I’d say Godzilla was strictly on the skids, though.)

  • That’s not entirely correct.  While it is true that, given Ultraman’s
    superstar status and license to print money nature in Asia, Tsubaraya
    has certain expectations about potential distributors, they certainly
    haven’t refused all offers.  Refused offers to reedit the franchise into a Power Rangers-style abomination, yes, but not all offers.  It’s also important to consider the contrasts in
    cultural climates in the years after Ultraman made his debut here.

    In the 70’s, there was a massive crackdown on violence in children’s
    programming.  Looney Tunes were getting butchered and live action
    superhero shows like Captain Marvel had virtually no fight scenes.  In
    contrast to this, the Ultra shows of the time regularly featured
    characters gushing blood, getting decapitated, etc. to the point that
    any attempt to edit them would only result in an incomprehensible mess. 
    The only major market for Japanese superhero shows in the US was in
    Hawaii, where dubbed versions of Ultraman and Ultraseven were killed in
    the ratings by subtitled offerings from Toei.

    By the 80’s live action kids’ shows fell out of favor and Smurfs-style
    fluff was in demand (to the point where the only reason Spider-Man and
    His Amazing Friends got on the air was due to the addition of a cute dog
    to the cast).  When action-oriented fare came back into favor, the
    focus was solely on cartoons.  This is probably one of the reasons why
    Hanna Barbera convinced Tsuburaya to change their proposed live-action
    coproduction (a sequel to the original Ultraman series) into the
    animated Ultraman: The
    Adventure Begins.  In fact, there were two attempts to bring over some
    live action Toei shows during that time.  One was a faithful dub of
    Bioman by Haim Saban and the other was a Power Ranger-style attempt by
    Marvel Comics.  Both failed.  Maybe this is why Ted Turner decided to
    sit on the rights for Ultraseven (despite having the series dubbed and
    ready to go for a 1985 release) until an employee convinced the right
    people to make use of it in the 90’s.

  • Good points. I suppose if Megaloman had made it to the States, it would be pretty weak tea indeed.

    I still say someone needs to start a company geared strictly toward dubbing these old shows into English. Anime shows get dubbed all the time, no matter how obscure (it seems). There needs to be a Funimation-type company focused on the live-action stuff (but a company that cares enough the dub them properly, with accents and everything).

  •  At least you think the [expletive deleted] would want it on DVD/Blu outside of Japan.

  • The Rev.

    Other than TNT’s running of their butchered “Ultra 7” episodes back when I was in high school, I didn’t get to see any of these things until well into adulthood.  I long to check out the uncut run of “Ultra 7, along with the other Ultra series of course, as well as finding runs of “Ambassador Magma” and “Johnny Sokko.”  I wouldn’t mind “Zone Fighter,” either.
    “Ultraman” has some great stuff; I was very pleased with that purchase.  I now need to get back to “Iron King”; I only got through the first two episodes (although I did get reviews written of those, which I’d meant to post on the old forum….probably won’t put ’em there now.)  I meant to watch it all first since I bought it first, but Ultraman’s allure was too great and he jumped the queue.  After that I’ve got some series called “Red Baron” that I picked up dirt-cheap at HPBooks since it had a guy in a giant robot costume on the cover.

  • There were a lot of neat-o shows like that. My main complaint with the few that have been given official release on DVD is that they’re all subtitled. Again I sound the call for a company dedicated to dubbing these shows into English!

    As the field is now, it’s certainly a ‘take what you can get’ proposition.

  • Ken_Begg

     I understand your passion, my friend, but please keep the language clean. Thanks!

  • The Rev.

    I have no problem with original dialogue w/ subtitles, although the “Ultraman” set was nice enough to include sub and dub.