Sunday, December 10, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IIZUKA-SAN! The Toho Optical Effects Legend Turns 83!

Sadao Iizuka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a screening of the classic Toho kaiju caper Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) in glorious 35mm. Naturally, it's one of my favorite Godzilla movies, and despite having seen it countless times over the years, it still holds up extremely well. 

The guest of honor for the screening was Sadao Iizuka, the legendary optical effects technician who worked under Eiji Tsuburaya. At age 19, Iizuka-san worked on the miniatures used in Godzilla (1954) as a part-time job, but the experience ultimately led to a decades-long career in SFX at Toho and beyond. In 1957, Iizuka-san started working on the optical side of SFX, animating (by hand) numerous beams, rays, and just about everything else there was to draw in Toho's science fiction films.

Although it isn't quite his birthday yet, the event was billed as a birthday celebration for Iizuka-san, who turns 83 this month. I'm very happy to see that Iizuka-san remains as healthy and active as ever. When Ghidrah began screening, Iizuka-san pointed out (from the back of the theater) that he created the "TohoScope" logo seen at the beginning of the film. Later on, during his Q&A session, he pointed out that King Ghidorah's gravity ray needed to be curved and crooked (not a straight line) in order to keep King Ghidorah's randomly-moving heads up with all the explosions.

A wonderful evening it was, spent in the company of a true legend of the genre. Another highlight of the evening was getting Iizuka-san to write "TohoScope" on his autograph for me, which drew chuckles from some of the other folks in attendance. But why not? After all, that logo was his creation!

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