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|H!O EXCLUSIVE: NEW ULTRAMEN FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM - TAKE 2|
ULTRAMAN NEXUS comes to television while ULTRAMAN hits the big screen!
Author: Bob Johnson & August Ragone
Source: Tsuburaya Productions
"Do you still remember your childhood dreams about a silver shooting star?
|The latest TV incarnation of Japan's greatest hero... ULTRAMAN NEXUS! © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
The dream still remains somewhere in your heart unbroken.
The year 2005, it took us 39 years to come across the silver shooting star again..."
-- Text from publicity material for the new film ULTRAMAN.
Back in 2000, it was announced that the then-upcoming ULTRAMAN COSMOS movie and television series were to feature a new Ultraman for the new millennium -- a kinder and gentler hero. It seems that the jury is still out on ULTRAMAN COSMOS; while the show became a huge hit and marketing bonanza with kids, adult fans were divided. Some older viewers clearly wanted a little more substance to go along with the cute cast members. Now, with recent management changes at Tsuburaya Productions (including the return of Eiji Tsuburaya's youngest son, Akira, who had left years ago to form Tsuburaya Eizo) things are about to change. Ultraman is being re-imagined for two new projects, a theatrical movie and the fourteenth Ultraman TV series, ULTRAMAN NEXUS. But, some people might well ask, what will make this latest series special and distinguish it from the last few Ultra shows?
ULTRAMAN NEXUS will premier in Japan at 7:30am Saturday, October 2, 2004 on the CBC television network. CBC is the Nagoya-based branch of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), one of Japan's largest television networks. The show takes place in the near future, as an invasion of monsters from outer space called "Space Beasts" is underway. A high tech security force code-named TLT (pronounced "tilt") has been formed to combat the attackers. A mysterious young man who has the power to transform into the gigantic superhero Ultraman Nexus appears. He and the commander of TLT attempt to discover the true identity and origins of the Space Beasts. As the series unfolds, answers to the mysteries surrounding Ultraman Nexus and his monstrous opponents will gradually be revealed.
Nexus will appear in a two-step transformation, a predominantly "silver colossus" named "Anphans" (from the French "enfance" or "childhood") and a predominantly "red colossus" named "Junis" (from the French "jeunesse" or "youth"). Anphans will do battle in our Universe. However, he will be able to crossover into another dimension called the "Meta Field" in which he will transform into Junis to do battle. Tsuburaya Productions also plans to add more Ultraman characters into the series as it unfolds over the next year, including the "black colossus" -- "Dark Faust"!
|Ultramen Anphans and Junis in multi-dimensional action. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
While the show will meet the requirements of sponsor Bandai by featuring a multi-transforming hero, the foundation and writing of ULTRAMAN NEXUS are a return to the traditional concepts of the original Ultra Series. The staff is striving to attract older viewers, those who might have lost interest in the more light-hearted productions of the last few years. This, however, does not necessarily mean things will be business as usual, since these classic concepts will be given a new spin. The goal is to give newer viewers the same feeling of wonder that audiences had in Japan when the original ULTRAMAN first aired in 1966.
One of the traditions being deconstructed is of a single character serving as the human host to a colossal alien being sent to protect the Earth. While there have been variations over the past 40 years (as in the case of ULTRASEVEN, where the Ultra created his human persona, or ULTRAMAN ACE, where a man and a woman were required to transform into the singular hero) this has been one of the key concepts of the Ultra Series. In ULTRAMAN NEXUS, viewers will see various human beings take on the power to transform into Ultraman Nexus. Commenting about the unusual step of casting several different people as Nexus' hosts, a spokesperson for the CBC network said, "We want children in the audience to feel like any one of them might be able to transform into Ultraman." He concluded, "We want to make use of the basic history of the Ultraman series while introducing a totally new kind of hero. We hope that adult viewers will enjoy this show as much as children."
|The two forms of Ultraman Nexus; "Anphans" (l) and "Junis". © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
Casting and production on ULTRAMAN NEXUS has been underway for some time, and several of the principals have been chosen. The first person to transform into Ultraman Nexus, a young man shrouded in mystery, will be played by Yusuke Kirishima. The 27 year-old actor made his big screen debut in the hit Yakuza spoof GET UP! (Geroppa!, 2003) and was recently featured in Tsuburaya's ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY (Urutora Kyu: Dakku Fuantaji, 2004).
