JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT Coming to MGM DVD on Demand
Author: Keith Aiken, Oki Miyano, and Kevin Grays
Source: Fox Home Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
Order Page: amazon.com/Johnny-Sokko-His-Flying-Robot
Special Thanks to Jennifer Lang, Mitzi Phung, Gary Teetzel, Ana Kono, and Garo Setian
Last December, Fox Home Entertainment launched a DVD on Demand program through online retailer Amazon.com’s CreateSpace service. Similar to Warner Bros’ Warner Archive Collection, CreateSpace DVD on Demand will allow Fox to make available classic titles from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film and television library that would would most likely not be released as mass-market entries, particularly in today’s tough and over-crowded home video market. “MGM has a vast library of classic films and TV shows, which up until now have never been available for purchase,” said Eric Doctorow, general manager MGM Worldwide at Fox. “Working with CreateSpace gives us the opportunity to preserve and release some of these films and TV shows for fans everywhere.”
While mass-produced retail DVDs are manufactured by a factory stamping process, the CreateSpace program individually burns NTSC format, Region 1 DVD-Rs sourced from archived studio materials. In addition to Fox/MGM, CreateSpace has DVD on Demand deals in place with Universal, HBO, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, and CNN.
“CreateSpace is pleased to bring rare classic films from MGM’s expansive library back to life so that they are easily accessible to fans,” said Dana LoPiccolo-Giles, managing director of CreateSpace. “With CreateSpace’s on-demand technology and online distribution solution – which eliminates the need for large replication runs and inventory – we are able to offer studios a cost-efficient, low-risk platform to release titles that otherwise may never have been available through more traditional methods.”
Movies announced for the first wave of MGM DVD on Demand include the Oscar-nominated TWO FOR THE SEESAW (1962) starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine, TRAPEZE (1956) by Oscar winner Carol Reed and starring Oscar winning actor Burt Lancaster, CHAINS OF GOLD (1991) starring John Travolta, THE GROUP (1966) directed by Sidney Lumet, INHERIT THE WIND (1999), and THE TENTH MAN (1988). The selection of television series includes POLTERGEIST Season 2 (1997), JEREMIAH Season 2 (2003), the first season of HIGHWAY PATROL (1955), and FLIPPER- THE NEW ADVENTURES (1995). Films will generally sell for $19.98 with TV series collections retailing in the $39.98 price range, depending on the number of episodes per set.
One title particularly of interest to SciFi Japan readers will be JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT (1967), the Americanized version of the Japanese FX show GIANT ROBO (Jaianto Robo). Fox Home Entertainment has announced that the complete 26 episode series will be released in a seven disc set through MGM DVD on Demand.
GIANT ROBO to JOHNNY SOKKO
GIANT ROBO began as a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, also the creator of the robot series Tetsujin 28 (known as GIGANTOR in the U.S.). Toei Company Ltd. adapted the comics into a live action television series which were first broadcast in Japan on NET (Nippon Educational Television, now TV Asahi) from October 11, 1967 to April 1, 1968. The producer of GIANT ROBO was Toru Hirayama, often called the father of Toei’s super heroes. Under Hirayama’s direction the studio produced a number of super hero television franchises throughout the 1970s and 1980s that eventually gave birth to the internationally popular SuperSentai/Power Rangers series. GIANT ROBO is one of the earliest Toei shows of its kind.
In the first episode of GIANT ROBO, an alien called Emperor Guillotine invades the earth. Guillotine organizes a terrorist group called Big Fire to conquer the world. The group captures a scientist named Dr. Lucius Guardian and forces him to build Giant Robot. Shortly before his death, the scientist leaves the robot’s control device to a boy named Daisaku Kusama. Daisaku recorded his voice in the robot’s brain, and Giant Robot is activated to obey the boy’s commands. Daisaku is invited to join Unicorn, a secret police force organized by the United Nations. With the help of Giant Robo and other Unicorn members, Daisaku fights against Big Fire, Emperor Guillotine, and their assortment of giant monsters and robots.
The GIANT ROBO series was full of unique and interesting concepts. Unlike human heroes, the robot fulfills the functions of mechanical vehicles such as fighter airplanes or atomic submarines; flying and shooting rockets, laser beams and flames. The live action scenes consist of non-stop adventures. The series is like a James Bond movie for kids, with Daisuku using walkie-talkie pens, guns, and jetpacks much like what was seen in the 007 films. GIANT ROBO quickly became the most internationally recognized series for child star Mitsunobu Kaneko, already famous in Japan as the child sorcerer Shingo Yamada (a Japanese “Harry Potter”-type kid) from the original AKUMA-KUN (Devil Boy, 1966) TV show.
