Friday, December 25, 2009
I thought waking up to find Christmas presents was a thing of the past for me, but I woke up to find some extremely wonderful news this morning. Sometimes things just work themselves out if you give them enough time.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Akira Takarada with some substantial reading material. Photo by totorom.
It's true, it's true.
Now that G-FEST has secured a new hotel during the previously announced weekend, we can announce our guest of honor for 2010: Mr. Akira Takarada.
Mr. Takarada has headlined the most popular Godzilla movies of all time, namely Godzilla '54, Godzilla vs. the Thing, and Monster Zero.
More details are to come. Stay tuned to this blog for any news about Mr. Takarada's appearance!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Two years ago, in December 2007, John Rocco Roberto passed away. Not only was he one of the founding fathers of modern Godzilla fandom, helping establish G-FAN and G-CON, but he was a friendly, funny, down-to-earth guy. I had several phone conversations with him that I still cherish to this day. When he wasn't telling me about what things were like in the good old days of the '90s, he had me in stitches with his unique sense of humor.
John sent me the above photo during Christmas in 2004. I recently remembered that I still had the picture and wanted to share it. It really captures the lighter side of John's personality.
I only wish I'd be receiving more photos like it.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Brett with Nika Solomon and Luciana Paluzzi at her autograph table.
Brett meets Robert Horton for the first time.
Robert Horton with his wife Marilynn at his autograph table.
Convention organizer Bruce Schwartz interviews Mr. Horton and Ms. Paluzzi. Bruce used my interview with Robert Horton in G-FAN #86 to help formulate questions.
With Nick Adams' daughter Allyson after wrapping up an interview with her about her father.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Dana Foreman poses with Kenpachiro Satsuma at a G-CON in the mid-1990s. Photo courtesy Dana Foreman.
Godzilla suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma is featured alongside such horror movie icons as Robert Englund, Ben Chapman, and others in a Yahoo! Split Screen feature called "The Men Behind the Masks."
You can see Mr. Satsuma's entry for yourself here.
As an aside, Tyler Mane's entry for his work as Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's Halloween mentions his appearance at Blackjack Brawl for Herb Abrams' UWF in 1994, perhaps the most infamous wrestling event of all time.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Ib Melchior at work on his computer. Please note that you are not being shown Cinemagic in this photograph.
In July, I received an e-mail from Ib Melchior. He received his copy of G-FAN #88, in which my review of his book Melchior A La Carte appears. It turns out that Ib was very impressed with my review and invited me to stay over at his house whenever I was in Los Angeles. I was excited by the invitation and kept it in mind for my next trip to L.A.
A dragon-like creature hangs from Ib Melchior's office ceiling. Could this creature be Reptilicus?
My trip came in late September. I asked Ib if I could stay over on the night of the 29th, and he agreed. As I expected, Ib was an incredibly gracious host and told many stories about his film and television career. At the age of 92, he continues to write books at a pace that this 28-year-old couldn't even begin to fathom.
One of Ib Melchior's many novels alongside his copy of Reptilicus. Can you spot my socks?
I slept in his guest room, which contained a TV set with an 82" screen. He showed me how to work the remote while the "new" ECW played in the background on SyFy (which prompted Ib to quip that while wrestling may be fiction, there's not a lot of science to it). That evening, on this amazing home theater system, I watched Taxi Driver on TCM and Patton the next morning on AMC. All while a poster for Planet of the Vampires loomed over me.
Ib Melchior shows Brett his manuscript for Six Cult Films from the Sixties.
While there were many great aspects of my overnight stay at Ib Melchior's, I'd have to say that the most interesting of all was the sneak peek I had of his new book, Six Cult Films from the Sixties. The upcoming tome is a comprehensive look at Ib's sci-fi film career, illustrated by rare photographs, concept art, and assorted goodies. The wealth of information in this book was astounding, and I can't wait for it to be released. If you're a fan of The Angry Red Planet, Reptilicus, Journey to the Seventh Planet, The Time Travelers, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and Planet of the Vampires, or even if you're a movie fan who loves to learn about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into filmmaking, you'll want to pick this book up. As soon as I learn more about the book's release, I'll be sure to post about it here.
I have to extend my sincerest thanks to Ib and Cleo Melchior for being excellent hosts. I was truly touched by the interest they showed in me, and I can't thank them enough for their hospitality.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Brett with Jeri and Rhodes Reason.
Okay, so maybe life in the desert isn't so bad. I just got back from lunch with Rhodes Reason and his charming wife Jeri. We ate at The River, which is a shopping center that is literally right next to where I live in Rancho Mirage! Yes, there are definitely perks.
