Monday, April 29, 2019

Gundam Towers over Odaiba!

It had been years since I'd last seen the huge Gundam statue in Odaiba, but since I was in the area today, I decided to stop by and photograph it. Enjoy!

Yasuyuki Inoue Exhibit in Odaiba

Today, I finally attended the special Yasuyuki Inoue exhibition held at Gallery21 in Odaiba. The exhibit, scheduled to end tomorrow, features a bevy of Inoue's various production and monster designs and sketches. 

I'd already seen most of the items on display two years ago at a similar event, but more than a few seemed new, particularly the designs and sketches related to Submersion of Japan and Deathquake. But perhaps I just missed them the first time.

While there, illustrator Shinji Nishikawa was taking requests and drawing monsters for attendees. It was quite amazing to watch him sketch Spiga from Son of Godzilla. All in all, it was an enjoyable way to spend this Golden Week afternoon.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Supporting Actor Godzilla Museum!

When it comes to the media blitz surrounding the upcoming Legendary Pictures Godzilla movie, it should come as no surprise that the titular King of the Monsters is receiving the lion's share of the attention. So leave it to the Supporting Actor Godzilla Museum exhibit in Shibuya (inside the Movida building) to give the spotlight over to the other monsters and mecha that have populated the Godzilla series over the years. Various props (some replicas, some original) were on display, as well as a menagerie of monsters. Godzilla himself wasn't totally absent, as a promotional statue for the Legendary Pictures movie greets exhibit-goers at the entrance. Here's what I saw.

Super Festival 80

Super Festival 80 was held today in its usual location at the Science Museum near Kudanshita Station. I stopped by to check out the sights, and even picked up a few items. The highlight was seeing Toho suitmaker Keizo Murase again. Anyway, here are the highlights!

 "What a total performer!"

Keizo Murase. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Meeting a Daiei Actress!

 Keiko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I was fortunate to attend a special event with actress Keiko Takahashi (nee Keiko Sekine). Born on January 22, 1955, Takahashi-san made her acting debut in 1970 at Daiei Studios. Takahashi-san has a variety of credits, including co-starring with Masaaki Daimon in Yasuzo Masumura's Play (1971), starring in Snow Country Elegy (1971), directed by the Gamera series' Noriaki Yuasa and written by Niisan Takahashi, appearing in Kei Kumai's Rise, Fair Sun (1973), co-starring with Masao Kusakari in Toho's Kanda River (1974), and acting in Masumura's thriller Dynamic Islands (1975). She was a regular on the hit TV program Howl at the Sun! (1972-86) as Shinko Uchida.

I'd never met Takahashi-san before, but what really surprised me was how excited a number of attendees were to meet her. One even had tears in his eyes at the end of the evening! I was glad to talk to her about Dynamic Islands, which I saw a few years ago and quite enjoyed. I wish I'd asked her about Noriaki Yuasa, but maybe next time.

All in all, it was a fun evening.

An Ultra-Good Afternoon!

Shigemitsu Taguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Wednesday, April 24, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon in the company of former Tsuburaya Productions scriptwriter Shigemitsu Taguchi. Taguchi-san penned episodes of Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Mirrorman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Jumborg Ace (1973), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), and Ultraman Leo (1974-75), among several other tokusatsu programs.

It was certainly fascinating learning more about Taguchi-san's prolific career. It was a fun afternoon, and I hope I get to do it again sometime soon!

RoboCop Revisited

I've made an addendum to my 2017 blog post concerning the alleged RoboCop/Space Sheriff Gavan connection that is sometimes still put forward by tokusatsu fans. This time, I went straight to the source and asked the veteran creature designer who (according to the rumor and innuendo) introduced RoboCop designer Rob Bottin to Gavan back in the 1980s. His answer completely puts to rest the nonsense that there is any connection between the two characters.

Check it out for yourself and feel free to share it with those who have spread the false information in the past. (They sure need an education.)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Interview about Leo Meneghetti on Vantage Point Interviews!