The characters of Giant Robo and Daisaku Kusama were revived for the popular original video animation series GIANT ROBO: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (Jaianto Robo: Chikyuu Ga Seishi Suru Hi, 1992-1998). For the 40th anniversary of the original series in 2007, a new 13 episode animated show entitled GR: GIANT ROBO (GR: Jaianto Robo) was produced by Hikari Productions and Softgarage.
When United Artist Television dubbed and distributed the classic Tsuburaya Productions monster show ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966) in the U.S., a fascination with Japanese live-action TV fantasies took root in the hearts of millions of young (and young at heart) viewers beyond the borders of Japan. During this time, the independent movie company American International Pictures was the main distributor of Japanese sci-fi and monster movies in America, releasing more than 20 different Japanese productions either theatrically or through its television distribution division American International Pictures Television. On the heels of ULTRAMAN, AIP-TV was quick to pick up North American rights to Toei’s GIANT ROBO show in 1968.
Post-production supervisor Salvatore Billitteri was in charge of creating the English language version. Billitteri was no stranger to the task, having supervised the English language versions for many Japanese films, including ALAKAZAM THE GREAT (Saiyuki, 1960), FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (Furankenshutain tai Chite Kaiju Baragon, 1965), DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (Kaiju Soshingeki, 1968), DESTROY ALL PLANETS (Gamera tai Uchu Kaiju Bairasu, 1968), YOG: MONSTER FROM SPACE (Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no Daikaiju, 1970), and GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER (Gojira tai Hedora, 1971). Under Salvatore Billitteri, writer Reuben Guberman, and director Manuel San Fernando, the GIANT ROBO series was Americanized into JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT. Some names were changed for the English language version; Daisaku Kusama became ‘Johnny Sokko’, the villainous Big Fire organization became ‘Gargoyle Gang’, and so on. The dubbing was done at Titra Sound Studios in New York. Titra’s clients ranged from the major studios to minor distributors. The studio dubbed more films than any other sound facility, with voices supplied by professional actors, many of whom worked in the New York theater scene.
Titra Sound dubbed countless Japan-made animation and live action television series including TOBOR THE EIGHTH MAN, GIGANTOR, PRINCE PLANET, and THE SPACE GIANTS. Some voices from other Titra-dubbed productions can be heard in JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT. The narration was done by Jerry Burke who played the voice of 8th Man. Johnny Sokko’s voice actress is Bobbie Byers. She started her career as an actress in the 1960’s and played for some biker films such as SAVAGES FROM HELL. For JOHNNY SOKKO, she also dubbed the voices of the characters Mari and Mitsuko.
AIP-TV began syndication of JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT to independent UHF stations across the United States in 1969. In 1971, five episodes of JOHNNY SOKKO were edited into a television movie called VOYAGE INTO SPACE. Both the series and movie were regularly shown in television syndication throughout the 1970s until FCC deregulation in the early 1980s allowed the major corporations to buy up the UHF stations and turn them into affiliates for new networks such as Fox, UPN and the WB. Older syndicated programs like JOHNNY SOKKO disappeared from the airwaves at that time.
Over the next few decades, U.S. ownership of JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT repeatedly changed hands. AIP was bought by Filmways, Inc. in 1979, and three years later Filmways merged with the Orion Picture Corporation. In 1996, Orion Home Video released four VHS tapes of JOHNNY SOKKO, each containing two episodes of the show. Following Orion’s bankruptcy, the company was acquired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in 1997. In 2006, MGM entered into a distribution deal with Fox Home Entertainment, which brings JOHNNY SOKKO’s rather convoluted history in America up to date.
JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT: The Complete Series
The MGM DVD on Demand JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT set will feature all 26 episodes of the AIP-TV, English dubbed version of the series. The DVD collection will be available for order directly from Amazon.com. Check back with SciFi Japan for further details as they become available.
On Sale Date: tba
Retail Price: tba
Number of Discs: 7
Running Time: 676 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
1- DRACOLON, THE GREAT SEA MONSTER
Young Johnny Sokko meets Jerry Mano, a secret agent for the international defense organization known as Unicorn, on a passenger cruiser at sea when the ship is attacked by the sea monster, Dracolon. Jerry and Johnny survive, only to be captured on a nearby island by the soldiers of Gargoyle. In their attempt to escape, the shipwreck survivors stumble upon a secret plan of Gargoyle to use a gigantic robot against the democracies of the world. Johnny becomes the first voice to speak into the robot’s wristwatch control transmitter and succeeds in directing it to challenge Gargoyle and their creature, Dracolon.
