'Ultra Q - The Complete Series'
(Kenji Sahara, Hiroko Sakurai, Yasuhiko Saijo, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (1965) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions.
The first production under his new label was 'Ultra Q,' a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.
The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai, Ultraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan.
These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future 'Ultraman' shows and movies.
DVD Verdict: In 1964 newly formed Tsuburaya Production was looking to make Japan's first sci-fi TV series. The series that was tentatively named "Woo" was canceled, but Tsuburaya Production already spent considerable cash to purchase the optical printer needed for the special effects.
So Tokyo Broadcasting Station paid for the optical printer, and advanced the money needed to film the new series called 'Unbalance.' Initially the program was modeled after the 'Twilight Zone' and 'Outer Limits' that was popular in the US, but due to the producer's desire to target specific audience, the program was changed to feature much of kaijyu style monsters in the episodes.
The series name was also changed (again) to, of course, 'Ultra Q.'
The story features pilot Jun Manjyome (Kenji Sahara), assistant pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijyo), and a news reporter Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai), with other supporting cast.
The story featured ancient kaijyu coming to life, invasion from outer space, invasion from the future, mutated monster, a boy that turned into a monster, a boy that befriends a giant turtle, battle with giant octopus etc. and was a veritable smorgasbord of kaijyu related topics.
The TV series that had unknown potential frequently rated over 30%, and became a huge success. This lead to the follow on program the Ultraman - of which variation still continues to this day.
As noted, a total of 28 episodes were aired, and all the episodes were filmed in black and white, but recently, a colorized version has been released (although that is not part of this beautiful new box-set from Mill Street Entertainment).
Looking back at this series now, the rough edges are evident at various places, but it filled the need of young viewers to see exciting new monster every week.
Quality of the stories varied, but they were all very experimental, and difficult to rate either by their effort or by their quality. By today's standard, they were all of low budget nature, but at the time, this was one of the most expensive TV series to be produced.
All of this makes this series difficult to rate. Depending on who sees it, it might be taken as a low budget crap or highly experimental masterpiece.
In truth, my own opinion varies between the episodes. The focus of the stories varied from episode to episode. Some were bona fide sci-fi, others were like fantasy, but the series lacked focus compared to 'Twilight Zone' (a series that had intrigue at the center of each episode).
That all said, the cast is filled with familiar faces from other Japanese science fiction and monster movies. The lead pilot (Kenji Sahara) was in a ton of these movies, from the first Godzilla ('GOJIRA', 1954) to the last ('GODZILLA: FINAL WARS', 2005).
Jun Tazaki, a regular cast member given to playing generals or authoritative scientists ('DESTROY ALL MONSTERS'), turns up as a general in ep. #3.
The newspaper editor who publishes the heroes' articles and photos is played by Yoshifumi Tajima, another regular in kaiju movies. The lead actress, Hiroko Sakurai, also turned up as one of the Ultra crew in 'Ultraman.'
In closing, copies of this series have been so rare to find, let alone watch outside of Japan, but now that Mill Creek Entertainment have brought this wondrous box-set out (along with 'Ultraman: The Complete Series),' well, my long lost inner '60s child has come back home and is very content; thank you, Mill Creek. Thank you. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Complete, original Japanese broadcast edits - fully remastered and restored in HD
Lossless DTS-HD Master Audio
28-page collectible booklet
Digital Redemption on movieSPREE!