Monday, November 18, 2013

SAVE THE DRAMA FOR MIE HAMA! Meeting a True Toho Legend!

One of the highlights of my time in Japan was getting the privilege of meeting retired actress Mie Hama.

During my first foray into Hakone, I was lucky enough to meet Mie Hama (King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, numerous Crazy Cats comedies) at a public event. Readers of this blog know Hama-san's various Toho credits, but internationally she is best known as Kissy Suzuki in the James Bond actioner You Only Live Twice (1967), in which she stars opposite Sean Connery. Though it was limited to 30 people, I made arrangements early enough before the event sold out.

Although autographs weren't part of the event, photo opportunities were, which of course was very cool. The talk show itself was rather brief, but the experience of meeting Hama-san made it well worth it. She was very warm and kind, and I hope for the chance to meet her again.

YOU CAN'T HANDLE 'THE TRUTH'! Getting a Rare Glimpse at a Rarely Seen Treasure!

Director Shinpei Hayashiya and yours truly with Hayashiya-san's one-of-a-kind Gamera 4: The Truth box art. 

During my most recent trip to Tokyo, I was very fortunate to be invited to a private screening of one of the most sought-after kaiju fan films of all time, Gamera 4: The Truth. Director Shinpei Hayashiya invited my friend Yasushi and me into his home for the screening.

Hayashiya-san and his producer-wife Atsuko were incredibly gracious hosts. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality.

Regarding the film itself, it's a very good mix of CGI and practical effects. I was under the impression that the film would be almost all computer graphics, so it was a pleasant surprise to see detailed miniatures and puppet effects. Even though the drama scenes have a shot-on-video quality, the movie was well paced that after a while I didn't even notice it anymore. Overall, it was a remarkable effort, especially considering it was a fan film!

After making this (as well as Godzilla vs. Deathgilas, another fan film), Hayashiya-san went on to direct Reigo the Deep-Sea Monster vs. the Battleship Yamato and Raiga the Monster from the Deep Sea. I, for one, eagerly await Hayashiya-san's next effort!

SHINJUKU'S SUMITOMO BUILDING: An Unsung Godzilla Location!

Holy skyscraper, Batman! Shinjuku is home to many tall buildings, most notably the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. the Tax Towers) and the Sumitomo Building. 

Godzilla movies are recognized and appreciated for many reasons among their fans. Those who live in or travel to Japan get to experience some of the shooting locations up close and personal.

The Sumitomo Building was featured very prominently in Godzilla 1985 (1984). Godzilla collapses against the side of the skyscraper after his initial battle with the Super X, but after the Super X is destroyed by the Big G, he topples the building onto the wreckage.

It's amazing to me that such an iconic location in the Godzilla series routinely gets ignored in favor of other, less relevant places. Perhaps that reveals a lack of research on the part of certain writers. Whatever the case, when in Tokyo, this is one location that should not be missed.

The great thing about the Sumitomo Building is that it seemed to hold up just fine after I bumped into it. They must have made lots of improvements since Godzilla was on the scene!

Here's my attempt at photographing myself in front of the Sumitomo Building, but I was way too close. Next time I have the chance, I'm standing much farther away to get the whole building in the shot!

Virtually next door, of course, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, featured very prominently during the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

Shinjuku has a lot to offer its visitors, whether they're Godzilla fans or not. But if you're into the Toho Titan and wish to see the real-life locations used in the films, these two skyscrapers should not be missed!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AKIRA IFUKUBE CENTENNIAL CONCERT: February 1 Marks the Date for This Historic Event!

Maestro Akira Ifukube's centenary arrives in May 2014, but on February 1, 2014, a special 100th-anniversary concert, featuring the famed composer's kaiju eiga music, will be held in the Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo. Lucky Godzilla fans in the Tokyo vicinity during this time next year will get to hear a live orchestral rendition of some of Ifukube-sensei's most popular music.

The above flyer contains all the relevant information for interested parties. I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Cliff Harrington (left) spots Godzilla in his best-known role to Western kaiju eiga fans, that of Al in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).

Former actor and voice actor in Japanese films, Cliff Harrington, died in Kyushu, Japan, on August 9, 2013. He was 81.

Born in Seattle, WA, on June 18, 1932, military life eventually brought Cliff to Japan where he became involved in the entertainment industry. He appeared as Al in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and by happenstance ended up dubbing the voice of the helicopter pilot he sat next to (in the Japanese version). Cliff dubbed a lot more films via William Ross and Frontier Enterprises, and even worked as cinematographer on Robert Dunham's independent film Time Travelers (1966).

I interviewed Cliff in 2006 and remained in touch with him over the years. He moved to Kyushu in 2011 to be closer to his wife Tomoko's aging parents. While Cliff had been healthy during the time I knew him, he suddenly became ill several months ago and never recovered. I last spoke to Cliff (from the hospital) in April or May, but he didn't sound well at all. Only tonight did I learn of the sad news.

Farewell, Cliff.