Who would think that Tsuburaya Productions, a Japanese television production company on the other side of the world, would be responsible for most of my fondest childhood memories. . . .
Every morning, before heading off to school, I watched back-to-back episodes of the animes Marine Boy and Speed Racer — and Tsuburaya’s live action Ultra Man. Then, on the weekends: it was adventures of the “Mighty-Go” flying submarine on Tsuburaya’s Mighty Jack.
So obsessed was I with the adventures of the SSSP (Science Special Search-Party) crew on Ultraman, my dad rigged two transistor radios to the sides of my plastic Baltimore Colts football helmet and, with a dyed-orange tee-shirt courtesy of mom, I ran around the backyard like a madman, zapping away with my battery-operated ray gun. Mom even made me a Marine Boy wristcom. I even recorded “mission logs” on a table top reel-to-reel deck that looked like the computers on Ultraman. Awesome times.
So, it goes without saying: If I had the opportunity to meet television producer and distributor Sandy Frank (Time of the Apes), I’d blabber incomprehensible, tear-filled “thank yous” for those memories — for he was the man responsible for bringing Tsuburaya’s catalog to U.S. UHF-TV stations.
And even when I became “too old” to watch Frank-imported cartoons with my bowl of Fruity Pebbles, I stuck by Sandy Frank during my Star Wars-driven teen years when he brought us the anime-series Battle of the Planets (1978), which was an American retooling of the 1972 Japanese anime Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. And when Frank brought Tsuburaya’s 1978 series Sutā Urufu, aka Star Wolf, to American UHF-TV stations as the 1988 TV movie Fugitive Alien, I was all in . . . with a box Coco Puffs and a half-gallon of chocolate milk at my side.
Later recycled in the public domain aftermarkets as Star Wolf and the Raiders and Star Force — with sets, costumes, and plotting that reminds of my beloved Ultra Man — Fugitive Alien follows the Star Wars-cum-Battlestar Galactica-inspired adventures of Ken, a soldier in the mighty Wolf Raiders from the planet Valnastar.
During the Wolf Raiders attack on the Earth, Ken’s refusal to kill a woman and child that stumbled into their mission to sabotage an Earth installation, results in his killing a fellow Raider — and he comes a space fugitive. Rescued and finding refuge with Captain Joe and the crew of battleship Bacchus III, Ken — infused with super-human strength and reflexes due to low Earth gravity — allies with the Earthmen against the Wolf Raiders.
The effects in this may be competent-to-the-side-of-cheap, but wow, they’re awesome — courtesy of the blatant “kit bashing” of the oh-so-familiar model kits from the Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica franchises* (ships look like X-Wings; the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit windows are all over the place) used to construct the show’s miniatures.
While not part of this particular Mill Creek set, Sandy Frank edited two more series episode into a UHF-TV sequel: Star Force: Fugitive Alien 2, which continues the adventures of Captain Joe and Ken with the crew of the Bacchus III as they journey to the planet Calnastar to destroy a super-weapon aimed at the Earth.
You can enjoy Fugitive Alien and Star Force: Fugitive Alien II on You Tube and own a copy of Fugitive Alien as part of the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion Box Set. Fruity Pebbles and/or Coco Puffs — which are required — are not included in your purchase.
* Don’t forget to check our “Star Wars Droppings” blowout as we look at a wide array of post-Lucas-inspired films.