What was not to love growing up in the early ‘70s, and getting to watch ULTRAMAN after school every day in second or third grade? For those unfamiliar, ULTRAMAN, along with JOHNNY SOKKO and SPACE GIANTS, was Japanese sci-fi fare, dishing out the best low-budget giant monster fights ever; fights that my friends and I would re-enact while jumping about the sofa cushions while under the spell of Captain Crunch with Crunchberries straight from the box.
ULTRAMAN had all the moves; crazy ninja poses, special effect laser beams and energy buzz saws…while the monsters, often more than one per show, were a varied rogue’s gallery of just about any form or shape imaginable. I can’t really elaborate on much of a plot other than ULTRAMAN was either summoned or was the transformation of a member of some wacky Japanese monster-fighting force that was constantly being sent to the scene of yet another 50 foot monster perturbed by something or other.
Simply put, in my small world, ULTRAMAN ruled!
However there was one monster introduced named Pigman that delivered the shock/nightmare of my life. (His name was really Pigmon, but all voices were over-dubbed and didn’t match up, and Pigman seemed to make more sense to us kids) Pigman wasn’t like the other monsters. He was meant to be a friendly monster, only about 5 feet tall. He was an ugly little thing, looked like he was a combination of a catfish and a mound of orange coral, that would be more content at the bottom of an aquarium. He had hands that flopped around without any arms to speak of, and he had a perpetually frowning face. In fact, the actor that was stuck having to wear the Pigman costume was relegated to donning this barrel, and either walking or jumping up and down. Pigman made some kind of high-pitched chattering when he got excited. He spoke Monster.
In a lot of ways Pigman was like a repulsive little monster-kid. (When choosing our mock-fight battle personas, the ultimate insult was to be dubbed “Pigman”.)
The Pigman episode was short enough…they find Pigman, he helps them somehow, and a great big Godzilla monster throws rocks on him and he dies. The audience is left to feel sorry for the heroic little Pigman, as the Godzilla monster gets his in the end, by good old Ultraman. I for one was glad he was gone.
That night, I had my first Pigman nightmare….very vivid, of his ugly little self. In fact, I had a few over the next week or so. I don’t know what it was that did it, but boy, I didn’t want anything to do with Pigman. It’s difficult to explain, but it was the death of Pigman that had me unglued in the nightmares, along with his absurd surreal look. I guess it registered somehow as the death of a child.
It became house news…my sister would taunt me with it, my mother would quell my fears, my dad would roll his eyes and drink a cup of black coffee, since I kept everyone up at night.
Thankfully, the weeks rolled on, and it became old news. I could picture Pigman’s freakish countenance still, but continued on armed with the knowledge that he was in only one episode, and was thankfully gone, and I was back to watching my boy, Ultraman do what he does best.
And then, with my little posse over yet again, the unthinkable happened; the cushions were off the sofa, the monkey-fights had started, and a new ULTRAMAN episode had begun… The monster-fighting squad was summoned to a toy store of all places for a disturbance, and what did they find amidst the stuffed animals?
I would be willing to bet my heart skipped at least two beats. Time froze. Tunnel vision set in….
Somehow back from the dead! Even more frantic and ugly than ever! The unthinkable: my nightmare headliner plowing past all forms of logic, and reappearing for an encore.
I felt sick, but watched on….and sure enough, Pigman was somehow resurrected, helps the crew again, and distracts a giant monster by hopping around, until the giant monster scratches it’s head in confusion, and crushes him!
Ugly little Pigman had come back; in order to die a second time in much the same fashion, just for me. It seemed so surreal as I watched it, that it couldn’t possible be a coincidence.
Needless to say, the nightmares began anew.
Dad drank a lot of black coffee that year.
I found YouTube links of both Pigman death’s although they are Japanese, with Spanish subtitle. I seem to have inherited my Father’s eye roll…..
Second Death…thankfully in the first half minute