Monday, June 27, 2022

Legendary Tokusatsu Composer Chumei Watanabe Passes Away at Age 96

Chumei Watanabe at his home in July 2018. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Maestro Chumei Watanabe, a tokusatsu composer whose work runs the gamut from Shintoho's Starman (a.k.a. Super Giant) series to the ground-breaking Super Sentai series Himitsu Sentai Gorenger (1975-77),  passed away at 4:00 a.m. on June 23 of heart failure at a hospital in Tokyo. He was 96. A private funeral has already been held, organized by his son, Toshiyuki, the composer of the Heisei Mothra trilogy.

Born Michiaki Watanabe in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, on August 19, 1925, Mr. Watanabe would get his start in the film industry in the mid-1950s, working for Shintoho Studios. At Shintoho, Mr. Watanabe would compose the scores for the first four Starman films: Super Giant (1957), Super Giant Continues (1957), Super Giant: The Mysterious Spacemen's Demonic Castle (1957), and Super Giant: Earth on the Verge of Destruction (1957). The first two films would be edited together in the U.S. as Atomic Rulers of the World, and the third and fourth films would become Invaders from Space

Mr. Watanabe would also collaborate with celebrated horror director Nobuo Nakagawa on such films as The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) and Hell (1960). In the late 1960s, he composed the scores to two of the three classic yokai films from Daiei, 100 Monsters (1968) and Along with Ghosts (1969). That said, he is much better known around the world for his various TV tokusatsu and anime scores, which began in the 1970s.

I was fortunate to meet Mr. Watanabe several times between 2017 and 2019. I was privileged to interview him in July 2018, which you can read here. Mr. Watanabe was eager to speak in depth about his early life in the interview, which you can read for yourself. My translator and I spent hours at Mr. Watanabe's home in Shibuya for the interview.

Afterward, he ordered dinner for us, which was delivered to his home. As my translator and I were leaving his home after the delicious eel dinner, my translator expressed concern about the cost of such a meal. Mr. Watanabe replied, "Don't worry, I'm rich!" 

Rest in peace, Watanabe-san.

A Dramatic Reading Has a Distinctly Tokusatsu Finish!

Masanori Machida with an Ultraman Tiga script. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday evening, June 26, I attended another dramatic reading performed by former child actor Masanori Machida. As always, it was a fun performance, with Machida-san giving it his all, even though he was reading from a script.

Masanori Machida with a Gappa card set. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the performance, another tokusatsu fan approached Machida-san with some items to get signed, including a Gappa card set whose case was designed to look like the cover of the movie's fictional Playmate magazine. (Nice touch!) He also brought an Ultraman Tiga script to get signed.

The three of us had a nice tokusatsu-related chat together. I hadn't seen Machida-san in several months, so I was pleased to find out about this performance, despite the sweltering heat of Tokyo. (Yes, it's that bad already, unfortunately.)

Here's to next time!

Monday, June 20, 2022

A Night of Chanson in Ginza!

Yoshiro Uchida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, June 18, I attended another special chanson performance by actor-singer Yoshiro Uchida in Ginza. As usual, it was a lot of fun.

This performance was particularly special because it was attended by Uchida-san's daughter, whom I met briefly. It's always great to see Uchida-san!

Ultra Father in Ginza!

Ultra Father in Ginza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday evening, I spotted Ultra Father (a.k.a. Father of Ultra) in Ginza, urging passersby to Chap Up. Enjoy!

Spotted Around the Neighborhood!

On Saturday, June 18, I spotted something interested in my neighborhood. I mean, who better to protect your motorcycle from getting stolen?

Monday, June 13, 2022

Great New Content on Vantage Point Interviews!

Photo courtesy of Benni Korzen.

