Saturday, October 22, 2022

A 50-Year 'Journey into Solitude' Celebrated at Meguro Cinema!

A Journey into Solitude poster outside of Meguro Cinema. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Friday night, October 21, I attended a screening of the Shochiku drama Journey into Solitude (1972), starring Yoko Takahashi and written by Fumio Ishimori, at Meguro Cinema. After the film, Takahashi-san took the stage for a Q&A session about the film. The film was released in Japan 50 years ago on October 27, 1972.

Another Journey into Solitude poster. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Due to my work schedule, I arrived quite late, and I was only able to catch the last half or so of the movie. Still, it looked absolutely gorgeous in 35mm with its luscious Shikoku locations. Seeing it 50 years after it was made, it still almost felt like you were really there!

19-year-old Yoko Takahashi is all smiles on this Journey into Solitude poster. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This film was Yoko Takahashi's debut performance, and it singlehandedly launched her film career. She went on to star in the Oscar-nominated film Sandakan 8 (1974), as well as Kon Ichikawa's The Devil's Ballad (1977). 

Yoko Takahashi's Q&A event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During her Q&A, Takahashi-san talked about auditioning for the film and shared some of her memories of the location shooting. It was a very entertaining talk, and, despite the lateness of the hour, Takahashi-san was laughing and in great spirits throughout it.

A photo of Takahashi-san taken in 1996 is projected onto the big screen. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Takahashi-san stayed in the theater after her interview for a short while, taking photos and signing autographs. It didn't take long for a crowd of people to gather around her, so I decided to approach Takahashi-san's Journey into Solitude co-star, Rie Yokoyama, instead. 

Rie Yokoyama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yokoyama-san often accompanies Takahashi-san to her public events, and, considering that she also appears in the film, it wasn't a surprise to see her there. She wasn't being mobbed like Takahashi-san was, so the approach was much easier. Not only did she remember me, but she even introduced me to another person she was talking to. How cool is that?

Yokoyama-san has enjoyed a varied career on the big and small screen. She appears in such films and television programs as: 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 had a nice, but brief, chat with Yokoyama-san, who was about ready to leave when I approached her. I hung around for a while to see if I could talk to Takahashi-san, but she was quickly whisked away by the staff shortly thereafter. Oh, well. It was still great to see the film on the big screen for its 50th anniversary, as well as to spend a few moments with Yokoyama-san, so the trip was well worth it. 

I'm already looking forward to the next event!

YOU WON'T BELIEVE YOUR ULTRA EYE! Tokyo Metro Joins Forces with 'Ultra Seven' for a 55th Anniversary Campaign!

Ultra Seven rides the Toyoko Line! Photo by Brett Homenick.

This was a surprise to see this morning on the Toyoko Line. A Tokyo Metro campaign is under way that is celebrating the 55th anniversary of the groundbreaking tokusatsu TV program Ultra Seven (1967-68) in a big way. You can buy a set of Tokyo Metro 24-hour Tickets with seven different Ultra Seven-themed designs for a total of 5,500 yen. The campaign began on October 1 and will run through December 11. The sets will only be sold online, so don't even think about buying one at a Tokyo Metro subway station. (Wouldn't that be cool, though?)

Of course, a typical 24-hour Ticket (much like the name suggests) allows the buyer to ride the Tokyo Metro as much as he/she wants for a full 24 hours from the time he/she starts using it. A regular 24-hour Ticket costs 600 yen for an adult. I point this out because I doubt you'd actually want to use your Ultra Seven 24-hour Tickets in the subway system, but what do I know.

Then again, I can't think of a better way to start your daily commute.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Vantage Point Interviews Featured on YouTube's Toy Galaxy Channel!

Vantage Point Interviews as seen on the Toy Galaxy YouTube channel.

Well, that's a cool, unexpected shoutout! The YouTube channel Toy Galaxy, which features videos on nostalgic pop culture icons of the '80s and '90s, has just uploaded a video on the history of New World Pictures' Godzilla 1985. I was pleasantly surprised that my interview with director R. J. Kizer from last year was quoted in the video, with host Dan Larson even citing the URL of Vantage Point Interviews in the video as the source. There's also a direct link to the interview in the description.

I've watched several Toy Galaxy videos in the past and always admired how well made they are. I especially enjoyed their video on the Mutant League cartoon show, as that program just doesn't get the love it deserves.

Many thanks to the fine folks at Toy Galaxy for the shoutout! 

Monday, October 17, 2022

MELODY! An Evening with the Stars of This British Classic!

Mark Lester. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Sunday, October 16, I attended a rather unusual and unique movie event in Japan. Usually, the film events I attend are guested by Japanese actors or crew members. That's not a big surprise, given that this is Japan! But this event brought in two special guests all the way from Europe: Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde!