22 year-old Takuji Kawakubo has been cast as soldier Kazuteru Komon. Kawakubo may be familiar to tokusatsu fans, he was seen last year in Toei's MASKED RIDER 555 (Kamen Raida Faizu) as Shingo Oda, one of the ill-fated young people who attempted to transform into Masked Rider Delta. He is currently the commercial spokesmodel for McDonald's restaurants in Japan.
A popular veteran character actor, Tamotsu Ishibashi, is also joining the cast of ULTRAMAN NEXUS. Ishibashi has many television and screen credits to his name, including the series HOTEL and films GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF LEGION (1996, as Tanihara) and GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS (1999, as an exploration ship crewmember). Ishibashi is also no stranger to the Ultra Series, having appeared as TPC Staff Officer Tatsumura in ULTRAMAN TIGA (1996-1997) and in ULTRAMAN COSMOS as Iwata's father.
But, the series is not all about the boys -- 25 year-old actress Yasue Sato, who made her screen debut in the international hit film BOUNCE KO-GALS, will also have a featured role in ULTRAMAN NEXUS.
|Teaser poster for the next Ultraman movie. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
Details on the new Ultraman movie, which at the time of this writing seems to be simply titled ULTRAMAN, are slowly being revealed. Scheduled for release in the 2004/2005 New Years' season, the film is being directed by veteran Ultra-movie director Kazuya Konaka from a script written by Keiichi Hasegawa (ULTRAMAN TIGA TV series, ULTRAMAN GAIA: BATTLE IN HYPERSPACE, GMK, and ASTROBOY - 2003). The special effects director for the newest Ultraman epic is Yuichi Kikuchi, who helmed the effects for Toho's GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira, 2002).
Providing the end theme song, "Never Good-bye" for ULTRAMAN is the Tak Matsumoto Group (TMG). A truly international band, TMG includes Tak Matsumoto of the band B's on guitar, Eric Martin (Mr. Big) on vocals, Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) on bass, Brian Tichy (Pride & Glory and Slash's Snakepit) on drums, as well as two more drummers, Cindy Blackman who played with Lenny Kravitz and Chris Frazier who played with Steve Vai.
Initial reports on the film claim that it is like nothing Ultra fans have seen before! Dark, serious and geared towards an adult audience. Ultraman's foes are fearsome and the effects are superior to the movies which preceded this one.
After a year's absence, Ultraman is back...in a BIG way!
|H!O SNEAK PEEK: GODZILLA: THE SERIES - THE MONSTERS WARS TRILOGY|
The popular animated show comes to DVD
Author: Keith Aiken
In the mid-1990s Sony Entertainment established an animation division (Columbia TriStar Children's Television, now known as Sony Pictures Family Ent.) to adapt some of the studio's properties into animated television series. Following successes with shows like MEN IN BLACK and JUMANJI, the studio turned their attention to an obvious choice...a cartoon based on Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's heavily hyped, big budget remake of GODZILLA.
|Animated kaiju run amuck in "Monster Wars"; now available on DVD © Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment/Toho Co., Ltd |
Eight months before the movie's May 20th, 1998 release date the decision was made to go ahead with the animated spinoff. Executive Producer Jeff Kline wrote an outline and bible for the show and it was pitched to the networks. With all expectations that GODZILLA would be the big hit of the summer, FOX Broadcasting bought 40 episodes of the show. Producer/Head Director Audu Paden brought on two old friends, Robert Skir and Marty Isenberg, to write several episodes and serve as story editors for others. The team set up the series' premise in the 2-part opener (Episodes #101 and 102, entitled "New Family")...the lone surviving Godzilla hatchling imprints on scientist Nick Tatopoulos as a surrogate parent. Nick brings together a mix of scientists, a computer hacker, and a French secret agent to form H.E.A.T. (the Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team). As more giant mutations appear around the world, Godzilla and the H.E.A.T. must find a way to capture or defeat these new menaces.
