Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Voice Actress Paulette Rubinstein Passes Away at Age 98

Paulette Rubinstein (right) and Jack Curtis pose for a picture with daughter Liane.

Actress Liane Curtis has announced on her Facebook page that her mother, actress Paulette Rubinstein, passed away on September 27 at 8:18 a.m. at her home in New York City. She was 98 years old. Liane had been acting as her mother's caregiver in her final years.

Paulette Rubinstein was born on November 7, 1923, in Brooklyn and went on to enjoy a varied career as an actress and songwriter. Liane's IMDb biography for Paulette provides more details:

Paulette Rubinstein was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Russian immigrant father and a French immigrant mother. She graduated high school at 16 and went on to study the arts. She went from summer stock with the likes of Zero Mostel and Maureen Stapleton to Broadway with Eddie Albert and Julie Andrews and then segued into translating into English and directing the dubbed English version of several Ingmar Bergman and other films. She has written songs which were performed by Carmen MacRae and Hal Linden and has written several unpublished (so far) works. She was married to actor, editor, director Jack Curtis (who died in 1970) and had a daughter, actress Liane Curtis, who lives in LA.

She was also a voice actress for Titra Studios (later known as Titan Productions), lending her voice to several tokusatsu productions, such as Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) and Gammera the Invincible (1966). Her husband, Jack Curtis, was also a voice actor for Titra.

In between Paulette Rubinstein and Liane Curtis in December 2010.

I was privileged to conduct a lengthy interview with Paulette in 2006 about her life and career, which you can find on Vantage Point Interviews. I interviewed a total of four voice actors from Titra around the same time, and she was the one with whom I stayed in contact the most after the interviews. I always appreciated Paulette's directness and honesty, as well as her political convictions. She was one of the most principled people I've ever met. 

And I'm very proud to say that I did eventually meet her. I visited Liane's L.A. home in December 2010 when Paulette was in town for a visit. Suffice it to say, it was great to spend the day with her. We stayed in touch until her health began to decline, and communication between us became impractical. But I still mailed her greeting cards every year to let her know I was thinking of her.

Below is the video interview I did with Paulette that I recorded in December 2010 (with a special appearance by Liane):

Rest in peace, Paulette. I'll always be grateful for your love and friendship.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Bringing a Special Item to Machida-san's Event!

Masanori Machida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Have I mentioned how busy the day was? Sunday, September 25, was capped off by my attendance at another one of Masanori Machida's dramatic readings. This time, I made sure to bring the LaserDisc of Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (a.k.a. Gappa the Triphibian Monster, 1967) that used to belong to the late Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano for him to sign.

He was quite surprised to see it, although it took him a moment to realize what it was. I made sure to point out where he was on the cover (as the young native boy Saki). As you can see, he posed for photos with it pretty enthusiastically.

After posing with the LaserDisc for photos, I asked him to sign it, which he graciously did. At first, I asked him to sign the front cover, but he was reluctant to do that, as it might waste such a rare item. I didn't think it would, but I saw his point, so I asked him to sign the back instead, which he did.

Masanori Machida signs the back of the LaserDisc. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Afterward, we had a nice chat about an upcoming project of his that will be coming out. He shared a bit more information about it, which sounded rather exciting to me. I look forward to seeing it when it's ready! 

Boy, having to type all this out is just as tiring as the day itself was. But what a day it was!

A Showa Hero Event Brings Gamera and Yoshito Chujo Together!

Noboru Kaneko. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While I was in between events on Sunday, September 25, I figured I had just enough time to stop by the Showa Hero event in Nakano to meet the guests, neither of whom I'd ever met before. Who were they, you ask? Why, Noboru Kaneko and Hirofumi Fukuzawa!

Noboru Kaneko played Gao Red in Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger (2001-02), but Godzilla fans know him for playing Yoshito Chujo in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). My interaction with him was brief but pleasant. There just wasn't any time for anything else!

