Screen legend Kenji Sahara signs autographs at the Grissom Gang's movie pub in Tokyo.
The kaiju eiga classic Mothra vs. Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. the Thing, 1964) is one of the most popular Godzilla films among Western G-fans. But leave it to the Japanese fans to honor the film in a big way! Over the weekend, the Grissom Gang hosted a two-day event that celebrated one of the best monster movies from Toho's golden age.
Kenji Sahara (Rodan, The Mysterians, The H-Man) was the focal point of Saturday's activities. After a film print of Mothra vs. Godzilla played to the small, exclusive audience in attendance (not much more than 20 people -- it's a small theater and can't hold any more than that!), Mr. Sahara took the stage for his talk show. The Toho legend brought some slides with him, detailing his early life up until the present. One such photo was from his college days, during which Mr. Sahara was into bodybuilding. In this photo, Sahara-san was shirtless and was -- to my surprise -- totally ripped! I had no idea he was in such great shape. Mr. Sahara brought his copy of the None But the Brave shooting script and passed it around the audience. Also, a golfing trophy that famed director Akira Kurosawa won but gave to Mr. Sahara after Sahara-san was unavailable to be cast in Sanjuro was also passed around the audience. I felt particularly honored to hold such wonderful pieces of film history!
Kenji Sahara meets me but not for the first time. I was happy to catch up with Sahara-san, whom I hadn't seen since G-FEST in 2009.
After signing autographs, it was off to dinner. Mr. Sahara joined us and sat down next to me. He happily answered every question posed to him. I was also able to speak with his son, who was able to speak quite a bit of English.
Good times with Sahara-san.
Sunday saw another screening of Mothra vs. Godzilla but with a twist. Hiroshi Koizumi showed up early to watch the film! And, as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to him during the film. Once again, I truly felt honored.
A powerful trio: Masaaki Tezuka, Hiroshi Koizumi, and Teruyoshi Nakano answer questions from the audience.
Following the movie, Koizumi-san was joined by Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. director Masaaki Tezuka and longtime SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano. This talk show was long and informative, with Nakano-san providing the lengthiest and most detailed answers. In one interesting tidbit, he mentioned that he intentionally ended all his Godzilla movies with the Big G's back facing the camera, to symbolize the drift from the original intent of the character that director Ishiro Honda felt was taking place. Later in the evening, Mr. Nakano mentioned that he was slated to have an acting role in Conflagration (a.k.a. Tokyo Bay Burns, 1975) but was so busy he didn't have time to act!
My friend totorom poses with Hiroshi Koizumi.
After the interview was completed, it was autograph time all over again. Not much to say here, so let's check out the highlights:
Yours truly with Hiroshi Koizumi.
Meeting Teruyoshi Nakano again. I first met (and interviewed) him eight years ago!
Meeting Tezuka-san for the second time. He had great stories to tell, especially about one of my favorite films, Fukkatsu no hi (a.k.a. Virus, 1980).
Between two legends: Certainly one of many highlights of the weekend.
What else can I say? It was a spectacular event! Big thanks to the Grissom Gang and tororom for all their help. I should mention that I made several new friends (Yasushi, Akiko, and Jiro) whom I hope to meet again very soon. Everyone was open, warm, and friendly. If only everyone in Godzilla fandom were as nice!