GODZILLA: THE SERIES premiered on the morning of September 12, 1998. Despite the box office disappointment and critical drubbing the film had received, the animated show was a ratings success. It also proved popular with many Godzilla fans who had hated the Devlin/Emmerich movie. The producers and writers had insisted that the cartoon Godzilla retain many of the Toho Godzilla's attributes (including the radioactive breath, glowing fins, and fighting spirit) and fans were quick to notice and appreciate that the character was finally treated with respect.
|1998 press material announcing the animated series. © 1998 Columbia/TriStar Television/Toho Co., Ltd |
Each show's advertising budget is calculated during "rating sweeps" periods that occur in February, May, and November so particularly strong episodes or events are scheduled for those times. The event for GODZILLA's first season was Episodes #115-117, a three-part adventure originally broadcast February 13th-27th, 1999. Strongly inspired by Toho's classic DESTROY ALL MONSTERS- aliens invaded earth, nine giant monsters attacked, and Monster Island was introduced in "Monster War".
The groundwork for "Monster War" was established in an earlier episode of the series; #107, "Leviathan". An alien spacecraft called the Leviathan is discovered at the bottom of the ocean, and H.E.A.T. joins a team of scientists in the investigation. Once aboard the spaceship, they find that the aliens are still very much alive and extremely hostile. While Godzilla battles the Leviathan's protectors, a pair of aquatic dinosaurs called Cryptocleidus, H.E.A.T. defeats the alien invaders.
While the first battle was won, the conflict was far from over. "Monster War (Part One)" reveals that the US military has dredged up the Leviathan to study its technology. This reawakens the Leviathan Aliens, who use their mind control powers to take over the base, cause in-fighting among the members of H.E.A.T., and take control of many of Earth's monsters, including Godzilla, Cryptocleidus, the sea monster Crustaceous Rex (introduced in Episode #102, "New Family (Part 2)"), the giant earthworm El Gusano (from #104, "D.O.A."), the Giant Rat (#106, "Cat & Mouse"), the Queen Bee (#109, "Hive"), and King Cobra (#113, "Competition"). Two other monsters are also introduced; a giant bat creatively named Giant Bat, and Cyber-Godzilla - the reanimated, mechanized corpse of the Godzilla from the TriStar film. Over the next two episodes, H.E.A.T. must set aside their differences and find a way to free the monsters and military from alien control. The monsters attack cities around the world and also occasionally fight each other as the story builds to a battle between Godzilla and Cyber-Godzilla.
The "Monster War" story was a hit with viewers and was rebroadcast multiple times. It was also selected as one of a pair of GODZILLA: THE SERIES videos released on VHS in 1999 (the other paired the first two episodes under the title "Trouble Hatches"), and is now the first storyline to be available on DVD. Columbia TriStar will release GODZILLA: THE SERIES-THE MONSTER WARS TRILOGY on August 24th at a SRP of $14.94. As may be expected with a DVD of a Saturday morning children's show (or any US Godzilla DVD), the disc is a bare-bones release - but the one big plus is that the show looks and sounds as good as anyone could possibly hope for.
|Cover art for the DVD © Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment/Toho Co., Ltd |
GODZILLA: THE SERIES-THE MONSTER WARS TRILOGY is uncut and presented in it's original 1:33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio. The image quality is excellent with sharp colors and no artifacting. The English-only audio is in Dolby Surround Stereo, and English subtitles are also provided. The story can be viewed as 3 separate episodes or as one 65 minute-long feature (though the individual episode titles and credits are still shown). There are 7(!) chapters for each episode making for 21 chapter stops in all. Extras are non-existent unless you count a color insert and Sony's standard "50th Anniversary of Godzilla" sticker. The only previews are for two straight-to-video releases aimed at kids; BABY GENIUSES 2 and SOCCER DOG: EUROPEAN CUP (nice to see that Scott Baio's still getting work!)
