Captain Ultra is, I’d assume, the result of Thunderbirds, Lost in Space and Flash Gordon getting together for a sexy night on the pills. The show is so absolutely 1960s it hurts.
Captain Ultra is a 1967 Toei production, ordered by the Tokyo Broadcasting System as a stop-gap show between Ultraman and Ultra Seven, despite the latter two programmes being Tsuburaya creations, rather than Toei. Captain shares a few of the hallmarks of the Ultraman series – the kaiju, scientific based military group, campy uniforms – but it is not part of the lineage at all and considered completely separate.
Our titular protagonist is every bit the rugged-jawed, hulking, adonis of a man you’d expect but with a heavy, and perhaps unhealthy, reliance on his emancipated sea-shell buddy, Joe, and tape recorder brained robot, Huck. I understand that technology had come a long, long way in the sixty years since then but did sci-fi writers of that era seriously think we’d still be using magnetic tape in the late 21st century? Where’s your space age tech predictions? C’mon, man!
While I joked about Thunderbirds earlier, the model work present is straight out of the Gerry Anderson playbook and combined with the horror/thriller music choices, you might be convinced that’s what you’re watching – were it not for the living people, of course.
The premise of the show is fairly simple; Humanity is reaching out into the galaxy and in so doing have found a need to defend themselves from various unfriendly alien races. In this first episode, a race of disk-headed green mushroom folk are the foe and, after wiping out an entire base of personnel, kidnap Captain Ultra’s female space cadet, Akane, and her boy understudy, Kenji. Akane is fairly resourceful but Kenji is utterly useless and pretty much just says “Sensei” a hundred times and looks helpless. Captain Ultra and co find that the pair are being held in a giant kaiju that actually turns out to be a giant robot. Ultra goes full good guy, frees his cadets, blows up the kaiju robot and rides off into the universe, ready for the next rubber suited villain.
All in all, Captain Ultra is only going to appeal to a niche section of the tokusatsu fandom in 2020. It’s vision of the future has not aged well and neither, honestly, have the alien designs and fight sequences. Unfortunately, the story isn’t compelling enough for me to overlook these things either so unless you’re particularly interested in the sixties style of ‘special filming’, I’d probably give this a miss. Watch the original Ultraman, if you haven’t already.
Want to watch it anyway? Captain Ultra is available via Toei Tokusatsu World Official on YouTube.