Sunday, December 26, 2010

My interview with Paulette Rubinstein



On December 23, 2010, I interviewed Titra Studios voice actress Paulette Rubinstein (Godzilla vs. the Thing, Gammera the Invincible) at the home of Paulette's daughter, actress Liane Curtis (Sixteen Candles). About halfway in, Liane joins the interview and adds some levity to the proceedings.

My thanks again to Liane and Paulette for being such wonderful hosts! Please enjoy the video.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nice to know I still have friends


About to have breakfast with J.D. Lees and Robert Scott Field at G-FEST XVII in Chicago.

The holidays are a time of reflection, and given that today is Christmas, and I can think of no better time to think about my friends. Of course, those with poor judgment may count "the enemy of my enemy" as their friends, but those who do always find out in the end just how meaningful such relationships are.


With Akira Takarada at G-FEST. I spent nearly a week with this legendary actor and will never forget the experience.


With Damon Foster. Although he and I live hours apart, I got to see Damon several times this year. He's a great friend with a great sense of humor. Love our phone conversations!


With Luciana Paluzzi and Nika Solomon. I've seen Luciana twice this year (including my December 14 trip to L.A.) but only saw Nika once. I always look forward to seeing these great ladies when I'm in the area.


With Dore Kraus, as we attempt Ultraman's Specium Ray pose. I met Dore for the first time in October at a dinner he hosted, and he was just as nice as in our various correspondences.


With Dr. Franklin Ruehl. Dr. Ruehl's Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion was a favorite of mine on the Sci-Fi Channel in the early '90s. Getting to speak with him at length in October was truly a wonderful experience.


With Ib Melchior. Words cannot do this man justice, but I'm compelled to say a few. No one has shown me more hospitality this year than Mr. Melchior. Whenever I travel to L.A., I always have a place to stay at Ib's. I stay there so often that his house has basically become my home away from home! I sincerely appreciate the generosity he has shown me.


With Ryan Phillips. Ryan is a high school friend I haven't seen for nearly ten years. He was in the area on business and invited me to have lunch with him. It was my pleasure to reconnect with him and swap stories.


With Justin Dunleavy. I got to spend more time with my cousin this year than I have in a long time. Before getting involved in Godzilla fandom, Justin and I would spend hours talking about the various Toho sci-fi films in the 1990s (and the '80s before that!).


With Paulette Rubinstein and her daughter Liane Curtis. Although I have known Paulette for nearly five years (!), I never got the chance to meet her until very recently. She and her daughter Liane were extremely kind to me, and I was overwhelmed by their hospitality.


With George Chakiris. Although most people would think of Oscar-winning actors as having large egos, I couldn't think of a less appropriate description for George Chakiris. Last week, I met the West Side Story star again in L.A. for a chat, and we mostly chatted about our favorite films this year and of any year. We plan to meet again the next time I'm in town.

This doesn't begin to cover everybody, and I apologize to my friends I haven't included. I could go on all day with examples. But you have to cut it off somewhere!

I wish all my friends a happy and successful 2011!

Merry Christmas!


The fireplace burns bright at Ib Melchior's home on December 14, 2010. The blaze would have no doubt been enough for Chet the Christmas (Day Massacre) Parrot to warm his entire body!

Christmas has once again arrived, and I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. Christmas only comes once a year, so let's please not ruin the holiday with bad behavior. I think we got our fill of that last year!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster: science fact?


The Japanese poster for Yoshimitsu Banno's Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971).

Brenco's advertising campaign for its U.S. release of Toho's sci-fi classic Gorath (1962) claimed the movie was "too real to be science fiction," that it was actually "science fact."

Little did anyone know that such a description would eventually prove more accurate for Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, Yoshimitsu Banno's environmentally-aware monster movie.

On the heels of NASA's discovery of a new life form that's "able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic," a San Francisco Chronicle blogger notes the similarities between it and a certain Toho kaiju eiga:

For humans, arsenic pollution in groundwater has been a major problem. While a naturally occurring element, Arsenic can cause cancer in humans and "cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological effects" according to the National Research Council. Moreover, Arsenic is found in cities and areas with smog and industrial emissions, and Mono Lake, which as far back as 2006 and beyond, has been noted for its air pollution problems.

Which brings us to Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster and the idea that we're a giant step closer to science fiction as fact.

