Tuesday, March 31, 2015

GODZILLA VS. MEGALON FILMING LOCATION! You Too Can Visit This Familiar Area!

Look familiar? The name of this place probably won't ring any bells, but a few of these pictures should! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tsukishino Park Road (near Tsukishino Station) in Machida, Tokyo, is not a familiar location to most Godzilla fans, but that might be about to change. It was the location of the scene in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) in which actors Yutaka Hayashi and Hiroyuki Kawase ride up on their motorcycle in search of a model fighter plane.


Well, the specific shop they entered may no longer exist, but the rest of the location does! It's called Tsukishino Park Road, and it's about a three-minute walk from Tsukishino Station. It looks more or less as it does in the film more than 40 years later, though there are a few differences. All in all, I was surprised by how little it had changed in all that time.


I'm more more such excursions in the future, exploring some rarely discussed locations used in some Showa-era films (instead of the usual haunts, like Tokyo Tower, that you can read all about by doing a simple Google search). Watch this space for further entries!

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS CONTINUE! Catching Up with Another Old Friend!

Ulf Otsuki poses in front of some mini sakura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I paid a visit to Ulf Otsuki's home and spent the day with him. Ulf is an actor who has appeared in numerous tokusatsu films and TV programs, including Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and, most recently, episode 17 of Kamen Rider Drive (2014-15). 

Ulf showed me one of his more obscure movie roles, that of a Russian military officer in Toshio Masuda's all-star war film 203 Kochi (1980), produced by Toei Studios. This was most certainly a highlight of the day!


Afterward, we enjoyed a great Italian dinner at a nearby restaurant. Suffice it to say, fun times were had by all. Plans for the future are being cooked up as I type this, so stay tuned for further developments!

Monday, March 30, 2015

KING KONG APPEARS IN KAMAKURA! A Rare Japanese Kong Photo Surfaces!

On the way back to Skull Island, King Kong took a little-known vacation in Japan in the mid-1930s. Photo © Shigeo Kato.

One of the birthday gifts actor Shigeo Kato (IkiruSeven Samurai, Godzilla vs. the Thing, etc.) gave me was this photo of a 14-meter King Kong statue in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan. The date listed on the back of the photo is July 8, 1934, and it was built just after the original King Kong was released in Japan.

Naturally, this Kong statue no longer exists in Kamakura, but given the mystery surrounding the lost Japanese Kong films of the 1930s, it is an interesting curiosity. Japan truly went Kong Crazy in the wake of RKO's 1933 classic!

HANAMI IN KAMAKURA! Viewing the Cherry Blossoms with Shigeo Kato!

Retired actor Shigeo Kato poses with sakura in Kamakura. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today I had the distinct privilege of doing some hanami (flower viewing) with retired actor Shigeo Kato in Kamakura. Since yesterday was my birthday, Kato-san presented me with a few gifts, which were mostly Japanese treats, but an intriguing photo was among presents. More on that in the next blog post.


Kato-san and I walked quite a distance around Kamakura, and while the cherry blossoms were not quite in full bloom, there was a lot to take in. The cherry blossoms that had come out were quite beautiful, and it was my first time to see them in Kamakura. Despite turning 90 this year, Kato-san showed no signs of tiring, and seemed to hold up better than I did during our walk!


When we finished walking around, Kato-san and I went to a Cafe Renoir near Kamakura Station, and we talked all things Toho. We bounced around names of actors and directors, and Kato-san reminisced about them. It's something we've done a few times before, but every time I learn something new.


After that, we said our goodbyes, and I returned to Tokyo. However, I'm already looking forward to our next visit.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOU TWO! Celebrating Our Birthdays, Japanese-Style!

With writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno at a Japanese restaurant in Kawasaki, Kanagawa.

Earlier tonight, I came back from a dinner with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) director Yoshimitsu Banno. Today is my birthday, and tomorrow is Banno-san's, so it was a joint birthday celebration for both of us.

Lots of great times were had and interesting stories were told. Today was most certainly a birthday to remember!

A DAM GOOD REUNION! Destroy All Monsters Actors Reunite in Tokyo!

Yours truly in between the two stars of Destroy All Monsters (1968): Akira Kubo and Yukiko Kobayashi.

I was lucky to attend a special event on Saturday March 28, in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, at the Toshima Public Hall. The event hosted a reunion of three Destroy All Monsters (1968) cast members: Akira Kubo (Katsuo Yamabe), Yukiko Kobayashi (Kyoko Manabe), and Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla). Other special guests from the superhero genre were on hand, but the meat and potatoes of the event was most certainly Toho's monster romp.

