Sunday, September 22, 2019

Super Festival 82!

Earlier today, I attended Super Festival 82. As usual, there's not much to say about it. I chatted with a couple of familiar faces, but after checking out some toys (and even spending a bit of money), it was time to move on. Anyway, here's what I saw.

Time Slip Back to Taisho!

Actress-singer Yumi Mizusawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from a stage performance that featured actress-singer Yumi Mizusawa in the starring role. It was an interesting show that focused on one of the central character's sudden time slip back to Japan's Taisho period. After the show, I was glad to have a nice chat with her.

Mizusawa-san starred in the TV series What Is Youth? (1965-66) alongside Toho star Yosuke Natsuki. While her credits are mostly non-genre, she appeared in episode 91 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).

My interview with Mizusawa-san can be read here.

Hope to see her again soon!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Very Nikkatsu Evening!

Mieko Nishio. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I was lucky enough to meet former Nikkatsu actress Mieko Nishio. Nishio-san (born July 11, 1947) became a Nikkatsu New Face in 1963 and made her film debut in 1964. At Nikkatsu, she worked with such film stars as Yujiro Ishihara and Akira Kobayashi, as well as directors like Toshio Masuda. She ultimately left Nikkatsu in 1966 and became a staple on television, even appearing in episode 9 of Tsuburaya Productions' Horror Theater Unbalance (1973).

I had a great time meeting Nishio-san. One fan distributed photocopies to everyone in attendance of some of her media coverage from the 1960s. One such clipping saw Nishio-san in a group shot with many other famous actresses of the day (most of whom were Nikkatsu starlets). One of the actresses in the photo wasn't, however, and Nishio-san didn't immediately recognize her. The actress in question was Yuriko Hoshi.

A great time was had by all, especially yours truly. I'd certainly love an opportunity to visit Nishio-san again.

An Evening with Ultraman (and Godzilla's) Director!

 Kazuho Mitsuta. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night, I attended a special event with legendary Tsuburaya Productions director Kazuho Mitsuta. Mitsuta-san's credits are as extensive as they are impressive, and he's a rare figure at events. So when I found out he would be in attendance for this one, there was no way I'd miss it.

Mitsuta-san has directed episodes of Ultra Q (1966), Ultraman (1966-67), Ultra Seven (1967-68), Kaiju Booska (1966-67), Mighty Jack (1968), Fight! Mighty Jack (1968), Operation: Mystery! (1968-69), Mirrorman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Horror Theater Unbalance (1973), Dinosaur War Izenborg (1977-78), and Ultraman 80 (1980-81), among many others.

In fact, Mitsuta-san directed episode 10 of Ultraman ("The Mysterious Dinosaur Base"), which is best known for featuring a disguised Godzilla suit as the monster Jirass. So, in a way, I guess you could say that Mitsuta-san is the last Godzilla director from the Showa era. It's an interesting thought, anyway.

Keizo Murase: A Special Exhibit of His Kaiju Creations!

Today, I got up bright and early to visit the special Keizo Murase exhibit at the Mizuho-machi Kyodo Shiryokan. Murase-san is a legendary suitmaker who has contributed to a variety of monster movies over the years. On display were a bevy of Murase-san's work -- many were recreations of the originals, but they were a few screen-used items on hand (such as the Titanosaurus head that was on display at the Tokusatsu DNA exhibit). I also attended a Q&A session with Murase-san, which surprisingly enough seemed to focus more on his Mighty Peking Man (1977) contributions than anything else. Anyway, here's just a sample of what I saw.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Typhoon Didn't Stop Me!

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

 Quick question: Would I brave an oncoming typhoon to visit Takashi Naganuma? The answer is yes -- yes, I would.

And I did! I never miss a chance to hang out with him, no matter what the weather is like!

