Saturday, July 14, 2018

Returning to the Live Stage!

Yumi Mizusawa. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Saturday, July 14, I attended a stage performance starring actress Yumi Mizusawa.

Mizusawa-san was selected as a member of Toho New Talent's 5th class in 1965 (with Bibari Maeda) and went on to become a prolific television actress and singer. She starred in the TV series What Is Youth? (1965-66) alongside Yosuke Natsuki. While her credits are mostly non-genre, she appeared in episode 92 of Kamen Rider (1971-73) and episode 16 of Iron King (1972-73). Her most notable film appearance is in Kihachi Okamoto's Epoch of Murder Madness (1967).

I had a great conversation with Mizusawa-san after the show. She was surprised at how much I knew about her acting career. It was certainly great to see her again after meeting her for the first time last April.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Super Robot Mach Baron's Makoto Shimotsuka Passes Away at Age 64

 Makoto Shimotsuka in June 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Japanese media is reporting that actor Makoto Shimotsuka has passed away due to cancer on July 7 in a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 64.

Beginning his acting career in 1972, Mr. Shimotsuka appeared in several films, such as Toho's Zero Pilot (1976), Human Revolution II (1976), and Toei's The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus (a.k.a. Nostradamus, 1994). But he would go on to make his mark on the small screen, starring as Yo Arashida in Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75).

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Shimotsuka in June 2016 and hoped that our paths would eventually cross again. Rest in peace, Mr. Shimotsuka.

Shibuya's Moyai Statue!

Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Wednesday, I met a friend of mine in front of Shibuya Station's Moyai Statue. When I arrived there, I realized that I pass this statue rather often and don't even realize it! Despite looking like something from Easter Island (or even Seatopia), I suppose it's a bit easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.

After reading up on it, I noticed that a few travel websites seem bemused by the fact that it's not as well known a meeting place in Shibuya as the Hachiko Statue (from which it sits just a few meters away on the station's southwest side). Well, I could offer up my own explanation. The smoking section is situated literally right next to the statue, and when I was there, several smokers couldn't be bothered to stay in their designated smoking area. They blatantly lit up and puffed away while sitting right next to the statue. In order to get away from the stench, I had to stand next to the nearby bus stop. So much for using it as a meeting place.

The Moyai Statue is still worth checking out, even if the smokers in the area will go out of their way to make sure you don't stay a long time. Given the situation there, I think the Hachiko Statue will continuous its reign as the reigning champ of Shibuya.

SIXTY YEARS OF VARAN! Celebrating Toho's Underappreciated Giant Monster!

Teruyoshi Nakano, Shigemitsu Taguchi, and Keiko Suzuki pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, July 7, I was privileged to attend a rare screening of a 35mm print of Varan the Unbelievable (1958), which turns 60 this year. The print itself had obviously seen better days, as it was rather scratched up and jumpy. But given that I'd never seen a film print of the Japanese version before, it was nonetheless great to see.

Scripter Keiko Suzuki holds up her King Kong vs. Godzilla shooting script while Shigemitsu Taguchi looks on. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The event also celebrated SFX director Eiji Tsuburaya's birthday, so a few of his colleagues and contemporaries were on hand for the event. Keiko Suzuki was Toho's SFX scripter who worked alongside Eiji Tsuburaya for Toho's special effects spectaculars from the late 1950s through the end of the '60s. She brought her script for King Kong vs. Godzilla, which contained storyboard images used during the shooting. That certainly made the audience take notice!

Also in attendance was Tsuburaya Productions scriptwriter Shigemitsu Taguchi, who is best known for his work writing episodes of the '70s Ultra-shows. He has also just written a book about Eiji Tsuburaya.

SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Making his triumphant return was none other than SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, who hadn't attended such an event in a few months. The audience was quite pleased to see Nakano-san again, who hasn't seemed to have lost a step.

After the movie, it was dinnertime! The conversation with Nakano-san was quite enlightening, as it always is. As hard as it is to see, Nakano-san once again confirmed that "about 30" octopuses were used in King Kong vs Godzilla. He first mentioned this figure in my 2004 interview with him, and he said it again at an event in 2012. Given the possibility of translation errors, and since a much smaller number of octopuses has been reported elsewhere in English, I couldn't be quite sure. But he reiterated that number last night. And who would know better than Nakano-san himself?