To read the entire blog post, click here. Special thanks to Mr. Yoshimitsu Banno for sending along the link.

Friday, December 3, 2010

AKIRA IFUKUBE: Works for Piano, Volume 2


The stunning cover for AKIRA IFUKUBE: Works for Piano, Volume 2.

Reiko Yamada, a former student of Maestro Ifukube's (and a special guest at G-FEST XIV in 2007) has recently completed a brand-new CD of the master musician's classical compositions. As of now, it's available in the U.S. from the Sanseido Japanese bookstore in Chicago and can be ordered here:

SANSEIDO
100 E. Algonquin Rd.,
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 956-0155

Details such as pricing are unavailable at this time, but when we're talking about Akira Ifukube, who would dare put a price on his genius?

More information about the release will become available on Maestro Ifukube's official English-language Web site as soon as possible. Fans of Mr. Ifukube, and of classical music in general, will certainly be pleased with the new release!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy birthday, Don Frye!


The match of the century? Your humble blogmeister squares off against the UFC legend Don Frye at G-FEST 2008. Photo by Jeff Horne.

November 23 marks the 45th birthday of the legendary mixed martial artist Don Frye. Although he is best known for his battles in the UFC Octagon, Don Frye has since branched out into acting, performing in several films to date. His most memorable role thus far would have to be that of Captain Douglas Gordon in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). In GFW, he virtually steals the show, sometimes outshining Godzilla himself!

The role was so popular among G-fans that Don Frye was invited to attend G-FEST in 2008 as a celebrity guest, alongside the original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima. Mr. Frye tirelessly signed autographs and posed for pictures all weekend, proving himself to be a friendly and highly entertaining special guest.


Haruo Nakajima and Don Frye meet for the first time, G-FEST 2008.

Here's wishing you a happy 45th, Don! Knowing you, I'm sure you're going to celebrate it in style!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gamera 3-D: Banno seeks investors


Yoshimitsu Banno meets Omar Sayyah (and his bearded dragon) at G-FEST XII in July 2005.

This blog confirmed the news a few days ago of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster director Yoshimitsu Banno's intent to move forward with a 40-minute Gamera 3-D project. Earlier today, Mr. Banno reported a surge of activity on his Web site. More than 100 people have contacted Advanced Audiovisual Productions since news of the Gamera film broke.

It is important to bear in mind that Mr. Banno's film cannot proceed without a sufficient number of investors. As of now, Mr. Banno is seeking investors who can contribute JPY15,000,000 to the project.

Mr. Banno offers the following terms to potential investors:

The Privilege of the first investment is as follows,

(1) As a bonus of the risk of the first investment, AAP remits
JP Yen 15,000,000 to the account of investor on the next day of the start of filming.

(2) Investor possesses the share of 10% of net income of AAP as a privilege of the first investor.

※ In the case of “Godzilla 3-D”, the first investor of JP Yen 15,000,000 is entitled to receive the return of its total investing money and share of JP Yen 10,000,000 as the distribution of net profit.

※ Intermediation fee is 3%.
As I stated in my earlier blog post, I would be happy to forward any serious inquiries to Mr. Banno. You (yes, you!) can help make kaiju history!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Easing into G-TOUR II


Akira Takarada accepts the Mangled Skyscraper Award at G-FEST XVII.

G-FAN editor J.D. Lees announced a few months ago that G-TOUR II will take place from August 2 to 12 in 2011. The official G-FAN Web site contains all the info that's currently available about the tour.

One of the most exciting aspects of the tour is Akira Takarada's interest in participating. As a matter of fact, Mr. Takarada reconfirmed his interest in an e-mail he sent to me the other night. While it's still too early to make any concrete plans, and while G-TOUR cannot yet guarantee Mr. Takarada's participation, this is certainly something to be excited about! More details will be released as soon as they are available.

Besides, you never know who else might show up...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yoshimitsu Banno's Gamera 3-D: It's on!


Brett and Advanced Audiovisual Productions' head Yoshimitsu Banno at G-FEST XII in July 2005.

Eagle-eyed G-fan Evan Brehany scooped the world. Advanced Audiovisual Productions (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster director Yoshimitsu Banno's production company) recently announced on its Web site that it is pursuing a Gamera IMAX 3-D movie. The announcement completely flew under the radar in the West until Evan spotted it and brought it to light.

While some people apparently thought it was a prank of some kind (on Mr. Banno's official Web site?????), the proposed film is 100% real.