Ultraman Jack suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi talks about everything from James Bond to Ultra Seven. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The event kicked off with Return of Ultraman (1971-72) suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi taking the stage and talking about his work in the Ultraman Jack suit. He also discussed appearing in a fight scene in the James Bond thriller You Only Live Twice (1967) as well as playing Ultra Seven for a couple of episodes in the 1967-68 series of the same name.

Actress Yukiko Kobayashi listens intently as Haruo Nakajima talks shop. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After Kikuchi-san finished talking about all things Ultraman, it was time for the three Toho favorites to make their appearance and reminisce about Destroy All Monsters. Two tables were quickly set up for the guests, with Kubo-san and Kobayashi-san sitting next to each other, and Nakajima-san and Kiuchi-san paired off together.

Actor Akira Kubo was in great spirits for the reunion of his most celebrated movie role (at least to kaiju fans in the West). Photo by Brett Homenick.

The most interesting story (for me) happened when the moderator asked the guests if they had seen the new American Godzilla movie. Kubo-san said that he didn't like it very much, and while I share Kubo-san's sentiments, I must admit that it was Kobayashi-san's answer that really made me take notice.

Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima shares his memories inside the latex Godzilla costume. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When asked if she had seen the new movie, she answered no, but that she likes dinosaurs (especially T-rexes) and that she is a fan of Jurassic Park (1993). Her answer was surprising to me, but entirely delightful. I never would have guessed her to be a dinosaur buff!

Space Sheriff Gavan himself (Kenji Ohba) made a surprise appearance onstage. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the Q&A wrapped, a surprise guest came onstage and addressed everyone in the auditorium. It was none other than Kenji Ohba, the star of Space Sheriff Gavan (1982-83) and other Toei Metal Hero shows.

It's all smiles whenever Haruo Nakajima and I get a chance to meet!

Following that, the autograph session began, and I was able to get numerous items signed by the guests. the show's organizer and promoter (Dr. Abbey) cheerfully introduced me to Kubo-san and Kobayashi-san, but Kubo-san recognized me from the Kyoto event from December 2011.

One of the items Kobayashi-san signed for me was a booklet from a 1969 Konto 55 comedy she appeared in. At first, Kobayashi-san didn't seem to remember she was in it until I pointed out her photo inside the booklet. Then she remembered. She was truly a wonderful lady!

Nakajima-san was great, as usual. His daughter, Sonoe, was assisting him, as she always does at these shows. When I was getting my items signed by Kobayashi-san, Nakajima-san greeted me by name! I was so surprised that went over to him and greeted him back, but I wasn't even finished with Kobayashi-san yet! Nakajima-san is always very friendly and kind, and I hope I have many more chances to see him.

That's a wrap! The principal guests take the stage for a group photo op. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Overall, it was a fantastic event, and it was organized by people who wanted to let the fans have a great time. I must give credit to Dr. Abbey and the others for putting on a great event and giving the fans so much access to the guests. I look forward to the next events in the future!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

GODZILLA VS. GAMERA! How You Can Make the Long-Awaited Showdown Happen!

John DeSentis and friends (including the late Koichi Kawakita) at G-FEST last summer. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Composer/Godzilla fan John DeSentis plans to do it again, and in true kaiju eiga spirit, his plans are even bigger than before! John has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to bring Godzilla and Gamera music to the Pickwick Theater this July!

John DeSentis, Erik Homenick, and Chris Oglio celebrate after a successful concert in 2014.

Entitled "Symphonic Fury! The Music of Japanese Monsters," Akira Ifukube's classic Symphonic Fantasia will join the first-ever live concert of Ko Otani's Gamera trilogy score. If enough funds are raised, Otani-san himself plans to attend the concert live and in person!

Donate to the Kickstarter and help make music (and kaiju) history!

Monday, March 23, 2015

NEW INTERVIEW SITE! Vantage Point Interviews Goes to the Moon!

Heinz Bodmer (on the far left) and Andrew Hughes (fourth from the left) rub shoulders with Shintoho star Toshio Hosokawa (second from the left) on the set of Teiso no Arashi (1959). Photo © Heinz Bodmer.

I have just launched a brand-new interview site called Vantage Point Interviews, which from now on will be the home for all my interviews. The first interview on the site is one of which I am particularly proud.

Heinz Bodmer, who was an extra in Toho's Battle in Outer Space (1959) and many other Japanese films, shares his memories and photographs from that era. These photos have never been published before anywhere in the United States or Japan, given that the pictures were all shot with Mr. Bodmer's own camera!