As one of the artists who worked on GODZILLA: THE SERIES (don't blink and you'll see my name in the end credits of "Part Three") my opinion is admittedly biased; but I would recommend THE MONSTER WARS TRILOGY DVD to any Godzilla fan. These are three episodes packed with monsters and aliens, beautifully presented and reasonably priced. If this disc does well, it would convince Sony to release the rest of the series on DVD - including two episodes that were never aired on television in the US.
|SONY REVEALS DETAILS ON UPCOMING GODZILLA RELEASES|
Godzilla's 50th Anniversary Includes Toho Classics, Theatrical Prints, DVD Boxed Sets, and TOKYO SOS!
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Columbia TriStar Home Video Press Release
Back in April of this year, Henshin! Online broke the news that Sony Pictures Entertainment had acquired North American rights to several early Godzilla films. The titles announced at that time were EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, 1966), SON OF GODZILLA (Gojira-no Mosuko, 1967), GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (Gojira tai Hedorah, aka GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971), and GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, aka GODZILLA VS THE COSMIC MONSTER, 1974). Now comes word that both GODZILLA VS GIGAN (Chikyu Kogeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan, aka GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND, 1972) and the latest Godzilla movie, GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, 2003), have also been added to that list.
|Sony's Godzilla 5-Pack DVD set, one of three available on October 19th. © Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment/Toho Co., Ltd |
All of the films will be released on DVD from Sony's Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, with the first wave of titles- HEDORAH, GIGAN, and MECHAGODZILLA '74- coming on October 19th. There has been no official word yet on when we can expect to see EBIRAH, SON OF GODZILLA, and TOKYO SOS. Each of the new releases will be sold individually at a SRP of $24.96, and the films will be presented in widescreen with both Toho's "international" English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. The older films will also be included in two of the three "Godzilla DVD Collection" boxed sets that are also going on sale October 19th.
The first collection is a three-pack containing GODZILLA VS HEDORAH, GODZILLA VS GIGAN, and the 1998 US GODZILLA remake by TriStar. The SRP for the set is $53.95. The second collection is a five-pack that features the three aforementioned titles plus GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA and GODZILLA 2000 (1999) at a SRP of $92.95. The "Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Godzilla!" box collects nine movies on seven discs; the GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH/GODZILLA AND MOTHRA(1991/92) and GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA/GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH(1994/95) double features, GODZILLA (1998), GODZILLA 2000, GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS (2000), GMK (2001), and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002). This set will retail for approximately $121.95. According to information on the Sony Home Video website the latter two sets will have a new DVD of GODZILLA 2000 that includes all the features of the previous release plus a special bonus on Side B...the original Japanese theatrical version in 5.1 Audio with optional English subtitles.
|Sony's new cover art for GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH, GODZILLA VS. GIGAN and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. © 1971, 1972, 1974 Copyright Toho Co., Ltd|
In addition to home video releases, Sony's Repertory Division is in the process of striking new English-subtitled 35mm theatrical prints of several Toho movies for screenings at festivals, conventions, and art-house theaters across the US. EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP and GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingughidora, 1991) both premiered at the Egyptian Theatre's "Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute" this past June and will be shown alongside new prints of SON OF GODZILLA and GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS at "They Came from Toho: Godzilla and the Kaiju Eiga", a 2 week-long film festival occurring this month at the Film Forum in New York City (see H!O's 6/24/04 report for full details). Over the next several months, Sony plans to create new subtitled prints of THE H-MAN (Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, 1958), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (Uchu Daisenso, 1959), MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961), GODZILLA AND MOTHRA: THE BATTLE FOR EARTH (Gojira tai Mosura, 1992), GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1993), GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (Gojira tai Supeesu Gojira, 1994), and GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (Gojira tai Desutoria, 1995). Some of these films will likely be shown at two Toho film festivals happening later this year - "50 Years of Godzilla" in Portland, Oregon this October and Godzillafest in San Francisco, California this November.