Reached for a comment, Mr. Banno confirmed that the project is moving forward and that Kadokawa Pictures, Inc., is an investor in the film, to the tune of JPYen 200,000,000. Mr. Banno is currently looking for other investors to fully finance the picture.

The total production budget stands at JPYen 600,000,000, and the movie would run 40 minutes in length. It would be written, produced, and directed by Mr. Banno. New monsters would appear in the film, but for a full story synopsis (and breakdown of the monsters), please visit AAP's official site.

Any potential investors may contact me, and I would be happy to pass your request on to Mr. Banno.

UPDATE (10/30): Banno seeks investors.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Will the real Yumi Shirakawa please stand up?


Ever hear that old saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"?

I think this video disproves it.

The great Yumi Shirakawa (Rodan, The Mysterians, The H-Man, etc.) is impersonated in the video below. But what makes this impersonation particularly interesting is that it's done by a man!

Just when you thought Japanese TV couldn't get any stranger.

Above right, Ms. Yumi Shirakawa in a recent photo. Source: tbs.co.jp.

Oh, and there's also someone trying to imitate Akira Nakao (from the Heisei Godzilla series), but at least his imitator's of the same gender.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

But Still: Vaughan Savidge on His HK Dubbing Career


Vaughan Savidge, whose prolific HK dubbing career is chronicled below, in a recent picture. Photo courtesy of Vaughan Savidge.

Hong Kong flicks have been enjoyed by Western audiences for several decades, thanks in large part to the English-language dubbing these films received in their native country. While HK dubbing has been the subject of countless magazine and Internet articles over the years, very little information has come out from the principals directly involved. For the first time ever, Vaughan Savidge answers questions about his HK dubbing career, in an interview conducted by Oriental Cinema's Damon Foster and G-FAN's Brett Homenick.

Q: What was your background before you came to Hong Kong?

A: I arrived in HK at the age of 16. I went to school there for one day, but felt that learning pottery, French, and playing the double bass weren’t really going to get me anywhere. Actually, the French would have been useful, as these days I have a place in France that I go to every month.

Q: How did you end up in Hong Kong?

A: My parents were divorced, and it was one of the few places my mother could still get her alimony! It was either HK or South Africa, and in those days South Africa was still a racist country, so best avoided.

Q: What are the circumstances that led you to being involved in the HK movie-releasing business?

A: It was through friends, who gave me a chance. I’d been working in radio at Radio Television Hong Kong and Commercial Radio. And I’d done a little bit of dubbing for other groups. Some friends and I felt it was a bit of a closed shop, so I asked someone I knew whose father owned First Films if we could do some dubbing for them. They agreed, and we became good friends.

Q: What were your various assignments (translating? dubbing? scripting?) in the HK movie-releasing business?

A: Mostly, you would receive a Chinese script with English subtitle translation. I would then either listen to an audio cassette tape of the film and attempt to write the English dubbing script from that – or do it from a videotape – and sometimes a dubbing 35mm print. I had an old Moviola, but it was rather temperamental and would sometimes tear great chunks out of the print, usually in the middle of the night when the script had to be ready in the morning. It could be fairly stressful. One week I slept for only about 10 hours because we were writing and then dubbing 5 films. My wife used to help me a lot with the translations, as she spoke Cantonese and Mandarin. The dubbing was with a small coterie of regulars. We all accepted that there was only so much you could do because of the process. The film was cut into 45 second loops – and we would sit around a microphone doing the best lip sync we could. But the finished product was pretty rough by American dubbing standards.

Q: When you wrote dubbing scripts, what was the process like? What effort was made to match the lip movements with the dialogue?

A: See above.

Q: We've heard rumors that English dubbing industries didn't pay well, and that makeshift studios were hastily thrown together in cheaply rented rooms. What were conditions like, in the audio-dubbing studio?

A: As mentioned above, the looping system was pretty basic, and so were some of the studios. There was one directly under the flight path of planes landing at Kai Tak that had egg boxes for sound proofing. At another, I once saw a large rat nosing around the flip-flopped feet of one of the dubbers while he was doing a loop. The technicians were often elderly and had been doing this for years – mainly in Mandarin, and sometimes Cantonese. They were very professional, but the system/process was not the same as rock and roll, which eventually came to HK through Video Films. We worked for them a fair bit, and their facilities were a huge improvement on some of the other studios.