Of his '70s films, he named Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) as his favorite. Most Americans would probably name Terror of Mechagodzilla as their favorite.

Suffice it to say, it was another great event, and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the legacy of Eiji Tsuburaya. Can't wait to do it all over again!

BAROM-1'S NEW OPPONENT! Hiroyuki Takano Takes on Black Lizard!

With actor Hiroyuki Takano.

On Friday, July 6, I attended a stage play in Shinjuku that co-starred Hiroyuki Takano. The stage play was Kurotokage (Black Lizard), and while there were some similarities with the Kinji Fukasaku film version, it was mostly different. (For one thing, the Black Lizard was played by an actual woman in this version!) 

I had a quick chat with Takano-san after the show. He did a great job, as did the entire cast. There was quite a bit of fight choreography in the play, and given the amount of fighting happening on the stage at any given time, I'm a bit surprised there weren't a few close calls. Who knows -- maybe there were!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable show. 

Interviewing Chumei Watanabe

Composer Chumei Watanabe during our July 4 interview. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'm pleased to announce that on Wednesday, July 4, I had the privilege of interviewing legendary composer Chumei Watanabe at his home in Tokyo. Watananbe-san began his film-composing career at Shintoho in the late 1950s, working on several Nobuo Nakagawa films, most notably Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) and Hell (1960). Watanabe-san returned to tokusatsu in the late 1960s with his scores to 100 Monsters (1968) and Along with Ghosts (1969). Watanabe-san would later achieve international fame with his scores to various anime and live-action tokusatsu TV programs. The 92-year-old composer stays busy to this day.

The interview lasted several hours and focused a great deal on his early years. I certainly learned a lot, and once it's published, so will you! Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

VAMPIRE DIARIES! Meeting Actress Mio Ota!

Mio Ota. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of my favorite horror movies has long been Evil of Dracula (1974), and I think a good case can be made for it as the best of director Michio Yamamoto's Bloodthirsty trilogy. She played student Yukiko Mitamura in Evil of Dracula, as well as Blue Jaguar on the TV series Giant Iron Man 17 (1977) from episode 22 through 35. She also appears in Shohei Imamura's Why Not? (1981).

Ota-san had some of her art on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno, and I decided to pay her a visit. We had a nice chat about her acting career and other topics. She was surprised to learn that I'm an American from California, saying that I looked like a British gentleman.

It was a great afternoon and well worth braving the sweltering heat and humidity. I certainly hope to have a chance to meet Ota-san again.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Opera, Wine, and Destoroyah!

Takuro Tatsumi (left) onstage at Blue Mood with his daughter, Marie. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I had the privilege of meeting actor (and wine connoisseur) Takuro Tatsumi. Tatsumi-san starred in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), which was the main reason I attended the event. Tatsumi-san was the emcee, and his daughter, Marie, did most of the performing.

She is a soprano singer and actress, and her performances were the first time I'd heard operatic singing in Japanese. A lot of her singing was in English, and after the show, she asked me for my advice on pronunciation. I was happy to help.

It was a great evening, and the event itself was much different from the types I usually attend. Marie's soprano singing was terrific, but there were times I was fully expecting all the wine glasses in the room to break. What a powerful voice! Tatsumi-san was also great to meet. Let's do it again!

An Evening with '70s-Era Tokusatsu Experts

 Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, June 23, I attended a special dinner event with a couple of veterans of '70s tokusatsu. The two guests of honor were Takashi Naganuma and Kazuaki Sekiyama.

If you read this blog with any regularity and are not familiar with Naganuma-san, for shame. He is truly a man who needs no introduction.

 Kazuaki Sekiyama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other guest was one I hadn't seen in a couple of years. It was Kazuaki Sekiyama, an SFX crew member whose career dates all the way back to Ultraman Ace (1972-73) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). To look at him, you wouldn't know that his tokusatsu career dates back 45 years!

Suffice it to say, it was another excellent evening in great company. Can't wait to do it all over again!

Hey, Isn't That Barom-1 Crossing the Street?!

Hiroyuki Takano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Now here's a coincidence. While crossing the street to attend Yukimura-san's concert in Shinjuku, I ran into actor Hiroyuki Takano. Actually, he stopped me as we were passing each other in the crosswalk, which made the experience that much more fun. 

