Sunday, November 24, 2019

Riding the Orange Road Express!

In between actor Ichiro Ogura (left) and director Kazuki Omori.

Today, I attended a screening of director Kazuki Omori's first studio film, Orange Road Express (1978), produced by Shochiku. Going into the screening, I knew very little about the film, so I had no idea what to expect.

Kazuki Omori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The film was quite amusing. It's a comedic (and highly stylized) road picture that centers on an elderly couple that steals cars from random people who try to be Good Samaritans. I didn't know until after the screening that Omori-san drew upon the social upheavals happening in Japan in the late 1960s and early '70s for this movie. Even though the content seems rather tame by contemporary standards, it seems that Orange Road Express was quite revolutionary in its day.

I also found out for the first time that Omori-san directed a commercial for the Lawson chain of convenience stores sometime in the 1990s. I wonder if the commercial dealt with time travel and/or bioengineering.

Ichiro Ogura. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Another guest at the event was actor Ichiro Ogura. Born on October 29, 1951, Ogura-san began his acting career in 1964 as a child actor. His film credits include: Nikkatsu's The Black Sheep (1967) as Takeshi Egawa, Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey (2000) as Dr. Yao Naban, and Kamen Rider Hibiki & the Seven Senki (2005) as Suzu's father.

On the small screen, Ogura-san appears in episode 14 of Captain Ultra (1967) as Susumu, and episode 22 of Submersion of Japan (1974-75) as Junichi Ishiguro, among other tokusatsu credits.

It was great to meet Ogura-san for the first time, and I hope to have a chance to do so again in the future.

An Evening with a Street-Fightin' Woman!

Yutaka Nakajima. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, November 23, I was privileged to meet actress Yutaka Nakajima. She has nothing to do with monster movies, and most movie fans associate her with her work at Toei Studios in the 1970s. Despite having no involvement with sci-fi films, Japanese cult movie fans nonetheless should be familiar with her films. 

Born on October 5, 1952, Yutaka Nakajima (a.k.a. Doris Nakajima) co-stars alongside Sonny Chiba in The Street Fighter (1974) as Sarai Chuayut. She also can be seen in Teruo Ishii's The Executioner (1974) and The Executioner 2 (1974) as Emi, The Killing Machine (1975) as Kiku Sakamoto, and Detonation! Violent Games (1976) as Akemi.

I saw The Street Fighter (along with several other classic Sonny Chiba actioners) in my early 20s, so I was quite enthusiastic about meeting Nakajima-san. It was a true joy to spend some time in her company.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ultraman 80's Jin Nakayama Passes Away at 77

Jin Nakayama as Captain Kazuki Oyama in Ultraman 80. 

Actor Jin Nakayama passed away on October 12 of lung cancer at his Tokyo residence. Despite having passed away nearly a month ago, news of his passing was announced by his agency on November 11. He was 77.

Born on September 25, 1942, Nakayama began his professional acting career in 1965 and appeared in films for a variety of Japanese studios, including Toho and Shochiku. He made his biggest impact on television, from which Ultraman fans worldwide still remember him as UGM Captain Kazuki Oyama in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman 80 (1980-81). He also appeared in Akio Jissoji's Ultra Q: The Movie (1990) as Dr. Ichinotani. He remained active as a performer until the time of his passing.

Please join me in saluting a true monster fighter.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Trio of New Interviews at Vantage Point Interviews!

Shigeo Kato in January 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've posted a trio of new interviews at Vantage Point Interviews. First, my January 2019 interview with actor Shigeo Kato in which he talks about everything from his World War II memories to working with Akira Kurosawa on Seven Samurai (not to mention his recollections of the original Godzilla). 

There's also my 2010 interview with Godzilla series star Akira Takarada, which has been transcribed and published for the first time anywhere. 

Last but not least is my conversation with Toho SFX staff member Takashi Naganuma, who started his career in the early 1970s and continued on into the Heisei era. 

Check 'em out today!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

In Celebration of Yusaku Matsuda!

In between Miyoko Akaza (left) and Yukihiro Sawada. 

Tonight, I returned from another event. This one was a celebration of the late actor Yusaku Matsuda, who passed away 40 years ago after completing the Ridley Scott actioner Black Rain (1989). Two of Matsuda's collaborators were on hand for the event.

 Yukihiro Sawada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The first guest was director Yukihiro Sawada. Sawada-san has a prolific film and television career, but I know him best as the director of the first episode of Strada 5 (1974), Nikkatsu's task force-themed action series that predates Super Sentai by a year.

Earlier this year, I'd seen one of Sawada-san's feature films, Koko Dai Panic (a.k.a. Panic in High School, 1978). Despite its dark and controversial subject matter, it was a tight thriller that kept me invested in the film. As always, it was a joy to meet him again.

Miyoko Akaza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also in attedance was actress Miyoko Akaza. Akaza-san starred as Otsuyu in the Daiei horror classic The Haunted Lantern (a.k.a. The Bride from Hell, 1968) that she began to receive attention. In the West, her best-known credit would probably be Toho's Lady Snowblood (1973) as Sayo Kashima.