Q: What was the first movie you worked on?

A: It belonged to First Films. I can’t remember the title.

Q: What was the last movie you worked on?

A: Not sure. We must have done somewhere between 150 and 200 of them – everything from kung fu to war films and two or three soft p*rn films. They came from all over Asia – HK, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines.

Q: Did you ever appear on screen, as an actor?

A: I can’t honestly remember, but I think not.

Q: What was it like working with Ted Thomas?

A: I only worked with Ted a couple of times. He was always charming and amusing. He ran a different group, and we were in sort of competition, although he had Shaw Brothers sewn up as his client, and perhaps also Golden Harvest, as well. I worked mainly for independents.

Q: Who are some of the names of the other audio-dubbers [you worked with], and can you remember any specific roles/films they're in?

A: Warwick Evans, Barry Bakker, John Culkin, Suzanne Vale, Martin Evan-Jones, Rick Thomas. There were a lot of dubbers, but I’m afraid my memory fails me as it’s around 27 years ago that I stopped!

Q: Can you remember any specific roles/films that you yourself dubbed, where fans might be able to recognize your voice?

A: See above.

Q: Did the dubbing business improve as HK movies gained international popularity in the 1970s?
A: There were more movies, yes, and our business improved as a result.

Q: Did the dubbing business decline in the 1980s and 1990s, as subtitled prints started gaining popularity?

A: Not sure as I finished in 1983, I think, and it was certainly pretty full on until then.

Q: Did you work with, or get to know, any of the HK kung fu actors themselves?

A: No. I interviewed some when I worked for one of the newspapers. I remember Alexander Fu Shing was a nice man. He was one of Shaw’s better stars, but sadly died in a car crash.

Q: It's been said that the Shaw Brothers wanted to release their movies in English as far back as the 1950s (when many of HK's movies were just musicals). Is this true? Was there ever a plan to dub Kwan Tak Hing's old "Wong Gei Hung" movies (of the 1940s and 1950s?)?

A: Don’t know.

Q: For decades, it was believed that Five Fingers of Death was the first time Westerners saw a Chinese martial arts movie. But an English movie poster of The One-Armed Swordsman recently surfaced. It not only says, "Metro Goldwyn Mayer Presents," but states, "Starring: Wang Yu." It doesn't say "Starring JIMMY Wang Yu," a name that was coined in the 1970s (when many Chinese actors were given English names). So is it possible that The One-Armed Swordsman might have gotten a U.S. release before the kung fu boom?

A: Not sure. You could ask my friend Hoi Wong at First Films, as I think it was one of his. We dubbed a version of it, and I included the immortal line of the one-armed swordsman telling someone he was going to kill him with his own two hands! Not sure if that was in the original film or a later version.

Q: A mysterious name which popped up in credits (mainly for Chinese TV shows) in English was Morris Weinberg. Does the name ring a bell, and could you shed any light on just who this person is? His involvement in TV historicals and swordplay soap operas?

A: Have no idea!

Q: Did production values vary, between dubbing/releasing between companies? For Shaw Brothers? Seasonal Films? Golden Harvest? Cathay Studios? Filmark International? IFD Films? Arts and ADDA Audio Video?

A: In terms of dubbing it was pretty universal. There was an effects track made for every film, before it was dubbed into Mandarin/Cantonese or English.

Q: Were you present when people like Godfrey Ho, Thomas Tang, and Joseph Lai were releasing the ripoff movies (ninja exploitation films like Fists of Legend 2: Iron Bodyguards)? Godfrey Ho had taken all these irrelevant old kung fu movies, spliced in a few shots of ninjas shot 20 years later, and cashed in on the "ninja craze" of the 1980s. With ninjas wearing headbands (common Halloween accessories) that clearly said "NINJA," did you ever ask Godfrey Ho, "Just WHAT were you thinking?"

A: I did do a lot of work for Tomas Tang and Joseph Lai. I remember dubbing a Korean film they'd bought that was originally about the war between North and South Korea, and I changed it all (at their request) to the fighting in North and South Vietnam! They also bought quite a few Korean kung fu movies which I guess the audience might have thought were Chinese films. And I guess it didn't really make much difference - people don't go to the cinema because of where the film originates, do they?

Q: On a related subject, what were some of the strangest movies you had to dub?