The movie screened was Melody (1971), a British flick about two preteens (played by Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde) in love and the wacky kids they go to school with. The film was written by Alan Parker, who went on to direct such classics as Midnight Express (1978) and Mississippi Burning (1988).  

I have to confess that I'd never even heard of Melody prior to the announcement of this event, but it was obviously popular enough that the stars would be flown in from a different continent for it. (It should be pointed out that they will be participating in several Melody-related events, even in other parts of Japan). 

But why Melody?

In between Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde.

Well, it turns out that Melody was a huge hit when it was released in Japan in the early 1970s, and it made instant idols of both Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde in the country. I was rather surprised to learn about the enormous popularity of the film in Japan. One attendee told me that he missed it during its original theatrical run but that he was finally able to see it a few years later. On television? I asked. No, in the theater! It turns out that Melody played in certain cinemas around Japan for years after its release! 

A female fan there traveled all the way to England to visit Mark back in June 1992 and her her photos from the meeting to show the folks in attendance. Another super-fan went location-hunting in 2019 and showed the footage he shot of all the remaining landmarks seen in the film. Devotees of the movie seemed to fall in love with the young Lester and Hyde as portrayed in the film, as well as the movie's glimpse of life in London of the time. 

So why did I, a person who had admittedly never even heard of Melody attend this event? Well, I wanted to meet Mark Lester! His biggest credit is playing Oliver Twist in the musical Oliver! (1968), which took home the Best Picture trophy at the Oscars. He also has a bit part in the sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451 (1966), a flick my cousin and I used to talk about all the time back in the day.

That's to say nothing of his starring in an honest-to-goodness Toho picture, Little Adventurer (1973), alongside the likes of Hiroshi Koizumi, Reiko Dan, and Robert Dunham. In fact, Little Adventurer likely happened at all due to Mark's sudden popularity in the wake of Melody's release here.

With Tracy Hyde.

I was fortunate to spend a lot of time speaking with the guests. I asked Tracy if she met screenwriter Alan Parker while making Melody. She did, as he was apparently present for the auditions and other such things. But, given the age gap between the two, there just weren't a lot of conversations to be had. Tracy didn't have the passion for acting, as her true calling was to work with animals, especially horses. She was also amazed to learn just how old I am, as she didn't think I looked my age. That will always be a compliment I'll never tire of!

With Mark Lester.

I also got to shoot the breeze with Mark Lester, who made a couple of funny Godzilla references during his Q&A session. In terms of Fahrenheit 451, he plays a young boy who crosses a bridge in the film. Much like Tracy with Alan Parker, he was too young (not to mention not that involved) in the film, so he had no specific memories of director Francois Truffaut. But he did mention that his dressing room was right next to Julie Christie's. Talk about prime real estate!

The conversation moved on to several other topics, such as his friendship with the King of Pop himself Michael Jackson, the current state of the Japanese movie industry, his meeting John Landis when Landis was in town shooting An American Werewolf in London (1981). Mark also said I look like Quentin Tarantino, but I hope he at least meant a young QT. 

Wow, what an evening! It far exceeded my expectations. Both guests were enormously friendly, and, as you can imagine, they're both blown away that the movie's popularity endures in Japan. 

UPDATE (3/5/2023): Having watched Fahrenheit 451 last night and this morning, I spotted Mark Lester in the movie. It seems he appears in two different scenes. In his first appearance, he's the second student at the school who runs away from Clarisse (played by Julie Christie) after she was fired from her position. He also appears a few minutes later, standing on a bridge with an actress playing his mother, as the fire truck passes below. Unlike the previous scene, he has a line here, and he says, "Oh, Mommy, look -- firemen! Mommy, there's going to be a fire."

Saturday, October 15, 2022

GAMERA POPS UP IN SHINJUKU! Daiei's Remarkable Flying Turtle Sighted in Tokyu Hands!

Gamera raids Tokyu Hands Shinjuku! Photo by Brett Homenick.

From October 15 through Octover 30, the 7th floor of Tokyu Hands Shinjuku will host a Heisei Gamera pop-up shop with a variety of Gamera-themed goods for sale. I stopped by today to check it out. Here's what I saw. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

An Evening with One of Tokusatsu's Most Prolific Scriptwriters!

Shigemitsu Taguchi with a LaserDisc of the anime feature The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1982). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I attended a special event headlined by tokusatsu scriptwriter Shigemitsu Taguchi. I've met Taguchi-san many times over the year, but, since the pandemic, my chances to see him have been few and far between. I had a chance to meet him last December, but our talk was much shorter than I'd hoped. So this was a great opportunity to spend more time with him.

Among other series, Taguchi-san has written for Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Mirrorman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Jumborg Ace (1973), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), and Ultraman Leo (1974-75). Of course, he has written for many other TV programs, including anime, but his tokusatsu connections are extensive.

