Saturday, July 14, 2018

Returning to the Live Stage!

Yumi Mizusawa. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Saturday, July 14, I attended a stage performance starring actress Yumi Mizusawa.

Mizusawa-san was selected as a member of Toho New Talent's 5th class in 1965 (with Bibari Maeda) and went on to become a prolific television actress and singer. She starred in the TV series What Is Youth? (1965-66) alongside Yosuke Natsuki. While her credits are mostly non-genre, she appeared in episode 92 of Kamen Rider (1971-73) and episode 16 of Iron King (1972-73). Her most notable film appearance is in Kihachi Okamoto's Epoch of Murder Madness (1967).

I had a great conversation with Mizusawa-san after the show. She was surprised at how much I knew about her acting career. It was certainly great to see her again after meeting her for the first time last April.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Super Robot Mach Baron's Makoto Shimotsuka Passes Away at Age 64

 Makoto Shimotsuka in June 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Japanese media is reporting that actor Makoto Shimotsuka has passed away due to cancer on July 7 in a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 64.

Beginning his acting career in 1972, Mr. Shimotsuka appeared in several films, such as Toho's Zero Pilot (1976), Human Revolution II (1976), and Toei's The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus (a.k.a. Nostradamus, 1994). But he would go on to make his mark on the small screen, starring as Yo Arashida in Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75).

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Shimotsuka in June 2016 and hoped that our paths would eventually cross again. Rest in peace, Mr. Shimotsuka.

Shibuya's Moyai Statue!

Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Wednesday, I met a friend of mine in front of Shibuya Station's Moyai Statue. When I arrived there, I realized that I pass this statue rather often and don't even realize it! Despite looking like something from Easter Island (or even Seatopia), I suppose it's a bit easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.

After reading up on it, I noticed that a few travel websites seem bemused by the fact that it's not as well known a meeting place in Shibuya as the Hachiko Statue (from which it sits just a few meters away on the station's southwest side). Well, I could offer up my own explanation. The smoking section is situated literally right next to the statue, and when I was there, several smokers couldn't be bothered to stay in their designated smoking area. They blatantly lit up and puffed away while sitting right next to the statue. In order to get away from the stench, I had to stand next to the nearby bus stop. So much for using it as a meeting place.

The Moyai Statue is still worth checking out, even if the smokers in the area will go out of their way to make sure you don't stay a long time. Given the situation there, I think the Hachiko Statue will continuous its reign as the reigning champ of Shibuya.

SIXTY YEARS OF VARAN! Celebrating Toho's Underappreciated Giant Monster!

Teruyoshi Nakano, Shigemitsu Taguchi, and Keiko Suzuki pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, July 7, I was privileged to attend a rare screening of a 35mm print of Varan the Unbelievable (1958), which turns 60 this year. The print itself had obviously seen better days, as it was rather scratched up and jumpy. But given that I'd never seen a film print of the Japanese version before, it was nonetheless great to see.

Scripter Keiko Suzuki holds up her King Kong vs. Godzilla shooting script while Shigemitsu Taguchi looks on. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The event also celebrated SFX director Eiji Tsuburaya's birthday, so a few of his colleagues and contemporaries were on hand for the event. Keiko Suzuki was Toho's SFX scripter who worked alongside Eiji Tsuburaya for Toho's special effects spectaculars from the late 1950s through the end of the '60s. She brought her script for King Kong vs. Godzilla, which contained storyboard images used during the shooting. That certainly made the audience take notice!

Also in attendance was Tsuburaya Productions scriptwriter Shigemitsu Taguchi, who is best known for his work writing episodes of the '70s Ultra-shows. He has also just written a book about Eiji Tsuburaya.

SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Making his triumphant return was none other than SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, who hadn't attended such an event in a few months. The audience was quite pleased to see Nakano-san again, who hasn't seemed to have lost a step.

After the movie, it was dinnertime! The conversation with Nakano-san was quite enlightening, as it always is. As hard as it is to see, Nakano-san once again confirmed that "about 30" octopuses were used in King Kong vs Godzilla. He first mentioned this figure in my 2004 interview with him, and he said it again at an event in 2012. Given the possibility of translation errors, and since a much smaller number of octopuses has been reported elsewhere in English, I couldn't be quite sure. But he reiterated that number last night. And who would know better than Nakano-san himself?

Of his '70s films, he named Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) as his favorite. Most Americans would probably name Terror of Mechagodzilla as their favorite.

Suffice it to say, it was another great event, and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the legacy of Eiji Tsuburaya. Can't wait to do it all over again!

BAROM-1'S NEW OPPONENT! Hiroyuki Takano Takes on Black Lizard!

With actor Hiroyuki Takano.

On Friday, July 6, I attended a stage play in Shinjuku that co-starred Hiroyuki Takano. The stage play was Kurotokage (Black Lizard), and while there were some similarities with the Kinji Fukasaku film version, it was mostly different. (For one thing, the Black Lizard was played by an actual woman in this version!) 

I had a quick chat with Takano-san after the show. He did a great job, as did the entire cast. There was quite a bit of fight choreography in the play, and given the amount of fighting happening on the stage at any given time, I'm a bit surprised there weren't a few close calls. Who knows -- maybe there were!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable show. 

Interviewing Chumei Watanabe

Composer Chumei Watanabe during our July 4 interview. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'm pleased to announce that on Wednesday, July 4, I had the privilege of interviewing legendary composer Chumei Watanabe at his home in Tokyo. Watananbe-san began his film-composing career at Shintoho in the late 1950s, working on several Nobuo Nakagawa films, most notably Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) and Hell (1960). Watanabe-san returned to tokusatsu in the late 1960s with his scores to 100 Monsters (1968) and Along with Ghosts (1969). Watanabe-san would later achieve international fame with his scores to various anime and live-action tokusatsu TV programs. The 92-year-old composer stays busy to this day.

The interview lasted several hours and focused a great deal on his early years. I certainly learned a lot, and once it's published, so will you! Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

VAMPIRE DIARIES! Meeting Actress Mio Ota!

Mio Ota. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of my favorite horror movies has long been Evil of Dracula (1974), and I think a good case can be made for it as the best of director Michio Yamamoto's Bloodthirsty trilogy. She played student Yukiko Mitamura in Evil of Dracula, as well as Blue Jaguar on the TV series Giant Iron Man 17 (1977) from episode 22 through 35. She also appears in Shohei Imamura's Why Not? (1981).

Ota-san had some of her art on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno, and I decided to pay her a visit. We had a nice chat about her acting career and other topics. She was surprised to learn that I'm an American from California, saying that I looked like a British gentleman.

It was a great afternoon and well worth braving the sweltering heat and humidity. I certainly hope to have a chance to meet Ota-san again.