Sunday, April 19, 2015


Former Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano signs a shikishi board for a lucky fan. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from a movie event in Yokohama with famed special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano. It was a small and intimate gathering hosted by Cinema Novecento, and the theme of the event was the Toho action film Espy (1974).

A 35mm print of Espy was screened, and while it was very enjoyable, I have to say that the most interesting part of the screening happened right at the beginning. Instead of the Espy theme music playing during Toho's production logo, Isao Tomita's opening music from The Last Days of Planet Earth (1974) suddenly blared from the speakers! Suffice it to say, I was surprised and wondered if we were going to be treated to a secret screening of this "banned" film.

After the production logo, however, there was an abrupt cut, and Espy began. I mentioned this to the group after the screening, but no one -- not even Nakano-san himself, who watched the film with us -- noticed anything different. However, my friend Yasushi and I asked the projectionist to look at the actual film, and sure enough there was a splice after the Toho production logo. Not only that, but the projectionist noticed that there was a sudden change in the soundtrack by comparing the film before and after the splice. Moreover, everyone in our group noticed that some of the more "risque" scenes were trimmed from the film.

So what happened? Our group hypothesized that, during the film's initial run, perhaps there was damage to the film print during the production logo, and Toho decided to slap on the logo from The Last Days of Planet Earth, which had already finished its theatrical run, to replace it. As for the other trims, perhaps they were done by an overly cautious theater manager. In any case, the differences were fascinating to see!

Nakano-san was in great spirits, as usual. He told the story of how author Sakyo Komatsu wanted actress Kaoru Yumi to star in Submersion of Japan (1973) but was unsuccessful. Afterward, he got her cast in the spin-off TV series.

Overall, it was a great event, and another one will take place next week. I look forward to attending it.

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