EDIT: I mistakenly confused Ultra Zoffy with it's Thai counterpart The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. The Monster Army, Sorry 'bout that! Thanks to Keith from SciFi Japan for helping me clear that up!
decided to put off three other reviews I had intended on cranking out before I signed on for any more. That was before I decided to put this on last night as I was laying in bed half awake. Despite it having no subtitles (face it guys, that can be rough) this movie totally woke me up. I think I can safely say it's the most fun and easiest to follow foreign movie I've ever tried to watch without subtitles. It's also a nice follow up to my last review of King Kong Vs. Godzilla.
If my knowledge of Godzilla and friends is limited then my knowledge of Ultraman is almost non-existent. Before this year I hadn't even seen an entire episode. Appalling, I know! For one, I just wasn't exposed to it as a kid. Secondly, the box sets were pricey and not available on Netflix, and lastly (lamely) it just seemed daunting and I still had so much to learn about the King of Monsters himself. Thanks to Millcreek Entertainment, the issue of cost was solved. They put out the complete original series of Ultraman, Super Robot Red Baron and Iron King all for a measely $7.88 at Walmart. Imagine my surprise when I go in to pick up some milk and eggs only to discover that my Japanese Superhero dreams have come true. So begins a new affordable obsession. Like all of my obsessions they always seem to lead to another.
I may be rambling here, but that's not what lead to this discovery, that's just a brief summary of the discovery of a very important facet of pop culture. A few weeks ago I was going through another trader's list. I try to make informed decisions about my trades so if something sounds interesting and I'm unfamiliar with it I always look it up. I came across a movie called Hanuman and the 5 Riders. Sounds both strange and unfamiliar. When I looked it up I discovered a whole world of wonder that kind of blew my mind. Thanks to my two new favorite blogs Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! and Ninja Dixon I unearthed a wonderful hack of a director, Sompote Sands. A Thai director/producer who's notorious for making elaborate, trashy, insane epics. He's also infamous for stealing footage. Tsuburaya Productions just finally won a case after 30-something years of litigation against his company, Chaiyo, within the past few years for jacking not just whole scenes, but giant chunks of whole MOVIE from none other than... The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. The Monster Army. Naturally I had to see it. When I say "IT" I mean "ALL OF IT!". I spent the next week researching, trading, finagling and ordering overseas to get as much as I could. I decided amidst all of this excitement, I might as well check out this Ultra movie since my interest in the series has recently been fully embraced. I got this and the original rip-off (oxymoron?) Hanuman Vs. 7 Ultraman. I decided it would be wise to watch the classic first, so that brings us up date. Phew! That was a heck of a lot of backstory.
The title pretty much says it all. It's about six Ultra Brothers fighting a SHIT LOAD of monsters. More than I'd ever seen in any one movie. Our host and hero, Ultra Zoffy narrates, but having no subtitles his dictation worked well as sort of a referee for the hijinks ensuing on the screen.
Click on "read more" for MUCH more monster madness....
The special effects in this movie pretty much blew my ass away. Beats the hell out of most of the glossy over-produced CGI that you'd see in recent movies. The fact that everything was done by hand is astounding. I can't even imagine the time and effort that was put into making this. I should be used to that by now. Most Kaiju movies leave me with a similar feeling, but this madness was no holds bard! A new monster was introduced every minutes or two. A solid 5 minutes did not pass with out fresh meat for the monster fight fest!
Rest assure, there are car eating robots.
Unfortunately there is very little information on this original version of the film. Since the Sompote Sands rip-off often goes by the same name, even on IMDB S.S. is listed first as being director, and the real director Shohei Tôjô is listed second. The plot describes the Hanuman version and the only review listed makes the same mistake. The same goes for Wikipedia. Unless I missed something that was lost in translation, I find this mistake disheartening. The only advantage I have from being someone who knows relatively nothing about Ultraman is that I can say semi-unbiasedly that this movie could be enjoyed by just about anyone. Perhaps that's no epiphany. In fact, it's not at all. It's pretty obvious to anyone who would see this that it is fantastic.
Towards the end the brothers team up to defeat the Monster Army who have been terrorizing Earth. This is the first time I got to see what I can only assume is the Ultra Galaxy. A magnificent wonderland with electric pillars of light and fire. Magical tapestries of color and patterns layering upon shadows, crystals and distant planets of mystery. An ethereal LSD induced aurora borealis. It was truly a beautiful sight. At first glance I would have assumed I accidentally changed the channel to the Red Shoes or a Bava movie such as Hercules in the Haunted World. There depth and dimension to this Planet that I desire from a fantasy film, and very rarely ever get. The genius of Tsuburaya's influence was illuminous in this scene and it plateaued my opinion of the film from amazing to masterpiece.
For this review more than others I thought it was wise to make it extra picture heavy. My limited research material makes it difficult to be as thorough as I'd like. I'm still a bit confused about this film and the chronology of Sompote Sands rip-offs. Apparently he even ripped off his own rip-off in 1984 with Space Warriors 2000, which was the same year Ultra Zoffy came out, which just happens to be an alternate title for this movie. Jesus Christ. As I see more and dig even deeper hopefully I can feel more secure in the information I give. But as for now I can only take The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. The Monster Army at face value and that's a perfectly acceptable and delightful way to experience this film.
Stay tuned! Over the course of the next few weeks I'll be reviewing all the hack-master himself's partial filmography (whatever I could get my proverbial internet hands on), Sompote Sands, and we'll see how they measures up!