Monday, August 13, 2018
When kaiju ruled the theaters there was a sensible attempt to translate the phenomenon of giant monsters to the small screen. This was hampered by budgets, already relatively small on periodic films, but tiny on weekly TV. Nonetheless there was Ultra Q the first of the Ultra series which soon gave the world the famous Ultraman. Eiji Tsubaraya's special effects were the key to the success of this show as even some designs from the films made their way onto the small screen, most notably a jacked up rendition of even the mighty Godzilla.
The show though doesn't really succeed in my opinion because of the monsters, though many of them are delightfully odd and even on some occasions scary, but it succeeded because of the tone of the story telling which was brisk (a half-hour is a perfect vehicle for most TV shows to honest) and compelling. We follow a trio of intrepid investigators, two pilots and a girl reporter, who respond to weird and unusual events which crop up on a weekly basis. Apparently the goal was to create a show which captured vibe found in American shows like Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and the more purely science-fiction show The Outer Limits. The latter is the most comparable to what Ultra Q feels like with a supercharge of kaiju to mix it up a bit.
Ultra Q is a smart bit of television which is helped enormously in my opinion by its black and white status, imbuing the show with an atmosphere ideal to the types of mysteries being explored. There's a garishness to color, especially in regard to many of the kaiju which would make the proceedings feel less compelling. If you haven't seen Ultra Q I heartily recommend it, as I found I like quite a bit more than the later Ultraman, though that show certainly has virtues of its own. More on that later. I liked Ultra Q so much, I actually am ready to watch it again already, but I'll hold off a little while.