December 21, 2010

Trademarks of Giallo Cinema

 The giallo genre in Italian cinema has many trademarks that make it unique. Here's a rough rundown:


The Killer's Black-Gloved Hand
 A sign of a film being a giallo that first comes to mind would definitely be this. Besides concealing the killer's identity, the gloves also hide the killer's gender as well. Often the killer's gender is an important plot twist.



J&B Whisky
It's incredibly common for characters in gialli to be seen drinking J&B whisky. So common, in fact, that this site lists all known sightings of J&B in alphabetical order.


Alida Valli, Joan Bennett, and Renato Scarpa in Suspiria
Alida Valli, Joan Bennett, and Renato Scarpa in Suspiria
An International Cast
Blood and Black Lace alone has Americans Cameron Mitchell and Mary Arden, Hungarian Eva Bartok, and Germans Thomas Reiner and Lea Krugher. The Cursed Medallion (The Night Child) has Italian Nicoletta Elmi, Brit Richard Johnson, and American Joanna Cassidy, while Aussie George Lazenby starred in Who Saw Her Die?. The list goes on and on...





Reused Actors
Watching giallo films is almost like watching Murder, She Wrote. No, not because of the murder mystery element, but because of actors and actresses constantly popping up playing different roles (Gialli rarely have sequels.). Edwige Fenech carved out quite a prolific career in giallo, starring in Strip Nude for Your Killer, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and other films like Five Dolls for an August Moon. Barbara Bouchet appeared in films like Don't Torture a Duckling, The Black Belly of the Tarantula, and Duck in Orange Sauce. Luciano Pigozzi (nicknamed "The Italian Peter Lorre") was in the oft-mentioned Blood and Black Lace, All the Colors of the Dark with Edwige Fenech, and The Case of the Bloody Iris. Other actors constantly appearing in the genre include George Hilton, Florinda Bolkan, and Tomas Milian.


Goblin

The Music
Giallo films are noted for their music, whether it's smooth and jazzy like in Blood and Black Lace, tense and fearful in gialli scored by Ennio Morricone, or hauntingly gothic when prog rock group Goblin is at the helm. Goblin, of course, is known for scoring Dario Argento films like Suspiria and Deep Red.


The (Varying Degrees of) Gore
By anybody's standards, giallo's golden age had much more blood than most American films at the time, but it was the late Lucio Fulci who was nicknamed "The Godfather of Gore" due to his films like The Beyond and The New York Ripper having much more gore than a traditional giallo. Early gialli like The Girl Who Knew Too Much (The Evil Eye) and Blood and Black Lace either showed close to no blood, or focused more on the supernatural, lessening the need for gore. The works of Dario Argento have its share of blood and gore, but usually not to extent of Fulci's films. Believe me when I say the screenshot above from Suspiria is strictly for illustrative purposes, so my apologies if you're now at the other side of the room.


Claude Dantes, Massimo Righi, Eva Bartok, and Luciano Pigozzi in Blood and Black Lace

The (Sigh!) Bad Dubbing
Pretty much all gialli (and other films in Italian cinema) were filmed without sound, so voices and effects were added later, meaning no matter which version of Blood and Black Lace you were watching, it was dubbed. Blood and Black Lace and other films like What Have You Done to Solange? were filmed with the actors speaking their lines in English, so dubbing would be easier. Usually, though, unless the actor spoke good English (or Italian), they would be dubbed by someone else. Paul Frees dubbed Blood's male characters, while Daria Nicolodi was dubbed by Theresa Russell in Tenebrae.




The Nudity
Like many actresses in giallo, both Edwige Fenech and Barbara Bouchet had considerable amounts of screentime in the nude. These scenes in the genre would just as often involve other women as they did men, a prime example being Duck in Orange Sauce. Nudity was a plot point in The Black Belly of the Tarantula, since the killer paralyzed and killed his victims when they were nude. Modeling-related plotlines weren't all that uncommon, either, the prime example being Strip Nude for Your Killer.



The Sex
That's a no-brainer, isn't it? Let's just put it this way: nearly every giallo has some form or another of sexuality. It could be a major theme, like in What Have You Done to Solange? and The French Sex Murders, or it could just underscore (or more accurately, overscore) a murder scene, most infamously in Bay of Blood (Twitch of the Death Nerve).



 
The Alternate Titles
As you can see, several of the gialli mentioned here have alternate titles. The original Italian title's sometimes directly translated into the American title, but usually a completely new one is given. Given the release of gialli is spotty when it comes to the year and country, nearly every territory of release gives the film a different title, meaning that even the U.K. will often give a giallo film a different title than the U.S.. Sometimes, a film completely unrelated to another will be titled as a sequel in a certain country. For example, Deep Red was released as Suspiria 2 in Japan, since Suspiria was released there before Deep Red and was a huge success, and it was thought a "sequel" to Suspiria would garner similar box office returns. Home video releases only increase the confusion, as additional titles are used.
 
 To wrap things up, it looks to me that it didn't take a lot of time for gialli to make its mark on cinema as a whole, and I'm sure many fans of the slasher film genre, as well as those expanding their tastes, are very grateful.

December 2, 2010

Film Review - "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead"



 Okay, before you bolt for the nearest fire exit (or as Peter Griffin would say, "hit the ol' dusty trail"), hear me out. Thanks to the godsend that is YouTube, my Sunday night got a whole lot sweeter with Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, a film that if nothing else is getting quite a cult following.

 It's the beginning of summer vacation, and 17-year old Sue Ellen "Swell" Crandell (Christina Applegate) is stoked to spend the summer "a free woman" with the absence of her mother, who's leaving for vacation in Australia. That is, until elderly Mrs. Sturak, hired to look after Sue Ellen and her four siblings, shows up on their doorstep. Once Mom leaves, Mrs. Sturak lays down the law on Swell and her sibs, stoner dude Kenny (Keith Coogan), aspiring ladies' man Zach (Christopher Pettiet), tomboy Melissa (Danielle Harris), and the youngest, Walter (Robert Hy Gorman). Pretty soon, they band together to rise up against Mrs. Sturak, but when Sue Ellen goes into her room to confront her, she discovers her dead in her chair. In a panic, the siblings decide against calling their mother or the police, as doing so would jepoardize their chances of summer fun, so they put Mrs. Sturak's body in her car's trunk, drive to a local morgue, and drop the body off with a note saying "Nice old lady inside. Died of natural causes".

 When the Crandells realize Mrs. Sturak's body still has the cash their mother left for them, a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" puts Sue Ellen on the hunt for a job. She gets one at Clown Dog, and befriends her coworker, Bryan (Josh Charles), but soon quits the fast food joint due to grunt labor and bad conditions. Forging up her resume, she poses as a 28-year-old for a position in reception at General Apparel West (GAW), a clothing manufacturer. Despite the absolute ice queenery of Carolyn (Jayne Brook), the receptionist due for promotion, Swell's resume attracts the attention of Senior V.P. Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy), who offers her the position of executive administrative assistant (try saying that three times in a row).

 Not knowing a thing about the job she was given, Sue Ellen gets coworker Cathy to do many of the duties her job specifies (as well as show her how to use a fax machine). While that's going on, Sue Ellen has to hold off the advances of coworker Gus, who's also dating Rose, borrow money from the "petty cash" box to pay for groceries, try to maintain her relationship with Bryan, and avoid Carolyn, who's revealed to be Bryan's sister. At home, Kenny struggles to maintain the household, Zach loses the girl he was dating, and the siblings are seen to be taking from the "petty cash" box as well, but to buy lavish items instead.