We haven't seen each other since G-FEST 2007, so it was great to speak with Rhodes on a variety of topics, including his memories of the late Soupy Sales. It was a great time, and another get-together will probably be arranged in the near future. All in all, a great way to spend an afternoon!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Brett meets Carla Laemmle at Monsterpalooza in May 2009.
October 20, 2009, marks the 100th birthday of film icon Carla Laemmle, who appeared in The Phantom of the Opera (1925!) as the prima ballerina and in the original Dracula as the passenger in the coach who utters the film's first line of dialogue.
We here at Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker (okay, it's just me, but still) would like to wish Ms. Laemmle a very happy 100th birthday ... with many more to come!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Brett meets Luciana Paluzzi in her backyard.
One of the benefits of living in Rancho Mirage is its close proximity to the Los Angeles area. I'm only about two and a half hours away from most locations in the city. It affords me the chance to travel there fairly routinely and do fun things that I wouldn't be able to do in my old stomping grounds, Grand Forks.
One of these fun things was the chance to meet Luciana Paluzzi, the star of the James Bond film Thunderball, the Japanese cult movie The Green Slime, and numerous other titles. When I knew I was going to L.A. to meet a friend (more on that in another blog post), I asked Luciana if I could stop by and have a quick chat. She agreed, and the date was set.
When we met, we sat in her (extremely impressive) backyard. She talked about her career, told some very funny and interesting stories, and was all-around very pleasant to talk to. I really would like to thank Luciana for giving me the opportunity to stop by her home and meet her. It certainly made the trip back to Rancho Mirage much more enjoyable!
Friday, October 9, 2009
It was a fun event, and I returned the following year. Below are some photos from the con. Since it happened so long ago, I don't have much to say about it, but I thought I'd share these pictures.
In the meantime, check out Monsterland Ohio's review of G-FAN #89. As one of the issue's contributors, I certainly appreciate Mark's take.
The review can be found here.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I was browsing some old files and remembered that I made this screen grab some time ago. Stan Winston used to host SFX films on AMC circa 2000, and this image was taken during his intro of Gammera the Invincible, as I recall.
Standing right next to Mr. Winston is the maquette his studio created for Jan De Bont's version of Godzilla, which was ultimately abandoned. It's an impressive design, but it will forever remain in the what-if category.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Daisuke Ishizuka reports on a giant Gundam display in Odaiba.
Daisuke Ishizuka strikes again with a report on Koichi Kawakita's latest movie that'll have you shouting, "Zoids!"
Kenju Shimomura takes a break from teaching at Oxford University to offer G-FAN readers an in-depth look at the influence Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind had on Japanese cinema.
Doug Finkelstein reports on the Bermuda Depths DVD offered through the Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
Brett Homenick interviews Kazuaki Kiriya, director of Casshern (2004).
Mike Bogue takes a look back at The Cosmic Monsters.
Brett Homenick and totorom interview Toho star Hiroshi Koizumi.
Allen Debus offers a unique take on TriStar's Godzilla (1998).
Lyle Huckins reviews Big Man Japan.
Jeff Rebner presents his renderings of Gamera's Showa-era foes.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Here's an interesting video. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (a Franklin Roosevelt appointee who served on the court from 1939 to 1975) appeared on the game show What's My Line? in 1956. You don't see stuff like this very often, so give it a look.
Justice Douglas was one of the so-called "nine scorpions in a bottle," a phrase commonly attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Justice Holmes would likely be pleased that this phrase has seen renewed popularity in recent years.
Monday, September 21, 2009
An autograph Robert Axelrod mailed to me in 1995. Hallo Spencer is seen at the left, and Elmer, Robert's character, is on the right.
My favorite television program is one most people have never heard of. It's called The Hallo Spencer Show and aired (in the United States) from 1993 to 1994. I mention the United States because the show, titled simply Hallo Spencer, was a long-running program in Germany, airing from 1979 until 2001. To put it in a few words, the show was essentially Germany's answer to the Muppets, and it focused on the goings-on of a small village inhabited by a cast of diverse characters (running the gamut from a dragon who lives in a crater to a pair of twin girls who share a houseboat together).
In the early 1990s, Saban imported the show to the U.S. and made a few changes (shaving several minutes off each episode and incorporating a rap that was sung by Hallo at the end of every show, "wrapping" it up).
While most hard-core fans (naturally) find the German version superior, I don't. Not at all. I've seen several of them on YouTube and have been left cold each time. For me, Hallo Spencer can only be voiced by Tom Wyner, Elmer (not Elvis!) can only be voiced by Robert Axelrod, Grumpowski can only be voiced by Mike Reynolds, etc., or else it's not the real thing.
