Monday, August 24, 2020

Actress Lori Nelson Passes Away at Age 87

With Lori Nelson in April 2010.

Actress Lori Nelson, best known for starring in Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Day the World Ended (1955), has passed away at age 87. I met Ms. Nelson at an L.A.-area convention in April 2010. Our encounter was brief, but it was truly memorable to meet the star of two iconic ‘50s sci-fi flicks.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Roger Holden Details Unmade Godzilla Projects at Vantage Point Interviews!

Toho SFX director Koichi Kawakita's office in July 1992. Photo © Roger Holden.

My interview with Roger Holden is now up at Vantage Point Interviews. In the interview, Mr. Holden discusses his lengthy association with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) director Yoshimitsu Banno as they worked together for 15 years, trying to get various Godzilla projects off the ground, both in Japan and the U.S. His interview also comes with never-before-seen photos from the set of Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), which both he and Mr. Banno visited. 

The interview goes into granular detail about these proposed projects. As always, Vantage Point Interviews has the scoop!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Shochiku at 100!

The National Film Archive of Japan. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Thursday, August 13, I went to the National Film Archive of Japan to check out its Shochiku at 100 exhibit.  It was interesting, but a bit of a disappointment. It mostly consisted of various posters, and while there were a few other items (such as storyboards and scripts), it was largely for films I'm not familiar with.

The X from Outer Space (1967) was represented with an international poster, as well as the trailer playing on a constant loop (along with trailers for several other notable Shochiku titles). Other than that, there just isn't a whole lot to talk about. It was a nice exhibit; I just wish I had more to share about it!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

New Alex Cox Interview Now at Vantage Point Interviews!

Photo © Alex Cox.

My new interview with director Alex Cox about his film Tombstone Rashomon (2017) as well as his documentary Kurosawa: The Last Emperor (1999) is now up at Vantage Point Interviews. If you enjoy Kurosawa movies, as well as old Westerns, this one interview you'll want to check out!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A Review of Alex Cox's Latest Film: Tombstone Rashomon

Poster © TriCoast Entertainment.

Alex Cox, the iconoclastic director of the cult classic Repo Man (1984) and the critically acclaimed biopic Sid and Nancy (1986) is back with a new film, Tombstone Rashomon. As the title suggests, it retells the events that took place during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in a similar vein to Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece.

But here’s where things get strange. The various testimonies by the principal witnesses to the legendary shootout are given to an unseen, time-traveling camera crew from the future. While that might make the film sound like “Doctor Who meets John Wayne,” the backstory of the reporters from the future is handled in expository text at the beginning of the movie. Other than that, the film has no sci-fi elements.

As the movie plays out, we hear a variety of perspectives from the participants of witnesses who were there on October 26, 1881, when all hell broke loose. Among those interviewed are: Doc Holliday, Sheriff Behan, Ike Clanton, and even Wyatt Earp himself (who declines to be interviewed but instead reads a prepared statement).

Photo © TriCoast Entertainment. 

While not a comedy, the movie has brilliant moments of absurdist humor. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment in Doc Holliday’s version of events that made me laugh out loud. There’s also an amusing scene in which the off-camera interviewer gives an emotional Wyatt Earp stage direction to increase the dramatic effect for the documentary. It’s here where the movie really shines, and I wish the satirical tone of the movie would have been enhanced. (You’d think there’d be more comedy in a film whose premise is that documentarians travel in time to record the historic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral only to miss it by a day.)

That said, not all the film's humor quite worked for me. When the documentary crew interview Doc Holliday’s love interest Kate, she repeatedly uses female pronouns to describe male characters. Of course, in this day and age of political correctness, a situation like that could become a potential minefield, but I just didn’t find it funny. 

While I enjoyed the movie overall, it did begin to lose me a bit when the comedic elements were played down, and some of the events leading up to the infamous gunfight were repeated (even with certain changes due to the varying perspectives of the particular storyteller). That, of course, is where the “Rashomon” part of Tombstone Rashomon comes into play, but I think it would have helped the film’s cause immensely to make the differences even broader and much more theatrical.

Photo © TriCoast Entertainment.

The performances are solid, but the standout of the cast is Jesse Lee Pacheco as the oily Sheriff Behan. Pacheco’s portrayal is entertainingly slimy, and his embodiment of the ambitious sheriff gives the audience the film’s most memorable character. It’s an even more incredible accomplishment when you consider that Doc Holliday is usually the character that gives actors the most material to work with. (Think Val Kilmer in 1993’s Tombstone.) Sheriff Behan is usually not the first character that comes to mind with regard to cinematic retellings of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but I think he’s finally earned his place in the spotlight.

The shootout itself has a realistic touch, and I’d wager looks a lot closer to the way things really happened than the carefully crafted choreography of the Hollywood classics of yesteryear. What it lacks in glamour, it makes up for in realism. The only drawback is the obvious CG muzzle flash that takes away from the scene’s authenticity.

Mostly filmed at Old Tucson Studios, gives it a feel of a modern-day Republic Western. Like those legendary motion pictures of yore, this one is a low-budget affair but with accurate settings and costumes. They say that Westerns are cyclical and tend to come and go as popular forms of entertainment, but I have a hard time seeing them make a comeback. Every once in a while, a good one comes along (2018’s The Sisters Brothers is a last one from Hollywood that I can recall), but it seems that the genre doesn’t speak to modern society the way it did during Hollywood’s golden age. I think any filmmaker who makes a Western these days ought to be commended. It’s certainly hard to argue that he or she is in it for the money.

Tombstone Rashomon is a breezy 80 minutes and is well worth a look. The film is now playing on Amazon Prime and can be purchased on DVD online or in your favorite brick-and-mortar establishment. With Tombstone Rashomon, TriCoast Entertainment has combined an American legend with a Japanese cinematic classic. Does it do for Rashomon what The Magnificent Seven (1960) did for Seven Samurai (1954)? Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Gammera! Gammera!

Photo © Artie Butler.

I recently looked at my email archives and found my correspondences with music arranger and songwriter Artie Butler. Mr. Butler has an extensive resume, but in particular he is credited as music arranger and conductor of the Gammera theme for Gammera the Invincible (1966), which is where I come in. I was first in communication with Mr. Butler in October 2007 about an interview, and after a long break, discussions resumed in October 2009. Eventually, after he watched a DVD of Gammera to refresh his memories, Mr. Butler wrote me the following on January 1, 2010:
I finally looked at the film. I have to be honest. All I remember about working on this music, is doing a few recording sessions with Wes Farrell in New York. I really don't remember much about the sessions at all. It was so many years ago. It's amazing though after all these years how the film holds up as a classic for that type movie in it's day. What fun. Sorry I could not be more help to you. 
Warmest regards, 
Artie Butler
Given that a proper interview is not likely to happen, I felt it was important to document Mr. Butler's memories of working on Gammera.