 As the film goes on, Sue Ellen grows closer to Bryan, but her deception makes him suspicious. Cracks in her work life start to show, as the pressures of the office stress out Sue Ellen as well. Carolyn, not knowing her brother's dating Sue Ellen, is scheming with her boyfriend Bruce (David Duchovny) to get rid of her, and Sue Ellen is hesitant to tell Rose of Gus's behavior towards her, since she and Rose have become good friends. Due to taxes, her paycheck is less than she expected and she's unable to pay back the money taken from the petty cash box. Walter breaks his leg when he falls off their roof, and Kenny, who was supposed to look after him, blames himself.

 As if things weren't bad enough, GAW is going under due to their fashions not selling. Sue Ellen goes out on a limb, designing new, hipper fashions and offering to hold a fashion show at the Crandall house, since the petty cash can't afford to rent a hall. Impressed with Swell's designs, Rose agrees.

 The event goes off without a hitch, until Bryan, in his Clown Dog delivery truck, shows up, and is followed soon after by Mrs. Crandell, back home early. Upon seeing them, Sue Ellen breaks down and confesses the truth to everybody, but Rose tells her the buyers loved her designs and don't care about her personal life. With the business saved, Rose offers the "real" Sue Ellen another position, but Sue Ellen declines to attend college, as now she knows what she wants to do in her life. Rose promises to put in a good word for her at a college, and the two make plans to meet for lunch the next week.

 Now inside the house, Swell tries to calm down her furious mother, but Mrs. Crandell only does so when she notices the newfound maturity of her children, as well as the new items in the house. Sue Ellen and Bryan reconcile, but then Mrs. Crandell asks about the whereabouts of Mrs. Sturak. Cut to a tombstone (visited by two morgue attendants who gambled away the money on her person) that only reads "Nice Old Lady Inside. Died of Natural Causes".

 At the time of its release, critics ripped into the film for its "escapism". True that. But what most of them didn't notice was the character development of both Swell and Kenny. At the film's beginning, Sue Ellen's a cigarette-smoking, somewhat obnoxious teenager determined to spend her summer her way. Upon getting her job at GAW, she assumes the role of mother of the household, clashing most with Kenny, who flakes out on his assigned housework duties. Later on, it becomes clear that her work and her personal life are getting to her, and she works marathon hours at the office to earn a bigger paycheck. As much as I love Married... With Children, Christina Applegate's range and emotion aren't as fully fleshed out there as they are here. The fashion show and her admitting to her deception is proof.

 Kenny at the start of the film is the metal-loving, textbook example of a 90's stoner. He and his gang of friends are a constant source of irritation for Sue Ellen as she tries to provide for the household. Left at home while Sue Ellen's at work, Kenny tries to take it upon himself to run the household, his trying to make Belgian waffles being a highlight. When Walter breaks his leg, Kenny is regretful, as he had ignored Walter when he was calling him for help. This proves to be the catalyst for the change in his behavior. Now, instead of getting stoned with his friends, he watches Julia Child and becomes a budding chef, preparing the food for the GAW fashion show. He also cleans up his appearance, attracting the attention of Sue Ellen's friend Nicole. When he talks with a friend after the show, Kenny says he has a date with Nicole, and that he's also gotten a good idea of what he wants to do with his life. His friend, rather than feel alienated, happily congratulates him.

 The three younger siblings don't get as much attention, but they're not forgotten. Zach uses the petty cash to buy a diamond for his crush, only for her to dump him. Melissa is eager to sign up for Little League, and as Kenny matures, we see him cheering her on at a game when she hits the ball. Walter is a game show addict who uses his "share" of the petty cash to buy a massive home entertainment system (which is top of the line for the time, but a fullscreen TV is a bit of a no-no these days). Once Sue Ellen finds out what they've been doing with the cash, she is furious and orders them to grow up and take care of the household.

 The date scene under the dock with Sue Ellen and Bryan is worth a mention, as the two discuss what plans they have after high school. They bring up that they assumed their parents had a college fund for them, one big enough to cover all of the tuition costs, a thought many seniors have until it's too late. The fish seen flopping at their feet when they kiss is a great touch.

 Sue Ellen's boss Rose Lindsey probably deserves a post of her own. Really! When she welcomes Sue Ellen into the company (and into Sue Ellen's new office), there's a flush of giddiness and positivity, especially when Gus enters the office. She takes young Sue Ellen under her wing, and gives advice Sue Ellen ends up repeating to other coworkers. Her words of wisdom range from coworkers always having to reply "I'm right on top of that, Rose" whenever she's on the phone or not alone and asks them something, to "Every girl over 25 should have a cucumber in their house". When I heard the latter line, I literally did a double take and thought back to the scene from Family Guy with a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters ("Rose is fine, moving on..."). She looks past Sue Ellen's actions and lies and instead tells off Carolyn for trying to undermine Sue Ellen, in what TV Tropes would call a Crowning Moment of Awesome. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want Rose for a boss (other than the prudish or highly asthmatic)? Joanna Cassidy is absolutely awesome here. Her role as Delores in Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn't even scratch the surface of her talents compared to this film. Whenever she's told by Carolyn about a detail Sue Ellen lied about, if you look at her facial expressions, you're absolutely convinced she'll be angry, but to your surprise she congratulates Sue Ellen for creatively handling her duties. This happens several times, and even if you know what happens at the end, when you watch one of those scenes you think "maybe this time she'll be pissed", but that's practically never the case. Near the film's end, she's so impressed with Sue Ellen that she's willing to give her a fresh start in the company. Convention is broken when the two plan to meet the next week, leaving their friendship intact and stronger than ever. That scene of them together is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.

 Jayne Brook does fine as uberbitch Carolyn, and David Duchovny provides both support and eye candy (I'm sure you ladies out there wanted that wallet picture of him in a speedo to be in this film instead of The Simpsons). It's hard to watch the scene of him and Brook snooping through Sue Ellen's office in the dark with a flashlight without humming the X-Files theme ("Duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh..."). Kimmy Robertson fits the bill as Cathy, a character with a mouse-like voice who is ironically the only character to have a husband. You might recognize her as the voice of Samantha Stanky from the Simpsons episode "Bart's Friend Falls in Love". Speaking of The Simpsons, Dan Castellaneta is the voice of the animated Mrs. Sturak in the film's opening animated sequence. John Getz is perfect as the perverted slimeball known as Gus, because when his advances toward Sue Ellen start to make the audience uncomfortable, you know he's gotta be doing something right. He gets his just desserts before the fashion show starts, when Sue Ellen tells Rose about his behavior, and he's dumped right then and there.

 With so many interconnected plotlines, you'd think the movie would get you confused, but thankfully it doesn't drag on for too long, nor does it abandon a plotline halfway through. Every major character gets a beginning, a middle, and an ending. With the time it's given, the film uses it well.

 So that's Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. A film that is definitely worth a look if you're at Sue Ellen's age at the onset of adulthood, or you're just plain tired of the teen movies they make today. Cheers!

November 25, 2010

Why I Love... The Nostalgia Critic

 "Hello, I'm The Nostalgia Critic. I remember it, so you don't have to!"


1. The reviews are just plain hilarious. Many are unaware the great writing's courtesy of two people, Doug Walker (the NC himself) and his brother Rob Walker (the cameraman and occasional actor in the sketches on ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com).

2. Recurring gags and animated characters bring an air of continuity. The gags include "A-CHUCK A- NORRIS!" and the Nostalgia Chick-originated "Big-Lipped Alligator Moment", while the animated characters include Casper, the Friendly Ghost ("TIMING!) and the Big Elephant in the Room (who will go away as long as you respectfully mention the late Johnathan Brandis).

