Monday, February 29, 2016
I woke up this morning and found out that George Kennedy, an Academy Award-winning actor whose presence in a movie always took it to the next level, has passed away at age 91. For many years, I was fascinated by Mr. Kennedy's appearance in the Japanese end-of-the-world tale Virus (1980), and for a long time I tried to arrange an interview with him. My persistence eventually paid off, and in late 2011, we finally began communication.
I had just woken up early in the morning in Nakatsugawa, Gifu, to prepare a long trip to Tokyo to take part in a special Mechagodzilla event at the long-gone Cine Pathos Theater in Ginza in November 2011. Before leaving, I checked my e-mail and was floored to find one from Mr. George Kennedy himself, accepting my request for an interview.
We set up the date not long after that, and I called him up to ask my questions. Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy was rather hard of hearing at this point, and his wife had to assist us with the questions. Just before Mr. Kennedy asked his wife to help, he said in passing that this interview was important to him, so he wanted to make sure he understood my questions. Suffice it to say, I was amazed that a man I grew up watching in countless films would say that about an interview with me, but Mr. Kennedy was truly an amazing man.
Japan was very special to him, and I think my interview gave him a chance to talk about it. He was interested in my life and experiences there, so we ended up swapping stories. After the interview, we stayed in contact, and I was very honored that he accepted my Facebook friend request.
I have posted my interview with George Kennedy on Vantage Point Interviews, so I'd encourage anyone interested in his life and career to read it. I'd also strongly recommend picking up a copy of his autobiography Trust Me, which is a great read.
Rest in peace, Mr. Kennedy. I'll always remember and appreciate the kindness you showed me.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Yokohama's Broadcast Library hosts a special Ultraman exhibit that runs until early April. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Among the items on display are original props from the series, as well as detailed replicas of the monster suits. There's even a special screening area where episodes (mostly of Ultraman and Ultra Seven, but other Tsuburaya programs are featured as well) are shown. Naturally, there's a gift shop with everything from toys to Ultraman toothbrushes for sale.
Today, I went to the Broadcast Library to check out the exhibit. Unfortunately, pictures weren't allowed (except for the Ultraman statue just outside the entrance of the exhibit), so I can't share any of the sights here. However, as enjoyable as it was, the setup was much smaller than some of the other galleries I've visited. Still, it's worth checking out, especially since it's 100% free to get in!
Given that 2016, is the 50th anniversary of the Ultra-series, I'd expect many more such exhibitions and events will be held in Japan. Naturally, Japan is the place to be for anything Ultra-related, so stay tuned to this blog for all the coolest happenings.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Yasuhiko Saijo and Hurricane Ryu onstage!
A closer look at Saijo-san's extra-special birthday cake!
Hiroko Sakurai and Yashiko Saijo pose for the cameras.
Yours truly with Machiko Naka and Nami Tamura.
With Yasuhiko Saijo.
With Machiko Naka.
Teruyoshi Nakano talks shop with Hurricane Ryu.
With Machiko Naka (again!).
Yasuhiko Saijo at the after-party in Ikebukuro.
Do you think he can drink it all?
Nami Tamura, Hiroko Sakurai, Machiko Naka, and Yasuhiko Saijo (all Ultra-series veterans) pose with Saijo-san's birthday cake. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Yasuhiko Saijo and SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano sing a karaoke rendition of "We Are Space Pilots" from Gorath. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Heisei series suit actor Hurricane Ryu addresses the crowd. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Minoru Kawasaki celebrates the birthday of a tokusatsu legend. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Yasuhiko Saijo sports dresses up in character for the occasion! Photo by Brett Homenick.
The band gets back together: Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai) and Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo) gear up to hunt for monsters! Photo by Brett Homenick.
After all the comments were made, and after everyone had eaten lunch, it was time for pictures and autographs.
In between Machiko Naka (left) and Nami Tamura (right), two Toho actresses who appeared in the Ultra-series.
I had a blast seeing Machiko Naka (Godzilla's Revenge, the Young Guy series) and Nami Tamura (Terror in the Streets, Kill!) again. Naka-san is always very energetic, and Tamura-san is also very friendly. While most fans at the event were largely familiar with them for their guest appearances on Ultra Seven, I'm fascinated by their movie roles at Toho.
With suit actor Hurricane Ryu.
With Yasuhiko Saijo.
With Kyoko Ifukube and a friend.
With Hiroko Sakurai.
Yasuhiko Saijo, Makoto Inoue, and Teruyoshi Nakano hang out at the after-party. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Ultraman suit actor Bin Furuya signs an Ultraman mask for a lucky fan in Kichijoji. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Only the Controller of Planet X could come up with a signature like this! Photo by Brett Homenick.