A: I dubbed a film called The Gate of the Hell (!) which starred one of the dubbers (Warwick Evans) as Dracula. That was a bit bizarre. We also did a few p*rnos. There were two women dubbers doing all the female parts, and one of them was rather shocked as she'd never seen a p*rn film before - and was well into her 40s.

Q: More than once, companies (i.e., Toho in Tokyo) outside of Hong Kong also utilized the HK dubbers. Do you know if they paid better than the Hong Kong companies?

A: I'm not sure. We were paid somewhere between HK$8,000 and $12,000 for most HK feature films. I never worked for a Japanese company.

Q: Are there any other interesting tidbits of information you can think of that the legions of kung fu fans might not know?

A: The sounds effects were quite interesting. I wandered into a studio where they were doing them once, and they punched a cardboard box to make the sounds of hitting someone! And swished a cane around for the swords.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP Ryo Ikebe


Actor Ryo Ikebe in a recent photo. Source: nichimen.or.jp.

The world of Japanese cinema has suffered another blow by the loss of Ryo Ikebe on October 8, 2010, of sepsis. He was 92.

Ikebe, born on February 11, 1918, began his acting career in 1941. His career was quickly interrupted by the Second World War, so Ikebe didn't become a Toho contract player until 1946. He remained active until his recent passing, with more than 150 roles to his credit. When Ikebe wasn't performing onscreen, he served as the director of the Japanese equivalent of the Screen Actors Guild (from 1983-2009).

G-fans will remember Ikebe from his starring roles in Battle in Outer Space (1959), Gorath (1962), and The War in Space (1977). Ikebe also enjoyed a small role in Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985). In recent years, Ikebe turned his attention to writing, becoming an award-winning essayist and book author.

Thank you for the memories, Mr. Ikebe.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dr. Ruehl: Man of Mystery


That's a wrap! Dr. Franklin Ruehl and Brett shake hands after completing their interview. Photo courtesy of Dr. Ruehl.

Dr. Franklin Ruehl is a man of many talents, but I've always known him as the host of the late, lamented Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion, one of the Sci-Fi Channel's original programs. (This, of course, was well before the era of "SyFy.")

While Dr. Ruehl's Mysteries has been off the national airwaves for several years, fans can follow the good doctor on his YouTube channel. With a little luck, perhaps Dr. Ruehl can entice a cable channel to put him back on the air. (It would sure beat watching whatever the heck the Jersey Shore is up to this week.)

I was fortunate to meet Dr. Ruehl on October 8. He agreed to sit down for an interview, which is presented below.



Here's a gag longtime Mysteries fans would get:



May the power of the cosmos be with you!

My dinner with Ultraman


Brett hangs out with Dore Kraus after an excellent meal at L.A.'s Drago Centro.

On October 8, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with Dore Kraus, best known to G-fans as playing Jack Shindo (Ultraman's alter ego) in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman: Towards the Future (a.k.a. Ultraman Great). The show, which aired on L.A.'s KCOP-TV (channel 13) in early 1992, was my first exposure to Ultraman, and would remain the only Ultra-show I would see for many years.

Dore Kraus is no stranger to Godzilla fandom, as he made guest appearances at John Roberto's KAIJU-CON '96 in New York and G-CON '97 in Chicago (along with Kenji Sahara and Masanari Nihei).

I could go on and on about the dinner and what a gentleman Dore was, but when you have actual footage from the event, why not let that do the talking? So, without further ado...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

RIP Keiju Kobayashi


Actor Keiju Kobayashi in a recent photo.

The Japan Times is reporting that actor Keiju Kobayashi died September 16, 2010, of heart failure. He was 86.

Mr. Kobayashi is best known to G-fans as playing Japan's prime minister in Godzilla 1985 (1984) and Dr. Tadokoro in Submersion of Japan (1973). He was born on November 23, 1923, and enjoyed a long and successful acting career that started in 1942 (appearing in more than 250 films in total) and continued to work until his death.

The Japan Times adds:
A Gunma Prefecture native, Kobayashi made his movie debut in 1942 and gained
popularity in the 1950s starring in a series of comedies featuring salaried
workers with ordinary man-next-door personalities.

Appearing in about 260 movies and TV dramas in roles ranging from prime ministers to police detectives, Kobayashi received medals of honor from the government for his longtime achievements and cultural contributions.
Thanks to Fabien Mauro for the tip.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy birthday, Ib Melchior!