|GODZILLA CONQUERS AMERICA!|
Rialto's GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL Hits with Critics and Audiences
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Rialto Pictures
After 50 years, Godzilla is finally getting some well-deserved respect in America. The first US theatrical release of the original GODZILLA (promoted by distributor Rialto Pictures as GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL to avoid confusion with the Raymond Burr edit GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS or the 1998 American remake) has been drawing large crowds across the country. The movie has also garnered high praise from critics... a definite rarity when it comes to Japanese kaiju films in this country.
|GODZILLA continues his awesome trek accross the United States! © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd|
The glowing reviews began the week GODZILLA began its theatrical run in San Francisco and New York City. NY Times reviewer Terrence Rafferty exclaimed, "THE PRE-EMINENT MOVIE MONSTER OF THE 50'S! Its significance can be glimpsed only in the Japanese version!" while Michael Sragow from The New Yorker wrote, "SMASHING IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD! Time has not diminished this movie's tabloid docu- horror allure. In the underwater climax, the slow-moving Godzilla is as glacially creepy as the dragon in Fritz Lang's DIE NIBELUNGEN.... The immortal Takashi Shimura (SEVEN SAMURAI) emerges as the indisputable star." J. Hoberman's review for the Village Voice praised the film's message; "MAGNIFICENT! VISONARY! THE GREAT MOVIE MONSTER OF THE POST WORLD WAR II ERA. GODZILLA belongs with - and might well trump - HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR and DR STRANGELOVE as a daring attempt to fashion a terrible poetry from the mind-melting horror of atomic warfare," and New York Magazine raved about the original Japanese cut, "A BRILLIANT RESTORATION! This GODZILLA rips out those unnecessarily re-shot Raymond Burr scenes and the corny voice-overs once added for American audiences, stomping them all into the cuttingroom floor like so many Toyotas!"
Other reviews have been equally positive. John Anderson remarked in Newsday, "NOT JUST A LANDMARK MONSTER FLICK! A FIRST-RATE MOVIE! THE NEW 35mm PRINT LOOKS TERRIFIC!" "STILL THE MOST AWESOME! Godzilla is pop culture's grandest symbol of nuclear apocalypse!" wrote Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. A.M. NEW YORK reviewer Jay Carr said "IMPASSIONED AND RESONANT! GODZILLA IS THE CITIZEN KANE OF BIG LIZARD MOVIES!" and the San Francisco Chronicle printed, "A REVELATION! FLAT- OUT FUN!... 50 years after the Big Guy's first appearance on Tokyo theater screens, Japan's biggest cultural export finally gets his due in the United States with the release of the original GODZILLA... with a vision as well-imagined and chilling as DR STRANGELOVE... A crisp print unspools... IT'S TIME FOR A MAJOR RE- APPRAISAL!"
Congratulations, Big Guy...you deserve it!
Here is the current theatrical release schedule for GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL:
NEW YORK, NY: Film Forum 05/07 - 05/20
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: The Castro Theatre 05/07 - 05/20
LOS ANGELES, CA: Nuart Theatre 5/14- 5/28
WASHINGTON, D.C.: AFI National Film Theater 05/14 - 05/20)
BERKELEY, CA: Shattuck Cinemas 5/21-5/27
NEW YORK, NY: Cinema Village 5/21-6/10
PHILADELPHIA, PA: Ritz Theaters 5/21-6/10
SILVER SPRING, MD: AFI Silver Theatre 05/21 - 06/03
SAN JOSE, CA: Camera Cinemas 5/28-6/3
SOUTH PASADENA, CA: Rialto Theatre 5/28-6/10
CAMBRIDGE, MA: Brattle Theatre 6/11- 6/17
DALLAS, TX: Angelika Film Center 6/18 -7/1
MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Oak St Cinema 6/18-7/1
PLANO, TX: Angelika Film Center 6/25-7/1