Robert Axelrod Passes Away at Age 70

Very sad news was just announced by Robert Axelrod's agent:
Good morning. This is Roberts agent, Kelly. It is with great sadness that I write that Robert passed away yesterday at the age of 70. He was a charismatic soul whose voice created some of the most legendary characters such as Lord Zedd, Wizardmon, Finister and Armadillomon. He will be greatly missed and I take comfort in knowing his memory will on in those he met and inspired.

Most fans in the West certainly recognize Robert as the voice of Lord Zedd and Finster from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but I know and love his work from a different show.

I first corresponded with Robert back in 1995 when I fan letter I wrote to Saban regarding its recently cancelled Hallo Spencer Show somehow managed to find itself in the hands of some of the show's voice cast. The Hallo Spencer Show was a Muppets-style import from Germany that Saban dubbed into English. It aired in the U.S. from 1993 until 1994, and I'd still probably rank it as my favorite show of all time.

The images above and below this paragraph are some examples of our correspondence. We reconnected via the Internet in 2003, and I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with him around that time, which can be found here.

I only met Robert once, and that was sometime in the spring of 2004. I drove up to L.A. to spend the day with him. I remember he called a few of his fellow Hallo Spencer cast members, and the only one he was able to get a hold of was Wendee Lee (the voice of twin sisters Mona and Lisa), so I was able to have a brief conversation with her on the phone.

Robert was reviewing local stage plays at the time, so the evening ended when he and I went to see one the plays he was critiquing. The only thing I remember is that the lead actor was playing some film noir-esque detective, and he kept stumbling over his lines. After a while, I just felt bad for the guy.

After the show, I posed for these two photos with Robert. I was always hoping to see him again at some point, and I'm very sorry to learn that I never will. Robert was a true character and a great friend, and the act of kindness he showed a young fan back in 1995 will always be remembered and appreciated.

Rest in peace, Robert.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Live Performance in Tsukiji!

Actress Yumiko Tanaka, in front of several congratulatory bouquets of flowers. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just got home from a live stage performance in Tsukiji starring actress Yumiko Tanaka, who appeared in Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81) as Harumi Kusanami and also can be seen in Godzilla 1985 (1984). It was a comedy performance, and due to my work schedule, I was only able to catch the last 30 minutes, by which time the main performance had finished, and most of the performers were singing and dancing.

After the show, I got to spend a few moments with Tanaka-san. She asked if I saw the main show, but I had to admit that I missed it due to work. Still, I'm certainly glad I made it out. Tanaka-san is a lovely person, and I never miss a chance to see her.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Godzilla and NBC at Toho Studios!

In between actor Masaaki Daimon and NBC reporter Scott Swan at Toho Studios.

I'm pleased to report that on Tuesday, September 3, I participated in an NBC News story about Godzilla that will air in the U.S. in July 2020 (just in time for the Tokyo Olympics). The story was produced by the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana, but it will be made available to other NBC affiliates nationwide. I'm also told that the story will be available online. So, no matter where you are in the U.S. (or. hopefully, the world), you will get a chance to see it.

I arranged for a couple of Toho alumni to appear in the story, which was shot at Toho Studios. Actor Masaaki Daimon (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla) was the first interviewee, and he shared his memories of making Mechagodzilla, as well as his thoughts on the character of Godzilla.

I was very happy to see Daimon-san again, which was the first time since 2016. I was also rather pleased that he remembered me!

Akihiko Iguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After Daimon-san's interview, kaiju designer Akihiko Iguchi was interviewed, and he seemed to have a lot of fun discussing his design work. Actually, on the way to Toho, I ran into Iguchi-san at a train station quite by accident, and we went to Toho Studios together. 

After Iguchi-san's interview, yours truly was interviewed for the story, discussing my interest in the character and how Godzilla has endured for all these years. Naturally, I can't wait for the story to air. The NBC crew has a lot of surprises and exclusives in store for you that no other documentary has ever gotten access to. When they showed me one photo in particular, my jaw dropped!