Shigemitsu Taguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Taguchi-san, as always, was a lot of fun to see. At first, I asked him about his adorable dog Stella, but of course I wanted to ask him about various tokusatsu topics. He hasn't seen Shin Ultraman (2022) or even Shin Godzilla (2016). He described director Eizo Yamagiwa as a "gentleman," and, when I asked him about the strictest director at Tsuburaya Productions, he talked about the detailed shots that Akio Jissoji would set up and how Jissoji liked doing close-ups. He also greatly admires the kaiju designs of Tohl Narita. Moreover, Taguchi-san was worried because I wasn't eating, so he offered me some of his pasta. It was very kind of him, but I just wasn't hungry!

Taguchi-san was a bit surprised to see me at the event and asked how I found out about it. Of course, I keep my eyes peeled for any event with cool guests, even if the event itself doesn't have a tokusatsu theme. So, when I saw that Taguchi-san would be attending, that was good enough for me. He then asked me if I took the train to attend, which of course I did. 

Taguchi-san, on the other hand, explained that a driver would be taking him home -- very lucky! I also told Taguchi-san about my neighborhood, but, right after that, the event wrapped. It was great to visit Taguchi-san again, who is also very much a gentleman.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Last Day at the Art Exhibit in Daikanyama!

Mickey Curtis. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I paid one last visit to Mickey Curtis while his art exhibit was still open in Daikanyama. When I realized that I could get my DVD copy of Desperado Outpost (1959) signed by Mickey-san, I practically had no choice but to return!

It was a lot of fun to see him again, although I didn't have the time to hang out as I did the last two times. But this time Mickey-san told me one story in particular that had me roaring with laughter -- it was by far the funniest thing he told me about during all three days! When I was leaving, Mickey-san invited me to come visit him at his home sometime. I certainly have to do that, but it likely won't be for a while, as he lives extremely far from Tokyo. We'll see how it goes.

Many thanks to Mickey-san for his excellent hospitality!

Friday, October 7, 2022

Another Visit with an Artist and a Gentleman!

Mickey Curtis. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I paid another visit to Daikanyama Garage to visit with musician-actor-artist Mickey Curtis, who is currently hosting an exhibit of his art (photos of which you can see at the bottom of this blog post).

Mickey-san wasn't there when I arrived, which turned out not to be an issue, as I had plenty of time. It turned out he was doing a radio interview, promoting the gallery. It's absolutely amazing how busy he continues to be!

Kotoha Hiroyama and Mickey Curtis. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I wanted to ask Mickey-san about his time in Studio City, CA, which started in either 1977 or '78 and lasted until 1980. During that time, he created the electronic sound effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), using a synthesizer he had at the time. But, because he wasn't in the union, he wasn't credited in those films. When he visa expired, he returned to Japan. Of course, Mickey-san had prior experience living abroad, as he lived in Europe from about 1964 until 1970.

Mickey Curtis with his wife, Yoko. Photo by Brett Homenick.

He also told me about his association with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack when they would visit Japan. (Mickey-san was probably one of the few Japanese who spoke fluent English in the entertainment industry at the time in Japan.) When I asked him about Sinatra's None But the Brave (1965), that's when he mentioned living away from Japan at the time, so he wasn't aware of the movie. Moreover, he talked about getting a call from Yul Brynner out of the blue in which Brynner invited him to dinner. 

Kotoha Hiroyama, Yoko Curtis, and Mickey Curtis. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I could have continued the conversation for a lot longer, but I had to go back to work, so that was that. Right before I left, producer and actress Kotoha Hiroyama showed up again, so I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed her recent film Truth (2022). Before I left, I wanted to photograph Mickey-san with his wife, Yoko, which also caused a few other shutterbugs in attendance to snap some photos, too. 

One of the ladies working the front desk thanked me as I was leaving for suggesting the photo op, as she was apparently very happy to have such a photo. Yoko-san stopped me before I left to talk about their new countryside home, and Hiroyama-san also said her goodbyes to me as I was walking out. With such kind people in attendance, I didn't want to leave! 

Below are some samples of Mickey-san's art. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2022

'Godzilla 2000' Sighted in Setagaya!

The Godzilla 2000 filming suit. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I visited the Setagaya Literary Museum with just one objective in mind: to check out the Godzilla 2000 (1999) filming suit that is currently on display there.

The suit is on display in the museum's cafe on the first floor. According to the signage there, it's the actual filming suit, which is remarkable, given how well it's held up over the years. The head is noticeably drooping, but, other than that, it's in fantastic shape. 

Also on display were an actual Toho movie camera and lighting fixtures used during shooting. Suffice it to say, this display is something of a hidden gem.

Despite all rain and cold temperatures we experienced today, it was well worth the trip to visit. I hope to see it again in the near future! Here are some other pictures I took. Enjoy!