3. To add to the above, a certain memorable line from a reviewed film will often make several appearances in other reviews. For example, a clip of Raul Julia's line "OF COURSE!" from Street Fighter is played every time a villain is seen plotting world domination. And of course, the classic argument-stopper, "I WAS FROZEN TODAY!"

4. A lot of the comments are made up of cultural resemblances, in-jokes, and behind-the-scenes trivia. For example, when he reviews The Star Wars Holiday Special he casually mentions that Carrie Fisher was doing drugs at the time, possibly to help us viewers get a handle on the special's perpetual weirdness (I don't think it works, though).

5. The many alter-egos of Doug and Rob Walker make appearances to help, nitpick, or pretty much belittle The Nostalgia Critic. These include Douchey McNitpick, who prompted the two "Top 11 Nostalgic F***ups", and the Hunter S. Thompson-esque Raoul Puke, a pioneer in "Fozzie Journalism". And of course, who could forget SANTA CHRIST!

November 19, 2010

FOTP: Rita Repulsa "Headaches" Motivational Poster

 It's kind of a funny story: Searching for suitable images for my MMPR/Zyuranger comparison back in early September, I came across a mock motivational poster that was so funny I had to save it in my iPod's photos. Then, Rangerboard's Motivation thread came calling, and I decided to search again for that picture, but it was nowhere to be found. So by emailing the image from my iPod, saving it, and posting it here, hopefully I can make my thread reply and give you guys a laugh as well. Whew... Enjoy!

November 11, 2010

Toku Spotlight: Denjin Zaboga



Denjin Zaboga, or Electroid Zaboga, was a tokusatsu series that aired from April 6, 1974 to June 29, 1975 for 52 episodes.

 Yutaka Daimon is a Secret Police agent who at age six was killed in a car accident. A special pacemaker-like circuit was implanted into his chest that keeps him alive if he's badly wounded. The device was created by his father, who also created Denjin Zaboga. Zaboga is powered by Yutaka's anger, as its power is synchronized with the circuit in his chest. When his father is murdered, Yutaka discovers the existence of Zaboga, and he swears revenge against the man who killed his father, Dr. Akunomiya. Akunomiya murdered his former partner to get the newly-invented metal daimonium, which he plans to use to create robots and cyborgs to carry out a crime spree.

 Yutaka uses a microphone in his helmet to control Zaboga, as well as a second microphone in his watch of he's not wearing the helmet. Through a radio receiver on his glasses, he can hear messages alerting him if a monster is around.

 Zaboga has a wide variety of attacks and techniques, such as his "Boomerang Cutter", when he throws his metal ears like blades and they return to him after inflicting damage. His mouth is capable of firing exploding shells, his head can release a small helicopter with a video camera, his eyes can take photograph stills, his back can release a miniature jet that can operate underwater, and the car halves inside his feet can be put together to form the Mouse Car. Zaboga can also transform into the motorcycle Machine Zaboga for Yutaka to ride.

 Although Dr. Akunomiya is eventually defeated, the Dinosaur Army soon arrives to terrorize Japan. This arc ran from episode 40 until the end of the series.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Tetsujin Taiga Seven



Tetsujin Taiga Seven, or Iron Man Tiger Seven, is a tokusatsu series that aired from October 6, 1973 to March 30, 1974 for 26 episodes.

 Father and son Professor and Go Takigawa discover the ancient temple of the Mu Empire, but when Go is attacked by a Sand Primitive Sand Grudge, the Professor performs a heart transplant, replacing Go's heart with a artificial one. He also gives his son an ancient pendant. Soon after, the Mu attack again, killing everyone on the research team except Go. He vows to avenge his father and friends. He uses the combined power of his pendant and artificial heart to transform into Iron Man Tiger Seven with the words "Tiger Spark!".

 Tiger Seven's Fight Glove is the source of many of his combat techniques, such as the "Tiger Cutter" karate chop and "Tiger Hawk", which can make his glove pierce a monster's body. Using his belt, he can heal wounds, and by releasing "Tiger Energy" into the body of a person whose heart has stopped beating, he can save them. "Buckle Energy Red Zone" can release all of his energy in one blast, and his mouth can release a gust of wind called "Tiger Hurricane". "Tiger Eye Attack" has his eyes firing a yellow beam, and similarly, the jewel in his head, "Tiger Point" can use sunlight to fire the "Tiger Head Beam". His motorcycle's equipped with rocket boosters to increase speed.

 Go works with Professor Takaido and his students, and only the Professor figures out that Go is Tiger Seven. Student Shiro Kitagawa ridicules Go for running away whenever a monster appears, as he mistakes Go's fleeing to transform for cowardice.

 The Mu Empire's footsoldiers, the Mu Batei (Mu Footmen), seem to closely resemble the Golem Hei from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, better known as the Putty Patrollers (a.k.a. the Putties) from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Take a look:

Golem/Putty Patroller 
Mu Batei
 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Seigi no Shinboru Kondoruman



Seigi no Shinboru Kondoruman, or Condorman, Symbol of Justice, was a tokusatsu series airing from March 31 to September 22, 1975 for 24 episodes.

 Coming to the aid of a dragon condor and its unhatched egg, Ishin Mitsuya is killed, but is brought back to life when the egg hatches and the the baby merges with his body. Although he gains the power to transform into Condorman from this, he loses all memory of his life before the accident.

 Condorman can use his "Condor Eye" to see through the disguises of monsters pretending to be humans. He can also link his mind telepathically with birds, so he can view their sights and understand their chirps and calls. Condorman is armed with feather-shaped throwing daggers called the "Condor Arrows", and can defeat monsters using the "Condor Thunder", "Condor Hurricane", and the "Shock Punch". Later episodes show Condorman's ability to actually transform into a dragon. He drives the Mach Condor, a yellow car with a hood in the shape of a falcon's beak.

 One should note that this is not to be confused with the 1981 Disney film Condorman.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Hikari no Senshi Daiyamondo Ai



Hikari no Senshi Daiyamondo Ai, or Diamond Eye, Warrior of Light, was a tokusatsu series that aired from October 5, 1973 to March 29, 1974 for 26 episodes.

 Magazine journalist Kotaru Rai is captured by a group of jewel thieves he was trailing, led by Gen Kai Ryuu. Kotaru is saved by a spirit called Diamond Eye that emerges from the stolen "King of Arabia" blue diamond and frees him.  Diamond Eye chases the gangsters, and a shot of the "inner soul illumination beams" from his eyes reveals that the men are really the Zensei Majin, a group of evil ancient beasts, and that Gen Kai Ryuu is actually their leader, King Cobra. Although Diamond Eye kills some of the weaker Majin, King Cobra escapes through a dimensional portal.

 Diamond Eye gives Kotaru the Eye Ring (where Diamond Eye lives), which Kotaru can summon him by exposing it to light while chanting "Ai yo!". Diamond Eye can hurl diamond grenades, inflict the "royal punch", and has the power to heal wounds and purge evil spirits from human bodies.

 Kotaru is helped by his friends, Goro, a photographer, and Kaboko, a woman who can use playing cards as weapons. Kotaru's constant battling of the Zensei Majin often frustrates his boss at the Weekly Japan, editor-in-chief Hayakawa. Kotaru is nicknamed Raiko by his friends and some of his enemies, and only Diamond Eye and King Cobra call him by his real name.

 Again, I haven't found any video of the theme.