I discovered the program in the fall of 1993, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The show was well-written (it remains the cleverest "children's" show ever written, in my humble opinion), the voice cast was perfectly selected for each character (which is one of the reasons I was surprised to learn the show was originally made in Germany. I always thought the characters were created with the American voice actors in mind!), the music was charming, and, to this day, watching an episode can always bring me out of a bad mood.
Fast forward to September 1994. School is about to resume, and by this time, I had seen and taped virtually every episode of The Hallo Spencer Show. However, on my first day of school, I decided to set my VCR's timer to record the show during its usual time slot on WGN. I loved watching the show after coming home from school, and I was curious to see which episode aired on my first day of 8th grade. Well, I got home, checked the tape, and discovered that Hallo no longer occupied its old time slot. In fact, it no longer occupied any time slot. It had been taken off the air. Of course, I was disappointed, but I was mostly relieved that I taped all but one episode (to my knowledge, anyway), so the show wouldn't just be a pleasant memory for me.
In December of '94, I started thinking about all this again, and I decided to write a letter to Saban, letting them know that, while the show may not have lasted very long, it had at least one dedicated fan. I had no idea whom to address the letter to, and after looking at the show's credits, decided that the producer, Eric Rollman, would be the most relevant person. I mailed the letter to Saban and had no idea what to expect.
The response I got was nothing short of overwhelming. Tom Wyner, the voice of Hallo Spencer himself, gave me a call. We chatted on the phone for a while had several subsequent conversations. I also received a letter from Robert Axelrod, who voiced Elmer, Hallo's sidekick. In his letter, Robert explained that he came to work to do voice-over work for The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (on which he voiced Lord Zedd) when Scott Page, Power Rangers' ADR director, showed him a photocopy of my letter. Suffice it to say, Robert was touched by my letter and confirmed to me what I already thought, that the cast and crew of Hallo Spencer loved the show and considered it a favorite project. Interestingly enough, I later asked Robert how often he saw fan mail through Saban, and he said that the voice actors virtually never saw any. I don't know how it did it, but I'm extremely thankful my letter made it through!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Veteran Toho actor Tadao Nakamaru passed away unexpectedly on April 23, 2009, due to a ruptured aneurysm. He was 76.
Mr. Nakamaru was born on March 31, 1933, and appeared in numerous Toho SFX films, playing the part of Lance Corporal Sudo in The Secret of the Telegian (the film's main villain). He also appeared in Terror of Mechagodzilla as Tagawa, the head of Interpol.
Coincidentally, I contacted Mr. Nakamaru's personal assistant back in March, less than two months before he passed away, and requested an interview with Mr. Nakamaru about his film roles. Mr. Nakamaru politely declined my request, citing his retirement from the film industry.
I send my condolences to the family of Mr. Nakamaru.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
One of my favorite U.S. trailers for a Toho movie would be this one for The Mysterians.
Not much else to say about it, except that I've always thought that the voice-over between 0:12 and 0:15 sounded like a bad Shatner impression.
The film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is celebrated by film critics and even some political scientists for embodying the idealism of the average citizen's ability to go to Washington to make a difference. In practice, the 1939 Frank Capra film is more fictitious than its supporters would like to believe, but there have been moments in our history where life does seem to imitate art (or at least James Stewart).
Substitute Mr. Smith for Mister Rogers, and let the ever-reliable Wikipedia fill us in on the rest:
In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs.
The chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers' work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, "I think it's wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million." The subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.
The video footage of Mister Rogers' testimony (along with Senator Pastore's surprising reaction) is embedded at the top. If you like politics, or endings where the good guy wins, give it a look.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Click on the images for a larger view:
A week later, the newspaper ran an interview with Kenji Sahara, ably translated by totorom, which was conducted at the convention. The interview appears below, and it is reproduced with permission.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
One of the most interesting aspects of G-FEST for me was that, not only did we American fans learn a lot about Mr. Sahara's career, but that Mr. Sahara himself learned a few things about it! For instance, Mr. Sahara never realized, until G-FEST, that he appears in the Japanese trailer for Mothra (1961).
Much more amusing, however, was Mr. Sahara's reaction to learning the American title to his 1958 SFX film Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, which as many of you know is The H-Man. Well, it turns out that the letter "H" has a much different connotation in Japan, a -- shall we say -- fairly risque connotation. Thus, the idea of an H-Man to Mr. Sahara brings to mind something entirely different from what Columbia Pictures, the American distributor of The H-Man, originally intended!
I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Sahara Sunday night in his hotel room with totorom. When the time came to ask him about the 1958 film in question, I began, "My next question would be about Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, otherwise known as ... H-Man!"
We all laughed.
