Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Atlas Television Presents... SUPER-LOST SUPER-MARIONATION DVD-R (Atlas address given)

Have you worn out all of your Gerry Anderson Supermarionation DVDs and still want more? If so you might want to give this way-outta-the-loop platter a go. A definitely home-made affair courtesy the anonymous ones at Atlas Television, SUPER-LOST SUPER-MARIONATION's a grey-market collection of old Japanese Gerry Anderson knockoffs that only add to the stereotype that all Japan could do at the time (before the nation got its collective act together) was imitate the success of western technology and art and do a mighty shoddy job at it! Of course if you like shoddiness like I tend to at times a disque like this certainly does come in handy, and these Japanese kiddie shows do help out when one is on the lookout for the best low-fi entertainment that was being passed off for kids (and adults) who thankfully didn't know better.

This disque might be a drag since it's all in Japanese and you're lucky if you get some French subtitles or a slight bitta narration in a high-class English accent, but the spirit of bargain basement fun and games shines through on these programs which are slightly analogous to what the 1960 Toyota was to the 1954 Ford. SPACESHIP SILICA's the earliest of the lot, a 1960 production (NHK really must have been anxious to crank out their own SUPERCAR swipe since that 'un was barely out of the hamper when this arrived!) is the most primitive of 'em all with marionettes who don't even move their mouths and off-the-shelf windup toys adding even more addled mystique to this tale of a dragon that's attacking a spaceship (there's the subplot about this survivor of another ship wrecked by said dragon) with an ending that's so bizarre I'd swear the good guys lose! Really, this one is about as coherent as some of the dreams I've been having recently, a few which I think are also being relayed to me in Japanese!

The '63 production SPACE PATROL that follows ain't the English knockoff that was actually syndicated in the USA under the title PLANET PATROL as to not confuse any Tom Corbett fans but an original Japanese series that's a slight (in the strictest sense) cut above SILICA. This is the one with the French subtitles and some frog doing an intro/outro voiceover, and at least the puppets here can open and shut their mouths and move about somewhat. Interesting use of cheap pre-anime-styled cartoonage in the outer space scenes, and overall the influence of FIREBALL can be discerned from the entire premise to the colorful cast of supporting characters including a cowboy named what else but Tex and a Mexican boy named what else but Pedro whose sombrero keeps popping off his head whenever he becomes startled or surprised. Believe-you-me, if you wanna live you should give a listen to Japanese voices intoning Western and Mexican accents!

By the time AERIAL CITY 008 popped up around '70 Japanese television had gone color and the production values had slightly graduated to the point where this one resembles what THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO would have looked like if Anderson had to rely on the same technology he used with TORCHY THE BATTERY BOY. Interesting Sci-Fi fun nonetheless, with an international team going to work trying to save the world from an experiment using the force of magma that would turn winter into spring gone awry! Again, hearing Japanese voices doing French accents with a strange Frenchese mixture is quite strange as are all of the trotted-out ethnic portrayals which probably wouldn't go over well with the kind of people who write for big city newspapers and act as arbiters of what is supposed to be prim and proper in this post-racial age, but you know the members of these various groups usually chortle with approval at the appearance of an El Brendel or Chico Marx (let along Leo Castillo) so why should we let these upper-crusts tell us what to enjoy anyway! And yeah it's all cheap plastic junk, or at least the televised version of such, but it's MY cheap plastic junk and don't you forget it!

Atlas stuck this short kiddie show entitled THE ADVENTURES OF POINDEXTER at the end, a program which has nothing to do with Supermarionation having been produced for Educational tee-vee way back in 1953, but since it was marionette-based I guess they figured what else to pad the package out with! This is undoubtedly what those classroom instructional television programs that PBS stations aired in the mornings/afternoons for years were like, and oddly enough when PBS first went on the air in this area in '73 much of their programming was along the lines of this fodder for the little finks in second grade!

One more thing, the music for all of these Japanese productions was composed and performed by none other than Isao Tomita, the same guy who made bundles on those electronic albums in the seventies that really wowed the rubes with their technological wheezes and chortles. (Though frankly, I do remember taking a copy of his FIREBIRD SUITE out of the library and being totally snoozed by the banality of it all!) Here he does some surprisingly way-above-par adventure music that suits the action well, complete with this one awe-inspiring interlude in SPACE PATROL which was supposed to represent some extraterrestrial lunar music but sounds like rather good early-sixties classical avant garde to me. Hmmmm, by any chance does Tomita's involvement with these programs make him Japan's answer to Barry Gray?

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

That sounds great...I'm an Atlas customer, will have to check it out. I've been watching a few Atlas DVD-r's recently: the 1953 William Mishkin-produced, NYC-lensed VIOLATED, a gritty sex-killing melodrama with lots of great location shooting; THUNDER COUNTY, the last film produced by K. Gordon Murray (from 1974), a combination women-in-prison and redneck swamp chase film with Mickey Rooney and Ted Cassidy; and Andy Milligan's BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS, one of the ones he made in England circa 1969.