Toku Spotlight: Inazuman



Inazuman was a tokusatsu series airing from October 2, 1973 to March 26, 1974 for 25 episodes. It was one of the many works created by Shotaro Ishinimori.

 Daisuke Ban (then known as Naoya Ban) plays college student Goro Watari, who, after rescuing two kids from a group of goons, is recruited into The Youth League, a secret group of freedom fighters consisting of humans with the powers of telekinesis and super-strength. Goro is able to use his own psionic skills to transform into Inazuman to fight the Neo-Human Empire, led by Emperor Bamba, who wants to use The Youth League's powers for his own evil agenda.

 Inazuman's costume resembles a blue moth with lightning bolts painted on its arms and legs. He transforms using the kinetic energy in his belt, similar to Kamen Rider, except Kamen Rider used wind to power up his belt and transform. Before he can become Inazuman, however, Goro has to transform into Sanagiman, a form that somewhat resembles The Thing from Fantastic Four. He gets around using the Raijingo, a yellow-and-red car with teeth on its front grill and the ability to shoot missiles out of it.

 The series was followed by a direct sequel series, Inazuman Flash, which continues the story with a mostly-new supporting cast.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Triple Fighter



Toripuru Faita, or Triple Fighter, was a tokusatsu series that aired in 1972 for 26 episodes, each episode split into six-minute chapters.

 Siblings Yuuji Hayase (Red Fighter), Yuri Hayase (Orange Fighter), and Tetsuro Hayase (Green Fighter) of the Space Attack Team fight against the Demon Star Empire's Devil Seijin and his Devil Monsters. When a monster-of-the-week proves to be too powerful for the three individually, they combine into Triple Fighter. Their allies are the mischievious Atsushi Oto and the mobile computer Bulcomm, which watches over their base.

 The three's modes of transportation (an ordinary car and motorcycle) look suprisingly normal in comparison to what the villains use (small black Volkswagen Beetle-like cars with a cursive "D" on their hoods).

 All of the monsters look similar to the cars, complete with the "D" on their belts, and wear unusual masks that are never taken off.

 Here's the theme song:

November 6, 2010

Toku Spotlight - Ai no Senshi Rainbowman



Ai no Senshi Rainbowman, or Rainbowman: Warrior of Love, was a tokusatsu series that aired from October 6, 1972 to September 28, 1973 for 52 episodes. It aired on NET (now TV Asahi).

 Takeshi Yamoto is kicked off his wrestling team for fighting too violently, and goes to India to seek out Devadatta, a former wrestling champion-turned hermit. He teaches Takeshi discipline, and gives him the power to transform into Rainbowman. Upon recieving these powers, Takeshi immediately flies back to Japan. Whenever Takeshi needs help, Devadatta will show up in Japan.

 Rainbowman has seven forms. Moonman (Dash 1) has the ability to deflate and fit into small spaces. Fireman (Dash 2) has the ability to spray fire out of his fingers. Waterman (Dash 3) has the opposite ability of Fireman, being able to spray water or cold air out of his fingers. Leafman (Dash 4) has the abilities of wind and camouflage. Goldman (Dash 5) uses his fingers to shoot lightning bolts. Earthman (Dash 6) has burrowing capabilities, and can create cracks in the earth large enough to swallow his enemies. Sunman (Dash 7) can temporarily paralyze his enemies, form a protective shield, and shoot energy from his fingers. The sunbeam radiated from Dash 7's forehead can be used to produce twin swords. This form is the one used most often by Takeshi, and is the form he uses to transform into his other six forms.

 Whenever Rainbowman's wounded, he de-morphs and has to go into a frozen trance to heal himself. This trance, however, leaves him vulnerable to enemies.

 The villiains in this series are the Shine Shine Dan (Die Die Army), led by Mr. K. They are a group of foreigners (most of them Chinese), seeking revenge against Japan for the Second World War. Mr. K knows Rainbowman's true identity, and often tries to attack Takeshi's family to get him to surrender. Later in the series, Rainbowman also battles God Iguana (Machiko Soga), who needs his blood to bring her child Iguana back to life (sound familiar, Zyuranger fans?). Her weaknesses are bright light and the sight of her own reflection. From her own blood, she creates two monsters, but when they're destroyed by Rainbowman, she becomes weakened.

 The series had an anime adaptation in 1982, which only loosely followed the storyline, making the Rainbowman forms giant robots rather than different costumes.

October 31, 2010

Toku Spotlight: Akumaizer 3



Akumaizer 3 was a tokusausu series airing from October 7, 1975 to June 29, 1976 for 38 episodes.

 The Akuma Zoku (Demon Clan), a magical cyborg race living deep within the earth, plans to invade the surface world. One of these clan members, Zabitan, a half-human half-demon, deserts the clan to defend the humans. The two demons sent after him, Evil and Gabura, decide to instead join him in his mission.

 Zabitan (the black and red demon) has many powers and abilities, including making himself invisible. He's armed with "Zarado", his sword, and his miniature cannons "Zabitan Nova". In many episodes he disguises himself as a human.

 Evil (the yellow demon) is armed with his sword "Erado", which transforms into his "Jo Gun", and he also uses the combat technique of "Evil Finish". He can also transform into an inanimate object. His weakness, however, is the sight of his own relection, which immobilizes him.

 Gabura (the red and blue demon) has a sword called "Garado", which transforms into "Denburu", a spiked ball and chain weapon. He also has the ability to change into an ostrich-like bird.

 Akuma Zoku leader Mega Lord sends relatives and friends of the Akumaizer 3 to fight them as monsters-of-the-week. One of them named Darunia (a mouse-like demon), however, joins them because of her love for Zabitan.

 From the Akuma Zoku, the Akumaizer 3 took the Zeidabeck, a helicopter resembling a whale. Their motorcycles are capable of combining into the Gari Bird.

 The series was followed by a sequel, Choujin Bibyun, which is noticeably different in tone.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Kaiketsu Lion Maru



Kaiketsu Lion Maru, or literally translated as Swift Hero Lion Maru, was a tokusatsu series that aired from April 1, 1972 to April 2, 1973 for 54 episodes.

 Like Henshin Ninja Arashi, Kaiketsu Lion Maru is set in feudal Japan. In the late-1500s, three orphans, Shishimaru, Saori, and Kosuke go around defending people from Akuma Gosun (Devil Gosun).

 Shishimaru carries two swords, an ordinary one used in combat and another which transforms him into Lion Maru. This sword is locked in its sheath and will only be removed when Shishimaru recites the words "Kaze O! Hikari O! NinpĆ“ Shishi-Hengen!" ("Wind, Light, Ninja Skill, Lion-Transform!"). After slashing the monster-of-the-week with this sword, he runs his hand down the back of it, and in doing this he causes the monster to explode. Once he puts the sword bak in its sheath, he changes back to Shishimaru.

 Saori is quite capable in combat as well, as she is often able to fight two handed with her sword and a sword taken from the enemy. Kosuke can play his flute to summon a pegasus named Hikarimaru. He also uses a portion of his supply of black powder to produce small bombs. Hikarimaru is often ridden by Shishimaru or Lion Maru.

 The leader of Akuma Gosun takes a human second-in-command, Jonosuke, who, with a magical sword of his own, can transform into Tiger Jo, a tiger equivalent of Lion Maru. Jonosuke was initally played by Kozi Tonohiro, but after he died in an accident, Yoshitaka Fukushima took over the role for the rest of the series run.


 The series was followed by a similar series titled Fuun Lion Maru, which featured a similar plot and characters, but whose story is not connected to this series.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Kaiketsu Zubat



Kaiketsu Zubat, or Swift Hero Zvatt, was a tokusatsu series that aired from February 2 to September 28, 1977 for 32 episodes.