Ib Melchior, the director of The Angry Red Planet and The Time Travelers, turns 93 today. I'd like to extend my wishes to Ib for a happy birthday!

Oh, and don't forget to order Ib's new book, Six Cult Films from the Sixties!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Agoura Hills Patch penetrates 'Mushroom Clouds'


Author Peter H. Brothers, July 2010.

The Agoura Hills Patch recently ran an article on Peter H. Brothers' Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda. The article quotes Brothers at length, and toward the end you might recognize the name of a certain blogger.

To read the article for yourself, just click here.

G-FAN #92

Monsterland Ohio's Mark Matzke has published an excellent review of G-FAN #92. To read the review for yourself, just click here.

For more information on G-FAN magazine itself, follow this link.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

G-FEST XVIII: Return to the Crowne Plaza!


J.D. "Da Chief" Lees, me, and Robert Scott Field check out the newly-renovated Crowne Plaza this past July, examining it for a possible return.

On the subject of conventions that still exist, J.D. Lees (a.k.a. The Chief) has announced that G-FEST XVIII will take place at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont, IL (G-FEST's stomping grounds from 2004-09), from July 15 to 17.

Be there when G-FEST, North America's longest-running kaiju convention, finally hits maturity! (Hm. Now that G-FEST will turn 18, maybe it'll finally want to move out of Rosemont...)


J.D. and Scott give two big thumbs up (or a thumb and a peace sign, anyway) to the Crowne Plaza!

Make your plans to attend now! For more information, please visit G-FAN.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25: A year old



What a year it's been!

On August 25, 2009, I created this very blog. I had no real expectations for it, and I wasn't sure what direction it would ultimately take. While many blogs come and go, I'm very proud that this one has made it this far.

On the blog's first day of existence, I posted a notice about Akira Takarada's appearing in a stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard. Less than a year later, I would assist Mr. Takarada throughout his entire stay at G-FEST. (I picked him up from the airport and dropped him off at the airport security line. I was the first and last person who saw him in Chicago.) For this reason, I decided to use the above photo of Mr. Takarada from G-FEST's Sunday morning interview to illustrate this blog post. It certainly feels like it's come full circle!

Now we officially start the second year of Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker. I hope it's just as fun as the first!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kikaider is back, and Anime Jungle has him!


Dave Chapple, August Ragone, me, and Ed Holland, about to order our meals at a Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo.

Anime Jungle in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo hosted the one and only Daisuke Ban, the popular star of the 1970s-era superhero shows Kikaider and Inazuman, to participate in autograph signings and the Nisei Week Japanese Festival's Grand Parade. Mr. Ban also participated in a dinner Saturday night for which Anime Jungle was selling advance tickets (limited to 30 people).


August Ragone and I eagerly await the dinner with Daisuke Ban.

Before the dinner got under way, I spent all my time with August Ragone, Ed Holland of Monster Attack Team, and fellow Coachella Valley resident Dave Chapple. We shopped in Anime Jungle, went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch, and just hung out and shot the breeze about a slew of topics. There was never a dull moment!


Daisuke Ban and Joanne Ninomiya examine a copy of G-FAN #91, as August Ragone tells them about the magazine and G-FEST.

At 6:30 pm, the dinner with Daisuke Ban began. After making some introductory comments, Mr. Ban sat at each table with Joanne Ninomiya of Generation Kikaida for about 10 or 15 minutes to spend time with each attendee. Mr. Ban graciously answered questions, signed autographs, and posed for pictures.

Mr. Ban seemed impressed with the copy of G-FAN I gave him (August told him all about G-FAN and G-FEST). Mr. Ban noticed the interview with Yukiko Takayama, Terror of Mechagodzilla's screenwriter, and asked if I knew Tomoko Ai. I mentioned that totorom interviewed her in a previous issue, to which Mr. Ban replied that the two are friends. So remember that Katsura Mafune knows Kikaider!


"Say, Kikaider, need a sidekick?"

All in all, it was a great event, with fans coming all the way from Japan for the occasion! Anime Jungle might be hosting more such events, so be on the lookout for them in the future. Kudos to Anime Jungle for bringing this event to the West Coast!


Meeting the legendary Daisuke Ban for the first time.

Return to the Glutermansion


Tim Smyth, Perry Martin, Don Glut, William Winckler, Ted Newsom, and Bill Warren discuss many movie-related subjects at the Glutermansion.

