Tuesday, May 31, 2016

IT'S A MONSTER MARATHON! Taking in Godzilla Flicks at the Jimbocho Theater!

The Jimbocho Theater, a building with a most interesting design! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Since I had the day off work, I finally made my way to the Jimbocho Theater in (where else?) Jimbocho, Tokyo, which is hosting a Godzilla movie marathon in anticipation of Godzilla Resurgence, which hits Japanese theaters at the end of July.

The screenings began on May 7 and run until June 17. There are four films screened every day, and each day the lineup changes (although the same set of films are screened throughout the week). This week focuses on the films made between Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). 

I arrived in time for the afternoon screening of Godzilla vs. Megalon and stayed on for the showings of Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) and Godzilla's Revenge (1969). Megalon looked fantastic in 35mm. Gigan and Revenge, however, had seen better days, as both prints were a bit faded and choppy at times. Still, nothing beats 35mm film screenings, and even with their flaws, they looked infinitely better than some awful DVD projections I had to sit through at some American theatrical screenings!

Before each film, the full trailer for Godzilla Resurgence was shown. I'd already seen a slightly truncated version of the trailer several times at several Toho Cinemas throughout Tokyo, but this was my first opportunity to see the unedited version. I have several (okay, many) reservations about the film, but I'm certainly curious to see it.

The Jimbocho Theater was decked out with posters of various sizes, and naturally a bit of merchandise was available. Thankfully, I resisted the temptation to break out my wallet.

The coolest display item of all was this small Godzilla statue. It's these little touches that put the Japanese Godzilla events above all others. You just don't see cool stuff like this anywhere else!

All in all, it was a fantastic day of Godzilla flicks. I usually don't like to do movie marathons (too much of a good thing is still too much), but this was an enjoyable exception. I can't tell you how many times I've seen these three films, but they still managed to hold my attention after all these years. Bravo!

I hope to return to the Jimbocho Theater to catch some other Showa-era Godzilla films. Hopefully, my work schedule will allow it.

FIVEBLUE IS BACK! An Evening with Super Sentai Star Kei Shindachiya!

Actor Kei Shindachiya is large and in charge! Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight, I spent a pleasant evening in the bar owned by Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91) actor Kei Shindachiya, who played FiveBlue. As I blogged before, Shindachiya-san also made guest appearances on Choriki Sentai Ohranger (1995-96) and Ultraman Gaia (1998-99).

We spent most of our time talking about California. Shindachiya-san had many funny stories to tell about his various trips to my home state. I enjoyed a plate of curry as he shared his memories. Thanks again, Shindachiya-san!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

ANOTHER DINNER WITH ULF! A Day with MGM Musicals and Indian Curry!

Actor Ulf Otsuki at home in Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I was privileged to pay another visit to actor Ulf Otsuki's home. While many fans are aware that Ulf did battle with Godzilla (so to speak) in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), fewer fans know that Ulf also clashed with the Big G again the very same year.

Ulf guest-starred in episode 15 of Toho's superhero series Zone Fighter (1973) as a Men in Black-type villain (along with Johnny Yusuf) who schemes to wreak havoc on the city. This is one of the Zone Fighter episodes that features Godzilla.

Ulf and I watched the classic MGM musical The Band Wagon (1953) with Fred Astaire. I quite enjoyed it! After that, we headed out to our usual Indian restaurant for supper. A great way to finish the day!

THE BALLAD OF AN ULTRA-STAR! Actor Mitsuhiro Sano Joins Fans in Singing Karaoke!

Actor Mitsuhiro Sano sings "Massachusetts," one of his favorite English-language songs. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Satuday night, I returned to the bar owned and operated by Mitsuhiro Sano, who played Terrible Monster Attacking Crew (TAC) member Kozo Yoshimura on Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman Ace (1972-73). Sano-san also can be seen in episodes of Kaiketsu Zubat (1977), Star Wolf (1978), Kamen Rider Ryuki (2002-03), and Kamen Rider Decade (2009).

His bar is Ultraman-themed, which you'd expect from one of the stars of an Ultra-series. Once again, we did karaoke, and I did my best renditions of songs by REM, INXS, Phil Collins, and others. By my request, Sano-san sang "Massachusetts" by the Bee Gees again -- and did a great job!

A great time was had by all -- even the other bar patrons! Hope to see everybody again soon!

Friday, May 27, 2016

LINDA HAYNES INTERVIEW! The Latitude Zero Star Recalls Her Experiences at Toho!

Actress Linda Haynes gets friendly with the locals while in Japan filming Latitude Zero (1969). Photo courtesy of Linda Haynes.

I've just published my 2007 interview with actress Linda Haynes, who played Dr. Anne Barton in Latitude Zero (1969) on Vantage Point Interviews. According to Ms. Haynes, it was her first-ever in-depth discussion of her memories of the film, so it's worth checking out!

A big thank-you to Ms. Haynes for giving me her permission to post it online.

SHUNICHI OKITA IS BACK! The Ultraman Ace Hero Keeps an Eye on Tokyo!

Yours truly with actor Shunichi Okita at his restaurant-bar in Tokyo.