 A cowboy-attired private detective, Ken Hayakawa "transforms", just by putting on a red and black "Zvasuit" that is hidden in his guitar. After his best friend is murdered by the criminal organization Dakker, he creates a suit that gives him super strength, speed, and agility. The villains in the series are many, but the series has no monsters-of-the-week. Ken works secretly as Zubat, with only his friend, police detective Shingo Toiyo knowing his secret identity.

 Zubat has a whip that collapses into a dagger as his main weapon, and after subduing the episode's boss, he finishes each off with his "Zubat Attack" kick.

 The "Zvasuit" has an unfortunate side effect. As soon as the mask's closed, a timer on the mask's side starts running, which indicates that Zubat must defeat the Dakker boss in five minutes, or else the suit will explode. This mechanism was tested in one episode with a dummy inside the suit.

 Ken Kayakawa is played by Hiroshi Miyauchi, a familiar face in '70s tokusatsu, as he's played characters such as Kazami Shiro in Kamen Rider V3, Akira Shinmei/AoRanger in Himitsu Sentai Goranger, and Soukichi Banba/Big One in J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai. Creator of Zubat (and these aforementioned series) Shotaro Ishinomori guest-starred in one episode.

 Here's the theme song:

Toku Spotlight: Henshin Ninja Arashi



Henshin Ninja Arashi, or Transforming Ninja Storm, was a tokusatsu series that aired from April 7, 1972 to February 23, 1973 for 46 episodes.

 One of the many works created by Shotaro Ishinomori, it was one of several tokusatsu series set in feudal Japan.

 With Japan at peace following many years of civil war, this peace is threatened when an evil force rises up to conquer all of Japan. Hayate, a member of the Blood Wheel Clan, learns that the mysterious clan leader Devil Sai is planning to conquer Japan using ninja magic. Not wanting this conquest to happen, Hayate's father uses his magic to transform his son into Henshin Ninja Arashi to fight Devil Sai's ninja mutants. He transforms with his sword Hayakaze ("faster than the wind") and also throws "feather shurikens".

 Hayate is often assisted by Tatsumaki, a veteran ninja sent to stop the Blood Wheel Clan, Tatsumaki's children Kasumi and Tsumuji, and later Tsukinowa, who turns out to be Hayate's brother. In later episodes, the two brothers would merge to defeat the enemy-of-the-week. Other characters added in later episodes include sisters Kageri (who bears quite a resemblance to Edwige Fenech) and Tsuyuha, and bumbling priest Kenji Ushio.

 Here's the theme song:

October 23, 2010

Toku Spotlight: Jinzo Ningen Kikaida



Jinzo Ningen Kikaida, or Android Kikaider, is a tokusatsu series that ran from July 8, 1972 to May 5, 1973 for a total of 43 episodes.

 Created by mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori as a tribute to his mentor Osamu Tezuka's creation Astro Boy, the series also was influenced by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was also one of the first tokusatsu series to air in the United States.

 Jiro, also known as Kikaider, is a humanoid robot secretly created by Dr. Komyoji to stop DARK, an evil organization that has held him prisoner. When Professor Gill, the head of DARK, discovers this, he sends androids after Komyoji, and a fire separates Komyoji from his children and Jiro.

 With DARK steadily pursuing Jiro, Komyoji's children Mitsuko and Masuru, and a now-amnesiac Dr. Komyoji, Jiro transforms into Kikaider to protect the children and fight the androids-of-the-week.

 A problem Kikaider has is that due to the incompleteness of his conscience circuit (named "Jiminy", a reference to Jiminy Cricket), great pain can be caused by the playing of Professor Gill's flute. Kikaider combats this by using a louder sound to overpower it. To announce his presence in a battle, he plays a guitar and uses a motorcycle called the Sidemachine.

 The main characters are also joined by a comic relief P.I. character by the name of Hanpei Hattori (descended from the real-life ninja Hanzo Hattori), nicknamed "Hanpen" (Japanese for "pounded fish cake"). He wears crazily comical clothing, and has a Subaru 360 that constantly breaks down (in real life, the Subaru 360 was exempt from regular automotive safety standards due to it weighing under 1000 pounds), using ninja magic and other techniques to keep the car functioning. Reminds you of Inspector Clouseau and his Silver Hornet, doesn't it?

 Later on in the series, Dr. Komyoji was recaptured by DARK and forced to make another robot, called Hakaider, also known as Saburo. The twist is that Professor Gill had Dr. Komyoji's brain placed in Hakaider under the control of an evil circuit. The cyborg needed periodic blood transfusions from Komyoji's body to survive. Upon discovering this, Jiro feels he cannot fight Hakaider.

 The series was (and still is) exceptionally popular in Hawaii. In the comments section of a Kikaider YouTube video, you're way more likely to find commentors who watched the series in Hawaii than those who watched it in Japan (okay, there's also the language barrier, but still...). Daisuke Ban, the actor who played Jiro/Kikaider, has made public appearances in Hawaii for the show's DVD release.

 The series was followed by a sequel series, Kikaider 01, which sees Hakaider reawaken with the brain of Professor Gill, and Kikaider returning to fight him, alongside a new android, Kikaider 01 (also known as Ichiro) and later Bijinder, a female android. In 2000, an anime adaptation combining the stories of the two series (with a few minor changes) was aired. To conclude that series, a team up OVA with Inazuman (a character also created by Ishinomori and played by Daisuke Ban) was released, though unlike the anime series, it was not aired in the United States.

 Here's the original's theme song:



 Kikaider 01's theme:



 And the Gemini theme from the anime:


Thanks to damicuis for uploading this video.

Toku Spotlight: Robotto Keiji



Robotto Keiji, or Robot Detective, was a tokusatsu series that ran from April 5 to September 27, 1973 for 26 episodes. 

 It was created by the legendary Shotaro Ishinomori, the man behind Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and many others.

 A scientist builds a robot detective with a human personality to combat a group of murderous robots created and led by her crazed brother. Robotto Keiji K (or Robot Detective K) has no human form, so when not in battle, he dresses in human clothes to blend in. His car seems to resemble one of those ambulances from the '70s but modified to break the sound barrier.

 Here's the theme song:

Before There Was Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, There Was...

Kyoryu Sentai Koseidon


 Kyoryu Sentai Koseidon, or Dinosaur Task Force Koseidon, was a tokusatsu series that aired in 1978 for 52 episodes.

 The plot centers on six people (four guys and two girls) from the year 2001 who travel back in time to rescue scientists studying dinosaurs but end up fighting alien invaders threatening to change history. The six all wear the same red uniform (which is reminiscent of the ranger suits of Power Rangers Turbo). The baddie in the above photo reminds this blogger of the footsoldiers from Himitsu Sentai Goranger (the first Super Sentai). Let me be clear, though, that despite the similarities, this is not an incarnation of Super Sentai.

 The series was also aired in Italy, where it has gotten quite the following.
 Here's the theme song:

October 16, 2010

Film Review - "Blood and Black Lace"



a.k.a. Sei donne per l'assassino

 Now before I get started on this here review, let me say that this film was viewed in very unusual conditions, namely by file sharing download on an iPod in a moving vehicle going down B.C. Highway 1. No matter what's being watched, those conditions make for a helluva case of carsickness. That aside, I couldn't make screen captures from an iPod, so here's a link for another review of this film (with great captures).