Leo Meneghetti in full costume, ready to perform!

As readers of this blog ought to know, Leo Meneghetti was a gaijin actor who became rather well known among Godzilla fans for his role as Dr. Asimov in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Despite his notoriety in the West, very little has been uncovered about his life and times, and what little we've heard has turned out to be largely incorrect.

With that in mind, I've just posted my interview with Leo Meneghetti's widow to Vantage Point Interviews. It tells the full and complete story of Leo Meneghetti's life and dispels the false rumor and innuendo (as Bruce Prichard might say). Check it out!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

In the House!

Ai Matsubara onstage, about to perform. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, when work was finished, I immediately headed over to Yokohama to attend a live performance by actress-singer Ai Matsubara. Matsubara-san is best known for playing Prof in the whacked-out Toho romp House (1977). She also appears in Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980) and Shogun (1980). 

I'd first met Matsubara-san in the summer of 2016 at a screening of House. I really enjoyed meeting her, and as time went by, I was surprised I never had a chance to see her again. I'm glad I finally had the opportunity tonight.

Matsubara-san, naturally, was great. She's a wonderful singer and a talented performer. On this night, I for one enjoyed being in the house!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Godzilla vs. Full Metal Jacket

If you've been into Godzilla or Japanese monster movies for any length of time, you've probably heard all kinds of rumors about how major Hollywood blockbusters have ripped off various obscure kaiju flicks. Of course, many (if not most) supposed instances of "inspiration" from Japanese tokusatsu turn out to be completely false. But every now and then, some of these turn out to have a basis in reality.

On a 2017 episode of Kevin Pollak's Chat Show (link above), actor Vincent D'Onofrio, who memorably plays Leonard Lawrence (Pvt. Pyle) in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), reveals that he prepared for the pivotal scene in which he snaps and suddenly kills R. Lee Ermey's Sgt. Hartman by watching several monster movies, including those with Lon Chaney, King Kong, and Godzilla. D'Onofrio interpreted his character as becoming a monster in that scene and so decided to prep for it by studying other movie monsters.

The clip begins around the 1:09:48 mark. Now we just need to find out which Godzilla movies Vincent D'Onofrio watched!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Portrait of Brothers

 Signage at the Portrait of Brothers press screening. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I was invited to attend a press screening of Shinichi Yanagisawa's newest film, Portrait of Brothers, which I attended today. The film is set to open in Japan on May 25. Shinichi Yanagisawa, one of the movie's stars, would be best known to readers of this blog as the comic-relief character Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), though his other work at Nikkatsu and Shochiku studios is certainly more prestigious. Yanagisawa co-stars with Choei Takahashi, who played the male lead in Toho's vampire thriller Lake of Dracula (1971).

Portrait of Brothers is a drama about two elderly brothers who reunite in the small town in which they grew up after the death of their 100-year-old father. The focus is mostly on Takahashi's character, a quiet, serious man who still lives in the small countryside town in which he grew up. Yanagisawa plays the older brother, a more worldly bon vivant living in Tokyo. Yanagisawa's character returns to his hometown after their father passes away, but the completely different lifestyles of the two brothers cause more than a few clashes among them.

Those who enjoy the family dramas of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse will probably enjoy this movie. More often than not, the movie moves at a slow, deliberate pace, which will no doubt put off some Western viewers. But the portrait of countryside life in Japan in Portrait of Brothers is authentic, and if you're interested in seeing a slice of life from a point of view not often reflected in the movies, I would recommend this film. Besides, those countryside scenes are absolutely stunning.

I would also like to point out that the always lovely Izumi Yukimura (the leading lady of Toho's all-star musical You Can Succeed, Too) has a brief cameo at the very end of the film. It's a very short scene, but she's always a welcome presence in any film in which she appears.

The trailer for Portrait of Brothers is below. I hope those interested in Japanese cinema will give it a look.