The hit television program Lost has been on the air since 2004, but only recently has producer J. J. Abrams realized what it's been missing: The grace of Bruce Lee! The speed of Sonny Chiba! The force of Chuck Norris!
Kung Fu Cinema reports that Hiroyuki "Duke" Sanada has joined the cast of Lost, giving network TV audiences in the U.S. a rare (for them, anyway) chance to see a Japan Action Club member and the star of such films as Message from Space, G.I. Samurai, and Legend of the Eight Samurai whenever it is that Lost airs.
The YouTube clip above features the U.S. trailer to Sanada's 1982 action film Roaring Fire. Suffice it to say, you won't be seeing anything quite that dynamic on ABC any time soon.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Your humble blog-meister meets SFX film star Kathy Horan for the first time. (Photo was originally published in G-FAN #84.)
In July 2007, I was able to meet Kathy Horan, who appeared in several Japanese science fiction films in the 1960s (Goke Body Snatcher from Hell, War of the Insects, The Green Slime, etc.). I interviewed her over the telephone in 2006 about her various genre roles, but we didn't discuss meeting until I learned something very interesting...
Several months after the interview, I learned that Ms. Horan was friends with my stepmother. They'd known each other since the '70s and '80s when they were both flight attendants for Braniff Airlines. All these years, my stepmother knew a star of tokusatsu films, and I was totally unaware!
When I visited family in Colorado in '07, I was able to meet Ms. Horan. I gave her a copy of Weekly World News (then edited by Jeff Rovin) in which her name appears in an ad promoting G-FAN. Suffice it to say, she was very friendly, and she had more stories for me about her time in Japan.
All in all, a very cool experience. I guess this is a small world after all.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Talk about a room with a view.
This is a shot of my cousin's old backyard from the mid-1990s. We dubbed the tree in question "The Godzilla Tree" for reasons that should be obvious. (But, strangely, the fact that the tree resembles Godzilla isn't one of them.)
In any case, they don't make trees like that anymore.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
And this time he's out for revenge!
Okay, so maybe nothing that exciting is happening, but I'm so glad somebody posted this to YouTube.
If you're my age (late 20s), this is probably how you saw Gamera movies growing up. Celebrity Home Entertainment (Just for Kids!) released the Sandy Frank versions of the original Gamera films in the late '80s, and the tapes were hosted by a youngster named Noel Bloom, Jr. (who, it turns out, is the son of Celebrity Home Entertainment's owner).
Be sure to pay close attention at the 2:04 mark. It's always sounded to me like Noel says, "I hope you enjoyed the show as much as I didn't." (Could Noel have been taking subtle digs at Gamera all these years?) While we're on the subject, at 7:13, doesn't it sound like he says, "And the ugly kid, who's the host, isn't bad, if I must say so myself"?! Regardless, it's fun to see that Seabert's nibbling on Noel's hair on the box cover of the Sampler Collection.
UPDATE (8/27): I re-read my original post, and it may come across as harsher than I intended. I'd really like to point out that I look back on the Celebrity Home Entertainment Gamera releases with a lot of nostalgia. They were fun, and in my original post I simply wanted to mention some of the things we (my brother, my cousin, and I) picked up on as kids. Just didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
During G-FEST this past July, my friend totorom and I took care of Mr. Sahara during his stay in Chicago. One of the most memorable events for me was when we took Mr. Sahara to a Chicago Cubs game at legendary Wrigley Field. Martin and Pam Arlt drove us to the stadium and also took in the game.
At one point, totorom brought back a mini pizza from the concession stands for me and Mr. Sahara to share. We each took two slices and enjoyed it immensely. I also joined the crowd in singing parts of "YMCA" and "Livin' on a Prayer" during breaks in the game, which was quite fun.
We left before the end of the game, but it didn't matter. A fun time was had by all, and Mr. Sahara was especially impressed. He had been to Chicago previously for G-CON '97, but he never left the hotel, and he returned to Japan thinking that Chicago was a small town. But, after seeing the city in all its glory in 2009, he told us that he now realizes just how big Chicago is!
More Kenji Sahara memories to come...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
For more information (in Japanese) about this production, click
Special thanks to totorom for the heads-up.
Aaron Banks gets Bruce Lee's endorsement ... seven years after his death!
How is this possible? Through the magic of editing, dubbing, and Bruceploitation. The film is Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, released in 1980 by Aquarius Releasing, and it sinks to levels that Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave couldn't reach.
What's it all about? Kung Fu Cinema gives you the full story, but Fist of Fear, Touch of Death must be seen to be believed. The YouTube video at the top of the post boils the 90-minute film down to its essence. If you have the stomach for it, you should see the whole film.
That's whether you're Harry Belafonte or Fred Williamson.