Takano-san's extensive tokusatsu credits include: Ultra Seven (1967-68), Fight! Mighty Jack (1968), Operation: Mystery (1968-69), Spectreman (1971-72), Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Kamen Rider (1971-73), Silver Mask (1971-72), and Submersion of Japan (1974-75). Of course, his most notable role was co-starring in the Toei superhero series Barom-1 (1972) as Kentaro Shiratori.

Only in Tokyo!

CONCERT TIME! Attending a Live Performance by One of Japan's Living Legends!

Izumi Yukimura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Friday, June 22, I had the distinct privilege of attending another live performance by Izumi Yukimura. Yukimura-san sang many of her old favorites, and by now I've become quite familiar with them. Of course, I mainly know Yukimura-san for her acting roles at Toho, which include Kihachi Okamoto's Desperado Outpost (1959) and the all-star musical You Can Succeed, Too (1964).

Yukimura-san has been one of my favorite folks to visit in Japan. But I have to confess: Before I came to Japan, I had no idea who she was! Thankfully, that was quickly corrected, and I've been her fan ever since.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Peter Fernandez Interview Now Available at Vantage Point Interviews

Voice actor Peter Fernandez. Photo courtesy of Peter Fernandez.

I've been quite busy updating Vantage Point Interviews in the last couple of weeks. Lots of great interviews have been added, so by all means check them out!

Of particular interest is the latest interview I've posted, which was with voice actor Peter Fernandez. I hadn't read the interview in years, but upon re-reading it, I was amazed by one of his stories in particular, given its relevance in light of recent news.

In the interview, Peter recounts an unpleasant run-in he'd had with producer Harvey Weinstein. The interview was recorded in 2006, years before the shocking accusations against Weinstein became public. Given the recent context, Peter's story fits an unfortunate pattern of behavior.

I'd completely forgotten about Peter's anecdote until I re-read the interview before publishing it on VPI. So what did Peter say? Read the interview to find out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BACK IN CONCERT! Yanagisawa-san and His Swing All-Stars Have Come Back to Asakusa!

 Shinichi Yanagisawa, having a great time at the HUB in Asakusa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I had a great evening at the HIB in Asakusa, watching Shinichi Yanagisawa and His Swing All-Stars performing live jazz. Many of the numbers have become quite familiar to me, but I suppose that's natural after attending these shows for more than three years.

Yanagisawa-san played Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967). His career encompasses much more than just that movie, however, and I'm lucky to have gotten to find that out directly. Many thanks to Yanagisawa-san for another wonderful evening!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN ULTRA! Meeting Toei Actor Hirohisa Nakata!

 Hirohisa Nakata. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Immediately after attending the Ultraman event. I made a beeline to my next one. The guest of honor for this event was Toei actor Hirohisa Nakata, perhaps best known for starring in the TV series Captain Ultra (1967), which aired on TBS after the original Ultraman ended its run.

His genre credits extend far beyond that. Beginning his career in 1960 as a Nikkatsu New Face, he switched to Toei in the mid-'60s where he would ultimately leave his mark. He appears in such films as The Golden Bat (1966), The Bullet Train (1975), Message from Space (1978), and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). Along the way, he's also made numerous appearances in various Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series.

I brought a Biollante mini-poster for Nakata-san to sign (which has already been signed by numerous cast and crew members). I found Nakata-san to be enormously kind, just what as you'd expect Captain Ultra to be.

AN ULTRA-COOL EVENT! Ultraman Flies with Showa Hero!

Ultra-alumni Susumu Kurobe, Mitsuko Hoshi, and Eizo Yamagiwa share the stage. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today, I attended a great Showa Hero event featuring a trio of Ultra-guests. On hand for the event were Susumu Kurobe, Mitsuko Hoshi, and Eizo Yamagiwa. The event began with a Q&A. One anecdote of particular interest is that when the interview asked Kurobe-san which monster he liked, Kurobe-san immediately answered Dada. I found that quite fascinating.

 With Eizo Yamagiwa.

