Here Comes Your ‘Mon, Vol. VII: I must break you

Looks like we got some inventory to clear out before the end of the summer. We have some new and some old(-ish) in this week’s entry, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about these words, which ought to mean something, right?

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ULTRA Q episode 5, “Peguila Is Here!” & episode 14, “Tokyo Ice Age”

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MONSTER OF THE WEEK: The Frozen Monster Peguila

What is it with monsters attacking Antarctic bases? Will that old trope end up being John W. Campbell’s most enduring legacy?

The starkness of the landscape actually lends a lot of atmosphere of the first episode, the use of mist and smoke among those barren backgrounds giving the appearances of the monster a ghostly nature. Some parts of the story even have a ghost story feel, of people trapped in a harsh environment (dealing with intense cold and winds, which is only a little bit exaggerated compared to the real thing) with mysterious disappearances and events going on all around them, and a subtle melancholic streak that ultimately comes to fruition by the end – it’s an episode that benefits from being shot in black-and-white (although not one that benefits from one of the sillier ending narrations I’ve seen on this show.)

Just before watching these episodes, I got to thinking about how we don’t seem to have many monster movies that base themselves in modern environmental concerns like global warming, especially compared to the number of films in the fifties through the seventies that used nuclear fears and pollution as their inspiration. Then, watching “Tokyo Ice Age” (made fifty years ago), we have a scene where the characters explain the effects of climate change (still a fairly new idea at the time), followed by an ice monster attacking Japan because Antarctica is warming up. So I guess I now have another example.

This episode establishes the “returning-monster-visits-Tokyo” formula that was also used in “Garamon Strikes Back”, but while the natural disaster imagery I saw in that episode is present here, it’s not nearly so grim. Which is not to say this episode is not also pretty downbeat, it just takes its time getting there – the a family drama subplot that loudly announces its entire trajectory, but remains compelling nonetheless, and the final shot (which follows an incongruously cheery farewell) is sad in a fairly low key way. Like its predecessor, it manages to have some emotional content with much less focus on destruction.

Here Comes Your ‘Mon, Vol. V: Let us now bow our heads and bray

ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNET: I published a new post on the book site, writing about Lisa Hanawalt’s food-themed comic collection Hot Dog Taste Test and the animal-themed autobiographical tale The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery.

Vacation’s over, I guess. They will not be happy until I never sleep again, all my hours spent cramming words about critters onto this website, a Sisyphus for the modern age. Or something.

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