PORTLAND, OR: Cinema 21 6/25-7/1
SAN DIEGO, CA: Ken Cinema 6/25-7/1
PORTLAND, OR: Hollywood Theatre 7/2-7/8
CHICAGO, IL: The Music Box Theatre 7/2-7/15
SEATTLE WASHINGTON: Varsity Theatre 7/2-7/8
DETROIT, MI: Detroit Film Theatre 7/16-7/18
MILWAUKEE, WI: Times Cinema 7/16-7/22
ATLANTA, GA: Midtown Art Cinema 7/23-7/29
AUSTIN, TX: Dobie Theatre 7/23-7/29
MADISON, WI: Orpheum 7/23-7/29
INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Key Cinemas 7/23-7/29
PITTSBURGH, PA: Regent Square Theater 7/23-8/5
HARTFORD, CT: Cinestudio 7/28- 8/3
COLUMBUS, IN: Key Cinemas 7/30-8/5
BALTIMORE, MD: Charles Theatre 8/6-8/12
NASHVILLE, TN: Belcourt Theatre 8/6-8/19
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Oklahoma City Museum of Art 8/12-8/15
LEXINGTON, KY: Kentucky Theater 8/13-8/19
ST LOUIS, MO: Tivoli Theatre 8/13-8/19
ANN ARBOR, MI: Michigan Theater 8/15, 8/17; State Theater 8/20-8/26
DENVER, CO: Starz Filmcenter 8/20- 8/26
ALBUQUERQUE, NM: Guild Cinema 8/27-9/2
CLEVELAND, OH: Cleveland Cinematheque 8/27-8/29
NEW YORK, NY: Film Forum 8/27-8/28
Note: GODZILLA is playing as part of "They Came from Toho: Godzilla and the Kaiju Eiga", a 2 week-long 50th Anniversary film festival.
PADUCAH, KY: Maiden Alley Cinema 9/2-9/5
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Red Vic Movie House 9/3-9/4
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA: Palm Theatre 9/10-9/16
CHARLOTTE, NC: Manor Theatre 9/10-9/16
ITHACA, NY: Cornell Cinema 9/17-9/19
CHAPEL HILL, NC: Chelsea Theater 9/23-9/29
TUCSON, AZ: Loft Cinema 10/1-10/7
SANTA FE, NM
|KIKAIDA STAR COMES TO CALIFORNIA!|
Actor Daisuke Ban to Visit Comic-Con & San Francisco
Source: JN Productions
|Kikaida by the bay! © 2004 JN Productions, Inc.|
Japanese actor Daisuke Ban ("Jiro" from the KIKAIDA television series) will visit Comic-Con International 2004 in San Diego and the Super 7 store in San Francisco this month!
In KIKAIDA, Jiro is the tragic but valiant android who is constantly pursued by the evil Professor Gill and his DARK Destructoids, while himself searching for the man who created him. The series was popular during its original broadcast in Japan, and spawned a sequel, KIKAIDA 01, both of which are remembered fondly by those who watched it as children, and those who have continues to discover the original series. KIKAIDA was created by maverick producer Tohru Hirayama (JOHNNY SOKKO) and manga artist Shotaro Ishimori (CYBORG 009).
In 1975, Joanne Ninomiya, president of JN Productions, brought KIKAIDA to Hawaii, where it became an overnight sensation. The series was an unexpected runaway hit with a massive multi-ethnic following, akin to the Mainland's "Batman Craze" of the 1960s. In 2001, fans brought actors Ban Daisuke and Ikeda Shusuke back to Hawaii for a reunion show, and that sparked Ninomiya to bring back the series to Hawaii airwaves in 2001. Needless to say, "Kikaidamania" happened all over again, proving that lightning does strike twice.
Ban, among his lengthy acting credits, also played other superheroes, including Watari Goro/Inazuman in INAZUMAN and INAZUMAN FLASH (1973-1974), Izumo Daisuke/Captor 7 Ka'nin in NINJA CAPTOR (1976) and Jin Makoto/Battle Cossack in BATTLE FEVER J (1979), one of the first series in the original POWER RANGERS franchise. Ban has also been featured in notable roles in numerous television series and motion pictures, including the world-wide hit horror film, RINGU (1998) and more recently in BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI (2003).
The original 43-episode KIKAIDA series is being released to DVD by JN Productions/Generation Kikaida, fully-subtitled in English, and can be purchased through many fine retailers in the United States, including Tower Records and Barnes & Noble -- or they can be purchased through the Generation Kikaida website.