In June 2005, just before I left for North Dakota for four years, I visited the home of author and filmmaker Donald F. Glut with my friends David McRobie and Peter H. Brothers. Since I was leaving California for the foreseeable future, I arranged for us to visit Don's house (which I nicknamed the Glutermansion) as sort of a last hurrah for me. The visit was a fun experience for us, but it would be one that wouldn't happen again for five years.


Bill and Ted have an "excellent" discussion on who really killed Ted Healy!

Several days ago, I contacted Don about possibly visiting him again at his home. I mentioned that I'd love to meet other fans in the area that he knew, and I welcomed as many of them to participate as he could get. Don then started pounding the pavement and arranged a veritable "who's who" of monster fandom to converge on the Glutermansion!


Don Glut proudly displays his Mangled Skyscraper Award, which he won at G-FEST XIV in 2007, with much of his prized memorabilia collection.

As it turned out, Don was under the impression that I still lived in North Dakota and explained to his friends that I was coming in from out of state for this occasion! The group got a big laugh when I revealed that I drove about two hours to get to L.A.!

For several hours, we sat around a table and simply discussed various movies, swapped stories about celebrities, gave our opinions on some "infamous" names in fandom, and had a blast. I was surprised to learn that these sort of get-togethers don't happen so often. Everyone agreed that these meetings should occur a lot more frequently.


Don Glut and yours truly, right outside the Italian restaurant in which we ate dinner.

Shortly after 7:00 pm, a slightly smaller group went out for Italian food. There we discussed more movies, debated Godzilla movies vs. Ray Harryhausen movies, and even did a few voice impressions! We actually stayed seated well past closing time, but we were so caught up in our conversation that we didn't even notice!


Ted and I pose with Famous Monsters of Filmland #250. Phil Kim would be proud!

After we left the restaurant, most of our group left, although Don, Sid Terror, Tim Smyth, and I stuck around to continue the conversation even longer! It lasted until almost 12:30 am, much later than I would have ever guessed. But, when you're having fun, it's easy to lose track of time.

I'd like to thank everyone who came out to Don's house. You certainly made my day! It was tremendous fun, and I suspect these shindigs will be happening a lot more often from now on.



Hanging out is what it's all about! Ted, me, William Winckler, Sid Terror, Don, and Tim Smyth smile for the camera.

. . . and I haven't been the same since!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A salute to Yoshifumi Tajima (1919-2009)


The great Toho character actor Yoshifumi Tajima in perhaps his best role, that of Kumayama in Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964).

One of the most familiar faces in the Godzilla series passed away on September 10, 2009, of esophageal cancer. He was 90 years old.

Tajima was born on August 4, 1919. He became an actor in the early 1950s, working for Shochiku and Nikkatsu, and then became a contracted Toho player in the late 1950s. Some of his Toho credits include: The Secret of the Telegian (1960), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Atragon (1963), Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964), War of the Gargantuas (1966), King Kong Escapes (1967), and Godzilla (1984). Tajima also had a recurring role on the groundbreaking Ultra Q TV series for Tsuburaya Productions.

Although he passed nearly a year ago, it almost completely flew under the radar in the West. So I offer this very humble salute to a giant of the giant monster genre.

Rest in peace, Mr. Tajima.

Akira Takarada signs autographs at G-FEST

On the Monday following G-FEST, while most people were leaving Chicago and saying their goodbyes to fellow attendees, I stayed in town an extra night (leaving early Tuesday morning) to help Mr. Takarada enjoy his final day in Chicago (his flight left late that night).

Monday turned out to be an extremely enjoyable day. I spent it with Mr. Takarada, Robert Scott Field, and J.D. Lees and his family. The hectic pace of G-FEST was behind us, and we could relax and enjoy ourselves without having to worry about resolving parking issues or whatever other problems arose throughout the weekend.

Early in the afternoon on Monday, I asked Mr. Takarada to sign some items for other people (friends and family members) and even a few for myself. Robert Scott Field recorded it for me, and the one and only Damon Foster uploaded it to YouTube for me. (I certainly would've had no idea how to do it myself!)

In any case, here is that video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ryuhei Kitamura's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

Ryuhei Kitamura (the director of Versus and Godzilla: Final Wars) has directed a new music video of ELEWs cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Nirvana's early '90s mega-hit).

