"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog


Monday, September 1, 2008

Monster of the Month
Keloid Alien: S'PELL

被爆星人スペル星人 「ウルトラセブン」より


©Tsuburaya Productions

Height: 1.7-40 meters • Weight: 160 kilograms-1,500 metric tonnes • Origin: Planet S'pell • Original Appearance: ULTRA SEVEN (1967-68) Episode 12 “From Another World With Love" • Suit Actor: Seikichi Nakamura • Voice Actor: Isao Yasu • Design: Tohru Narita • Fabricator: Ryosaku Takayama

Exposed to intense radiation from an experimental "S'pellium Bomb," these mutated keloid beings sent an expedition to Earth to find a cure. The S'pell agents developed a device, disguised as a wristwatch, which absorbs the wearer's blood supply into concentrated crystals—and they soon discovered that the most pure blood was that of human children. When their plans were uncovered by the Ultra Garrison, one of the extraterrestrials transformed into a colossus that could emit a high-intensity heat ray from its eyes (powerful enough to kill 10,000 men), and fly at speeds up to Mach 20.

After it's initial broadcast, this episode was put on a self-imposed ban due to controversy arising from labeling this creature "Hibaku Seijin" (A-Bomb Survivor Alien)—from "Hibakusha", a term referring to the A-Bomb Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The term was coined by Shoji Otomo, a writer working feelance for Tsuburaya Productions and Akita Shoten publishing, first appearing in a 1968 pictorial in Bokura magazine. In 1970, a teenager stumbled across the term on a monster card that came in her younger brother's copy of Shogakukan's Grammar School: Second Year, and alerted her father, who was a member of the Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

Even though the term "Hibaku Seijin" was changed to "Kyuketsu Seijin" (Vampire Alien), an article featured in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper turned public opinion against Tsuburaya Productions, and the episode and the alien were then banished from all subsequent publications, broadcasts and home video releases. Ironically, an English-dubbed version of the episode was broadcast in Hawaii in the mid-1970s on Honolulu's KHON-4, and was later aired on the Atlanta-based TNT cable network in 1997 (as "Crystallized Corpuscles"). In 2000, the rights the TNT version reverted back to Tsuburaya Productions, and so it is doubtful that Alien S'pell will ever see the light of day again.

3 comments:

prof. grewbeard said...

how unfortunate that we'll never be able to see this episode to determine for ourselves whether the use of this character was meant to be for social comment or just exploitative thrill, or both(likely?)...

in the meantime, more monsters more often please!

Bunche said...

I saw one or two of the TNT version of ULTRA-SEVEN, but the what I saw just didn't grip me. I've heard nothing but great things about the series in its original form and would love to experience it as such, so is there any word of an American DVD release of a subbed version?

August Ragone said...

Well, there are ways to see this episode... the truth is out there. Hopefully, one day we'll see ULTRA SEVEN released on home video in the US, but how soon that will happen is anyone's guess at this point.

Cheers,
August