Fans of Showa-era Toho films will be sure to enjoy it. To read the interview, please follow this link.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

GODZILLA'S MANAGEMENT! The Big G's Bosses Talk Shop in Shinjuku!

Producer Shogo Tomiyama (left) and director Masaaki Tezuka (right) pose for photos at Loft Plus One in Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

March 22 saw a talk show and autograph signing at Loft Plus One in Shinjuku, attended by Godzilla series producer Shogo Tomiyama, Godzilla series director Masaaki Tezuka, and illustrator Shinji Nishikawa. The event celebrated the launch of Tomiyama-san's new book, Godzilla's Management, which chronicles his experiences working as Godzilla's boss.


During the event, a special message from Megumi Odaka, who played Miki Saegusa throughout the Heisei series, was read on her behalf. She congratulated Tomiyama-san on the launch of his new book. Odaka-san is interviewed in Godzilla's Management.


While autographs were being signed, a raffle took place in which many coveted items were given away to audience members. One such prize was the actual newspaper headlines used in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), including the infamous headline which heralds the arrival of a "shinig" UFO in the "ski" of Tokyo. As luck would have it, my friend Yasushi ended up winning this unusual piece of G-history!


Overall, the event was enjoyable, but as is quite common with events hosted by Cast Co., fans are rushed through the autograph line, and there are no opportunities to pose for photos. Still, Cast Co. events are usually much cheaper than those that offer photo sessions, so I suppose it's a bit of a trade-off.


After the event, Yasushi and I were joined by other fans and professionals, and we had drinks at a local cafe. We talked about various subjects and had a great time. I'm already looking forward to the next event, whatever it may be!

ULTRA SEVEN AND ULTRAMAN ACE JOIN FORCES! Joli Chapeau Hosts Ultra-Legends!

Ultra Seven stands on guard in front of Joli Chapeau in Fujisawa, Kanagawa! Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Joli Chapeau played host to another Ultra-fan event on March 21, and this time the special guest was Keiko Nishi, who played Terrible Monster Attacking Crew (TAC) member Noriko Mikawa on Ultraman Ace (1972-73). The event was hosted by Koji Moritsugu, who, as Dan Moroboshi in Ultra Seven (1967-68), is easily one of the most popular figures in the Ultraman universe.


I've met Nishi-san several times at her cafe in Ginza over the years and have gotten to know her rather well. When I stepped in the door, she instantly recognized me. This was my third time meeting Moritsugu-san, and he is always a joy to meet. He is as approachable as he is energetic, which makes for a rather fun combination. He certainly enjoys mixing with his fans.


The event began with an autograph signing and was followed by a talk show, which naturally focused on their respective careers in the Ultra-series. The audience was enthusiastic and participated throughout the Q&A session.


After that, it was picture time! Everybody lined up for the obligatory photo sessions. The guests were happy to pose for photos, which is not always the case at such events in Japan. But, at Joli Chapeau, it is always guaranteed, which puts it above the others that don't.


The photos speak for themselves, so there isn't much need to elaborate. Overall, it was a fun event, and the guests were very friendly. Nishi-san and Moritsugu-san are always a blast to hang out with, and if my schedule permits, I'd love to attend the next event. Hopefully that can be arranged.


See you next time!

SHINJUKU AT NIGHT! Taking a Stroll Around the Skyscraper District


Shinjuku Station in Tokyo is well known for any number of its notable sights and locations. Some of them (such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building) have been featured in Godzilla films. Recently I took an evening stroll around Shinjuku's skyscraper district (near the station's West Exit) and snapped some photos of my walk. It reminded me of Godzilla 1985 on more than one occasion. Enjoy!






Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Remembering Ib J. Melchior (1917-2015)

The great Ib Melchior sits in his office in Los Angeles, CA, July 2012. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This morning I woke up to some terrible news. Ib J. Melchior, the 97-year-old, Danish-born writer and filmmaker, passed away in Los Angeles. Ib's work has been prevalent in my life ever since I was a child. I remember seeing Reptilicus (1961), a film for which he wrote the screenplay and worked on the American version, in my early years. Later on, I'd see more of his sci-fi efforts, including The Angry Red Planet (1959), which is perhaps his best-known film. He was also the son of famed opera singer Lauritz Melchior.

Ib Melchior addresses guests at a party held at the home of one of his many friends, July 2012. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I first contacted Ib via his short-lived official Web site in 2007. Given his involvement in some of my favorite Western monster movies, as well as his participation in the screenplay of The Volcano Monsters, I was eager to speak with him. It wasn't until a few months later (in 2008) that I received an apologetic response. Ib told me that he had only just received my inquiry and joked that it must have gotten lost in the Twilight Zone.