According to ELEWRockjazz.com:


A modern day pop artist and musical revolutionary, piano iconoclast ELEW is making a substantial impression on the music world with a thunderous new style of playing: an inspired melding of ragtime, rock and pop that he calls Rockjazz.


It's certainly not your father's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"!

h/t Kung Fu Cinema.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The inspiration for this blog's name



Finally, the video containing the inspiration for this blog's unusual name makes it back to YouTube!

As a longtime Siskel & Ebert fan, I love watching old S&E videos on the Internet. One of my favorite clips was their review of the 1987 children's film Benji the Hunted. This particular review is famous (infamous?) for the fact that Ebert recommends the Benji film when he, earlier in the program, panned Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

In discussing other strange movie titles, Siskel mentions one of his favorites. That was all the inspiration I needed.

Tales of Adventure in Hollywood


Meeting the legendary Barbara Steele, the star of many Italian horror classics.

Although the summer months are brutal, living in Rancho Mirage (a.k.a. Brett's Rancho) does have its advantages. One such advantage is the fairly easy access I have to Los Angeles. Little more than a two-hour drive away, I can essentially travel there whenever I'd like.

After seeing its impressive guest list, I knew I wanted to attend the Hollywood Show in Burbank in late July. I made plans, and off I went.


It was a pleasure to meet Mamie Van Doren.

While it's a lot of fun to meet the celebrities who attend these autograph conventions, you must budget yourself carefully. It's easier than you might think to spend more money than you can afford! So it's important to go in with a plan and to do as little impulse-buying as possible. Stick to your plan, and you won't go home bankrupt.


Caroline Munro was a highlight of the convention. I spoke with her about such topics as Christopher Lee and traveling in general. She's as friendly as they come.

The Hollywood Show was held at the Marriott Convention Center in Burbank. This was also the site of Monsterpalooza (in 2009 and 2010) and G-FEST '99. It's a nice area; I just wish the drivers were as nice!


With the incomparable Carla Laemmle, who appeared in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Dracula (1931)! Ms. Laemmle, who turns 101 (!) in October, signed autographs steadily throughout the day.

It was great to meet all the celebrities I met at the Hollywood Show. However, I must make special mention of two wonderful ladies in particular.


In between Nika Solomon and Luciana Paluzzi.

For the second time at a convention, I got to spend a great deal of time with Luciana Paluzzi and Nika Solomon. These are two of the nicest ladies you'd ever want to meet. I always enjoy spending an afternoon with them, and I hope to do it again sometime in the near future!

Reptilicus reads Phil Kim's Famous Monsters of Filmland tribute to Forrest J Ackerman at the Melchior residence, but was disappointed to find several typos (Joseph Cotten's name misrendered as "Cotton," among others) therein.

After the Hollywood Show wound down, I was a guest at Ib Melchior's home. Mr. Melchior graciously invited me to spend the night, which was an invitation too good to turn down! Once again (and I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but it's the truth), I enjoyed being in the presence of this multi-talented writer-director.

After dinner, Mr. Melchior and I watched Silent Hill on the SyFy Channel. Neither of us could follow what was going on, but it was especially entertaining when Mr. Melchior interjected some MST3K-style riffs on the proceedings! Suffice it to say, it was quite a memorable evening.


Yup, that's a plate of lasagna, but it wasn't mine, I swear! And I didn't order any stuffed bell peppers, either!

The following morning, I met Peter H. Brothers for lunch at The Grove. I gave him an autographed program of Godzilla: Final Wars that Akira Takarada signed for Peter (after I gave Mr. Takarada a copy of Peter's Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men).


A shot across the bow? Nah, it's just Peter enjoying his meal!

This was my first time meeting Peter in five years! Hopefully we'll get together a little more often from now on.


Brett and Ib Melchior, shortly before I had to leave.

Peter dropped me off near Ib's house, and I said my goodbyes to Ib and his charming wife Cleo. Afterward, I had G-FAN business to attend to.


Brett and George Chakiris, following a fascinating interview for G-FAN.

I met Academy Award-winning actor George Chakiris (West Side Story) for an interview on the Daiei co-production Flight from Ashiya. The interview was enlightening, but what struck me the most was how down-to-earth and approachable Mr. Chakiris turned out to be. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he gave me many great stories for G-FAN.

All in all, it was a very successful trip, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm not sure when I'll return to Hollywood, but after all the fun I had this past weekend, I hope it's very soon!