Monday, December 27, 2021

Wishing a Toho SFX Legend a Happy Birthday!

Sadao Iizuka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

December 26 marked Sadao Iizuka's 87th birthday, so I was quite privileged to be invited to attend a small gathering of Iizuka-san's friends and fans on the day. 

Iizuka-san is an SFX animator who created the beams for Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and Ultraman in the 1960s. Follow the link to read the first of two lengthy interviews I conducted with him about his life and career. It will tell you a lot more about him than I could in this space!

Shigemitsu Taguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was Shigemitsu Taguchi. Taguchi-san is a television writer whose credits cover most of what made '70s TV as cool as it was. He wrote episodes of Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Mirrorman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Jumborg Ace (1973), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), Ultraman Leo (1974-75), and many others. He attended because he wanted to meet Iizuka-san!

It was a great evening with two legends. It's just a shame that the temperature suddenly dropped that day! It sure made it hard on Iizuka-san, who took a couple of smoke breaks outside during the event.

Suffice it to say, Iizuka-san's 87th birthday party was a smashing success!

Christmas Day in Tokyo!

Yoko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This was an unusual Christmas for me, to say the least. I had to work that day (nothing unusual about that for me), but what was unusual was that I got to attend another special event with Yoko Takahashi and Rie Yokoyama.

I've met Takahashi-san several times (this year alone!). She 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).

Rie Yokoyama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yokoyama-san appears in Nagisa Oshima's Diary of a Shinjuku Burglar (1969), Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972), episode 10 of Horror Theater Unbalance (1973), Zatoichi's Conspiracy (1973), and Kinji Fukasaku's New Battles without Honor and Humanity: Last Days of the Boss (1976).

I especially enjoyed hanging out with Takahashi-san, who is always a blast. She told me about visiting New York several years ago and her interest in music. Even though she must have been exhausted by the end (I know I was!), she never let it show.

It was a fun way to spend Christmas!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

John Carpenter Retrospective 2022 in Tokyo!

Escape from New York comes to Tokyo in January. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The year 2022 will kick off with a fun start, as the John Carpenter Retrospective 2022 comes to several Tokyo theaters in January. Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho is among the lucky theaters that will bring these 4K restorations to Japan.

Escape from New York (1981) plays from January 7 through 13, They Live (1988) plays from January 14 through 20, and The Fog (1980) will screen from January 21 through 27. Of these three titles, I'm most familiar with The Fog, which I've seen a few times (but not for many years). I saw Escape once about 20 years ago, and I've never actually seen They Live. I hope to catch all three films while they are playing here. 

Here are some photos of I took at Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho promoting the retrospective. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2021

Bin Furuya's 2021 Christmas Show!

Bin Furuya addresses the audience. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, December 11, I attended a Christmas show hosted by Bin Furuya, the original Ultraman suit actor. It was essentially a variety show, which featured an onstage Q&A session with the guests, singing from various performers, and even the reading of a Christmas story.

The show was organized and arranged by Furuya-san's company, so you could imagine that numerous Tsuburaya Productions alumni would be in attendance -- and you'd be right! The two official guests were Hiroko Sakurai and Sandayu Dokumamushi, veterans of the original Ultraman (1966-67), but even more luminaries attended the show in audience.

Bin Furuya, Sandayu Dokumamushi, and Hiroko Sakurai reminisce about their Ultraman days. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In the audience, I spied former Ultraman script supervisor Atsuko Tanaka, former Shintoho actress Kyoko Yashiro (the widow of Ultra-series director Toshihiro Iijima), Tsuburaya Productions cameraman Masao Nakabori, as well as director Minoru Kawasaki.

Sandayu Dokumamushi reads a Christmas story. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The venue itself was a basement nightclub, so it was quite cramped. This made things a bit difficult to maneuver around. The guests were also much less accessible than at other events, but you could still approach the cool ones who didn't mind mixing with attendees.

With Minoru Kawasaki.

I had a nice chat with director Minoru Kawasaki, who was holding court with his entourage. He gave me a flyer for his recent Prince of Space remake (Planet Prince 2021) and briefly talked about it with me.

Masao Nakabori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Cinematographer Masao Nakabori was another luminary I was able to spend some time with. I interviewed him a couple of years ago, and his career is impressive. Be sure to read all about it here.

We stepped outside for the chat, as the scene indoors was too crowded to talk comfortably. A little fresh air can do a lot of good!

Furuya-san clearly enjoyed himself, as he wore many hats throughout the show. Not only did he host the festivities, and discuss his history as Ultraman, but he performed as a singer and dancer, too! It was all a lot of fun to see. And that's a wrap! 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

New Content on Vantage Point Interviews!

With Sadao Iizuka in December 2020.

The first of two interviews with legendary Toho optical effects wizard Sadao Iizuka has just been published on Vantage Point Interviews. Mr. Iizuka animated Godzilla's atomic ray and King Ghidorah's gravity beams in the 1960s, but he got his start in the tokusatsu art department with Godzilla (1954), which is where he would work through the production of Rodan (1956). This interview covers his early life and early years at Toho, prior to his career in optical effects. 

