Saturday, December 30, 2017

ULTRA-HEROES EXPO 2018! Ultraman Takes Tokyo Dome City!

Thanks to a very kind invitation to a couple of friends of mine, I attended the Ultra-Heroes Expo 2018 today in Tokyo Dome City. It was quite reminiscent of Ultraman Festival in Ikebukuro, though this exclusively focused on Ultraman Geed (2017), which I've never seen. I even attended the live stage show with various Ultra Brothers and assorted kaiju duking it out for the amusement of the audience. (This was actually my first time seeing such a show in Japan.) It was quite fun, but it was absolutely packed with people, which of course is never fun. Anyway, enough said. On with the photos!

Hangin' with the Ulf-Man

Yesterday, December 29, I visited Ulf Otsuki again at his home. Unlike our usual meetings, we didn't watch a movie. Instead, we had a bit of a night on the town. It was an interesting change of pace.

Seeing Ulf again was certainly a great way to close out 2017!

End-of-the-Year Meeting with Kato-san

Shigeo Kato. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've fallen behind in blog updates in the past few days, but I'm finally ready to get up to speed. Anyway, on with the updates. On Wednesday, December 27, I returned to Kamakura to pay a visit to retired Toho actor Shigeo Kato. At the age of 92, Kato-san is still going strong, and we had a great conversation about his days at Toho as an actor.

I'm sure we'll get together again very soon in the New Year. And I'm really looking forward to it!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

An Evening with Actress Anne Mari

Anne Mari. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from a special event with actress Anne Mari, the focus of which was her work in Nikkatsu's erotic thriller Zankoku onna joshi (1970). 

Mari-san appears in episode 32 of Ultraman (1966-67), episode 34 of Ultra Seven (1967-68), episodes 11 and 12 of Mighty Jack (1968), and episodes 16 and 17 of Kamen Rider (1971-73). However, in the West, her biggest credit is her starring role in Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill (1967). She can also be seen in The Killing Bottle (1967).

About The Killing Bottle, Mari-san said that director Senkichi Taniguchi was a nice person but a strict director. It was a lot of fun spending the evening with Mari-san, who is very friendly and open-minded. I certainly hope to have the chance to meet her again soon.

Friday, December 22, 2017

CHRISTMAS WITH IZUMI YUKIMURA! The Celebrated Actress-Singer Performs Live in Roppongi!

Izumi Yukimura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended a special Christmas dinner show performed by Izumi Yukimura, one of Japan's most popular singers of the postwar era. She also starred in numerous Toho movies during the 1950s and '60s, including Kihachi Okamoto's classic Desperado Outpost (1959) and the all-star musical You Can Succeed, Too (1964). Not only that, but her credits include Ichimatsu Travels with Ghosts (1959) and The Princess of Badger Palace (1958), which owe more to the genre we're all interested in.

I'm glad I got to spend time with Yukimura-san after the show. She is doing very well and was in high spirits, even joking around a bit. I certainly hope there's another show next Christmas. If so, I'll most certainly be there!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

SHINICHI YANAGISAWA AND HIS ALL-STARS! It's Christmastime at the HUB Asakusa!

 Shinichi Yanagisawa takes the stage. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended another great live jazz show with Shinichi Yanagisawa and His All-Stars. While there was certainly a Christmas theme to the proceedings, there were just as many non-Christmas songs performed. All in all, it was very entertaining.

Shinichi Yanagisawa, of course, is a longtime actor and singer. He is best known in the West for playing Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967) and has starred in countless movies since the 1950s, mostly for Nikkatsu and Shochiku.

He's also one heck of a nice guy, and I always look forward to seeing him. I was able to give him my Christmas card, which I do every year. Can't wait to return to the HUB in two months!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

MACHIDA-SAN IS BACK IN THE HOUSE! The Longtime Actor Closes 2017 in a Big Way!

After attending Ishimori-san's play in Asakusa, I had to attend a performance by Masanori Machida. After the performance, I stayed for the bonenkai (end-of-the-year party) and met some very nice and friendly folks.

That said, the highlight was seeing Machida-san again. Already looking forward to next time, but that will have to wait until next year.

ISHIMORI-SAN RETURNS TO ASAKUSA! The Celebrated Scribes Pens Another Stage Comedy!

Screenwriter Fumio Ishimori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I attended a stage play in Asakusa written by Fumio Ishimori (whose name is sometimes mistranslated as "Shiro" Ishimori). Ishimori-san co-wrote Toho's Crest of the Wolf (1973), along with several tokusatsu TV programs during the 1970s. 

While there, I handed him a Christmas card, which he was surprised to receive. He asked me for my address, and I naturally gave it to him. I suppose I should keep an eye on my mailbox in the coming days.

It's always great to see Ishimori-san, and I'm already looking forward to the next time next year.

Yasuko Sawaguchi's New Gig

Yasuko Sawaguchi is currently all over Shinjuku Station's West Exit. The Toho actress, who is best known for her starring role in Godzilla 1985 (1984), is promoting a snack food that promises to satiate even the Big G's appetite.

Godzilla's Watchful Eye

As always, Godzilla maintains a watchful eye over Shinjuku. These photos, which I took earlier tonight, are living proof of that!