2- NUCLEON, THE MAGIC GLOBE
Emperor Guillotine tries to recover the Giant Robot, but Johnny is rewarded for his bravery in the fight against Gargoyle with full enlistment into the ranks of Unicorn. As Agent U-7, Johnny works closely beside his friend Jerry Mano, U-3 of Unicorn. Only Johnny can control the Giant Robot and he is sworn in to keep its secrets, even from his parents. Gargoyle is forced into battle against the robot with Nucleon, another robot concealed in a fallen meteor.
3- THE GARGOYLE VINE- A SPACE PLANT
Having lost his greatest weapon to Unicorn, Guillotine commands the alien Doctor Botanus to employ another strategy against humanity. By unleashing the horrible Gargoyle Vine upon the Earth and terrorizing the family of Earth’s leading botanist, Gargoyle traps the scientist into an unholy allegiance.
4- MONSTER LIGON-TYROX, A STRANGE MONSTER
Dr. Botanus stretches the evil reach of Gargoyle into the tensions of the Middle East with the monster, Lygon-Tyrox. Unicorn and the Giant Robot are drawn into the Arabian conflicts as the oil fields and petroleum resources of the world are threatened.
5- THE GIGANTIC CLAW
The invention of a miraculous metal called QQV, transparent and impervious to the most advanced weapons of mankind, surprises the world. Gargoyle makes a move to steal the secrets of QQV and they challenge the Giant Robot with a titanic mechanical war machine, Claw.
6- DRAGON, THE NINJA MONSTER
Emperor Guillotine instigates war between nations by unleashing his ninja monster Dragon to stir international turmoil. When Unicorn joins in the attempts to resolve the crisis, Gargoyle moves in to sabotage the efforts of Unicorn, killing as many agents as they can in machine gun ambush as the Giant Robot tries to end the surprise attacks of the ninja beast.
7- OUR ENEMY – SCALION
When a Unicorn outpost camouflaged as a lighthouse is destroyed, the incident is revealed to have been the result of Gargoyle searching for a special decoder that can show the locations of all Unicorn bases throughout the world. Mari, a child genius and linguistics specialist, joins Unicorn as Agent U-6. U-3 and U-7 fall into a confrontation with Gargoyle and the sea monster, Scalion, as their reliance on the Giant Robot leads to U-3 being captured.
8- THE CHALLENGE OF THE TWO-HEADED MONSTER
While attempting to rescue children lost in the mountains, U-3 and U-7 are drawn into a trap set by Gargoyle. Only the Giant Robot can rescue all of them from the cave-dwelling Double-Head, a gigantic two-headed beast, and Harlequin, another Gargoyle captain.
9- TENTACLON – AN ELECTRIC MONSTER
By capturing the spectators of Japan’s most anticipated soccer game, Doctor Botanus uses the 60 thousand hostages in a plot to force Japan to surrender all sovereignty to Gargoyle. When Unicorn tries to locate the base for operations of Botanus, Gargoyle unleashes Tentaclon to attack Japan. The robot must try to kill the creature as U-3 and U-7 race to find the hostages before they are annihilated.
10- THE TRANSFORMED HUMANS
After using the Lagorian to swallow an express train with Unicorn’s Kyoto branch Captain Suzuki aboard, Doctor Botanus works with Harlequin to interrogate and use the man against Unicorn by transforming him into a Gargoyle spy. Plotting to sabotage the coming peace conference, Botanus captures U-3 and U-7, imprisoning them in a base below Lake Biwa before the Giant Robot can move to rescue the agents and Suzuki as it battles the monster.
11- THE TERRIFYING SAND CREATURE
In the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, a Unicorn observation station has a fatal encounter with strange moving sand that begins to destroy everything in its path. U-3 and U-7 fly to Antarctica to investigate as Harlequin starts the S.S. Operation to plague the Earth. The Gargoyle creature, Dracolon, returns from underground as Emperor Guillotine captures U-3 and U-7. Possessing their brain waves, the alien dictator uses Johnny to fly the robot into the sun while Dracolon attacks Tokyo, vomiting the killer sand everywhere.