Personal Appearance Details:
- Ban-san will be at the Super 7 booth at Comic-Con on Sat., July 24 at 11:30 am and 3:30 pm.
- Ban-san will greet fans at the Super 7 store in Japantown in San Francisco on Mon., July 26, at 6 pm.
Check links for exact locations and details! For more information on KIKAIDA, check out Henshin! Online's "All About Kikaida" page.
The "Lost Interviews" with Godzilla's Overseas Agent, Henry G. Saperstein
Author: Steve Ryfle
The 1990's were a mournful decade for Godzilla. The King of the Monsters witnessed the passing of several key behind-the-scenes figures in his movie career, most notably director Ishiro Honda (d. 1993) and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka (d. 1997), both of whom played important roles in creating Godzilla in 1954 and establishing his legacy over the next four decades. However, in 1998, an important figure in G-history, a man who shepherded Godzilla's career in the U.S. and the West for three decades, died without much notice.
|Henry Saperstein clowns around with an old friend.|
Henry G. Saperstein, the longtime owner of United Productions of America (a.k.a. UPA Productions), who brought many of Toho's best monster films of the 1960's to America and whose other credits as a producer ranged from television's MR. MAGOO to Woody Allen's first feature, WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY?, died of cancer in Beverly Hills on June 24, 1998. He was 80.
Born June 2, 1918 in Chicago, Saperstein attended the University of Chicago, and began his film-related career in 1943 when he inherited Allied Theatres, a chain of five Chicago cinemas, from his father. Within a few years he sold the theaters and, while serving with the U.S. Air Force during World War II, he produced military training films. After moving to Hollywood in 1955, he became a producer of TV sports shows like ALL-STAR GOLF (1958-62) and CHAMPIONSHIP BOWLING (1958-60). In December 1958, a writer for Variety called Saperstein, "a major entrepreneur of TV films, a new breed of video tycoon whose philosophy is not to create new shows for the medium or to invest in potential hits but to buy up bread-and-butter properties, shows that figure to last on the airwaves 10 years or more." A few years later, in 1963, Variety quoted Saperstein boasting, "I am known in this business for my nose. I am known to smell when the time is ripe for a deal, for a trend in entertainment, for a development with dollar potentials."
In 1959, Saperstein took over UPA, a cartoon studio originally founded by a group of ex-Disney animators, and which had created MR. MAGOO and GERALD McBOING BOING. UPA, which built its reputation on modern, simple-yet-stylized animation shorts produced for cinemas, "discarded its reputation for quality" when Saperstein bought the company, film historian Leonard Maltin once wrote. Saperstein turned UPA into a prolific TV cartoon factory, cranking out 130 MR. MAGOO `toons between 1960 and 1962, plus hundreds of DICK TRACY's as well. At the same time, Saperstein produced THE FAMOUS ADVENTURES OF MR. MAGOO, the first prime-time animated series, which aired on NBC in 1964, plus TV specials like MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL and UNCLE SAM MAGOO. He also began acquiring feature films for television syndication, and producing features for theatrical distribution.
In 1962, UPA made GAY PURR-EE, an animated musical feature film, starring the voices of Judy Garland and Robert Goulet, and featuring songs by Harold("Over the Rainbow")Arlen (the picture, which was distributed by Warner Bros., was a big flop). In the 1960's, Saperstein and UPA also produced several live-action films including the Timothy Leary documentary TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT and two rock concert movies, THE T.A.M.I. SHOW and THE BIG TNT SHOW. In 1968, Saperstein was executive producer for ABC Films on HELL IN THE PACIFIC, a two-character World War II drama directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune as enemy soldiers stranded alone together on a Pacific Island. In the 1970's, `80's and `90's, Saperstein kept old Mr. Magoo alive by selling the myopic codger as an advertising pitch-man for commercials; he also produced a new TV series called WHAT'S NEW MR. MAGOO? and was executive producer of Disney's live-action MR. MAGOO (1998) starring Leslie Nielsen. However, his most famous production, outside of the Godzilla pictures, undoubtedly is WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY? - a Japanese spy movie, re-written and dubbed by Woody Allen as a comedic caper about a secret egg salad recipe, and featuring music by the Lovin' Spoonful - which Saperstein reportedly produced for just $66,000.
