When the Japanese special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya passed away in 1970, his son Hajime took over the family business, Tsuburaya Productions. In what would prove to be a very smart move, he resurrected the Ultra Series with The Return Of Ultraman. (Sadly, Hajime Tsuburaya passed away in 1973.)
The Return Of Ultraman was the fourth entry in the Ultra Series, and what’s cool about this batch is that Ishirō Honda, the principal director of Toho’s Godzilla movies and other kaiju pictures, was on hand for a few episodes, including the first one, “All Monsters Attack.” Honda is the John Ford of Japanese monster movies — everyone copies what he did, but no one could come close to the master’s work. (Years later, Akira Kurosawa would coax Honda our of retirement to work on his later films, sometimes as a second unit director.)
You could probably say The Return Of Ultraman is more of the same. Which, if you like the earlier stuff, sounds like a pretty good deal. (Today, Hollywood pretty much lives on the “more of the same” approach to filmmaking.) There are some subtle differences in how our new Ultraman, a race-car driver named Hideki Go, works — and there are some alterations to the Ultraman outfit, but when it comes to Ultraman battling monsters, the Tsuburayas knew they were onto a good thing.
What I found interesting about The Return Of Ultraman is that the Ishirō Honda episodes have a slightly different look and feel to them. Honda’s style, while maybe hard to describe, seems to be impossible to duplicate (whether it’s Godzilla or Ultraman, features or TV).
Mill Creek has released The Return Of Ultraman as part of their ongoing Ultraman DVD/Blu-Ray program, and like its predecessors, it looks and sounds terrific. They’re presented in Japanese with nice English subtitles (even the theme song), they look like a million bucks, and they’re packaged with obvious care. The monster “roster” included in the booklet is a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see something like this, as goofy or juvenile as it may seem, receive stellar treatment like this. For fans of this sort of thing, this is highly, highly recommended.