12- AMBERON, THE SYNTHETIC MONSTER
Unicorn uncovers the secret headquarters that Gargoyle is using in Japan and goes on the offensive to capture Doctor Botanus and Harlequin. Harlequin escapes, but a furious Emperor Guillotine demands that he use their monster Amberon to rescue Botanus. When the strange death of a large snake at the zoo seems to be the result of it having consumed something unnatural to its diet, Unicorn is tricked into investigating the bizarre incident, inadvertently releasing Amberon as Mari and Johnny are kidnapped by Gargoyle for execution.
13- OPTICORN MUST BE DESTROYED
When a small kingdom between The Himalayas and Tibet known for its gold mines discovers a new radioactive mineral, Gargoyle invades the area. Unicorn makes a move to protect the region against the assault of Gargoyle Chief Fangar which jeopardizes the royal family. To save the child princess, herself a doppelganger for U-6, Unicorn must confront the giant mechanical eye monster Opticorn by using Mari in a plot to fool Gargoyle and lure the giant eye weapon into battle against the robot.
14- THE MONSTROUS FLYING JAWBONE
The Chinese branch of Unicorn in Tailahn is attacked by Fangar and their SOS to Japan brings the Giant Robot to their rescue. Unicorn captures Fangar, but Gargoyle sends the flying mechanical Jawbone monster to intercept Commanders Azuma and Chen, freeing Fangar to then lure the two Unicorn captains into a trap designed to electrocute both men to death.
15- IGGANOG – THE ICE-BERG MONSTER
U-3 and U-7 investigate a mysterious castle in a valley called The Demon’s Canyon, high in the mountains of western Japan. Caught in a gunfight, they must rely on the rescue of a suspicious man with little respect for Unicorn. He identifies himself only as ‘Hunter’. The castle is discovered to be a secret base for Gargoyle agents being led by the golden Gargoyle knight, Mr. Goldenock, controller of the great ice monster Igganog. Azuma, sadly, uncovers the identity of Hunter, a former Unicorn agent who left the organization out of disgust with command decisions, as the Giant Robot is frozen in battle.
16- TOROZON, AN ENEMY ROBOT
Unicorn Switzerland is terrorized by the twisted Gargoyle scientist, Dr. Snake. He destroys the Swiss headquarters before going on a rampage against all Unicorn bases uncovered by Gargoyle, destroying them one by one. As the number one scientist in Gargoyle, Snake has perfected his own giant robot, Torozon. The mad scientist challenges Unicorn in a duel to the end using the family of Unicorn’s top radar operator as pawns in a hostage gamble to force his allegiance in the plot of horror.
17- DESTROY THE DAM
Doctor Botanus and Fangar the Executioner resurrect the threat of the Gargoyle Vine. Unicorn, having worked so closely with scientists terrorized in the first assault of the killer plant, is unable to convince the military not to bomb the monster. The research reveals that the Gargoyle Vine only grows stronger and bigger from each attack. As Unicorn finds itself trapped in a battle against military decisions, Johnny and the Giant Robot take a desperate gamble to destroy the nearby Awafuji Dam. Flooding the entire region is a risk that they must take so that the robot can try to end the Gargoyle Vine’s reign of terror with a precise missile attack directly into the creature’s mouth after it has grown weaker from the waters.
18- X-7, A MYSTERIOUS ENEMY AGENT
The Y-Z metal is a radioactive mineral several times as powerful as uranium, forged as a byproduct of atomic research. Soon, the search is underway to utilize this new discovery for the benefit of humanity. A special security conference is held at the Green Hotel in Tokyo, but the great Gargoyle iron war Claw seizes the hotel tower and takes the scientists hostage. Threatening to kill them all unless Y-Z is surrendered, a mysterious new Gargoyle agent identified only as X-7 taunts Unicorn. Meanwhile, Johnny meets Kenny Shinichi from Hawaii, a new classmate at his school. At Kenny’s birthday party, the children are captured by Fangar and the terrible truth is soon realized that Shinichi is the child terrorist known as X-7. He plants a bomb in Unicorn headquarters before calling Claw to destroy the Giant Robot.
19- “METRON” – THE MYSTERIOUS SPACE-MAN
An alien visitor lands in Japan. Introducing himself as Metron from Andromeda, he thanks the people of Earth who have come to his aid after a rough landing. Or, so it seems… U-3 AND U-7 soon support his claims to be an intergalactic security agent in pursuit of Guillotine. As an ally of Unicorn, Metron is shown the Giant Robot. Having infiltrated Unicorn headquarters, the alien sabotages the robot and resurrects Torozon to continue the war against Unicorn.