Early in his career, Yamagiwa-san worked as an assistant director with Teruo Ishii and went on to direct numerous episodes of Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), and Ultraman Leo (1974-75) at Tsuburaya Productions. He also helmed episodes of Silver Kamen (1971-72) and the Submersion of Japan TV series (1974-75). I hadn't seen Yamagiwa-san in a while, and I was very happy to see that he's still doing well.

 With Susumu Kurobe.

We all Susumu Kurobe as Shin Hayata in the original Ultraman (1966-67), but I'm more familiar with his Toho work. With credits like Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Son of Godzilla (1967), King Kong Escapes (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and Latitude Zero (1969), it shouldn't be hard to see why. I brought a DVD sleeve of Adventure in Kigan Castle (1966) for him to sign, which features him on the cover. He spent quite a bit of time looking at it and seemed surprised that he was on the cover. It was great to meet Kurobe-san again.

With Mitsuko Hoshi.

Last but certainly not least is Mitsuko Hoshi. She played TAC member Yuko Minami in Ultraman Ace (1972-73), one half of Ace's human alter ego, in episodes 1-28, 38, and 52. She can also be seen in episode 8 of Iron King (1972-73), episode 39 of Ultraman Taro (1973-74), episodes 39-52 of Denjin Zaborger (1974), and episode 44 of Ultraman Mebius (2006-07). She also appears in the movie Great Decisive Battle! The Super 8 Ultra Brothers (2008). Hoshi-san is a rare guest at events, so I was especially enthusiastic to meet her. She certainly did not disappoint and seemed just as enthusiastic as everyone else was to meet her.

Immediately after this event, I quickly made my way to the next one. More on that in the next blog post.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Raymond Burr on Godzilla King of the Monsters!

Raymond Burr (with Warren Kemmerling) in a publicity still from Godzilla 1985. Photo courtesy of Raymond Burr Vineyards.

While going through some of my old files, I came across a short memo I wrote in mid-2007 that I ultimately didn't know what to do with. I had contacted Raymond Burr's longtime companion, Robert Benevides of Raymond Burr Vineyards. I had phoned Mr. Benevides to ask if Mr. Burr had ever shared any stories about the making of his two Godzilla movies (Godzilla King of the Monsters and Godzilla 1985) with him.

It turned out that Mr. Burr indeed had, but given that Mr. Benevides' memories were brief, I couldn't turn them into an article. So what to do? Unfortunately, indecisiveness got the better of me, so I simply didn't do anything with Mr. Benevides' comments. But, having rediscovered them in my files, I quickly realized they'd make a rather intriguing blog post. My memo, as written in July 2007, is below:

Robert Benevides, Raymond Burr‘s longtime companion, remembered what Burr had told him about his working on the first Godzilla film: “He worked on it for two days in a telephone booth, basically, and they cut him into the film. He loved to tell that story about how, during that period, he was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood by the hour because he had gotten so much money for those two days, that if you (extrapolate) it over the time period, he would have been the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. That‘s what he used to tell me.”

“The first one, he always said that he worked two days to do all those shots in the phone booth.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cliff Harrington Interview on Vantage Point Interviews

Clifford V. Harrington. Photo © CliffEhnGee.

My 2006 interview with the late Cliff Harrington has been republished on Vantage Point Interviews with a bevy of never-before-seen photos that Cliff took during his life and career. There's a lot of great stuff to see, so head on over to Vantage Point Interviews for the low-down!

ONE DAY ONLY! Attending a Small Play in Japan!

Hiroyasu Yamaura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last Sunday, June 3, I attended a performance written by Hiroyasu Yamaura. The story was about an old woman with dementia who expected her lover to return home, even though he died a long time ago during the war. It was quite a sad and powerful tale.

Despite the grim subject matter, everyone was in a great mood. It's always fun to see Yamaura-san, and I'm glad to see he keeps writing. Bravo!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Toho Cinemas' Anigoji Theater Display!

Anigoji is back! Photo by Brett Homenick.

While at Toho Cinemas Shinjuku on Sunday night, I noticed that the Anigoji theater display was, well, on display again. Of course, it's there to promote Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, but you're better off photographing the display than seeing that movie. 

Attending a Live Reading of Jidai Geki!

Masanori Machida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday evening, I attended a dramatic reading of jidai geki period pieces with actors Masanori Machida and Shoji Mori. Afterward, I attended the post-event party and socialized with a few of the folks there. A great evening with some great company!