Hirofumi Fukuzawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Hirofumi Fukuzawa is a suit actor best known for his appearances in the Super Sentai series (where he often plays the Red Ranger of the series), as well the Kamen Rider series. However, most kaiju fans will recognize him as the Gamera suit actor from Gamera 3 (1999). Suffice it to say, I was quite interested to meet him. And he was a very cool guy, just like most other suit actors you're likely to meet.

And that's a wrap! I was basically in and out because everything was basically over by the time I arrived. But I had just enough time to meet the guests. A very cool way to spend the few moments I had there!

Genji Returns in a New Recitation Drama!

Hiroyasu Yamaura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Sunday, September 25, was a busy day for me. But it all started by taking in a two-person dramatic reading of a play based on Hikaru Genji (of The Tale of Genji). In this story, Genji has to deal with the various conflicts involving his wife and family. 

Hiroyasu Yamaura poses with the classical musicians and his co-star, Sana Mitsui. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also there was a group of musicians performing Bach chamber music. In fact, the first 30 or so minutes was strictly a mini classical concert, after which the recitation drama began. They likewise performed their music during the play at specific moments in the show. 

I didn't realize that Yamaura-san would perform as Genji, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him act. He did a great job! Unlike last week, Yamaura-san seemed more determined to put on another show next year, so we'll see what happens. All in all, it was a great way to start my Sunday!

A Legendary Evening with Two Toho Tokusatsu Legends!

In between Eiichi Asada and Takashi Naganuma.

On Saturday evening, September 24, I joined another SFX party with two of the coolest cats around, namely Eiichi Asada and Takashi Naganuma.

Takashi Naganuma wears his Toho Visual Art Co. jacket. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As usual, it was a lot of fun talking with Naganuma-san. I really enjoyed seeing him in his Toho Eizo Bijutsu jacket, too. I wanted to make sure I snapped a photo of him in it.

One very cool thing was that I noticed some old LaserDiscs on a table. It was an Orion double feature of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) and Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (a.k.a. Gappa the Triphian Monster, 1967). I was quite amazed to see an obscure American home video release sitting on a table for no apparent reason. 

Yours truly with the Orion LaserDisc.

Then one of my friends explained to me that the LaserDisc (along with other LDs and DVDs nearby) belonged to Teruyoshi Nakano, and now they were in need of good homes! I must have looked quite impressed because while I was staring at the LD in question, I felt a hearty slap on my back. When I looked up, I was surprised to find that it was Asada-san who did it! 

Ultimately, I was able to take two LDs -- the aforementioned Orion double feature, as well as a Crazy Cats flick called The Big Explosion (1969), which was Nakano-san's first film as SFX director. I'm very proud to own these home video releases that used to belong to the master himself.

With a photo of the legend we were all celebrating.

There was a mixture of old Hollywood features, as well as Japanese films from the same period rounding out the rest. Public domain (in Japan) releases of The Third Man (one of Nakano-san's absolute favorites), Grand Hotel, the original A Star Is Born from 1937 were among the titles on offer, and other event-goers snapped them up. I did consider taking Nakano-san's copy of The Third Man, but someone else grabbed it before I could. Oh, well.

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the event itself, I was about to leave when I was invited to join the main guests and a couple of others at an izakaya for a sort of after-party. I immediately accepted the invitation. We arrived at the izakaya and continued the conversation. We talked about pro wrestling, and I asked Asada-san if he know who Sting was. To my surprise, he did! When he started talking about how Sting resembled a famous musician, I thought he may have been talking about the singer Sting. But it turned out he meant the rock group KISS, whose name he had forgotten. Honestly, I'd never made that connection before. (Most wrestling fans compare the tag team Demolition to KISS, anyway.)

Overall, it was one heck of an evening. I figured it would be another pretty standard event -- which are always fun, don't get me wrong! But this turned out to be so much more than what I usually experience. Very grateful to everyone who made it so.

Ride the Doraemon Express!

Doraemon on the Seibu Shinjuku Line. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While riding the Seibu Shinjuku Line yesterday, the train I was on was completely decked out with a Doraemon theme. While some trains around Tokyo have specific themes, it was the first time for me to see a Doraemon one. 