 As a newbie to giallo treading through the genre's golden age of the '60s and '70s, it was absolutely form-fitting to start with one of the granddaddies of full-on giallo. Blood and Black Lace is considered as a landmark in the genre, combining rich imagery and color with liberal amounts of sex and nudity. Okay, "liberal" is not the right word here, since this film's only got smidges of what at the time would have been absolutely forbidden from American-made films (though one should note it would only be four more years until the Hays Code was offically dead).

 The print I watched was the English language VCI DVD print, with a bit of a sub-par image quality, but that did not really deter the colorful atmosphere (I mean really, what other supposed fashion house has red mannequins?).

 After the jazzy opening credits, we suddenly cut to the sign of the film's setting, a fashion house, erratically swaying in the wind, which then swings out of shot to reveal the fountain at the front of the house. This sets the atmosphere of the film, putting jarring danger and death against a haute couture backdrop. SPOILER ALERT, ladies and gentlemen...

 With the death of the first victim, Isabella (Francesca Ungaro), the other models discover a diary she kept documenting the shady dealings of the house. Soon, it becomes apparent that pretty much everybody has a reason to worry about (and an itching to read) the diary, including the proprietors, Max Marian (Cameron Mitchell) and Contessa Christina Como (Eva Bartok).

 One of the models, Nicole, (Ariana Gorini) takes the diary, telling the others that she plans to take it to the police, when really, she intends to read it first. During a runway show, however, another model, Peggy (Mary Arden) manages to take it unnoticed. Nicole is then lured in the middle of the show to Isabella's boyfriend Frank (Dante di Paolo)'s antique shop where, after being terrorized by strange sounds (and majorly creative lighting) in a showroom, is attacked and killed with a spiked glove mallet by the same faceless figure in black who murdered Isabella. The killer steals Nicole's car and flees when it's discovered she doesn't have the diary.

 Meanwhile, Peggy comes home with her boyfriend Marco (Massino Righi). The maid, Clarice (Harriet White Medin), is dressed in similar garb to the killer, in a bit of a red herring, and soon leaves for home after Peggy and Marco arrive. After Peggy sends Marco out, she takes out the diary and proceeds to read and then burn it in her fireplace. Soon enough, the killer, in an effort to locate the diary, arrives and kidnaps Peggy. When Peggy discovers his identity, the killer then burns her to death by putting her face to the red-hot surface of the basement furnace.

 Frank discovers Nicole's body and goes to his friend Richard Morell (Franco Ressel) to plead with him to supply an alibi. Initially Morell refuses, until Frank threatens to expose his theft of money from lover Isabella. This alibi fails to convince Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner), who, to keep more murders from happening, arrests all five of the male suspects (Max, Frank, Richard, Marco, and dress designer Cesar Losarre (Luciano Pigozzi)).

 That night, Morell's fiancee Greta (Lea Krugher) drives home and upon opening the trunk discovers Peggy's body. In fear, she hides the body in her house, but is then smothered to death with a pillow by the black-clad killer.

 The next day, the Inspector concludes that all five of the men he arrested cannot be guilty due to having the best alibi they can have: being in jail the entire night. He has no choice but to let them go.

 When Max comes home to Christina, things take an interesting turn when it is revealed he is the murderer after all. Before the film's events he had assisted Christina in murdering her husband. Isabella had discovered this, and blackmailed him, among others. When her demands became too much, she was murdered, Max not realizing she had written every scandalous secret down. He also killed Nicole and Peggy, but when he was arrested, Christina donned the outfit and mask, killing Greta to throw suspicion off him. To further frustrate the Inspector, Max asks his lover to kill another model. Cut to Christina, in the black outfit, drowning Tao-Li (Claude Dantes) and cutting the model's wrists to suggest suicide. A knock at the door forces Christina to try and escape down the drainpipe, but she falls. The door knocker happens to be Max himself, who had decided to double-cross Christina and sabotage the pipe, in hopes of her being killed while making it look like she was the real murderer.

 Seeming that all is well for him, Max, confident that he will now inherit the fashion house, loots through Christina's desk. One of the first things he takes out is a gun (dumb idea, Max). A noise startles him and he looks up to see Christina, mortally injured. As she confronts him, Max tries to convince her otherwise of the truth, and they seemingly embrace. Suddenly, a shot rings out, and we see Max collapse, dead of a gunshot wound. Christina then succumbs to her injuries when trying to call Inspector Sylvester. The last shot we see is of a red telephone receiver swinging back and forth.

 Blood and Black Lace introduced many elements that would become quite prevalent in the genre, like the black glove of the killer, use of vivid imagery, and an incompetent police force. Even though Inspector Sylvester is pretty much the ideal inspector, he fails in the end to catch the killer(s). In most giallo films, the murderer usually dies, and only if the protagonist is a police officer is a lawman good at his job.

 Acting is passable, with Eva Bartok definitely conveying the best range out of the cast. Dubbing does not suck by any means, though female voices pretty much fall into the same vocal range. Lower voices with Christina and Tao-Li would have worked wonderfully for their characters. It would have been great, though, to hear Bartok and Cameron Mitchell's real voices in the film.

 Mario Bava's creative cinematography really stands out during the fashion show, when the scene continually switches between a certain character and the diary, until the diary's gone, as well as the minutes leading up to Nicole's murder, as we sense the tension stirred up together by the score, the pacing, and the set, which randomly lights up sections of the antiques showroom.

 Fright-wise, the scariness and very slight gore is tame by today's standards, though anyone just passing by and not expecting it might just jump at those parts. The score by Carlo Rustichelli fits the groove of the film, though in murder scenes it gets a bit cliched, but not so much that it detracts from the sequence.

 Probably the most brilliant aspect of the film is the MacBeth dynamic between Max and Christina. There's no doubt that Christina first thought to kill her husband (though at the least, she and Max plotted it together), but then it switches to Max being the dominant one, killing off those who stood in his way of getting the diary (sure, it's not the Scottish throne, but it's a lot more relatable). But then, when he's released, Christina gets a bit tipsy and describes when they killed her husband, making him a bit uneasy. In the same scene, however, Max convinces a now hesitant Christina to carry out one last murder. He stays in that position when he traps her into escaping and she falls, but in surviving she gains the upper hand and kills Max, but at the expense of her own life (on a side note, Lady MacBeth is also the only character to not die by murder, though with Christina Max arranged for her to fall). 

 So there you have it. The prototype of a murder mystery giallo. Simple, yet well made, Blood and Black Lace is worth a definite recommendation for those wanting to watch something new in their movies.

September 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Dairanger (So Far)



Henshin daaa!
(Woh Woh Woh Woh Woh)
Kiryoku daaa!
(Woh Woh Woh Woh Woh)

 Fellow users at Rangerboard suggested a couple of weeks ago that I take a look at Gosei Sentai Dairanger and offer my thoughts.

 A problem with Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that really stood out to me was the pretty overwhelming focus in the child-of-the-week rather than offer the time for character development for the rangers.

 Here with Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the characters are modern day young adults who happen to be descended from the ancient Dai Tribe of Southern China (which was part of the Daos Empire) who become the Dairangers to fight against the Gorma tribe, a formerly harmonious tribe from the empire back in the day who then decided to take over the world. With the Gorma's revival, the rangers are assembled. Each have high levels of Qi powers, which give them the abilities of high speed, time manipulation, among other powers.

 I liked that the rangers were modern day folk that got more of the focus than the Zyurangers had. Master Kaku, the team's mentor/leader, usually had more of the answers to problems than Barza, and served as much more of a sensei to the group. I agree with fellow blogger Sean Akizuki when he said he thought Lin, the Hououranger, looked more like she had at least some Caucasian blood, even though the character was half-Chinese, half-Japanese. Being half-Chinese myself, I could definitely see some Caucasian features in Lin.

