Japanese special effects legend Eiji Tsuburaya's giddy and surreal '60s-era science fiction television series Ultraseven
is rescued from its long tenure in grey-market sources with this six-disc set. Produced in 1967, Ultraseven
was the third in a lengthy and complicated library of live-action and animated television programs, feature films, and specials, all largely concerning the Ultra family of alien superheroes who defend Earth from an exhaustive array of giant monsters; here, the variation on the central theme is the origin story detailed in the first episode, where Ultra Seven, an alien crusader from the same planet as his predecessor, Ultraman, rescues an ailing mountain climber and assumes his form in order to join the Ultra Guard, a team of six (including actors Iyoshi Ishii and Bin Furuya from the original Ultraman
series) guarding the Earth from extraterrestrial threat. When called into action each episode by the arrival of one or more of Tsuburaya's outlandish and energetic monster creations, Ultra Seven adopts his giant costumed form to unleash an array of spectacular weapons with appropriately explosive results. As with other titles in the Ultra franchise, said monster showdowns remain the show's key appeal, as well as Ultra Seven's lack of the time constraint that hampered the powers of his Ultra brethren (thus allowing for longer and more elaborate fights), which helped to make him one of the most popular figures in Ultra history, as evidenced by his reappearance in several subsequent spinoff series. Ultraseven
also does commendable work for attempting to place the monster rumble sequences within the framework of more detailed stories than are usually seen in the tokusatsu
(live-action science fiction) genre.
Unlike Ultraman, Ultraseven went largely unseen by stateside audiences, save for Hawaii residents who saw it in limited syndication during the 1970s. TNT finally picked up the series for broadcast during the early morning hours in the early 1990s, but this version featured a decidedly tongue-in-cheek dub by the Canadian production company Cinar, which transformed the program into broad camp. Ultraseven was later swept up into a contentious legal battle between Tsuburaya Productions and Chaiyo, a Thai company that laid a questionable claim on six of the Ultra series. The latter entity has provided the source material for this release, which looks fine if not perfect--a respectable situation, given that the series was filmed in 16mm (a difficult format to remaster) and the DVD elements come from a third-party source. Audio is the original Japanese track with optional subtitles, which may come as a disappointment for those who fondly remember the Hawaiian or Cinar dubs. And, as Internet sources have widely reported, this is not the "complete" series--missing from the set is "From Another Planet with Love," which featured a blood-consuming alien whose disfigured appearance was unfortunately compared in press material to survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Tsuburaya subsequently pulled the episode from broadcast and home video releases, though it aired in Hawaii and on TNT. Its absence, while unfortunate, should not detract from viewers' enjoyment of the set, which also features a typically thorough booklet of liner notes by Japanese genre expert August Ragone. --Paul Gaita
THE EARTH IS IN DANGER! Even now, fiendish hands are stretching out from the distant stars to seize the world. From their massive underground complex near Mt. Fuji, the Ultra Guard, an elite unit of the Terrestrial Defense Force, equipped with a squadron of Ultra Hawks, stands vigilant as our decisive first-line to combat the myriad of alien aggressors, who threaten the very existence of our planet. But, unbeknownst to his fellow teammates, Dan Moroboshi, is secretly an extraterrestrial aiding them in their fight to preserve the future of humanity, considered the 7th member of the Ultra Guard :better known as Ultra Seven!
Produced by the creative team behind Ultraman, Ultra Seven is the third entry in the Ultra Series, and is arguably the best of the long-running franchise, with its emphasis on science fiction and themes touching on subjects ranging from the cruelty of war to social and racial injustices in the grand tradition of Star Trek and The Outer Limits. Plus, Ultra Seven features the colossal monsters and spectacular visual effects viewers expect from the men who brought Godzilla to life! For the first time on home video, complete and uncut, Shout! Factory s complete box set of Ultra Seven is a must-have!