The following is the complete text of an article which originally appeared in issue#59 (January 1993) of the SHADO-USECC UFO fan club COMMUNIQUE newsletter. The original article included a few photos, which are not included here.
Laserdiscs from Japan: UFO Part 1
by Marc Martin
In the previous COMMUNIQUE, I reviewed the second of two limited edition boxed sets of UFO laserdiscs from Japan. At that time, I had been unable to obtain a copy of the first boxed set, and had been told by several laserdisc importers that it was sold out. Luckily however, I was able to track down and purchase a copy from a UFO fan in Chicago. This fan ordered the set from several laserdisc importers to ensure that he would at least get one copy, and accidentally ended up with two!
Not surprisingly, the first boxed set is very similar to the second. Each set contains about half of the 26 UFO episodes on laserdisc. The discs feature state of the art digital video transfers made from newly struck 35 mm prints. They have no Japanese subtitles, and instead have separate English and dubbed Japanese audio tracks. Both sets also contain extra items in addition to the episode discs. Since these sets are so similar, many of the comments that I made about the second set also apply to the first, and will not be repeated in great detail.
The First Boxed Set
The first boxed set is titled "UFO Part 1". The box measures 13 by 13 by 2 inches, and weighs 8 pounds. Inside are 6 laserdiscs containing UFO episodes, a bonus laserdisc called the "SHADO Secret File", and an 8 page booklet. Each laserdisc is packaged separately, with three layers of protection: a thin plastic sleeve, a thick cardboard disc cover, and a thick plastic cover protector. Please note that the second boxed set does not have thick plastic cover protectors. Instead, these disc covers are merely shrink wrapped with a thin, disposable plastic wrapping.
The outer box is similar to the Part 2 box in both design and construction. The most noticeable difference is that the background color of this box is black, as opposed to the white background in Part 2. The front of the box features a large photo of Ed Straker, and is quite striking as his face seems to appear out of the darkness of the black background. The English text on the front of the box, which by the way is the same as in Part 2, starts out with:
"Who are they? What are they? From where do they come?",
And then continues with an amusing description of the show:
"Unidentified Flying Objects in the 1980's...friend or foe? To seek the answer...SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization), completely self-operative, with moon base, space station and computer wizardry programmed by the most glamorous girls of the space age."
On the back of the box there are two series of photos near the top and bottom, with the episode titles and series credits in between. The photos near the top are of Ed Straker, Paul Foster, Alec Freeman, and Gay Ellis. The smaller photos near the bottom are of the interceptors, a mobile, SID, Skydiver, and a lunar module.
The Episode Discs
The 6 discs containing the UFO episodes are labelled Volume 1 through 6. Each volume contains two episodes, for a total of 12 episodes. These episodes are:
- Vol 1: Identified / Exposed
- Vol 2: Survival / Conflict
- Vol 3: Close Up / Kill Straker!
- Vol 4: Sub-Smash / The Cat with Ten Lives
- Vol 5: The Sound of Silence / Ordeal
- Vol 6: E.S.P. / Computer Affair
The disc covers look slightly better than those in Part 2, even though the basic design is the same. The difference is that the graphics and the photos have brighter colors and greater contrast in Part 1, and the background color is a very nice metallic silver, as opposed to the greenish-gray background in Part 2. I think it is possible that the covers in these two sets were meant to look identical, but that a better printing facility was used in manufacturing Part 1.
The front of each disc cover features two publicity photos from UFO. These photos have nothing to do with the episodes contained inside, and on the whole, feature a good mix of character and hardware shots. The back of the disc covers feature three small photos from each episode contained inside. These photos are well chosen, and are probably helpful for people who cannot identify an episode by it's title alone.
The ordering of the episodes is almost as random as in Part 2, but at least the very first volume is correct, with ITC's official first and second episodes, "Identified" and "Exposed".
The picture quality on the episode discs is the same as in Part 2, which is excellent even by laserdisc standards. However, there are three episodes in these sets which have slightly less color and contrast than the rest. These episodes are "Identified", "Computer Affair", and "Reflections in the Water", and are the same episodes that were used to make most of the UFO compilation movie, "Invasion: UFO". While I do not know the reason for this difference in picture quality, it's likely that it has something to do with "Invasion: UFO".
The sound quality on the episode discs is also the same as in Part 2, which is below average on the English track and excellent on the dubbed Japanese track. The English track suffers from a lack of high frequency information and occasional distortion. While the Japanese track does not suffer these problems, it has it's own problems, namely excessive narration, scenes not dubbed into Japanese, and the theme from the Thunderbirds added whenever the moonbase interceptors takeoff.
The Bonus Disc
This set comes with a bonus laserdisc called the "SHADO Secret File". The disc cover is plain in design, but stands out because of it's bright blue background color. The front of the cover contains the disc's title and a giant version of the familiar SHADO logo. On the back, it says "TOP SECRET" in big red letters, and has the following message:
"This file contains TOP SECRET Information on S.H.A.D.O., and can be revealed only to personnel with prior written permission. Any form of reproduction of any part of this file is strictly prohibited. Inspection is limited to Eyes only. This file must not leave this premises under any situation, whatsoever.
Commander. ED STRAKER"
On the disc is a 27 minute program which describes SHADO's purpose, staff, facilities, and hardware. It is purely of an introductory nature, and appears to be intended for people who have never seen the show before. The program is narrated in Japanese only, so all I have to go on is the picture in determining what is being discussed. The picture consists mainly of clips from the show, and a brief amount of explanatory graphics. Both the picture and the sound quality are excellent. A breakdown of the program's 11 laserdisc chapters is presented below.
Chapter 1 contains the standard Century 21 opening and the program's title.
