“From the far reaches of Outer Space comes a threat to planet Earth….mankind faces its most powerful enemy, the Master mind Rodak, THE SPACE GIANTS! Goldar, a 50 foot robot and his electronic space family are created to defend our world.”
When I was a wee lad, imports of Japanese monster shows were all the rage on TV. Ultraman, Johnny Sokko, Spectre Man….they were on TV right when school ended for the day. Anyone familiar with these types of shows knows the drill about them: a giant monster threatens to destroy the world (or at least Japan) and an equally giant robot (or in Ultraman’s case, alien) comes to the rescue to beat the monster to a giant pulp. I loved these shows as a kid, they were great fun. But there was one show in this genre that kind of creeped me out a bit: The Space Giants.
In the first episode we start right off witnessing a man literally fall to earth from the sky. He walks calmly to a nearby phone booth (with spurs on his boots no less) and walks through the door… without opening it! The man calls the home of reporter Tom Mora. Mora works for the National Press International in Tokyo, but he’s not home. So he leaves a message with Mora’s son Miko, to tell his father that the Great Rodak will arrive tomorrow at 6 AM. Miko is excited, thinking that perhaps Rodak is a magician or something and can’t wait to tell his father when he gets home. (His mother dismisses the whole thing) When Mora returns home he doesn’t seem to concerned either. But come the dawn the family awakens to find their home has transported back the age of the dinosaurs! Bewildered they witness the appearance of Rodak, a grey skinned, evil alien intent on conquering the Earth. Rodak wants Mora to tell the world to surrender to him and has used this demonstration of his power to show Mora that he means business! Rodak is also a bit of a media hog… he allows…indeed, encourages Miko to take his photo.
Rodak then returns the family to the present. But Miko has other surprises in store. He is soon visited by a giant golden robot named Goldar. Goldar explains that he must have the film with Rodak’s picture. Rodak is his sworn enemy and the golden robot has been sent to Earth to destroy him. He takes Miko back to his base in “Mount Olympian” to speak with his boss, the wise old wizard Methusem. You see, Goldar can change from robot form into that of a rocket and fly at fantastic speeds. (In many respects, Goldar is probably the first Transformer!) There Miko meets Methusem and Goldar’s Normal sized wife, Silvar. (She looks human, but she’s a robot too) Silvar is taken with the boy and asks Methusem to create a son like Miko for herself and Goldar. He does so, and the result is Gam, the Rocket Boy. Like his mother Gam looks like a human boy only with a goofy looking helmet with antennas on his head. Also, like his parents Gam can transform into a super fast rocket ship. Miko and Gam become fast friends, and that’s good since a lot of the episodes feature their adventures together. Goldar gives Miko a special whistle with which he can summon them in emergencies. One whistle will summon Gam, Two will bring Silvar, and three will call Goldar, The Space Avenger.
The stories in space Giants were unlike the other “giant monster” shows. The tales encompassed several episodes, featuring a monster and scheme of Rodak’s to take over the world. And in a lot of them, Goldar fighting a giant creature wasn’t the solution to the problem. Rodak employed aliens called Lugu Men, that could disguise themselves as normal humans. A huge part of the earlier stories is about Mora, Miko and the human inhabitants of this planet trying to defend themselves against them. This is what creeped me out as a kid. After all, Miko was a regular kid, his family was…well, a normal family… and suddenly they have to contend with aliens with strange powers intent on destroying or enslaving them. As a little kid this was spooky to me, since these people seemed like my own family. How did I know that my neighbor wasn’t really a Lugu Man out to get me? (And yuck… when you kill a Lugu Man they melt into blue applesauce!)
Goldar was a bit different from what US children were used to, at least in my neck of the woods. Ultraman and Johnny Sokko’s giant Robot never spoke, (Well, Ultraman did, but only in the first and last episodes of his series) but Goldar was quite vocal and emotional. He got angry at Rodak several times and in one episode Methusem had to scold him telling him that his job was defending the Earth, not revenge. (Yeah, even though his nickname was “The Space Avenger!”)
Rewatching the series now as an adult, I’m a bit impressed by its complexity…something I didn’t notice as a child. Rodak at first simply wants the Earth to surrender to his superior power; he even claims that he doesn’t want to destroy anything and ruin a beautiful planet. But as he faces setbacks and defeats at the hands of Goldar and his friends he becomes even more ruthless. By the middle of the series he’s just plain pissed off and wants to kill everyone for opposing him. It’s a gradual change; done well for the context and time this series was made. Of course the show was intended for children so there are gaps in logic that adults will wonder about. For instance, why would Rodak need Mora to tell the world about him? If he does a flyby in his Bat-Signal shaped spaceship, heck, I think the world would take notice. In one episode Rodak schemes to get possession of a few nuclear bombs. Um, Rodak, you have a spaceship capable of interstellar flight and you’re telling me you don’t know how to build a nuke?
The dubbing is what you would expect, even though several scenes seem to have not been translated into English. Not a whole lot, but it’s a bit strange to have the characters start spouting Japanese all of a sudden.
It’s definitely a blast from the past, but it’s an enjoyable romp if you enjoy men in rubber suits beating the crap out of each other in front of a camera. Its also interesting to see how much times have changed. In today’s world a show like this would be laughed away as soon as the pitch was made. But back in 1967 it was wholly accepted as a viable product. And in the 70’s many an American child sat in front of the TV to see if Goldar could ever end the threat of Rodak.
SPECIAL FEATURES: None.
WHO’S GONNA WANT IT: People that have fond memories of the show will want to see it again. Sci fi collectors and fans of Japanese cinema also.
CAN I BUY IT: I must warn you, that yes you can get this DVD set online…..and it’s not of an awful quality, but it’s still not the best. Although the distributor claims it’s made from the original source. If you are one of those fans of this kind of show, scour the Ultraman Webring and you’ll find sites offering this collection.