Ultraman 1.22 – Overthrow the Surface

Anybody worried about all the collateral property damage that goes on when our heroes shower the monsters with rockets and bombs can rest assured that our son shares your concern. “The Science Patrol should know that they’re going to set the whole world on fire!” he shouted as the monster Telesdon shrugs off another barrage of missiles and the city around it explodes. He really enjoyed this creepy episode.

It may be pushing things to use phrases like “cinéma vérité” when writing about a clunky old kids’ show, but this episode has the most downright bizarre set of visuals in the series so far. Almost the whole thing seems to have been filmed by hand, with the actors framed behind objects like desks or stairwells that dominate the screen. All of the sets – including the headquarters we’re so used to – are lit so low that we can’t see the walls. At one point, the camera lingers on Ito for a tracking shot that lasts for several seconds while he walks down a corridor, nervously fingering his gun.

Things get even weirder when we meet the villainous Underground People, who live 275 miles beneath Tokyo Bay and dress like the Men in Black. The director is more interested in showing off empty chairs or ceiling lights during these sequences, which are tinted brown. The Underground People, who returned in at least one of the subsequent series, don’t have eyes underneath their Ray-Bans and know that Hayata uses the Beta capsule to become Ultraman. Telesdon apparently returned even more frequently than his subterranean masters, and even made a cameo in a seventies Godzilla film when a production drawing of the beast was used to illustrate a dinosaur.

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