Chapter 2 (5 minutes) starts with the standard UFO opening sequence with Japanese narration. Commander Straker is then introduced, and SHADO's background is covered with short scenes from "Identified" and "Confetti Check A-OK".
Chapter 3 (2 minutes) introduces the other main staff members, with short clips showing Paul Foster, Alec Freeman, Dr. Jackson, Virginia Lake, Gay Ellis, General Henderson, Keith Ford, Dr. Shroeder, Joan Harrington, Nina Barry, Mark Bradley, and Lew Waterman.
Chapter 4 (4 minutes) presents a very complete overview of SHADO Headquarters, with short clips showing the studio entrance, the studio grounds, SHADO's main entrance, Straker's studio office, the psycho analytic department, the control room, Straker's SHADO office, the medical center, conference room, laboratory, interrogation room, and weapons arsenal.
Chapter 5 (1 minute) briefly explains the SHADO organization with an organization chart containing mostly Japanese text.
Chapter 6 (1 minute) explains the Space Intruder Detector (SID), with scenes showing it's exterior and interior. This is followed by a series of photos with English text labelling it's advanced warning system, docking collar, main UFO detection scanner, and relay aerial.
Chapter 7 (1 minute) shows a graphic of the relative positions of the Earth, the moon, and SID. I am not really sure, but I think the narrator might be discussing how SID tracks incoming UFO's for the moonbase interceptors and Sky One.
Chapter 8 (6 minutes) presents a very complete overview of Moonbase, with short clips showing the exterior and interior of the lunar module landing and reception sphere, the living quarters sphere, the control sphere, the recreation sphere, and central park. This is followed by many clips showing the interceptors, moonmobiles, mobile rocket launcher platform, lunar module, and the lunar module carrier plane.
Chapter 9 (1 minute) shows brief clips of Skydiver's exterior and interior, a Sky 1 launch and UFO interception, and the Skydiver hanger that was briefly featured in "The Psychobombs".
Chapter 10 (2 minutes) shows many clips of the interior and exterior of the ground mobiles, and brief clips of the mobile carrier plane and the mobile transport truck.
Chapter 11 (4 minutes) shows very brief clips of the SHADO aircraft, ground vehicles, and weapons. The aircraft which are shown are the Seagull X-Ray, a SHADO Jet, the SHADO Gyro, a rescue plane, and the mobile carrier. The ground vehicles which are shown are Straker's car and a SHADO jeep. The weapons which are shown are a SHADO gun, rifle, machine gun, and a hand held rocket launcher.
The program ends with a 2 minute interview with an older Japanese woman in a modern video editing room. While she is speaking, four still photographs are shown. Two of these photos are behind the scenes shots, one of Derek Meddings with a spacecraft model, and one of Wanda Ventham and Ed Bishop with the camera crew during the filming of "Timelash". The remaining two are publicity shots of Ed Bishop as Commander Straker, and Gabrielle Drake as Lt. Ellis.
This set also comes with an 8 page black & white booklet, which is not nearly as impressive as the 32 page color booklet that comes with Part 2. The booklet is printed on high quality glossy paper, and measures 12 by 12 inches. It mostly contains text, and this text is almost entirely in Japanese. There are a few black & white photos, but they are mostly of below average quality. A breakdown of the booklet's 8 pages is presented below.
Page 1 (front cover) has a photo of a UFO approaching the Earth, and SID in orbit. It also contains some sort of credits in Japanese.
Page 2 has four small photos on the left, and an introduction on the right. The photos are of Straker, Freeman, and Ford in the control room, Skydiver on the ocean surface, Lt. Ellis and Barry on Moonbase, and an Alien with a gun in the forest. The recognizable English words in the introduction include "SHADO", "UFO", "DOPPELGANGER", "1980", and "SID".
Page 3 has a chart showing the "ITC World" on the top, and some explanatory text on the bottom. The chart shows the dates corresponding to events that happened in "UFO", "Space: 1999", "Stingray", "Thunderbirds", and "Captain Scarlet". There are very small photos from each of these series.
Page 4 is titled "SHADO Secret File". There are two graphics on this page which are similar to ones that are on the bonus disc. One is of the SHADO organization chart, and the other shows the relative positions of the Earth, the moon and SID. There are also two small photos, one of Straker and Freeman, and one of Lt. Ellis, Barry, and Harrington.
Page 5 has an episode guide for the 12 episodes in this set. There are small photos from the episodes "Identified", "ESP", and "Computer Affair".
Pages 6 & 7 have the text of the dialog that has not been dubbed into Japanese on the 12 episode's Japanese audio track. At the bottom of page 7 are small photos of Foster, Straker, and Freeman on moonbase, a mobile leaving a carrier plane, Lt. Ford and Ayshea in the control room, and Straker in his car.
Page 8 (back cover) has 5 small photos of a moonbase interceptor model. The shots show the model from the front, back, side, top, and bottom. There are also some more of what appears to be credits.
This first boxed set of UFO laserdiscs from Japan has a lot in common with the second. Both have superb picture quality and very nice packaging. Both have below average sound quality on the English audio track, and excellent sound quality on an otherwise flawed Japanese track. Although the extras in this set are nice, I don't think that they have the same sort of universal appeal as the booklet in Part 2. The bonus disc would mostly be of interest to Japanese speaking people who are unfamiliar with the show. And the booklet would mostly be of interest to people who can read Japanese.
Title: UFO Part 1 (ITC Memorial Box)
Product Number: BELL-412
Contents: 6 episode discs, bonus disc, 8 page booklet
Length: episodes - 600 min, bonus disc - 27 min
Video: NTSC, Color
Audio: Digital, Bilingual (English & Japanese), Mono
Laserdisc Mode: episodes - CLV, bonus disc - CAV
Price: 40600 yen (approximately $325 US)
Produced by: Tohokushinsha Home Video