Monday, September 27, 2021

'Abunai Deka' Makes Another Triumphant Return!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, SEptember 26, I attended yet another special event featuring a reunion of luminaries from the hit crime drama Abumai Deka (1986-87). This reunion featured scriptwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara, director Toru Murakawa, and actress Kanae Hasebe.

Kashiwabara-san, as most readers of this blog will no doubt remember, wrote the screenplays for Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). Of course, the recent passing of Wataru Mimura was a topic of conversation.

Toru Murakawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Director Toru Murakawa is a director best known for his many collaborations with actor Yusaku Matsuda. Murakawa-san directed the films The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (1979) and The Beast to Die (1980), both of which star Matsuda. On the small screen, he directed episodes of Daitsuiseki (1978) and Tantei Monogatari (1979-80). However, I know Murakawa-san best as the chief assistant director of the Japanese scenes of Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).

Murakawa-san is a true living legend of Japanese cinema, who came a long way to attend this event. It's also wonderful to spend time in his company.

Kanae Hasebe. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was actress Kanae Hasebe, the daughter of film and television director Yasuharu Hasebe (Horror Theater Unbalance, Spectreman, Assault! Jack the Ripper). She played Hitomi Yamaji on Abunai Deka, as well as on its follow-up series Motto Abunai Deka (1988-89). In terms of tokusatsu, she appears in episodes 18 and 19 of Kamen Rider 555 (2003-04) as Sachiko Kurata, as well as episode 5 of Kamen Rider Kiva (2008-09) as a housewife.

It's not very common that a guest at one of these events asks to take a picture with you, but that's exactly what Hasebe-san did after we took the above photo. Suffice it to say, I was quite flattered when she asked another attendee to take our picture on her phone. Afterward, we spoke about the directing work of her father.

I know nothing about Abunai Deka, but these events sure are a lot of fun! Maybe I should start watching the show.

Visiting the King of the Kaiju Designers!

Akihiko Iguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Thursday, September 23, I went to a special event in Shibuya where kaiju and mecha designer Akihiko Iguchi was selling his wares. I stopped by to say hello and pick up a few items (one of which was for a rather lucky friend).

It feels like things are slowly getting back to normal with more events like this, so all I can do is hope the trend continues. As always, Iit was a lot of fun seeing Iguchi-san again, and I hope to have another chance to see him again soon in the future.

In the Company of a Toho Legend!

With Nobuyuki Yasumaru.

On Sunday, September 26, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Toho suitmaker Nobuyuki Yasumaru. We spent the first few hours hanging out at a cafe before switching locations for an early pasta dinner. 

It was my first time seeing Yasumaru-san in three years. When we met at the train station, he gave me a fist bump, which we recreated for the photo above. 

This photo was taken after dinner. It was great to see Yasumaru-san again after such a long time. He truly is a Toho legend.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Remembering the Southern California Event Promoter Known as Raven White

With Raven White at an L.A. sci-fi convention in November 2009.

It's being reported on social media today that the fixture of the Southern California convention circuit known as Raven White, Rajar Shy, R. E. Shy, and more recently as Valentino Frankenstein, has passed away. According to his friends, he was fully vaccinated against COVID but, after helping a friend of his who was infected with the virus, he came down with a breakthrough infection and was later admitted to the ICU. The news of his passing started to circulate within the last few hours. 

I first met Raven White (which is the name he went by when I knew him) in February 1996 when he was promoting a film festival he was staging in the San Diego area the following month. That film festival was the first time I'd ever gotten to see classic Japanese monster movies projected onto the big screen in 16mm. I'd attend more of his film festivals throughout the years, but we'd eventually have a falling-out in early 2001 that kept me away from any of his future screenings.

The last time I would ever see him in person was by coincidence in November 2009. We happened to be at the same convention together where he had set up a table selling some of his videos. I was happy to see him again, despite our differences, and did my best to bury the hatchet. I thought everything had been smoothed over, so you could imagine my disappointment that he never responded to my social media requests after that. 

We did have one more correspondence in mid-2011, but, given that he was upset about something that was a complete misunderstanding on his part, it was clear to me that we were just never going to get along, so I ended our communication after that. Little did I know, I'd never see see or communicate with him ever again, and I regret that. 

Rest in peace, Raven White. Those film festivals in the 1990s are still some of my fondest memories.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Secrets of Americanizations Revealed on Vantage Point Interviews!

A recent photo of Richard Krown. Photo © Richard Krown.

First up is a brand-new interview with Richard Krown, UPA's post-production supervisor on the company's various Japanese releases, including Monster Zero (1965), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), Godzilla's Revenge (1969), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). He was also heavily involved in the American releases of Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) and the Toho war epic Retreat from Kiska (1965), about whose Americanization he goes into great detail.

Also on deck is a brand-new interview with director R. J. Kizer, who Americanized Godzilla 1985 (1984) for American release. This is the most in-depth director Kizer has ever gotten about the making of the film, and he reveals many new details for the first time. Who was the Roger Corman regular up for the role of General Goodhue? Read the interview to find out!

If you didn't already know that content is king on Vantage Point Interviews, you do now!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Robert Horton Biography Now Available!

Robert Horton poses with The Green Slime costar Luciana Paluzzi in Los Angeles in 2009. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Author Aileen Elliott's biography of actor Robert Horton entitled In Search of Flint McCullough and Robert Horton: The Man Behind the Myth has just been published by BearManor Media. This 356-page tome promises to be the most in-depth examination of the actor's life and career ever published.

