Destroy All Planets 2010

Destroy All Planets 2010
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

YOSHIMITSU BANNO TALKS SMOG MONSTER! The Toho Director Answers Questions at a Recent Fan Event!

Director Yoshimitsu Banno speaks about his lengthy Toho career at a fan event in Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On the heels of executive-producing the recent Godzilla from Legendary Pictures, filmmaker Yoshimitsu Banno attended a fan event in Tokyo and answered questions about his work at Toho Studios.

Appropriate posters on display for the occasion: The Last Days of Planet Earth (a.k.a. Catastrophe 1999, 1974) and Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971).

Banno-san directed co-wrote Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971), and co-wrote and assistant-directed The Last Days of Planet Earth (1974). Banno-san was also an assistant director for Akira Kurosawa on four films: Throne of Blood (1957), The Lower Depths (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), and The Bad Sleep Well (1960). Following his work with Kurosawa, Banno-san assistant-directed a myriad of films at Toho, everything from Crazy Cats comedies to war films starring Toshiro Mifune.

During the interview, Banno-san touched on these and other topics. He seemed in great spirits, and after the worldwide success of the recent Godzilla movie, how could you blame him? Toward the end of the presentation, the interviewers showed some slides from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, to which Banno-san offered his memories. Some of the photos were brand-new to me, which was great to see.

Banno-san spoke for two hours, and it was an enjoyable time. In particular, I liked watching Banno-san's reactions to the production photos from Smog Monster that were displayed on the big screen. Full marks to all involved!

TORU IBUKI STRIKES BACK! Getting to Hang Out Again with the Ex-Toho Player!

Toru Ibuki (left), my friend Asako (center), and yours truly are all smiles after today's meeting.

Today I had another chance to visit former Toho actor Toru Ibuki at his office. Ibuki-san appeared numerous monster movies at Toho, including: Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Monster Zero (1965), Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). He also can be seen in the Frank Sinatra-directed World War II drama None But the Brave (1965).

I always enjoy my meetings with Ibuki-san, who has become a close friend in the last year. I've seen him several times in 2014, and I hope for many more encounters next year! Thank you very much, Ibuki-san!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SHINICHI YANAGISAWA LIVE! The Former Shochiku Player Performs in Asakusa!

Actor-singer Shinichi Yanagisawa poses with yours truly at the HUB in Asakusa in between sets.

I had the distinct privilege of going to the HUB in Asakusa on Tuesday, October 21, to see Shinichi Yanagisawa sing and play drums in his jazz band live and in person. The former Shochiku actor sang several jazz tunes in English and did an excellent job!

Yanagisawa-san sings in front of a packed audience at the HUB! Phtoto by Brett Homenick.

While he was on drums, Yanagisawa-san spotted me in the audience and greeted me. After the set, I had a pleasant chat with Yanagisawa-san and saxophone player Kyoichi Watanabe. I'm still in the process of transcribing last month's interview, but I hope to have it completed in the near future.

Shinichi Yanagisawa played Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), but he also appeared in films made by all the major studios in Japan: Toho, Shochiku, Daiei, Toei, and Nikkatsu. He got his start as a jazz singer before making the transition to acting in the 1950s.

All in all, it was great to visit Yanagisawa-san again, who is as friendly and genuine as people come. I hope to get many more opportunities to see him in the future!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Remembering Anna Nakagawa

With Anna Nakagawa, immediately after our interview for G-FAN magazine in February 2012.

Like all other Godzilla fans, I was shocked to learn of the recent passing of actress Anna Nakagawa at the age of 49. Cancer has taken her life, but her spirit will live on in her movies and TV dramas. The daughter of director Harunosuke Nakagawa (who helmed several episodes of Ultra Q), Nakagawa-san would make her own mark in the tokusatsu world by starring in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) as Emmy, the good-hearted Futurian who ends up piloting Mecha-King Ghidorah.

I was privileged to interview Nakagawa-san in February 2012. Nakagawa-san spoke at length about her memories of the film, which were quite fascinating. The interview was eventually published in G-FAN magazine. Before the interview, Nakagawa-san gave me a Cast Co. bromide card set of King Ghidorah, one of which she signed for me. Suffice it to say, I'll treasure her signature.

A chance encounter on the Odakyu Line in March 2013 proved to be my last time meeting Nakagawa-san. Photo by Brett Homenick.

At the end of March last year, I was heading to Shinjuku on the Odakyu Line when a familiar-looking passenger stepped onto the train. It was none other than Anna Nakagawa! She was just as surprised as I was! Even though her English was as minimal as my Japanese, we were able to have a pleasant conversation. I snapped a few photos, and Nakagawa-san went on her way. Sadly, I'd never have a chance to see her again.

Nakagawa-san and I were connected on Facebook, and occasionally we'd exchange messages and like each other's photos. I always hoped for another opportunity to see her, but given her busy schedule, it was never to be. I'll always remember the time we did get to spend together and the generosity she showed me.

Rest in peace, Nakagawa-san.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Tribute to Cleo Baldon Melchior

Spending time with Cleo Melchior at the Melchior residence in July 2012. This photo was taken the night before I left Los Angeles.

This morning I woke up to some of the worst I've read in years, via classic horror writer Tom Weaver. Cleo Baldon Melchior, the wife of writer-director Ib Melchior (Reptilicus, The Angry Red Planet), passed away on October 12 of a stroke. No other details seem to be available at the moment, but I know that I'll always cherish the time I was honored to spend in this wonderful lady's company.

