Monday, November 28, 2011

ULTRAMAN MONDAYS: Operation Electric Stone Fire

Every Monday I review an episode from the classic Ultraman television series.

Episode 09: "Operation Electric Stone Fire" (catch up on past episodes) 
Original Air Date: September 11, 1966

Featured Monster: Gabora


While towns try to rebuild after a devastating storm, the reconstruction efforts are put in jeopardy by the appearance of a giant uranium-eating monster.


After last week's amazing monster-palooza episode "Monster Lawless Zone," this week's episode seems very thin and boring by comparison. Lacking in tension and plot, "Operation Electric Stone Fire" is about as run-of-the-mill as you can get with Ultraman.

The episode begins after a typhoon has devestated an island community that is home to a youth camp. Were red fedoras popular in Japan in 1966? Because every kid, even Hoshino (the Science Patrol's kid partner), seems to wear one. What's up with that? Anyway, the youth camp has been cut off from food supplies by the storm, so two of the older kid strike out on their own to try and make it to town for supplies.

Perhaps if the Hitler Youth had worn red caps they'd be more fondly remembered.
Meanwhile, the Science Patrol is sitting on their asses looking smug and doing nothing. I guess devestating storms are really nothing to bat an eye at when you routinely encounter giant atomic monsters and creatures from space each week. Even still, you'd think Science Patrol would offer to extend the use of their high-tech ships, submarines, and other technology to the reconstruction or search and rescue efforts, but no. They're just having a lazy, rainy afternoon. Even the annoying Hoshino is more productive.

Massive storm? Pffft! Call us when it's a guy in a rubber monster suit.
Soon after the storm passes, Science Patrol finds a reason to get moving when a giant four-legged monster with a conical head emerges from the ground. It's Gabora, the locals shout and then run for cover as the monster shakes itself free of the dirt and tromps into the countryside.

If the Japanese did Tremors
Gabora seems to be a household name in these parts. The locals know it and the Science Patrol know it. They speak as if its common knowledge that Gabora is an atomic monster that shoots uranium beams. Logically, Gabora also eats uranium. The absence of mystery surrounding the creature really sucks the life out of this episode.

Never shoot Gabora from his bad side.
Gabora is prevented from entering some of the towns by blasting him with fire, but to truly lure Gabora away from the population, Hayata (who is secretly the giant alien superhero Ultraman) must pilot a helicopter and dangle a capsule of uranimum as bait. Hoshino and Fuji stow away for this dangerous mission, but one false move and they'll all be fried by Gabora's uranium beam.

Look ma, I'm bloomin'!
Gabora tries to take down the helicopter with his uranium beam, but to fire it he must open the shielded plating that covers his head in a cone. Like a blossoming flower opening to bloom, Gabora's head shield folds open to reveal that Gabora's costume is simply a re-use of the Neronga costume. I recognize those teeth anywhere!

Gabora eats uranium and shoots uranium beams. Does that mean I can shoot hamburger beams?
Unfortunately, Hayata manages to lure Gabora right into the path of the two youth campers who have become lost in the woods on their trek to find food for the rest of the campers. Hayata lands the plane so Fuji and Hoshino can help the kids, but once he takes to the air again he encounters a pissed-off and hungry Gabora. Without warning, Gabora rears up on his hind legs and bitch-slaps Hayata's chopper right out of the sky! As often happens, Hayata survives what would normally be certain death. Ejeted from the wreckage, Gabora manages to grab the Beta capsule and transforms into Ultraman!
It takes two to tango, baby
The battle that follows is quite energetic, with Ultraman landing blows to Gabora's face, riding him like a $2 bucking bronco, and then ripping off several of Gabora's face shields

The Shriek of the Mutilated

Perhaps from the trauma of being viciously mutilated, Gabora finally falls to the ground. The light literally goes out of his eyes, telling us that this week's disposable monster is dead! The fight was extremely quick and Gabora didn't seem to pose much of a threat to Ultraman. All in all, the energy was high, but the monster battle was unsatisfying.

Hayata embarrasses himself in front of the children
With the fedora-loving camper kids rescuted, the Science Patrol helps deliever food to the rest of the stranded campers. Before they leave, Hayata is confronted by the two kids he helped save. They voice their concern for him then say what we're all thinking: "How the hell did you survive?" Hayata, ever the smooth customer, makes a silly face, puffs out his chest, and brushes the whole thing off as no big deal. Take a tip from Clark Kent, Hayata. Don't play up your strength if you're trying to hide your identity as a giant alien superhero.

So, those were the life and times of Gabora. The plot was thin and there was no mystery or suspense, but at least the pace was quick and the episode didn't drag.

I can't say the same thing for next week's episode: "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base." Come back next week for ULTRAMAN MONDAYS as we look at one of the strangest, most surreal, and utterly perplexing episodes of Ultraman yet!

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