Robert Horton, with his wife Marilynn Bradley Horton, prepares to sign autographs. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Sometime after his passing in 2016, I was contacted by the author and conducted an interview by email about my memories of Mr. Horton. I was happy to have the opportunity to contribute to the book and look forward to seeing how everything turned out.

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Horton in 2008 and stayed in touch with him until his passing. I always enjoyed our telephone conversations and wish we still could have more. I met him for the first time at a screening of the The Green Slime (1968) in Los Angeles in 2009. In the summer of 2012, Mr. Horton invited me to visit him at his home when I visited L.A. from Japan. 

Fans of The Green Slime ought to give In Search of Flint McCullough and Robert Horton: The Man Behind the Myth a read. When I get the chance, I know I will!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Attending a Screening of 'Princess Kaguya' (1935)!

Today, I visited a great exhibit called Eiji Tsuburaya: On the 120th Anniversary of His Birth, which runs until November 23 at the National Film Archive of Japan. The exhibit boasts a number of fascinating items, including Tsuburaya's shooting script for Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964), Takashi Shimura's photo album from Godzilla (1954), the machine used to create the Toho logo in the 1980s, as well as an assortment of posters and miscellaneous items owned by Tsuburaya.

After viewing the exhibit, I was able to catch an afternoon screening of Princess Kaguya (1935), a 33-minute digest version of the J. O. Studios film once thought to be lost, which contains English-language opening credits, as well as a crawl explaining the story. (The print was found in the UK a few years ago.) Despite that, there are no English subtitles.

Why was this movie being shown? Eiji Tsuburaya served as cinematographer of the movie. According to the materials provided by the National Film Archive of Japan, the original title was "The Marriage of Princess Kaguya," and it was promoted as a "cine operetta with Japanese music." That makes sense, as the movie essentially plays like a musical.

This version of the story is also less of a fantasy than other tellings (especially the 1987 Toho film Princess from the Moon) and is more comedic. The ending of the film in which the main characters get away from the bad guys right under their noses got a big laugh from the audience. Aside from the opening scenes in which the titular princess is found inside a shining bamboo, there is not much tokusatsu.

The materials also highlighted Tsuburaya's revolutionary use of a crane in his cinematography, and that was quite evident in the film. I'd say the movie's cinematography is quite innovative for 1935, though it wouldn't likely turn many heads today. 

All in all, the film was quite enjoyable, and it certainly seemed more ambitious than a lot of other films made at the time (and even years later) with static camera work. That being said, I'm not sure that folks should feel the need to book a plane ticket to fly halfway across the world to see it. For those primarily interested in tokusatsu, the highlights are easily available on the Internet.

They say that Eiji Tsuburaya is the Master of Tokusatsu, and this exhibit certainly highlights that fact. What an incredible way to celebrate his 120th anniversary!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Godzilla Series Screenwriter Wataru Mimura Passes Away at Age 67

Wataru Mimura poses with a poster for Sampo Shojo in May 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Screenwriter Wataru Mimura, who contributed several scripts to the Heisei and Millennium Godzilla series, passed away on August 26, according to a friend and colleague of his. He was 67. 

Born in Mie Prefecture in May 1954, Mimura-san graduated from Nihon University College of Art's Department of Cinema. In 1982, he won the Sanrio Screenplay Award and made his screenwriting debut with Freeter (1987).

Aside from his screenwriting duties, he was the chairman of Plan-net Labo (a.k.a. P-Labo), a network of professional and amateur screenwriters. In this capacity, Mimura-san would host an annual film festival of independent short films called the P-Labo Film Festival. 

Mimura-san poses with his Godzilla series co-screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara in July 2013. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Mimura-san wrote or co-wrote the screenplays or Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (1994), Godzilla 2000 (1999), Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Suffice it to say, the Millennium series relied heavily on Mimura-san's input. My 2008 interview with Mimura-san can be read here

Mimura-san with director Yoshimitsu Banno in February 2013. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I first met Mimura-san in the summer of 2011, just a few months after I first moved to Japan. We'd been corresponding for a few years up to that point, and he turned out to be one of the nicest people I've ever met. We would hang out every so often, which was great in and of itself, but he also introduced to quite a few luminaries, most notably Shigeo Kato. 

With Mimura-san on Halloween 2014.

A few years ago, Mimura-san's health took a turn for the worse, and he stopped becoming so active. Shortly thereafter, he moved backto Mie Prefecture. In 2019, as I was preparing to visit Mie Prefecture to visit Godzilla (1954) filming locations, I messaged Mimura-san and asked if he would be able to meet up. He replied that it would not be possible. 

Sadly, despite my other attempts to reach out, I would never hear from Mimura-san again. The news of his passing is devastating, but not totally unexpected. He was one of my favorite people to visit in Japan, and I'll always be grateful for his kindness. Wataru Mimura was a major talent and an incredible individual.

Rest in peace, Mimura-san.

UPDATE (9/4): Mimura-san suffered from multiple system atrophy.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

'Warning from Space' at Kadokawa Cinema Yurakucho!

Well, that's a wrap! The yokai/tokusatsu film festival at Kadokawa Cinema Yurakucho ended today, and I was quite pleased that I had a chance to see Warning from Space (1956) before the festival closed for good. Interestingly, I caught Warning from Space at this very same theater back in 2012. Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

It's truly a great-looking film with some intriguing concepts and visuals. A bit slow at times, but always worth checking out. This is one of the movies I went out of my way to see during the festival, and I'm very glad I did. I watched the English dub during the New Year holidays, but this was truly the best way to see it.