Born on June 1, 1927, Cleo worked as a landscape architect who specialized in designing swimming pools. She had several celebrity clients, some of whom she told me about over many dinners we would have together.

I first met Mrs. Melchior in September 2009 when I traveled to Los Angeles to visit some friends. This was shortly after I relocated to Rancho Mirage, CA, after a four-year stay in North Dakota. In 2008, I interviewed Ib Melchior for G-FAN magazine about his monster movies, and shortly thereafter I also reviewed his book Melchior A La Carte for the magazine. When I moved back to California, Ib kindly invited me to stay at his home if I wanted to come to L.A. Of course, I readily accepted the invitation.

I spent the night at Ib and Cleo's house and was privileged to get to know them. But that was only the beginning. Over the next year and a half, I would visit the Melchiors several times, staying at their home when I would come to the L.A. area.

With Cleo and Ib Melchior at a book signing for Ib's book Six Cult Films from the Sixties in June 2010.

The last time I Cleo was when I stayed at their home in July 2012 when I was visiting the U.S. from Japan. I stayed at their home for about a week and gave the Melchiors several gifts from Japan, including a Japanese-style teapot that Cleo seemed to enjoy very much. During this time, their regular caregiver was on vacation, and in many ways I was able to step in and offer my assistance. For example, a friend of the Melchiors was hosting a party, so I drove the Melchiors to the area and assisted them at the event.

Thoughts of my last moments at the Melchiors' home has been running through my mind ever since I read the heart-breaking news. Cleo Melchior was like a grandmother to me, and I'll always remember her warmth, kindness, and humor. She and Ib were a great couple, and I'm so glad they were able to find each other. If you didn't believe in the concept of soulmates before meeting the Melchiors, you would have afterward. They were a perfect pair.

As much as I could go on about Cleo, words seem so futile to me now. Those of us who knew and loved Cleo mourn her loss, and we send our condolences to Ib.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

GODZILLA DESTROYS NAKANO! The Three Principal G-Suit Actors Make a Joint Appearance in Tokyo!

Godzilla sighted on the Chuo-Sobu Line! Suit actor Ken Satsuma travels to the signing event in Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I attended a talk show and signing event in Nakano, Tokyo. Held on the 15th floor of the Sun Plaza (right next door to the Nakano Broadway Mall), the three major Godzilla suit actors were the guests of honor. Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa were big hits with the fans, as they happily signed autographs and posed for photos!

Three Godzillas! What does it mean!?

Following a talk show session, all three suit actors signed autographs for their fans. The first suit actor I met in line was Kenpachiro Satsuma, who played Godzilla from 1984-1995. I had Satsuma-san sign my DVD sleeve of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), in which he plays Gigan. Satsuma-san's signature joins those of Katsuhiko Sasaki, Yutaka Hayashi, Teruyoshi Nakano, Ulf Otsuki, and Riichiro Manabe! I also purchased a copy of Satsuma-san's book and had that signed as well.

Posing with Kenpachiro Satsuma, who not only played the Heisei Godzilla, but also Hedorah and Gigan!

Next for me was meeting Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla suit actor from 1954-1972. I had Nakajima-san sign my Blu-ray sleeve for King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), as well as a copy of his brand-new photo book, which contains many incredible still shots from Nakajima-san's acting career. When I approached his table, Nakajima-san's daughter, Sonoe, whispered to her father who I was, and Nakajima-san greeted me with a big smile.

Then we took several photos like the one below. The last several times I've met Nakajima-san, we've always taken photos like this. It's practically a tradition now!

The final guest for me was Millennium series suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa, who played Godzilla from 1999-2004 (minus GMK). Kitagawa-san was also very friendly and welcoming. He signed my Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) DVD sleeve.

When I was about to leave, a surprise guest showed up -- none other than Robert Scott Field! That's right, M11 from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) happened to be in Tokyo at the time and was invited to attend by Kitagawa-san. Scott spent a lot of time catching up with Satsuma-san as well as Kitagawa-san. Interestingly, this marks the first time I've actually seen Scott in Japan. But, considering he lives in Osaka, that's not too surprising!

Overall, it was a fun event, and the highlight was getting to see old friends and great guests. I hope to attend more such events in the future.

BIN FURUYA'S PLAY IN ASAKUSA! The Ultraman Actor Wraps His Starring Role in a Stage Performance!

Ultraman approves! Former Ultraman suit actor Bin Furuya poses for the cameras immediately following his performance onstage. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I was recently invited to view a performance on Bin Furuya's new stage play at in Asakusa, which recently wrapped. Its title, which translates as "Under the Sky of the Six Wards," was a postwar tale of Japan with plenty of humor but also some dramatic moments.

Yours truly with Furuya-san. It's been a while since our last meeting, but it is always fun to catch up with Ultraman!

Seeing Furuya-san's play gave me a chance to see him sing and even perform some tap-dancing! I've known for a long time that Furuya-san was a man of many talents, but he continues to prove it in all he does!

A leaflet for "Under the Sky of the Six Wards," starring Bin Furuya, which ran from October 8 through October 10.

A couple of days after seeing the play, Furuya-san called me to thank me for coming out to see it. It, of course, was my pleasure. But Furuya-san is the real deal, so his phone call was just a reflection of the gentleman he is.

Under the night sky of Asakusa.