 Kou, the Kibaranger, is shown pretty much right off the bat as a bit of a brat (in a good way), as he's mischievious, somewhat reckless, and a bit perverted (if you don't know by now, he's always grabbing Lin's breasts). An episode that really got to me with Kou was when a new girl came to his class and he discovers her mother has no love for her daughter and is emotionally abusive, him not knowing that it's really a Gorma scheme perpetrated by Akomaru (Gorma Lieutenant Colonel Shadam's son) and a monster of the week, designed to make Kou lose faith in his long-lost mother, but ends up having the opposite effect.

 Speaking of the Gorma, they prove themselves early on to be an incredibly dangerous threat to human existence. In one episode, they gather children with a monster to sacrifice them by decapitation with a scythe. Most of the members of the Gorma tribe wear elaborate outfits of black leather (don't ask), and the Archbishop Saw looks like a Caucasian man in a Klansman hat. Scratch your head if you have to...

 Overall, though, the series is quite entertaining, with a strong cast (even if it doesn't have the late, great Machiko Soga as the villain), great music, and even a bit of a Return of the Jedi homage with Ryou and his Gorma father in a two-parter. There's also no lack for character development, with pretty much every ranger getting a chance to shine. The ranger roll call is most definitely worth a mention as well, as it's one of the best I've seen so far and one of my favorites of Super Sentai.

 If you haven't watched it yet, this blogger highly recommends it, especially if you understand Japanese and you can watch past the 23 episodes that have been subbed so far LOL.

September 5, 2010

Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger vs. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: A Semi-Direct Comparison


Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

 I guess a comparison is inevitable between the Super Sentai incarnation and the American-made adaptation. Though it's unfair to directly compare two very different shows, there are aspects that are worth analyzing.


Of course, the very basic premise is the same. Five young adults transform to fight an evil witch and her monsters of the week.

The Rangers and Their Allies

The cast of Zyuranger
Dan, Mei, Geki, Barza, Boi, and Goushi

The cast of MMPR
Clockwise: Billy, Jason, Trini, Zack, and Kimberly

 The rangers themselves are worth a Venn diagram of sorts. When it comes to relatibility to an American audience, it's no surprise that the beloved team of Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, Kimberly, and later Tommy wins out, especially since they're in more episodes than the Zyurangers. In Zyuranger, the rangers were waken out of a cryogenic sleep from the age of the dinosaurs and have to adjust to a modern world. Though we could see some personality in those rangers (Mei wearing a different hairstyle each episode, Goushi being serious and determined), too much screentime, however, is given to young children characters who are usually the target of Witch Bandora's schemes (more on Bandora and Rita later). This also hampers the amount of usable city scenes for MMPR, as well as scenes with Totpat/Baboo and Bukbak/Squatt setting a trap.

 The character with the most development in Zyuranger is definitely Geki, the Red Ranger. Over the Green Ranger arc in that series, he learns that his reasoning with his vengeful brother Burai is ineffective, and he must fight him instead, but he is hesitant because Burai is his only living family. We especially see development at the end of that arc when he refuses to kill Burai when he wins their battle, instead extending his hand in brotherhood and in invitation to fight alongside him. 

 With the rangers, what it comes down to is simply a matter of screentime. With a less complicated history for the rangers and villains, as well as less emphasis on children as the target of evil schemes, MMPR has more time for us to learn and get comfortable with the rangers' personalities. As the series treads on, we see Kimberly develop from a shallow Valley Girl to a strong, unselfish young woman, as well as Billy changing from the stereotypical nerd to a ranger that could certainly hold his own in a battle.

Barza

Zordon

 The mentors of the teams deserve a look as well. Barza, a wizard from the Zyurangers' time, is, like Zordon, an old enemy of the villain. Because he was obviously more mobile than Zordon, he was able to awaken the Zyurangers out of their sleep and come face to face with Bandora in the first episode. Unlike Zordon, however, Barza often didn't know the remedy or antidote to some conditions or spells brought on by Bandora's schemes, instead looking them up in a book from his library or having to figure it out with the rangers. Did I mention he carried a lot of guns and other weapons with a friend in one episode?

 Zordon is an interdimensional being who was trapped in a time warp by Rita Replusa when he trapped her in her space dumpster. He, along with his robot assistant Alpha 5, provided the morphers and the knowledge for the five "teenagers with attitude" to fight Rita's monsters. Zordon was aware of the cures and antidotes for spells (very smart story and budget-wise), and was able to transport the rangers to a location via the Command Center. Zordon was more open with the rangers than Barza was with his, as Barza wouldn't give a reason why he didn't want Burai awakened, only to tell the truth after Burai awoke.

 I guess these two are somewhat tied, since they're too different in concept to name a winner, though Zordon definitely advanced the story better.

The Villains

Witch Bandora

 This is practically like choosing between cake and ice cream. But seriously, if you've seen both series, you know what I'm talking about. Witch Bandora and Rita Repulsa are two characters that are surprisingly different, yet ever so similar. Other than the obvious (language and voice), the two's motivations are pretty unlike each other.

 In grief over the death of her son Kai, peaceful queen Bandora sells her soul to Dai Satan (Lokar in MMPR) and gains dark magic powers, slaughtering the dinosaurs and causing the war that devastated the Zyurangers' tribes. Her schemes in Zyuranger are almost always aimed at children to use them for her ultimate scheme near the series' end. Even by MMPR standards, some of these plots are truly ridiculous. The Zyuranger episode that was the basis for "No Clowning Around" had a plot involving a bitter child under a monster's guidance kicking soccer balls containing sneezing powder. Makes you really appreciate the cardboard cutouts.
 Bandora in personality is considerably more sadistic and smug, having a larger vanity as well (remember when Rita was sick in "Food Fight"? Bandora was depressed that she overate after her release and decided to go on a crash diet). Because of more screentime in Zyuranger, she takes many oppurtunities to mock the rangers as well as threaten them. Of course, the ending of Zyuranger signals that even though she's trapped once again, she's regained at least some of her former goodness. Did I forget to mention she had her own theme song too?




Rita Repulsa

 Rita, on the other hand, was born into an equally evil alien family (see Rito Revolto and Master Vile in season three). Other than that, not very much of her past was revealed. One thing Rita had over Bandora was more appearances and more episodes, especially after the Sentai footage was exhausted. Being human and not in a monster costume, Bandora was harder to dub and as this site shows, her scenes and close-ups were heavily edited to allow Barbara Goodson's voice to fit.
 Changes occurred, of course, when Lord Zedd entered the picture. The first thing he did was cast Rita out in a dumpster not unlike the original. When she returned to the palace, she concocted one of her very few plans that actually worked: to slip Zedd a love potion and marry him, hoping to take back control.
 Over the rest of MMPR, we see that Rita and Zedd have more success in their evil plots than either of them did seperately. I also noticed that Rita had waaaaay less headaches after marrying Zedd... (hint hint)
 By the time Power Rangers Zeo came, they fled the palace as the Machine Empire approached and took Zedd's zord Serpentera to Master Vile's, though somehow, the next time we see them, they're driving around in a Winnebago. That's one for Ripley's.
 In the Power Rangers in Space finale "Countdown to Destruction", Rita and Zedd are affected by Zordon's purifying energy wave, turning into humans who then dance off together. Rita's redemption is taken to the next level near the end of Power Rangers Mystic Force, where she's revealed to be the Mystic Mother.
 In the Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive two-parter "Once a Ranger", it is revealed that Zedd and Rita had a son by the name of Thrax, who called out his parents for becoming good. This, of course, opens up a discussion as to when Thrax was conceived and imprisoned by the Sentinel Knight.