Many thanks to Scott Swan, the NBC crew, and the folks at Toho for making this day one for the history books!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Saying "Sayonara" to Jupiter!

 Eiichi Asada (left) and Kunio Miyoshi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, September 1, I had the privilege of taking in a screening of Toho's Sayonara Jupiter (1984) in 35mm. Naturally, I'd only ever seen it on home video prior to this screening, so I was looking forward to taking in all the details that you can only see in 35mm screenings. Naturally, the special effects looked great, and despite a few clunky effects, they really hold up after all these years. They do fall short of those in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but not by that much.

One such detail I noticed was that the last name written on Carlos' name tag changes at one point. At the beginning and end of the film, the character's name is listed as Angeles. In the middle of the movie, however, the name on his badge was completely different, and it was so unusual that I can't remember the exact spelling of it. (Suffice it to say, though, it was nothing like "Angeles.") I also noticed for the first time that Webb's initials are E. T. (Gee, I wonder where they could've gotten the idea to use those letters...)

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

 Eiichi Asada has enjoyed a lengthy career in Japanese SFX, dating back to the early 1970s. He was an assistant director on Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Submersion of Japan (1973), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Espy (1974), Conflagration (1975), Zero Pilot (1976), The War in Space (1977), Deathquake (1980), The Imperial Navy (1981), Sayonara Jupiter, and Godzilla 1985 (1984), among others. He was the special effects director on Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

Kunio Miyoshi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Kunio Miyoshi was an assistant director on Conflagration and Deathquake, as well as chief assistant director on Sayonara Jupiter, Reiko (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (1994), Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), and Rebirth of Mothra (1996). He went on to direct Rebirth of Mothra II (1997).
What a treat it was to see Sayonara Jupiter on the big screen -- and in the presence of such great guests!

Zombies on the Loose!

Atsushi Muroga. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, August 31, I went to an event attended by a director whom I'd never met before, Atsushi Muroga. Truthfully, I'm not that familiar with his work, as he specializes in V-cinema (i.e., direct-to-video flicks). But there was one credit on his resume that had me intrigued.

That title is the low-budget zombie thriller, Junk (2000). Confession time: I've never actually seen the movie. But I do remember seeing it in video stores (probably Tower Records, if I recall correctly) in the early 2000s, and its DVD cover art was always intriguing. In retrospect, I'm a little surprise I never took the plunge and bought it at the time, as I was quite enthusiastic about checking out all kinds of content from Japan. But I guess my general lack of interest in zombie films as a sub-genre ultimately prevailed. I still have to give it a look someday.

Masanori Machida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also at the event was the always affable Masanori Machida, who recently appeared in a movie directed by Muroga-san called Delivery. Machida-san was on hand to help promote the movie.

And there you have it. Another fun evening in the history books. See y'all later.

Toei Heroes Back in Action!

Daisuke Ban. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Thursday, August 29, I attended a play in Shimo-kitazawa starring two legendary TV heroes: Daisuke Ban and Sayoko Hagiwara. Well, to say "starring" is a bit of an exaggeration. Actually, they had extended cameos. The bulk of the show featured actors I was completely unfamiliar with.

Anyway, on to the stars. Ban-san starred in Kikaider (1972-73) and Inazuman (1974). Ban-san went on to play Battle Cossack in Battle Fever J (1979-80). I've met him a few times in the past -- most notably in Los Angeles in 2010. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ban-san remembered me from that meeting.

With Sayoko Hagiwara.

Also on hand was Sayoko Hagiwara. Hagiwara-san played Ryoko Hoshi, Yullian's human form, on Ultraman 80 (1980-81) from episode 43, as well as Dyna Pink on Kagaku Sentai Dynaman (1983-84). She also appears on Choushinsei Flashman (1986-87) as the villain Leh Nafel.

The show itself wasn't that amusing, but getting a chance to see Hagiwara-san and Ban-san made it all worth it.