Vantage Point Interviews proudly presents a brand-new interview with Rankin/Bass associate producer Benni Korzen. Mr, Korzen was involved with the Rankin/Bass live-action productions of The Last Dinosaur (1977), The Bermuda Depths (1978), and The Ivory Ape (1980). He also worked on the films Marco (1973) and The Bushido Blade (1981), both of which were filmed in Japan. His memories of these productions are presented for the first time ever on Vantage Point Interviews.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Great Evening of Toho Tokusatsu!

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I went to yet another special event featuring Toho tokusatsu luminaries. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you should know who I'm talking about: Takashi Naganuma and Eiichi Asada.

I found out something interesting tonight. Naganuma-san was an extra in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) in a Ginza scene, running away from Mothra, who was in flight. The scene was shot with a blue backdrop at Toho Studios. All the extras in that scene had to wear a suit, necktie, and black shoes because they were supposed to be playing salarymen. I really have to check out that scene.

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was former Toho special effects director Eiichi Asada. As I spent most of the evening with Naganuma-san, I didn't have the same kind of opportunity to pick Asada-san's brain. But he was great to hang out with, as always.

And that's a wrap! Suffice it to say, I had a blast, and I'll get to do it all over again in the coming weeks. I can't wait!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Another Enchanting Night of Chanson!

Yoshiro Uchida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On the evening of June 9, I attended another chanson performance by former child actor Yoshiro Uchida. As always, it was a fun time, and I got to know some new people (including a young lady who primarily spoke French) who were in the audience this time.

Uchida-san, of course, was a lot of fun to visit. We had a nice chat after the show. Can't wait to do it again!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

An Evening with Showa- and Heisei-Era Tokusatsu Legends!

Director Shusuke Kaneko and actor Tatsuhito Go. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended a special event with director Shusuke Kaneko and actor Tatsuhito Go. While most readers of this blog are familiar with Kaneko-san's credits in tokusatsu, I'm sure most may not be familiar with Go-san's. So let's take a quick look at the highlights.

Tatsuhito Go (whose previous stage name was Haruo Nakazawa) was a regular on the Super Sentai-esque TV series Strada 5 (1974) as Ichinen Takenaka/Apollo (Strada 3), and appeared in episode 8 of the series Jekyll and Hyde (1973) and episode 11 of Zone Fighter (1973) as the jealous racecar driver Yukio Sasaki. (This episode features both Godzilla and Gigan and was directed by Jun Fukuda.) 

Tatsuhito Go. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On the big screen, he appears as a youth in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) and in Conflagration (1975) as helmsman Tamura. I brought my Blu-ray of Strada 5 for Go-san to sign, as well as a DVD sleeve of Conflagration. When Go-san saw it, he laughed and exclaimed the title of the film in Japanese.

I had fun chatting with Go-san about his tokusatsu experiences, although his memories of those projects have mostly faded these days. Still, he was an entertaining storyteller who had everyone (including me) laughing about his memories.

Shusuke Kaneko. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I also enjoyed hanging out with Kaneko-san again. We chatted about various tokusatsu topics, as well as more mundane, everyday things. Earlier in the evening, Kaneko-san signed my DVD sleeve of GMK (2001).

And that's about all. It was a very fun evening, with two cinematic luminaries whose career cover works as vastly different as the Heisei Gamera series and Zone Fighter. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Meeting an Optical Photography Legend!

Takeshi Miyanishi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday afternoon, May 29, I had the privilege of meeting and spending a couple of hours with Takeshi Miyanishi, who worked in optical photography and visual effects in many Toho and Tsuburaya productions.

Miyanishi-san's career in movies began on the Toho production Gorath (1962) as an assistant cameraman. He continued in that capacity until 1968 with Destroy All Monsters. Following that, he moved up to optical photography and visual effects, doing matte shots and other such SFX work. His final credited film is Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

His memories from his early days at Toho are unfortunately vague, but he had quite a few fun stories from work later in his career. I had a great time picking his brain on a variety of topics.

And that's a wrap! It was my first time meeting Miyanishi-san, but hopefully not the last.