 Another difference was during the "Green with Evil" arc, as Rita was directly responsible for the evil Green Ranger, while in Zyuranger Bandora had almost nothing to do with Burai's revival.

 So who wins here? Bandora had a better backstory, but Rita had the advantage of Lord Zedd. This is most definitely a tie.

Bukbak/Squatt and Totpat/Baboo

 Totpat and Bukbak were generally more competent than Baboo and Squatt, though both pairs were seen as the comic relief of the villains. In Zyuranger they had human forms (a possible reason for Bulk and Skull in MMPR), and Totpat was a vampire who in one episode actually tried to suck a girl's blood.
 In the end, Totpat and Bukbak were sealed away with Bandora, while we never see Baboo and Squatt again after the first episode of Power Rangers Zeo. This one's probably another tie, although Totpat and Bukbak were, as I mentioned before, more competent, I liked Baboo's voice better than Totpat's.

Grifforzer/Goldar

 Grifforzer and Goldar were both the muscle of the group. A big difference was that Grifforzer took a vow of silence until his wife Lamie (Scorpina in MMPR) returned, and even after she returned, he rarely spoke. Goldar, on the other hand, was almost always speaking (thanks to US-made footage), and as the series progressed and Lord Zedd appeared, he became more and more of a comic relief. Grifforzer and Lamie ended up having a child at the end of Zyuranger, while in season three of MMPR Goldar was paired with Rito Revolto, blowing up the Command Center right before Zeo, and losing his memory with Rito and working for Bulk and Skull until they regained their memories and escaped. Goldar is seen in the first episode of Power Rangers in Space but not in "Countdown to Destruction", leaving his fate unknown was eventually destroyed by Zordon's energy wave. I feel really bad...
 As serious as Grifforzer stayed, Goldar simply had better staying power and managed to survive two changes in evil regime, among other events. He even had a humorous exchange with Lord Zedd in one episode:

 Zedd: "The tide is about to turn."
 Goldar: "Duh, what tide?"
 Zedd: "IT WAS A METAPHOR, YOU NIMROD!"

To me, Goldar takes all.

 Pleprechuan/Finster

 There's some difference between Pleprechuan (pronounced on the show as Puripurikan) and Finster. While Finster was totally loyal to Rita, Pleprechuan sometimes insulted Bandora behind her back and when frazzled he would curse "Puri puri." Finster became out of commission when Lord Zedd arrived, and lamenting for the good old days, he is happy to see Rita return. After that he made monsters again, though only sporadically. This one's probably a tie too. Although Pleprechuan is slightly more irreverent, one of Finster's unused monsters has a hilarious description:

"I'm making a monster that eats cars and smells like a fish."

 I guess it goes to show that Finster isn't so uptight.

Lamie/Scorpina

 Lamie, was, as I mentioned, Grifforzer's wife. She also carried out more than a few of Bandora's schemes on children, and took on disguises as well. Because of the difficulty in dubbing, Lamie's scenes were severely cut and because of that Scorpina only appeared a few times in MMPR. Scorpina disappeared in "The Mutiny" and only reappeared once in "Goldar's Vice Versa" played by a different actress (who looked pretty close to the original). Because of simply more screentime, Lamie takes it here, though, no matter which series she was on, she was definitely eye candy.

The Writing

 As I said before, MMPR's simplified storyline allowed for more ranger character development, but overall Zyuranger had a much more serious plot and backstory. It really depends on what part of the writing you love the most. A big reason for the changes was the cultural differences between Japan and the United States. It's not unusual for a kids show in Japan to have guns, death, rape, and rear nudity. It's the same reason that many anime series are edited and slightly rewritten to remove these references. It should also be worth mentioning that when Burai finds himself in the Lapseless Room, the child guide Clotho resembles a Klansman. No joke.

 Toei did not resurrect the character of Burai after his death to teach viewers a lesson. Tommy was brought back briefly as the Green Ranger and then was reintroduced as the White Ranger (whose Sentai counterpart was from Dairanger, the next Sentai series over). Many other Sentai incarnations had characters who died but whose Power Rangers counterparts survived scuff-free or were badly injured. Once again, a tie.

The Music

 Zyuranger had orchestral music while MMPR's catchy rock score (as well as the Bulk and Skull theme) was composed by Ron Wasserman. Again, two different flavors here. In terms of American tastes, Wasserman's hooks and lyrics would win for the younger crowd, while Zyuranger's score would probably be a hit with a wider audience since it's more orchestral and the theme song's pretty good too. I say Wasserman's music wins here, because of its versatility beyond the original MMPR series, especially since the "Go Go Power Rangers" theme was given a new twist for Power Rangers Zeo.

Things MMPR Has Over Zyuranger

Lord Zedd

Two words: LORD ZEDD

 A new era began in "The Mutiny", when Lord Zedd, the true Emperor of Evil, arrived on the scene. He was lauded by fans as a badass replacement for Rita Repulsa, as well as for coming up with better evil schemes. Unfortunately, the television parent watchdog groups of America didn't feel the same way, and as a result of their lobbying Zedd was significantly toned down, the final straw for many fans being "The Wedding" three-parter. Many thought that after that Zedd was more of a softie than a badass. Personally, I do agree, but I still like Zedd and Rita as a married couple because as the famous Linkara pointed out, the two accomplished more together than either of them did apart. Zedd's sense of humor just killed me sometimes, like in one episode:

"What is it this time, Finster? A monster that blows itself up?"

 If it were up to me, I'd still have Zedd and Rita married, but still have Zedd be a badass.

Skull and Bulk

 Ah, Bulk and Skull. It's slapstick comedy at its finest. They would have great comedic moments in an otherwise preachy episode. The original Green Ranger arc in Zyuranger had Grifforzer grow giant and rattle a bus. Putting Bulk and Skull on the bus in "Green with Evil" was a stroke of pure genius. A favorite of mine is when the two invent cockroach kung fu. Bulk demonstrates some peculiar moves to the juice bar patrons, while Skull lies on his back and makes jerky movements, to which Bulk says "Not the dead [cockroaches], dummy". "Foul Play in the Sky" demonstrates Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy's comedic timing whenever Bulk and Skull scream in unison.
 In season three, the two joined the Junior Police Force, with their training being accompanied by an amusing song that sadly was never heard again in the series. The two kept appearing throughout the series, through Zeo, Turbo, and in Space. "Countdown to Destruction" showed that Bulk and Skull had developed from high school bullies to true heroes who stepped up when it counted.



Rito Revolto

 Rito Revolto, Rita's brother, debuted in season three, bringing along the villains' new footsoldiers, the Tenga Warriors. Unlike other characters added later in the series (like Ninjor), Rito was charming, somewhat easygoing, and could do a lot of damage in a fight, such as when he destroyed the Thunderzords. He made a good comedic match for Goldar that season and in Zeo. Although Rito was originally from Super Sentai, he was not from Zyuranger, but from Kakuranger, the Sentai series two years after.
 Rito also had the hilarious habit of calling his brother-in-law "Ed" (a reference to Zedd's in-suit actor Ed Neil). Zedd would usually angrily reply "IT'S ZEDD!"

 Ron Wasserman's music totally sets the atmosphere of the series, so to I shall leave off with the immortal "Go Go Power Rangers". Enjoy, and happy trails!