Check out the interview now on Vantage Point Interviews -- where content is king!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

DEEP DIVE: Why Did Gorosaurus Replace Baragon in 'Destroy All Monsters'?

Nobuyuki Yasumaru in December 2018. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The topic of Gorosaurus' unexplained substitution for Baragon when the Arc of Triumph collapses in Destroy All Monsters (1968) has been the subject of speculation for decades. In the West, the most common explanation is that the Baragon suit, having been reused and recycled so many times since its debut in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), just wasn't ready in time for the shoot, so the filmmakers decided to use Gorosaurus instead.

This, however, is not what happened, according to Gorosaurus suitmaker Nobuyuki Yasumaru. In December 2018, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Yasumaru, who recounted the situation.

In the interview, Mr. Yasumaru states:

[T]he monster Baragon was supposed to destroy the Arc of Triumph in Destroy All Monsters (1968). However, he had big ears like an elephant that would get stuck inside the Arc of Triumph. So they decided to use Gorosaurus instead of Baragon.
This seems rather definitive to me, especially coming from the man who created the Gorosaurus suit. Of course, I would welcome any additional citations, as opposed to idle speculation and connecting-the-dots guesswork, to paint a fuller picture. It's always difficult to say with complete certainty what happened on movie sets 50 or 60 years ago, as participants pass away, and memories fade. But Mr. Yasumaru's recollections are probably about as close as we will come to knowing for sure.

New Content on Vantage Point Interviews!

Did you know that the artist who painted the iconic 1989 re-release poster for Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) is the same one who painted the American release poster for Godzilla 2000 (1999)? If you didn't, then you need to read this interview with movie poster artist extraordinaire Ezra Tucker

Vantage Point Interviews has the scoop! Check it out on the only website where content is king!

Gamera Alums Gather!

Akira Ohashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On December 5, I attended another fun event with a couple of Gamera series veterans. The first was Akira Ohashi, the suit actor who played Gamera in Gamera 2 (1996) and Irys in Gamera 3 (1999). 

I first met Ohashi-san just a month ago, so I was surprised that he was returning to another event so quickly. But it was too great an opportunity to pass up!

Himawari Ono. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other guest on hand was Himawari Ono, a former child actress who appeared in Gamera the Brave (2006). Ono-san is quite fluent in English, so it was a joy to speak with her and to know more about her previous acting career and future ambitions.

 And that's a wrap! It was a wonderful evening with more wonderful people. 

Merry Christmas from the Godzilla Store!

A Christmastime display at the Godzilla Store Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Japan is known for getting into the Christmas spirit, and the Godzilla Store Tokyo has proven that in a big way. Here are some of the Christmas displays that can currently be seen at the store.

Sights in Shinjuku!

The Shinjuku Sumitomo Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, December 4, I took a late autumn stroll through Shinjuku and wanted to share a couple of photos that I took. Enjoy!

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've been a bit of time in Shinjuku recently, and some of the buildings are just too cool not to photograph. So please enjoy!

An Evening with a Gamera Series Legend!

Mach Fumiake. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday evening, December 4, I had the privilege of meeting the star of the first Gamera movie I ever saw: Gamera Super Monster (1980). The actress in question is Mach Fumiake, who helped make Gamera Super Monster a childhood favorite of mine.

Fumiake-san is extremely outgoing and friendly, so it was easy to chat with her. I told her about how much I enjoyed Super Monster as a youngster and how excited I was to meet her.

Of course, it wasn't just Fumiake-san on hand. Another featured guest was none other than Toho SFX legend Eiichi Asada!

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Of course, I've gotten to know Asada-san quite well over the years, and hanging out with him is always a lot of fun. He's certainly one of the friendliest people I've met in Japan.

What a fun evening! It far exceeded my expectations and was probably the most fun I'd had at event in a long time. I just hope to have the chance to do it again!

Friday, December 3, 2021

An Evening with an Acclaimed Director!

Toru Murakawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, November 27, I was fortunate to interview director Toru Murakawa about his early work as an assistant director. I learned quite a few interesting things, and, when it's finally published, so will you.

It was a fun but unusual evening, given the late start of the proceedings. But Murakawa-san remain energetic throughout the evening, showing us all that he hasn't slowed down with age.

I was surprised to see the lovely Kanae Hasebe, the daughter of film and television director Yasuharu Hasebe (Horror Theater Unbalance, Spectreman, Assault! Jack the Ripper), there, as well. 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.

She looked as lovely as ever, and we took this quick snapshot in front of the Christmas decorations. A fun time was had by all, and it was a nice way to close out the month of November.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Closing Out November with a Godzilla Screenwriter!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday evening, November 28, I got to spend another evening with Godzilla series scribe Hiroshi Kashiwabara. It was a bit shorter than some of our other get-togethers, but it was still quite enjoyable.

 And that's all for November. See you in December!