Thursday, October 28, 2021

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is right around the corner, and Tokyo has its own way of wishing its residents a happy one. Just thought I'd share it with all of you. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Another Evening with Takahashi-san!

Yoko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended another event with actress Yoko Takahashi. As I mentioned last week, Takahashi-san was a prolific actress in the 1970s, with her best-known work in the West being the Oscar-nominated Sandakan 8 (1974). She also can be seen in Kon Ichikawa's The Devil's Ballad (1977).

I enjoyed talking with Takahashi-san about Robert De Niro movies, of whom she is a big fan. We talked about movies like The Untouchables, The Deer Hunter, and Raging Bull. One of her fans mentioned The Peanuts, and Takahashi-san was surprised when I knew who they were. When I said that I knew them through Mothra, she suddenly broke out into the Mothra song!

Even though it had only been less than a week since we last met, it was a lot of fun seeing her again. I hope we get a chance to do it again soon!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Ultra-Series Writer-Director Toshihiro Iijima Passes Away at 89

Toshihiro Iijima in November 2018. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It was announced today that writer-director Toshihiro Iijima died of aspiration pneumonia in a hospital in Yokohama at 8:59 p.m. on October 17. He was 89.

Shozo Uehara, Toshihiro Iijima, and Eizo Yamagiwa share a laugh in March 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Born on September 3, 1932, in Tokyo, Mr. Iijima was a director and screenwriter, mostly for television. In 1957, he joined what would eventually become TBS and worked his way up to becoming a director and scriptwriter.

Toshihiro Iijima in May 2017. Photo by Brett Homenick.

He occasionally wrote scripts under the pen name Kitao Senzoku. Mr. Iijima wrote and directed many episodes of Ultra Q (1966) and Ultraman (1966-67), as well as directing Ultra Seven (1967-68) and Operation: Mystery! (1968-69). In addition, he wrote and directed the feature film Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972).

Mr. Iijima stands between Susumu Kurobe (left) and Bin Furuya in October 2017. Photo by Brett Homenick.

His most notable contribution was directing episode 2 of the original Ultraman, which introduced Baltan Seijin to the series.

Kyoko Yashiro in November 2018. Photo by Brett Homenick.

He was married to actress Kyoko Yashiro. Ms. Yashiro worked with acclaimed horror director Nobuo Nakagawa the film The Lady Vampire (1959), as well as appearing in Vampire Bride (1960) and The Ghost of the Girl Diver (1960) at Shintoho.

Toshihiro Iijima in July 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I had the privilege of meeting both Mr. Iijima and Ms. Yashiro at several events over the years. They were never anything less than friendly. I was surprised once when Mr. Iijima-san thanked me for always coming out to his events. I should have been thanking him!

With Mr. Iijima in May 2017.

Rest in peace, Mr. Iijima. Thank you for helping to make television history.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Spending a Fun Evening with a Wonderful Actress!

With Yoko Takahashi.

Tonight, I attended a special event with actress Yoko Takahashi. Takahashi-san was a prolific actress in the 1970s, with her best-known work in the West being the Oscar-nominated Sandakan 8 (1974). She also can be seen in Kon Ichikawa's The Devil's Ballad (1977).

Yoko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

My favorite part of the evening was talking American movies with Takahashi-san. She talked about a number of Jack Nicholson films from the '70s and '80s (including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Five Easy Pieces, and The Postman Always Rings Twice), to which a friend of mine at the event mentioned Nicholson's small role in Little Shop of Horrors. This prompted me to mention another Nicholson/Roger Corman collaboration, The Terror, which naturally Takahashi-san had never heard of. (She didn't recognize the name Boris Karloff, so I pointed out that he was the actor who played Frankenstein.)

We also talked about my favorite movie from the last few years, Joker, which Takahashi-san had seen but did not really enjoy. She didn't find Joaquin Phoenix particularly believable as a clown, but she talked about how surprised she was when he shot Robert De Niro's character toward the end. She seemed to enjoy Parasite more, but that was a movie I didn't enjoy at all.

Overall, it was a very fun evening, and I'm glad I had a chance to visit with Takahashi-san again. It's always a lot of fun to hang out with her.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Hideaki Anno Exhibition in Roppongi!

Today, I ventured out to Roppongi's National Art Center to take in its Hideaki Anno Exhibition, which runs until December 19. When I first heard about the gallery, I have to admit that I had no interest in it, as I'm not particularly fond of Anno's work. That all changed when I saw that a good portion of the exhibit focused on Showa-era tokusatsu. In fact, it's almost like a small version of the Tokusatsu DNA exhibitions. That settled everything -- I was going.

