After looking through an old issue of an anime magazine, I decided to throw in a classic, the movie adaptation of the 1967 tokusatsu series Giant Robo, known in the U.S. as Johnny Sokko and his Giant Robot. The movie, known as Voyage into Space, is a compilation of the entire 26-episode series and tracks Johnny Sokko as he becomes controller of a giant atomic powered robot, joins the super-secret organization Unicorn and defeats Emperor Guillotine and his evil Gargoyle Gang.
Join me now for a look into yesterday. Giant Robot go!
After an alien spaceship comes to earth bearing Emperor Guillotine of the planet Gargoyle, he and his Gargoyle gang set about taking over the planet by first kidnapping an Earth scientist and using him to build a giant robot that cannot be defeated. However, Unicorn Agent Jerry Mano and kid companion Johnny Sokko wash up on the remote island where the robot is being constructed after having been attacked by one of Gargoyle’s giant monsters and Johnny ends up with the control watch as the scientist activates a nuclear bomb! Now an agent of Unicorn, Johnny Sokko fights alongside his Giant Robot to defeat the forces of Gargoyle and their evil Emperor.
Now I remember watching this movie long, long ago on the Family Film Festival, hosted by Tom Hatten back in the 1970s on Channel 5 in Southern California. I was always into giant monsters and the like so this was right up my alley. I lost track of the movie for a long time until I came across it at a convention, being sold on VHS by one of those video pirates who sold old TV shows and movies and I have never regretted that purchase.
There’s just so many things that make you shake your head about the movie. Jerry Mano, super-secret agent, meets Johnny Sokko on a ship, immediately almost lets it slip that he’s a Unicorn agent and when his pen rings, he walks about 3 feet away to answer his communicator, letting Johnny hear everything. After Johnny gets control of the robot, they offer to make him an agent of Unicorn without consulting his parents and, in fact, tells Johnny to keep it a secret from them. Well Johnny is a little kid, won’t they notice? And doesn’t he have to go to school or anything? Is he always available to run off to secret missions with Unicorn without raising any suspicion? Besides the whole premise is ridiculous, Emperor Guillotine, the evil space villain who can build an endless array of giant monsters, approaches an Earth scientist to build a superior weapon. Clearly, if Earth could build something like Giant Robot, Guillotine was doomed from the start. If Earth couldn’t, how could Guillotine give him the technology to defeat anything that Guillotine could come up with? Yeah, silly, but fun anyhow.
I know I’ve mentioned this before but I think it bears repeating. This kind of show would never be enjoyed by a lot of fans of tokusatsu today, just because it looks old. Modern shows have to have CGI and be crystal clear video and digital sound or people will turn their noses up at them. My copy of the movie is a DVD conversion of an original VHS source, recorded off TV many, many years ago. It’s got distortions. It’s got noise. It has all kinds of video artifacts. I never once thought “I have to turn this off, I can’t watch this, it isn’t perfect!” Of course, Shout! Factory has put the entire series on TV now so quality isn’t an issue, although there are a lot of people who can’t stand watching anything devoid of modern CGI technology.
If you’re in the mood for some silly rubber-suited action and are looking for something outside of the Godzilla/Gamera vein, this could be right up your alley. Of course, I’d say go for the whole 26 episode run if you have time, but otherwise, this compilation movie might just scratch that tokusatsu itch. It’s wacky fun!