20- BEWARE – THE RADION GLOBE
UPOS (the Unicorn Peace Observation Satellite) is destroyed. The Giant Robot is sent into outer space to find out what happened. Lured into battle against Nucleon, the Radion Globe, the robot is captured by Gargoyle. U-3 and U-7 go in search of the robot and uncover the plot to replace the robot’s electric brain with another Gargoyle brain system. When a Japanese atomic center is put in jeopardy by the Radion Globe’s attack, the mighty robot revives again to the pleas of Johnny and Commander Azuma to save their nation, almost as if it were becoming a living friend!
21- THE TERRIFYING SPACE MUMMY
When the Tokyo water supply is contaminated by a strange poison that mummifies anyone drinking it, the world falls beneath the threat of the Gargoyle commander, Space Mummy. Operating in secret within a convent, Gargoyle enslaves the Christian nuns as Space Mummy poisons the reservoir and uses the monster, Stagker (the rejuvenated ninja beast, Dragon) against Unicorn. When Space Mummy succeeds in taking the Giant Robot control watch, U-6 uses the robot’s electrical brain system to find Johnny. The Giant Robot begins to show an astonishing capability of independent activity to protect the world as it turns iteslf on!
22- CLASH OF THE GIANT ROBOTS
Throughout the world, nations have become enthralled by the might of Japan’s Giant Robot and begin to investigate the possibilities of inventing their own robots. The nation of Melkhan approaches the Japanese government about the study of the robot’s brain as a bargaining promise for their continued trade agreements and international friendship. Commander Azuma, however, fearful that the disclosed secrets of the robot could ignite a world robot war, fights against the government decision. Nevertheless, Japan agrees to allow the other nation to study the robot. The creation of Cleopat follows. Gargoyle invades Melkhan and Goldenock uses Tentaclon to steal Cleopat. Unicorn is given orders to locate and destroy Cleopat. However, the new robot proves itself to be such a formidable copy that Japan’s Giant Robot is almost destroyed after being blinded in battle.
23- “DR. EINGALI – MASTER OF EVIL”
On Johnny’s birthday, Emperor Guillotine calls the evil goblin scientist, Dr. Eingali, from the 4th dimension to see if it can capture the Giant Robot with the unnatural sciences that it commands. Eingali infiltrates Johnny’s birthday party by replacing a gift from the boy’s father with a life-size model kit, a carefully concealed android duplicate of Johnny. Eingali also kidnaps a group of kindergarten children and threatens to kill them unless Unicorn surrenders. Back in the hands of Gargoyle, the robot is trapped in a war against the Japan that it has fought so long and hard to protect.
24- “HYDRAZONA” – A TERRIFYING BACTERIA
The world’s first nuclear engine tanker, ‘Oriental’, is threatened by Gargoyle. Unicorn and the Giant Robot guard the vessel for a successful launch. However, Professor Hydron unleashes a horrible bacteria that can eat through anything. Unable to save the tanker from it, Unicorn goes on the offense against the Gargoyle threat. Falling into a trap to be devoured by the living liquid, U-3 AND U-7 are forced to flee through the city sewers in a gunfight against Gargoyle soldiers. As the bacteria tries to reach the robot, dissolving everything in its path, a reinforced assault from the Gargoyle Ice Monster, Igganog, increases the danger.
25- “DRAKULON” – CREATURE OF DOOM
When Unicorn investigates a town of dead bodies, they discover the lair of the Gargoyle Vampire, Drakulon. As vampires, the victims of Drakulon become an army of undead to be used by Gargoyle to capture U-3 and U-7. Taking U-6 hostage also, the creature attempts to force Johnny to command Giant Robot to destroy Unicorn headquarters. A trick reversal command from Johnny leads the robot to their aid and Drakulon is forced into battle against the mechanical warrior himself.
26- THE LAST OF EMPEROR GUILLOTINE
U-3 and U-7 trace a signal that Unicorn suspects to be of Gargoyle origin and fall into a trap set by Emperor Guillotine. A Gargoyle sniper shoots Johnny, but the young agent recovers so that Unicorn can lure Gargoyle out for a second attempt to kill the boy. Guillotine unleashes as many of his monsters and soldiers as he can in a final showdown before threatening the world as an atomic giant himself. In his final, greatest display of independent action, the Giant Robot disobeys Johnny’s commands to save itself as it attempts to end the interplanetary threat of Emperor Guillotine forever.