The Tokyo Skytree

While in Asakusa today, I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots of the Tokyo Skytree. With nary a cloud in the sky, it was the perfect opportunity to take a few photos.

TOHO ALUMS ASSEMBLE! Showa Scripter and Model Maker Team Up for a Great Event!

Toho scripter Keiko Hisamatsu. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Last night (December 16), I joined a dinner event with two Toho alumni, both of whom I'd met before. One was Takashi Naganuma, a Toho SFX staffer whom I've blogged about numerous times. The other was someone I hadn't written about here, even though I met her at an event with Sadao Iizuka about two years ago.

That person was Keiko Hisamatsu (now Keiko Suzuki), a Toho scripter (on the SFX side) who began her career at Toho with Battle in Outer Space (1959) and worked on numerous tokusastu productions throughout the '60s. While her entry on the Toho site states that she worked all the way up until Yog Monster from Space (1970), Hisamatsu-san denied that, stating that her final film was Admiral Yamamoto (1968).

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Of course, Naganuma-san was there, too, and he was great fun to hang out with, as usual. The Toho talk was quite limited, and we spent most of our time talking about more mundane things like cell phones (seriously). I guess you had to be there.

And that's it. It was a lot of fun, naturally, and the folks there (including the special guests) couldn't have been any nicer. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IIZUKA-SAN! The Toho Optical Effects Legend Turns 83!

Sadao Iizuka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a screening of the classic Toho kaiju caper Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) in glorious 35mm. Naturally, it's one of my favorite Godzilla movies, and despite having seen it countless times over the years, it still holds up extremely well. 

The guest of honor for the screening was Sadao Iizuka, the legendary optical effects technician who worked under Eiji Tsuburaya. At age 19, Iizuka-san worked on the miniatures used in Godzilla (1954) as a part-time job, but the experience ultimately led to a decades-long career in SFX at Toho and beyond. In 1957, Iizuka-san started working on the optical side of SFX, animating (by hand) numerous beams, rays, and just about everything else there was to draw in Toho's science fiction films.

Although it isn't quite his birthday yet, the event was billed as a birthday celebration for Iizuka-san, who turns 83 this month. I'm very happy to see that Iizuka-san remains as healthy and active as ever. When Ghidrah began screening, Iizuka-san pointed out (from the back of the theater) that he created the "TohoScope" logo seen at the beginning of the film. Later on, during his Q&A session, he pointed out that King Ghidorah's gravity ray needed to be curved and crooked (not a straight line) in order to keep King Ghidorah's randomly-moving heads up with all the explosions.

A wonderful evening it was, spent in the company of a true legend of the genre. Another highlight of the evening was getting Iizuka-san to write "TohoScope" on his autograph for me, which drew chuckles from some of the other folks in attendance. But why not? After all, that logo was his creation!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Remembering Conrad Brooks

Word is beginning to circulate that cult movie actor Conrad Brooks (Glen Or Glenda?, Plan 9 from Outer Space) has passed away. Few details are available, but those who knew Conrad are aware that his health took a sharp decline in the last year, from which he never recovered.

I first met Conrad in March 1996 in San Diego when he was the guest at an all-day sci-fi movie screening. Around 2007, I was able to reconnect with Conrad via his official website, and from then on, we regularly spoke on the phone. Conrad was one of the most positive people I'd ever known, and our phone conversations were always a lot of fun. Even after moving to Japan, I always made sure to give Conrad a ring on a routine basis.

I last spoke to Conrad a few weeks ago. His daughter Connie was very helpful in arranging the conversation. Due to his severe health issues, Conrad couldn't say much, but I appreciated having the chance to speak with him again after such a long time. It was to be the last time we'd ever speak.

Conrad was the real deal -- a true friend who genuinely cared about the people in his life. I remember when news of the tsunami broke right before I moved to Japan, Conrad called me up and wanted to know how the disaster might affect my plans. He wasn't sure I should go, but I assured him I would be fine.

That's the kind of guy he was, and that's the person I will miss.

Rest in peace, Conrad.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

MOTHZILLA ATTACKS! A Japanese TV Parody of Godzilla from 1983 Surfaces!

Thanks to social media, I discovered this very interesting television parody of the Godzilla series from circa 1983. It prominently features Akihiko Hirata (Serizawa from Godzilla '54) and Yoshiko Tanaka (Godzilla vs. Biollante), and is a lot more amusing (not to mention authentic) than most Godzilla parodies out there. The above clip was taken from the variety program What a Fantastic Night!, which was broadcast in Japan during the 1980s and hosted by Japanese comedian Tamori.

While the YouTube video in question calls the monster "Modzilla," it's probably more accurate to call it "Mothzilla." Why, you might ask? Just watch!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

GODZILLA SHOW SPACE! Checking Out Godzilla's History Up Close and Personal!

With special thanks to a friend of mine who gave me a ticket to this exhibit, I made plans to view Godzilla Show Space in Yurakucho today. Unlike most other exhibits I've attended in Japan, photography was allowed in all areas. In fact, you were even allowed to touch some props from the Godzilla films! It doesn't get any fan-friendlier than that. Anyway, with all that out of the way, let's get on to the photos!