It's pretty safe to say that she's ageless. It was a lot of fun listening to her reminisce about some of her old co-stars and colleagues, especially Masaaki Daimon.

An Evening with Two Screenwriters!

 Shoichi Maruyama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, November 9, I immediately left work to attend another special event. This time, the guests on hand were a couple of screenwriters: Shoichi Maruyama and Hiroshi Kashiwabara.

Among Maruyama-san's scriptwriting credits are The Beast to Die (1980), The Last Hero (a.k.a. Dirty Hero, 1982), Kinji Fukasaku's The Triple Cross (1992), Rex: A Dinosaur's Story (1993), and Quill (2004). I was pleasantly surprised that Maruyama-san recognized me from our first meeting, which was about a year and a half ago.

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also in attendance was Godzilla series scribe Hiroshi Kashiwabara, whose screenwriting credits include Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). 

I spent the majority of the evening with Kashiwabara-san, and it was great talking American movies with him. And that's a wrap!

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Mechagodzilla Reunion Rocks Tokyo!

Tomoko Ai and Masaaki Daimon pose for the camera. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a wonderful Showa Hero event with two of the stars from the '70s Mechagodzilla movies: Masaaki Daimon and Tomoko Ai. While it happened the day after Godzilla's birthday, it was certainly close enough to satisfy me!

Masaaki Daimon. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I had just seen Daimon-san two months ago at Toho Studios for his NBC interview, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found out I'd get to see him again. This was the first time I got to hear a lot of details about his work on Mechagodzilla, such as the fact that he was cast without an audition, and that visiting Okinawa felt like going to another country.

As a longtime fan of the two '70s Godzilla movies, I was especially happy to add Daimon-san's signature to a few MG items I had. I'd been waiting quite a while for the opportunity!

Tomoko Ai. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other guest of the afternoon was Katsura Mafune herself, Tomoko Ai. I was already quite familiar with her stories, having interviewed her in the past, but it was certainly a lot of fun to see her interact with Masaaki Daimon.

I last saw Ai-san by chance at my train station about three years ago. She asked me if I still lived in the same place, to which I answered in the affirmative. It'd definitely been too long, so hopefully I won't have to wait three years for the next meeting!

The National Diet Building!

 The National Diet Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight, Jacob and I paid a visit to one of the most recognizable sites in the Godzilla series: the National Diet Building. Having been featured prominently in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), it's long been a destination in Tokyo for Godzilla fans to seek out. Here are some of the pictures I snapped tonight.

DAY OF RESURRECTION! An Evening with Cinematographer Daisaku Kimura!

Daisaku Kimura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, November 3, I took in a screening of the all-star, end-of-the-world epic Virus (a.k.a. Day of Resurrection, 1980) in glorious 35mm. Suffice it to say, I'd never seen it in 35mm before (and really, I don't know many others who have), and it was a joy to watch. I noticed a lot of small details, such as a hand-drawn picture of Ultraman hanging in a young boy's bedroom. I thoroughly enjoyed the picture, even if some of the situations (such as a massive earthquake hitting Washington, D.C.) seemed more than a bit contrived to move the plot along.

The guest of honor was a true legend of the Japanese film industry: cinematographer Daisaku Kimura. His credits include: Submersion of Japan (1973), Blue Christmas (1978), the aforementioned Virus, and Station (1981), among many others. In 1958, Kimura-san joined Toho Studios and worked as an assistant cameraman under Akira Kurosawa, during which time his most prominent credit was Yojimbo (1961). In 1973, he became a cinemtographer in his own right. He also once came pretty darn close to becoming the cinematographer on a Godzilla film, but that's a story for another day.

Overall, it was a great evening, and I was fascinated by all the stories from the set of Virus, particularly the ones about the Western cast. Needless to say, fun was had by all.

Godzilla Photo Exhibition 1954-2019 at Yurakucho Marui!

A rocket-gun used from Godzilla Raids Again (1955) through Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Friday evening, November 2, Jacob and I attended the Godzilla Photo Exhibition 1954-2019 on the 8th floor of Yurakucho Marui, which ran from October 21 through November 4. There were many enlarged photos on display (which I'd seen before in books over the years), but what really caught my attention were the props used in various films over the years. Let's take a look at what was on hand.

A patrol car used in such films as Mothra (1961) and King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).

The Tokaido Express train car from Godzilla (1954).

The high-powered laser-beam vehicle from Godzilla 1985 (1984), designed by Takashi Naganuma.

Naturally, I just had to pose with such cool props.

And that's a wrap!

A Return to Tokyo Tower!

A nighttime view of Tokyo Tower. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tokyo Tower is one of the most iconic locations in the genre of kaiju films, having been prominently featured in Mothra (1961) and King Kong Escapes (1967), among other films. On Friday evening, November 2, Jacob and I ascended the tower to take in the view, which was my first time in many years. Here's a sample of what we saw.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween in Roppongi!

"Muh fellow Americans..." sez President Ted Thomas during his triumphant return to Tokyo.

Last night was my first Halloween in Roppongi. The crowd was much smaller than Shibuya, but it was still a lot of fun. Here are just a couple of the sights I saw. Enjoy!