Tuesday, July 30, 2019

New Kazuki Omori Interview on Vantage Point Interviews

Kazuki Omori in May 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When I visited Osaka at the end of May, I had the privilege of interviewing Heisei Godzilla series director Kazuki Omori for the second time. Unfortunately, there was only enough time to cover Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), but there's plenty of great information.

The interview can be found here. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Our Memories on the Beach!

Shigeo Kato answers a question about his career. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I did something today that I usually try to avoid: get up early on a Sunday morning. But I did it for a very simple reason. I wanted to catch a screening of Shigeo Kato's newest movie, Our Memories on the Beach (2018). 

Congrats, Kato-san! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Our Memories on the Beach is a 52-minute feature, and it also happens to be Kato-san's first starring role in his 70-year career. Kato-san plays a 93-year-old fisherman named Shigeta, a widower who's very much set in his ways. He encounters a 20-year-old aspiring photographer who takes an interest in him. The two have enjoy each other's company on and around the beaches of Kamakura, but when Shigeta's daughter gets involved, things suddenly take a dramatic turn.

The movie was quite enjoyable, and it was fun to see Kato-san essentially play himself. Kato-san began his acting career in 1950 when he joined Toho Studios, but it wasn't until 2018 that he starred in his first film. And what a role it was for him! Suffice it to say, I was glad to attend and personally congratulate Kato-san on a job well done.

Netflix and Chill with Ultraman!

Seen today in Shinjuku Station.

In and Around Shinjuku

Another random batch of photos taken today in and around Shinjuku. Enjoy!

An Evening of Spooky Ghost Stories!

With Shoji Mori. 

Earlier this evening, I attended another dramatic reading with Masanori Machida, Shoji Mori, and other performers. Given that it's summertime in Japan, the theme was scary ghost stories, so it was right up my alley. But there was some comedy involved, too, such as when several female performers did an amusingly half-hearted "Thriller" dance.

With Masanori Machida.

Mori-san was a special guest, so it's a bit rare to see him at such events. Machida-san, on the other hand, is a regular, and he's always a lot of fun to visit. And yes, it was nice to celebrate Halloween in July!

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Fly's David Hedison: 1927-2019

David Hedison (left) poses with Brett Halsey in April 2010. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Actor David Hedison (née Al Hedison), best known for his roles in The Fly (1958), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68), and the James Bond films Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill as Felix Leiter, passed away on July 18. He was 92.

I met David Hedison at a convention in Los Angeles in April 2010. He was there with Brett Halsey, star of Return of the Fly (1958). As a fan of classic horror films, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet them. About 10 years ago, Hedison published his autobiography (co-written with two other authors), The Fly at 50: The Creation and Legacy of a Classic Science Fiction Film. There was even a Godzilla fanzine that ran an interview with Hedison about the book, which still puzzles me to this day.

Rest in peace, David Hedison.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Remembering JFFJ Editor Greg Shoemaker (1947-2019)

Greg Shoemaker meets Akira Takarada in 2010. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The editor and publisher of the Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, the first and perhaps the best Godzilla/tokusatsu fanzine in the U.S., passed away on July 19.

In late 2009, I was pleased to conduct an interview with Greg about the history of JFFJ. The interview can be found here. To be honest, I was shocked that no one else tried to document the history of this ground-breaking fanzine (despite all the lip service many in the fan community paid to it), but I was honored to be the one to do it.

Yours truly with Greg Shoemaker in 2010.

I was also privileged to meet Greg in person in July 2010. I was able to introduce Greg to Akira Takarada when I was assisting Mr. Takarada during his first con appearance in the U.S. I had a few moments to share with Greg, but I wish I had many more. 

However, I'm pleased to report that the JFFJ legacy lives on. In February of this year, I was contacted by the clearance coordinator for a new Netflix series that wanted to feature issues of JFFJ in the series but wanted permission from Greg to use them. Naturally, I provided his contact information. I certainly hope permission was granted and that JFFJ will be exposed to a whole new generation of fans.

Rest in peace, Greg. Thank you for paving the way for the rest of us. 

MOTHRA FLIES AGAIN! But Was the Third Time the Charm?

Kenji Suzuki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I took in a screening of Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) in glorious 35mm. I don't think I'd seen the movie in close to 20 years, and I'd only seen it once before. I basically remembered only two things from the film -- that King Ghidorah captures children, and the less-than-convincing dinosaur puppets. 

