Tsuburaya Productions 1966
16 hours 23 min. / Color / 1.33:1 / Japanese w/optional English subtitles
Mill Creek Blu-ray $49.95 (Steelbox), $39;95 (Standard)

In the early '70s, one of the most popular programs on TV for us kids was Ultraman, which we saw in Northeast Ohio daily on WUAB-TV 43, the first independent UHF channel in the area.

In the far future, the legendary Science Patrol protects Earth from monsters. And who protects the orange-clad helmeted Science Patrol? Why Ultraman, a flying giant from outer space, who accidentally crashed on earth and killed one of the S.P. guys, Hayata. Ultraman, feeling sorry about the whole thing, brings Hayata back to life and "melds" with him, giving him a beta capsule (it looks like one of those light-sticks gnarly old people hold up at Moody Blues concerts so they can see where the restrooms are) that transforms him into ULTRAMAN, champion of the weak and oppressed. Or at least ULTRAMAN, ass-kicker of giant monsters. Each episode is pretty much like a little Godzilla movie. After 39 episodes (and nearly as many giant monsters), Ultraman returned to his far-space home to recuperate, and we can't really blame him, can we?

As mentioned, this was a childhood favorite (along with such other Japanese imports as Jonny Sokko and his Flying Robot and Astro Boy) and Mill Creek is unleasing the entire Ultra series, which consists of a plethora of shows of which I was unaware, including the first (and only one in B&W), a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits wannabe called Ultra Q that pre-dated Ultraman, also out now, and the third series, Ultraseven, from 1967. Here in the Balcony, we watched the old DVD set of Ultraman several times, but there's no comparison: the new Blu-ray release blows it away with 100% improvement in image and sound. Note that the English-language dubbing has gone by the wayside, with only the original Japanese included (including optional English subtitles). All 39 episodes are included; bonus material includes several featurettes and a must-have full color booklet with episode guide, monster guide, and everything you want to know about our hero, cast, and show.

One of our favorite releases of the year, and we're greatly looking forward to seeing the other Ultra series for the first time.