As always, Furuya-san was extremely outgoing and fan-friendly, going out of his way to make sure I was eating enough food. (I ate enough and then some!) I particularly enjoyed throwing out the names of Toho/Tsuburaya actors and getting his memories of them. Furuya-san has worked with so many legends!
This is what fandom is all about, and I can think of no better place to celebrate it than Japan. Many thanks to Furuya-san and my fellow tokusatsu fans for making Friday night one for the history books!
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Yours truly with actor Yosuke Natsuki after completing our interview in February 2013.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Terry Farnsworth, Shoji Nakayama, Linda Hardisty, and Yoshio Tsuchiya watch Ultra Seven duke it out with King Joe. Photo courtesy of Terry Farnsworth. Ultra Seven © 1967-68, Tsuburaya Productions.
Once again, Vantage Point Interviews has the scoop with many never-before-seen photos from the set of Ultra Seven and The Green Slime (1968). You won't find this stuff anywhere else, so stop by Vantage Point Interviews and read all about it!
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Yours truly with actor-singer Shinichi Yanagisawa at the HUB in Asakusa.
Shinichi Yanagisawa played Miyamoto in Shochiku's The X from Outer Space (1967), and he has also starred in a myriad of other films for Japan's biggest studios. I was privileged to interview Yanagisawa-san for Vantage Point Interviews in 2014, and you can read the discussion here.
After the performance, I had a nice discussion with Watanabe-san, the band's saxophonist. His English is great, and his assistance in translating Yanagisawa-san's interview was invaluable. I can't wait for the April show!
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Posing with Toho actress Keiko Sawai in Yokohama.
In Monster Zero (1965), Astronaut Glenn (Nick Adams) quips that his partner, Fuji (Akira Takarada), should have left his sister packed in ice before leaving for Planet X. On February 14, a few lucky fans had an opportunity to unpack Haruna Fuji and get to know actress Keiko Sawai.
Keiko Sawai poses for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Aside from Monster Zero, tokusatsu fans will remember her as the doomed girl in the hospital whom Nick Adams comforts at the beginning of Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) and her appearance in episode 8 of Ultra Q (1966). She also had a turn in the quirky comedy Konto 55: Space Adventure (1969), which was also a tokusatsu film in its own right.
Despite being initially shy, it certainly seemed that Sawai-san got into the spirit of the event and began to enjoy herself immensely. She went out of her way to be friendly to me, which I appreciate. Sometimes actresses can be aloof (and understandably so), but that was not the case with Sawai-san.
I had a blast meeting Keiko Sawai. Hopefully I'll get another chance down the line. All of us in attendance are lucky to have "unpacked" Haruna Fuji and met the real Sawai-san!
Actress Keiko Sawai and assistant SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano host a panel discussion about Monster Zero (1965) following a screening of the film. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Sunday, February 14, was a memorable day for several reasons. First, it was Valentine's Day. Also, it was unseasonably warm. Seriously, it felt like late spring, and even though I dressed light today, it still felt hot. Third, and most important, today marked a special event in Yokohama that centered around the Toho classic Monster Zero (1965).
Actress Keiko Sawai, still as lovely as ever, smiles as the gathered fans take her picture. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Standing between Keiko Sawai and Teruoyoshi Nakano, following their panel discussion.
Optical effects expert Sadao Iizuka helped bring King Ghidorah to life. Photo by Brett Homenick.
The 35mm print of Monster Zero was excellent. One detail I noticed for the first time was that, in Akira Kubo's bedroom scene toward the beginning of the film, there's a rolled-up poster for 007. Who knew there was a James Bond reference in the Showa series?
The event also gave me a chance to catch up with my fellow fans. There are some cool things in development, and naturally they'll be reported on this blog when they happen.
The event was another smashing success, and I cannot wait for the next one. Fortunately, the wait won't be a long one!
Two legends, Sadao Iizuka and Teruyoshi Nakano, share a laugh in Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Minoru Kujirai at a restaurant in Hino, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.
In the 1970s, he turned his attention to live-action tokusatsu, and not only continued to work for Toei (on the Kamen Rider series) but eventually went to Tsuburaya Productions. At Tsuburaya, Kujirai-san worked on the Ultra-series (namely Ultraman Taro and Ultraman Leo), designing the beams for Ultraman and his kaiju foes. He later worked on movies like The War in Space (1977) and Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (1988).
Yours truly with Kujirai-san, following dinner and a lively conversation.