Although I don't follow Doraemon or his antics, I actually found the whole thing pretty fun. And, despite my headline, this was not an express train. But it sounds good as a title.

I always enjoy encountering these kinds of surprises, even when I may not be so familiar with the character or franchise. This was certainly an example of that!

Friday, September 23, 2022

An Autumn Trip to the Godzilla Store Tokyo!

The Godzilla Store Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I visited the Godzilla Store Tokyo, and fall was definitely in the air. I took several photos of what was on display, so here's what I saw. Enjoy!

Nikkatsu Studios Director Yukihiro Sawada Passes Away

Yukihiro Sawada in March 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

According to various social media posts, longtime Nikkatsu director Yukihiro Sawada has recently passed away. No other details are available at the moment, including the cause or even date of death. However, it is likely he was 89 years old at the time of his passing, especially since Sawada-san apparently attended a Q&A event in June of this year.

Yukihiro Sawada in March 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yukihiro Sawada was born on January 15, 1933, in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. He graduated from Chuo University’s Faculty of Economics in 1956 and joined Nikkatsu Studios after graduating from university. There, he worked on the legendary director Seijun Suzuki, among many others.

Yukiro Sawada in November 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

He debuted as a film director in his own right in 1970, directing Tetsuya Watari in the movie Attack (1970). He went on to direct the violent 1978 cult flick Panic in High School (alongside co-director Gakuryu Ishii), as well as the tokusatsu feature film Moonlight Mask (1981). He remained at Nikkatsu until 1983, after which he worked freelance.

In between Miyoko Akaza (left) and Yukihiro Sawada in November 2019.

Sawada-san is, however, probably best remembered for his work in television, having helmed episodes of the hit TV series Howl at the Sun! (1972-86), Seibu Keisatsu (1979-84), and Detective Story (1979-80). But, for tokusatsu fans, he directed the very first episode of the Nikkatsu-produced, pre-Super Sentai action series Strada 5 (1974), which seemed to anticipate many of the tropes that would come to be associated with that famous franchise.

With Yukihiro Sawada in March 2019.

I had the privilege of meeting Sawada-san three times over the years. I just wish I was more familiar with his career and could have talked to him in more detail about it.

Rest in peace, Sawada-san.

UPDATE (9/23): According to screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara, Sawada-san passed away on September 21.

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Fun Afternoon with a Legendary Writer!

Hiroyasu Yamaura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, September 18, I attended a special concert that was produced prolific writer Hiroyasu Yamaura. The concert was nice, and it had a good turnout, but the real reason I went was to visit Yamaura-san again.

I hadn't seen Yamaura-san in several months. He told me a few months ago that he wouldn't host another show until September, so I waited quite a long time for this one. When it was all said and done, I voluntarily helped cleaning up, which Yamaura-san said I didn't have to do, but I did it, anyway!

The good news is that Yamaura-san's next show isn't too far from now. The not-so-good news is that he plans to take it easy after that and currently has no plans for anything else in the future. I suppose that could always change, but I'd imagine there will be nothing else until at least sometime next year. We'll have to see how that goes.

In the meantime, it certainly was a lot of fun to see Yamaura-san again!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Another Peek at Sangenjaya's Gorilla Building!

The Gorilla Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I paid another visit to Sangenjaya's Gorilla Building. You could say that it's modeled on King Kong (especially since the beast is holding a young damsel in his paw), but I'm sure the two are (legally) distinct. As I recall, I last visited the Gorilla Building four years ago. It was certainly fun to see again. Here's what I saw.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

An Evening with a Legendary Tokusatsu Cinematographer!

Keiichi Sakurai. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I spent an fun evening with tokusatsu cameraman Keiichi Sakurai. Sakurai-san's career in special effects photography goes back to the 1970s with Zone Fighter (1973), but he's best known for his tokusatsu cinematography on Shin Godzilla (2016). The event was part of a tribute for the late tokusatsu director Teruyoshi Nakano, of whom Sakurai-san has many fond memories. I met Sakurai-san for the first time in April, and he couldn't have been nicer. Here's a sample of what happened earlier tonight. Enjoy!