Sunday, July 31, 2016

IN YOUR HOUSE! The Toho Cult Classic Is Revived for a Special Screening!

House screenwriter Chiho Katsura (left) joins actress Ai Matsubara (right) to discuss their memories of making this cult classic. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On July 30, I was privileged to attend a screening of the Toho cult classic House (1977), for which two luminaries from the film join us. Screenwriter Chiho Katsura joined actress Ai Matsubara (who played the bespectacled Prof) to discuss the behind-the-scenes facts of the flick.

Screenwriter Chiho Katsura recalls writing House. Photo by Brett Homenick.

House, I must admit, is a movie that I never fully warmed up to. I first tried to watch an unsubtitled copy circa 2002 or '03, but after watching about half of it, I stopped, fully intending to finish it another day. (I never did.) At the time, very little information was available about the film, and I suppose I was expecting a more straight-forward horror film. When I realized that the movie was more confusing than anything else, it got indefinitely put on the shelf.

It wasn't until late 2010 or early 2011 (right before I moved to Japan) when I purchased the Criterion DVD that I finally watched the film in its entirety (with subtitles). Suffice it to say, I was still underwhelmed. I guess I never found the film as interesting as it wanted me to. Movies that try too hard to shock me almost always fall flat. Your mileage may vary.

Actress Ai Matsubara shares her memories of playing Prof. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Still, I was quite motivated to see the film in 35mm, and I was very interested to meet the guests of honor. I did enjoy the movie more this time around, but I still have some quibbles with it. While it can be a fun flick, it does run out of steam too often, and some of the gags just don't work for me. A little of the strangeness goes a long way. Despite that, I'm glad I saw it again.

I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Chiho Katsura, who surprised me by speaking quite a bit of English! He told me he studied English for many years because he loves America. He saw the movie Easter Parade (1948) during his youth and was really inspired by it. (Remember the next time you watch House that the man who wrote it loves Judy Garland musicals!) Katsura-san also wrote the Nikkatsu thriller Assault! Jack the Ripper (1976), which actor Yutaka Hayashi considers probably to be his best film. When I mentioned several Japanese directors I liked, I rattled off the name Masaki Kobayashi (Kwaidan). Katsura-san grimaced and said he didn't like him. He didn't elaborate, but I certainly found that tidbit fascinating.

Ai Matsubara was a very lovely lady. She even sang a karaoke for us! (She works mostly as a singer now.) Her other acting credits include Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980) and Shogun (1980), which are rather impressive. Matsubara-san was not aware that her character's name in English was "Prof," so when I told her that, she lit up. She loves the name, so I think it's going to stick!

Another great event with wonderful guests has wrapped. I can't wait for the next one!

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