Question: I used to enjoy watching an old kids' show called Ultraman. I am not sure who starred in it or who made the series, but I would like to share it with my little girl if it's on video. Can you help me with a good, solid lead? Thanks in advance. Felice
Televisionary: On the contrary, ma'am, thank you for breaking with tradition and attempting to throw some good, old-fashioned monster-whomping entertainment your daughter's way. Many other moms simply buy their girls as many My Little Pony items as they can get their hands on and leave the boy toys, um, to the boys.
From what I can gather, the best source of commercially available videos of the original '60s Ultraman series is Right Stuf International, which offers the first four episodes only. I've come across other sites offering what appears to be bootlegged tapes, which I'm sure doesn't make Japan's Tsuburaya the company that originally produced the show all that happy.
You're not the first to write in with Ultraman questions, certainly. A sizable, hardcore kid population grew up on the initial 39-episode series, which was first syndicated in the U.S. in 1966. Not that I myself was childish enough to run around the playground with a tin-foil beta capsule. Nor did I stir the melted ice-cream-and-syrup mix at the bottom of the bowl in circles, trying to create the pre-theme-song effect. Naw, not me.
Okay, so I was an addict, and I blame the same Philadelphia-area UHF stations that beamed Marine Boy and The Banana Splits into my head.
For those of you who have no idea what Felice and I are going on about, Ultraman focused on a 200-foot-tall space policeman (Susumu Kurobe) from Nebula M78 who traveled around the universe ridding the world of similarly giant monsters. Normally, you'd think there wouldn't be much call for such duties. However, Japan alone hosted endless numbers of hideous creatures who randomly erupted from mountains and lakes to trash the neighboring towns, so Ultraman was plenty busy.
Problem was, in the first episode he was towing a hapless enemy to a graveyard for space monsters when he collided with a ship flown by earthling Hayata (Bin Furaya). The only way he could save Hayata from certain death was to hand some life force over, thus linking the two. Whenever Hayata and his Science Patrol cronies came up against a baddie they couldn't handle, he went off and held his beta capsule aloft, transforming into Ultraman in Shazam-like fashion.
Sound silly? Listen, not only did Ultraman spawn several Ultra-spinoffs (and more Ultra-beings than I can count), but series of its ilk (Johnny Sokko, Space Giants) pretty much wrote the book for the creators of Power Rangers-like shows to cash in on years later.
Alright, so maybe that's evidence for the prosecution rather than the defense.