I'll admit that my interest waned when the exhibition began focusing on Anno's career instead of the tokusatsu that inspired him. That said, the exhibition covers just about everything you'd ever want to know about him. If you were planning to write his biography, I'd even go so far as to say that this exhibition would be a requirement. It's extremely detailed! Anyway, let's get to the highlights.

The Mechagodzilla 2 suit from Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975).

The Moonlight SY-3 from Destroy All Monsters (1968). 

Capsule-1 from Gorath (1962).

The JX-1 Hayabusa from Gorath.

The Gohten from The War in Space (1977).

Another view of the Gohten.

Suits from Return of Ultraman (1971-72).

Flying props from Ultraman (1966-67), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Ultraseven (1967-68).

The rocket from The Space Giants (1966-67). 

Another view of the Jet Jaguar flying prop.

Spectreman, Mirrorman, Ultraseven, Jumborg Ace, and Jumborg 9 masks.

Shin Ultraman, Shin Godzilla, and Shin Kamen Rider.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

DEEP DIVE: Did Tomoyuki Tanaka Tell Yoshimitsu Banno He 'Ruined' Godzilla?

Yoshimitsu Banno in July 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's a story that just won't go away. For decades, it's been repeated countless times that, during the production of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971), producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, furious at Godzilla's flying scene, told writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno that he "ruined" Godzilla. 

But is that how it really happened? The yarn still gets spun to this day, but sources are rarely cited. In order to shed some much-needed light on this situation, let's take a look at what Yoshimitsu Banno and special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano have actually said about it. 

In an unpublished manuscript about his film career that Banno sent to me in November 2012, he described Tanaka's reaction after seeing Smog Monster in Japanese:
In the English-language version of the manuscript Banno sent me to proofread, Banno described Tanaka's reaction this way (which is presented exactly as Banno sent it to me in November 2012):
Tanaka producer who came out the hospital after the completion film preview of “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster” told me with an ill-humored face, "It is no good to change the character."
Banno has consistently told the story this way since I first met and interviewed him in July 2005. I've never heard or read Banno tell the story any other way, except when other Americans have purportedly quoted him on the matter. 

In my July 2005 interview with him, Banno states that he was unaware Tanaka was supposedly angry over the situation until he read about it in a book sometime after Tanaka's passing in 1997. 

According to another account recently told online, Tanaka was more upset at Banno for going around him to get approval for Godzilla's flying scene than he was over the flying scene itself, but, as demonstrated by the quotes above, this version is also false.

In 1978, Banno became director of Toho Eizo's planning section. In 1989, he became managing director of Toho Eizo Bijutsu, retiring from that position in 1994. Suffice it to say, this seems like an unusual career trajectory for someone who "ruined" one of Toho's most profitable franchises and was on the outs with a powerful producer like Tomoyuki Tanaka. 

Teruyoshi Nakano in June 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick.

We can safely rule out Banno as the source of the oft-repeated anecdote that he was told he "ruined" Godzilla. But I have also read that, while Banno himself may not have said it, SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano has been quoted as saying that Tanaka was angry and told Banno that Banno did indeed ruin Godzilla. 

On the evening of October 9, I was privileged to spend an evening with Mr. Nakano on his birthday. During the evening, I had an opportunity to ask him about the Smog Monster controversy. I made sure to specify the two different accounts that have been told and asked him which one was correct. Mr. Nakano recounted his memory of the events, which matched Banno's version completely. Mr. Nakano went even further to suggest that newspapers may have exaggerated the story.

Given all the above, it is more than a little difficult to believe that Tanaka furiously told Banno he ruined Godzilla. We may never know exactly what happened after Tomoyuki Tanaka saw Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. But, when two of the principals directly involved corroborate each other, you have to lend that version some credence. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Halloween Comes to Mizonokuchi!

Just some of the sights around Mizonokuchi Station. It seems Tokyo and its neighboring areas are more than ready for Halloween!


Saturday, October 9, marked former Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano's birthday, and on the day of his birthday a special party was held for the director, which included two of his former Toho colleagues. In the above picture, Nakano-san uses a fan to "blow out" the candles on his birthday cake.

One of the birthday cakes made for Nakano-san on his special day.

Another birthday cake made for the legendary SFX director.

Teruyoshi Nakano on his 86th birthday.

Posing with Nakano-san on his special day.

Former Toho SFX crew member Takashi Naganuma.

Yours truly with Naganuma-san.

Former Toho SFX director Eiichi Asada.

Yours truly with Asada-san.

Asada-san watches as Nakano-san open his birthday present.

It was truly a special night with many special people. I've attended several birthday parties for Nakano-san (dating back to 2012), but this was made extra special due to the fact that it took place on his actual birthday. What an evening it was.

Happy birthday, Nakano-san!