Overall, I found the film a bit too slow for my liking. I'd rank it as my least favorite of the late '90s Mothra trilogy (with the first Rebirth of Mothra being my favorite). The only characters who stood out were the returning characters from the previous entries: Moll, Lora, and Belvera. The rest were instantly forgettable. It was nice to see the ubiquitous Koichi Ueda in a small role, but that's about all. It's not a bad film, but it is a something of a let-down.

The special guest of the screening was SFX director Kenji Suzuki. Before joining Toho, Suzuki-san was a freelance SFX director who did some work at Tsuburaya Productions, most notably Ultraman 80 (1980-81). At Toho, he served as an assistant SFX director on The Imperial Navy (1981) and Sayonara Jupiter (1984). On Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), Rebirth of Mothra (1996), and Rebirth of Mothra II (1997), he served as the chief assistant SFX director under Koichi Kawakita. On Rebirth of Mothra III, Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), he was the SFX director. In the 2000s, Suzuki-san returned to Tsuburaya Productions and lent his talents to various Ultra-projects.

And that's about all. I had an enjoyable afternoon. I'm glad I saw the film again, and despite my misgivings, I can recognize the film's positive aspects. It's been great to reevaluate the entire Mothra trilogy this year.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A National Holiday in Japan, Toho-Style!

Naomi Hase. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Given that today, Monday, July 15, is a national holiday in Japan, there was a special event with screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara and actress Noami Hase that I attended. Naturally, I had to work today, but when I was finished, I made sure to stop by.

Naomi Hase is an actress and singer who started her career in 1974. In Japan, she still has a lot of fans from her role on the TV series Howl at the Sun! (1972-86). For me, however, her most interesting credits are Oshare daisakusen (1976), director Kengo Furusawa's last film, and Clash! Young Guy (1976), directed by Tom Kotani. Interestingly, however, when I asked her about director Kengo Furusawa, she didn't seem to remember him at all!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Kashiwabara-san was the other guest at the event. He, of course, wrote the screenplays for Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). For more information about Kashiwabara-san's career, check out this interview with him.

As usual, it was great to see Kashiwabara-san again, though this time we didn't talk about American movies -- well, not very much, anyway! It was another fun time.

Getting into Focus with Nakabori-san!

Masao Nakabori answers questions. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, July 14, I attended a talk event with cameraman Masao Nakabori. He has truly seen and done a lot in the realm of tokusatsu for Tsuburaya Productions, but his credits extend well beyond just tokusatsu.

Masao Nakabori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Nakabori-san is a cameraman whose credits include Ultra Seven (1967-68) and Ultraman Taro (1973-74). His other tokusatsu works are such programs as Silver Kamen (1971-72), Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (1988), Ultra Q: The Movie (1990), and the decidedly non-toku Maborosi (1995).

The recent news from Mill Creek about the Blu-ray releases of Ultra Q and Ultraman was reason enough to celebrate, but truthfully, I take any opportunity I can to visit with Nakabori-san.

An Evening with Old Pros from Toho and Tsuburaya!

From left to right: Teruyoshi Nakano, Tom Kotani, and Takashi Naganuma (admiring his birthday cake). Photo by Brett Homenick

On Saturday, July 13, I left work to attend another special event with former Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano. Also on hand was longtime Toho SFX crew member Takashi Naganuma. This time, however, they were joined by director Tom Kotani.

Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Teruyoshi Nakano served as SFX director for Toho's Godzilla series from 1971 through 1984. However, that just scratches the surface of his career in special effects. If you'd like to read more about his non-Godzilla tokusatsu work, check out this interview with him.

Nakano-san is a true living legend, and I never miss an opportunity to see him. Despite being a veteran of such events, he always seems as enthusiastic to be there as any of his fans.

Tom Kotani. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The other headlining guest was director Tom Kotani. Kotani-san directed The Last Dinosaur (1977), The Bermuda Depths (1978), and The Ivory Ape (1980) for Rankin/Bass. (The Last Dinosaur, of course, was a co-production with Tsuburaya Productions.) Prior to that, Kotani-san helmed several movies for Toho, including It's My Sky! Young Guy (1970) and Wild Cop (1973).

I last visited with Kotani-san near his home sometime last fall. I was glad to have the opportunity to catch up with him again. I hope to visit him again sometime later this year.

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last but not least was Takashi Naganuma, whom I spent the most time chatting with. Even though it's not quite his birthday yet, the event served as a birthday celebration for him. All of us in attendance were pleased to wish him a happy birthday.

