Ultraman: Series 1 Volume 1

Ultraman: Series 1 Volume 1 (1966)
BCI Home Entertainment
Extras: Kaiju Encyclopedia, Interviews, US Opening Credits

With the Japanese monster films (kaiju) such a success during the 60s and 70s, it was only a matter of time for a TV show to pop up that would take the genre and bring into people's homes on a regular basis with a regular cast of characters. In July 1966 "Ultraman" debuted and became a huge success spawning countless follow-up TV series. BCI Home Entertainment has now prepared the original show for DVD and released the first 20 episodes in its uncut version on a 3-disc DVD set.

Starting with "Ultra Operation No. 1" viewers will learn the origins of "Ultraman" and is introduced to the Science Patrol, a high tech police force to defend Earth from the unknown. The "unknown" usually turn out to be monsters and alien invaders that threaten the world. In a variety of episodes the show covers many aspects of life in the 60s and makes sure that Ultraman always has the chance to save the day.

The show is entertaining and funny in the way that all 60s scifi shows are. Special effects are cheap and poorly done, the acting is wickedly stiff and the monsters in this case are usually cheap rubber suit versions that don't properly fit the actors, but overall it is just good fun. Even some familiar monsters, like Godzilla, make their appearance in the show, although with slight modifications, no doubt to avoid copyright infringements.

BCI Home Entertainment has prepared the original, uncut versions of the episodes for this DVD release. Since parts of these have never been aired in the US you will find that occasionally the show will switch back to Japanese language as no English dubs exist. In those instances subtitles will be displayed on the screen, of course, to make sure you can still follow the action.

The show is presented in its original fullframe version on this DVD set. While mostly free of grain, the transfer is noisy and is sadly severely riddled by compression artifacts. Like many TV shows of the era, the transfer lacks proper sharpness and appears soft and washed out in many instances. Colors are washed out also and never live up to the original production and though it offers good black levels, the presentation lacks a certain visual depth. However, despite its short comings I found "Ultraman" to be enjoyable to watch. Since the production itself is so riddled with technical flaws and cheap special effects, the transfer problems sort of blend into the whole mix and don't stand out as overly distracting by themselves.

The audio comes to you in either English or Japanese, complete with English subtitles. The audio is in okay condition but hasn't been notably cleaned up. As such the track offers an audibly limited frequency response that gives dialogues a harsh quality. It clearly dates the show as well as the music that is occasionally distorted.

The release also includes interviews wit hthe team that dubbed the show, as well as a cool Kaji Encyclopedia and a small booklet covering the history of "Ultraman" and a brief overview over each of the episodes on the disc set.

Featuring 20 of the 39 episodes of the original TV show, this DVD set of "Ultraman" is a hoot and a cool throwback to the 60s. It has technical flaws and isn't perfect by any means, but interestingly it doesn't distract from the sheer exuberance of the show at all. Filled with cool monsters there is something to enjoy in every episode and makes you look forward to the release of the remaining 19 episodes, due out in October 2006. Until then, I'm sure I won't get the show's title tune out of my head. "Ultraman, Ultraman, all the way from the stars…"