In short order, the interview was arranged, and I was quickly learning some very interesting information about everything from the abandoned Volcano Monsters project to Reptilicus. Perhaps much of this information was already known to other movie researchers at the time, but hearing directly from the man who made it all happen was a true joy. After the interview came out, Ib and I stayed in touch, and I always looked forward to our telephone conversations.

Yours truly with Ib Melchior at his home, right behind the legendary Chateau Marmont in Los Anegeles, July 2012.

Around this time, Ib came out with a new book, Melchior A La Carte, which I was very happy to review. After the review was published and sent to Ib, he wrote me a message, thanking me for my review, and offered to put me up for the night should I choose to visit L.A. I was surprised to receive such an offer, and naturally there was no way I could turn it down. So, when I came to L.A. in September 2009, I made plans with Ib, and I was able to spend the night at his house.

I would get to know Ib very well and would see him often until March 2011, which is when I moved to Japan. In fact, when I told Ib about my plans to move, he sent me an extremely encouraging message in response. Given that it would be my first time living in another country, his words proved to be a big help.

While I could no longer see Ib in person, we did exchange Christmas cards and phone conversations. When I came to visit L.A. for about a week in July 2012, I stayed with the Melchiors the whole time. They were always such gracious hosts.

A familiar poster hangs in Ib Melchior's home. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When his wife Cleo died last October, I knew it would be a devastating blow to Ib. He loved her with all his heart, and losing a spouse, especially at such an advanced age, would be unfathomably painful for anyone to handle. I mailed Ib a condolence card and later a Christmas card. But I did not call him until January. When I spoke with him, he seemed to be doing fairly well under the circumstances, but the wind was clearly taken out his sails. He told me it would be a long time before he would have any motivation to resume any of the writing projects he had been working on. Despite that, we did joke a bit on the phone and had a pleasant chat. I'm glad our last conversation ended on a high note.

When I last visited Ib in 2012, he wanted to show me his favorite movie, Around the World in 80 Days (1956). Unfortunately, a glitch in the VHS tape prevented us from watching it, and ever since then I was hoping for a chance to see the movie along with Ib, who was probably its greatest champion. Now I will have to watch the film in his memory.

Rest in peace, Ib. Your kindness knew no bounds, and I will be forever grateful. Thank you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

FIRST LOOK: Shinjuku's Full-Size Godzilla Head!

Godzilla stands ready to demolish Toho Cinemas and Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku, Tokyo! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Work on the full-size Godzilla head that adorns that brand-new Shinjuku Toho Building in Kabuki-cho (right outside Shinjuku Station's East Exit) has been completed, though the Toho Cinemas itself will not be open to the public until April 17. Likewise, the adjacent Hotel Gracery does not open until April 24, so eager fans hoping to spend a night in one of the hotel's Godzilla-themed rooms, you'll have to wait just a bit longer.

I recently made a trip to Shinjuku to take some photos of the new Godzilla head, which are shared below. Enjoy!



Sunday, March 8, 2015

DAY OF DAIEI! Meeting Several Actors from the House of Gamera!

With actress Yukie Kagawa and actor Sadafumi Kawahara, who both acted in Gamera films at Daiei Studios.

Yesterday I had a wonderful interview with actress Yukie Kagawa, who was in Gamera vs. Barugon (1966), Gamera vs. Gyoas (1967), Cruel Ghost Legend (1968), Curse of the Snake Woman (1968), Horrors of the Malformed Men (1969), Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Toei's Spider-Man TV series (1978-79), Solar Squadron Sun Vulcan (1981-82). Joining her was former actor Sadafumi Kawahara, who himself appeared in Gamera vs. Barugon and Gamera vs. Gyaos.

Kagawa-san was extremely friendly and gave some great answers to the questions about her career. Stay tuned for more information on that interview very soon!

 Posing with former Daiei Studios actress Kikuko Nishikawa in Chiba, Japan.

Later that evening, I got to meet retired Daiei Studios actress Kikuko Nishikawa, whose best known credit is Yasuzo Musumura's Kisses (1957). Nishikawa-san was likewise very friendly and was surprised to see an American who knew so much about Japanese film. She told me (more than once) that I should be a commentator on TV about Japanese movies. If only that could be the case!


Also at the dinner was Ulf Otsuki, who is always a blast hang out with. Ulf-san was very instrumental in the events of the day, and I will always be grateful for his help.