The Shinjuku Eye Sheds a Tear

The damaged Shinjuku Eye. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While in Shinjuku on Wednesday, I passed the Shinjuku Eye, which had recently been damaged. The fame sculpture is having a pretty lousy 50th anniversary so far. (It was created in 1969.) I certainly hope they catch the vandals responsible. 

A Nice Meal with Even Nicer People

Yours truly with Kyoko Ifukube (second from the left) and her friends.  

Last Wednesday, July 10, I was quite privileged to be invited to have dinner with Kyoko Ifukube, daughter of Japanese composer Akira Ifukube. She brought some of her friends with her, so it was a lively discussion.

Kyoko Ifukube. Photo by Brett Homenick.

We ate at a Chinese restaurant in Shinjuku, right next to the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building. It was a lot of fun, and it was the longest I've ever spoken with Ifukube-san. Let's do it again soon!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Seeing Terror of Mechagodzilla in 35mm!

A poster for Terror of Mechagodzilla as seen in the National Film Archive of Japan. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a screening of a 35mm print of Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) at the National Film Archive of Japan in Kyobashi. The film print was virtually flawless, and I think it's safe to say that the film will never look any better than it did today.

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) also played today, but I had to miss the screening. Well, you can't win them all.

Movie Night, Japanese-Style!

Yoshinobu Kaneko. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, July 6, I attended a special event with guests Kazuki Omori and Yoshinobu Kaneko.

Kaneko-san would be best known in the U.S. as the young boy in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) who begs his mother to go see Godzilla, only to be told that they're not going to the zoo. He stars in the title role of the Toei fantasy/action film Watari, Ninja Boy (1966) and co-stars as Blue Shadow in the Toei TV series Red Shadow (1967-68) and the movie spin-off Ninja Scope (1969). He also can be seen in episode 15 of Ultraman (1966-67), among numerous other TV and film appearances.

I had a fun time talking about King Kong vs. Godzilla with Kaneko, especially about the differences between the his mother's line in the U.S. and Japanese versions. He was interested to learn that his mother says "zoo" in the American version. Of course, given that he was a young boy at the time, he has few memories of the shoot. But it was fun chatting with him about his acting career when he was a child.

Kazuki Omori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other guest on hand was none other than Heisei Godzilla series screenwriter and director Kazuki Omori. Most folks around Omori-san seemed more interested in discussing various American films instead of Godzilla movies. The discussion of The Godfather Part III was especially amusing, given Omori-san's reactions to Al Pacino's scenery-chewing in the film. 

Overall, it was a very fun night with friendly people. I didn't expect to stay around as long as I did, but it was so much fun that I was in no hurry to leave. Let's do it again soon!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Trip to Cape Inubo!

 A view of Cape Inubo from a distance. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I traveled deep into Chiba Prefecture to the city of Choshi. My purpose was to visit Cape Inubo, a rather scenic location with a historic landmark, Inubosaki Lighthouse.

Inubosaki Lighthouse. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

As interesting as Inubosaki Lighthouse is, I have to admit that the real reason I went all the way out there was to try to take a look at the rocks used for the Toei logo. What I wasn't counting on was just how difficult those particular rocks are to get to.

I imagined it would probably be fairly simple to access. I mean, it's just a beach, right? Wrong. It's very rocky, but not only that, some parts of the beach are closed off. The parts that weren't closed off were a bit too treacherous for me to try. I love movie history, but even I have my limits.

I tried getting to the Toei rocks from a view different angles, but after a while, I had to throw in the towel. There was just no way I it was going to happen, especially with camera in hand. Perhaps if I had a waterproof GoPro, I would have tried it.

Other than that, it was a beautiful location. I enjoyed seeing a different side of Japan that often gets overlooked. But given how remote this location is, I'm not surprised that it gets overlooked!

Nature wins this round. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As much as I would have loved to see the Toei rocks, the photo above demonstrates why that just wasn't going to happen. This is probably not a place you'd like to slip and fall on.

Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

A stone's throw from the Inubosaki Lighthouse is what's left of Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium. The park closed in January 2018, but based on what it looked, I would have guessed it had been closed for quite a bit longer than that. It's quite a depressing sight to see.

Well, I may not have gotten to see the Toei rocks, but I did get to see this baby dinosaur hatch outside an abandoned aquarium. What a day!