As I hinted at in my previous blog post, there was more to come today! I stopped by actor Shunichi Okita's restaurant-bar in Tokyo and spent some time there. Okita-san played TAC member Ichiro Yamanaka in Ultraman Ace (1972-73), but he was also a Nikkatsu actor prior to that, having appeared in the critically celebrated film Tokyo Drifter (1966), among others. He went on to act in movies produced by Toho, such as Red Lion (1969) and Battle of Okinawa (1971).

It was wonderful to spend some time again with Okita-san, as I hadn't seen him all year. Hopefully, my next visit won't take so long. What a day it was!

ONLY IN TOKYO! A Chance Encounter in Setagaya!

Posing with Toho star Katsuhiko Sasaki in Narita Airport in July 2014.

Today is a day off from work, and when I left home to grab some lunch, I had a surprise meeting. While walking along the sidewalk, I suddenly heard some shout my name. I looked toward the street and saw none other than actor Katsuhiko Sasaki smiling and waving at me from his car!

I was so surprised that I started laughing, but naturally I greeted him back. As he drove off, he motioned that he'd give me a call.

Sasaki-san starred in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), and he's as nice a gentleman as you'll ever meet. Overall, these surprise meetings don't happen very often, but they're always memorable. What a day, and it's not even over yet!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

KEIKO NISHI RETURNS! Catching Up The Ultraman Ace Star!

My main goal for visiting Ginza today was to visit actress Keiko Nishi, best known for playing TAC member Noriko Mikawa in Ultraman Ace (1972-73). We had a great time catching up.

Once again, I wish my command of Japanese was much better than it is, but we're always able to make it work. Thank you again, Nishi-san!

GODZILLA ROARS! Hibiya Chanter Hosts the Godzilla Statue!

Another place I visited today was the familiar Godzilla statue in Hibiya Chanter. Naturally, I snapped several pictures. Enjoy!

OUT AND ABOUT IN GINZA! Familiar Locations in Tokyo!

The Hattori Clock Tower atop the Wako department store in Ginza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I had some time to walk around Ginza. Since I had my trusty camera on hand, I took some photos. 

It's been photographed countless times (even on this blog!), but I snapped some new photos of the Hattori Clock Tower, which Godzilla destroyed in 1954.

The Yurakucho Mullion Building, razed by Godzilla in 1984. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Nearby stands the Yurakucho Mullion Building, which Godzilla destroyed 30 years later in 1984. It also bears a famous logo. 

More photos to come!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

SADAO IIZUKA ON KONG AND GORATH! The Optical SFX Wizard Tells All About These Toho Classics!

Toho and Tsuburaya Productions optical photography expert Sadao Iizuka answers questions about his career. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I returned to DeNs Cafe in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, for the first time in several months. Because of my work schedule, I had to miss the last several events featuring Sadao Iizuka, the veteran optical effects expert who worked on numerous Toho films. 

The topic of this event was Iizuka-san's work on King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Gorath (1962). Unfortunately, I missed this part of the presentation. But I made it in time for the dinner portion of the event. During this time, I talked with one of my friends about a variety of topics, everything from Hammer horror movies to the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence.

I had a great time catching up with many familiar faces, but I wish I'd made it to the main presentation. There's always next time, and more events are on the way. I just hope everything works out next time!

Iizuka-san is well known for animating Godzilla's atomic ray, King Ghidorah's gravity beams, and Ultraman's trademark Specium Ray. But those accomplishments only begin to scratch the surface of a career that began in 1954 and continues to this day!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

KYU-FURUKAWA GARDENS! A Go-To Location for Many Japanese Horror Films!

The Western-style residence in Kyu-Furukawa Gardens has been used as a filming location in countless Japanese productions. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

It's hard trying to document the filming locations used in many Japanese genre productions, and the proof is in the lack of quality English-language research done in this area. Little by little, I intend to fill the void, and today I shine my spotlight on a new location.

Kyu-Furukawa Gardens is a beautiful park located in Kita, Tokyo, near Nishigahara Station. The centerpiece of the park is its Western-style residence, and it's easy to see why. You see very few buildings like this in Tokyo. Although it was at one time a private residence, it was converted into a public park in 1956.

The Western-style residence appears in several classic Japanese horror films. It was used as Shin Kishida's vampiric principal character's residence in Evil of Dracula (1974), the spooky house in the Hajime Sato-directed House of Terrors (a.k.a. The Ghost of the Hunchback, 1965), and it also turns up in the Toho mystery Murders in the Doll House (a.k.a. Crazy Doll Trick, 1979).

As much as I wanted to step inside the house, you can only do so if you join a guided tour, which unfortunately I didn't have enough time to do. Still, it was cool to see this filming location from the outside. It does seem tailor-made for horror movies!

It's a beautiful park, regardless of its history on film. I'd highly recommend it to anyone, even if he or she isn't into any of the aforementioned films. There's so much to see and photograph. I'm sure I'll eventually go back and join one of the guided tours.

How cool is it to see where Shin Kishida's vampire character once lived? It's very cool, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to visit yet another incredible filming location. I can't wait to see more!

THE NATIONAL DIET BUILDING! Visiting the Site of Many Classic Kaiju Scenes!

The National Diet Building in Nagatacho. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During my travels today, I had to make a quick stop in Nagatacho. While there, I decided to walk around and photograph the National Diet Building, which I haven't visited in five years. The National Diet Building features prominently in kaiju 0classics like King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and more recent capers like Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). Anyway, here are the pics. Enjoy!