|Woody Allen takes on Toho for UPA - WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd|
Saperstein has also been called a pioneer in the entertainment merchandising business. He worked with Col. Tom Parker as Elvis Presley's licensing agent, and handled merchandising for WYATT EARP, THE LONE RANGER, LASSIE and THE RIFLEMAN during the 1950s. In addition to his control over the U.S. television and home-video rights to many Toho films, Saperstein also handled the U.S. merchandising for the Godzilla character for many years, relinquishing those duties just a few years ago when Sony Signatures took over Godzilla product licensing. Among the deals he made on Toho's behalf were the Shogun Warriors Godzilla made by Mattel in the1970's, the god-awful Godzilla figures made by Imperial in 1985, and the Trendmasters Godzilla toy line that originated in 1994.
Saperstein says his interest in Godzilla was first piqued when, sometime in the early 1960s, he saw the Japanese (sans Raymond Burr) version of the original 1954 Toho classic at the now-defunct Toho La Brea theater in Los Angeles. His career intersected with Godzilla's not long thereafter, when Saperstein approached Toho and, as he explained it, he convinced the Japanese film giant to turn the terrible tyranno into a Herculean hero (Despite Godzilla's nightmarish origins, Saperstein always unabashedly preferred the monster as a do-gooder). On May 6, 1964, Variety reported that Saperstein had bought the U.S. theatrical and television rights for Toho's MOSURA TAI GOJIRA, and he planned to release the film in America with the title GODZILLA VERSUS THE GIANT MOTH. However, Saperstein apparently aborted these plans and sold the rights to the picture to American International, which released it later that year as GODZILLA VS THE THING.
[Note: This is corroborated by contracts in AIP's archives, but Mr. Saperstein neglected to mention this in the following interview, claiming the first Godzilla movie he bought was MONSTER ZERO.]
In May, 1965, Variety reported that Saperstein had entered into a deal to co-produce five motion pictures with Toho - three giant- monster films, a war movie and a spy thriller - plus a television show that would be filmed in Japan and air on U.S. stations. Then, in February 1966, Variety reported that Saperstein had extended his deal with Toho to include six more movies: INVASION OF THE ASTRO- MONSTERS (which was already in the can at that point and, as everyone knows, was eventually retitled MONSTER ZERO for U.S. release), BROTHERS FRANKENSTEIN (which was set to begin filming in May 1966 and was eventually retitled WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, with all "Frankenstein" references deleted), FLYING SUBMARINE (which apparently was never made, although it sounds reminiscent of Toho's THE WAR IN SPACE, which Saperstein would release a decade or so later), a chase movie called GREAT ADVENTURE, a Toshiro Mifune movie called ISLAND OF TERROR (which was made a few years later as HELL IN THE PACIFIC), and a war picture called BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF.
|A little known fact -- Saperstein's involvement with Toho started with GODZILLA VS THE THING © 1964 Toho Co., Ltd. |
[Notes by August Ragone: The above-mentioned "Flying Submarine" was a film that Eiji Tsuburaya planned to make as a follow-up to ATRAGON (Kaitei Gunkan,1963). A screenplay was indeed written by Shinichi Sekizawa, with production designs created by Shigeru Komatsuzaki, under the title "Soratobu Senkan" -- or "The Flying Battleship." Perhaps the cancellation of this film was directly connected to Saperstein's not raising the financing for this production. Not treading water, Tsuburaya took the concept and refined it over at his own Tsuburaya Productions and it premiered on the Fuji Television network in 1968 as MIGHTY JACK (Maitei Jakku). It's possible that "The Great Adventure" was a working title for the Mifune Productions' fantasy film THE ADVENTURES OF TAKLA MAKAN (Jiganjo-no Boken, 1966), directed by Senkichi Taniguchi, or it could have been Kengo Furusawa's all-star Crazy Cats spy spoof of the same title (Daiboken, 1965). With all of this taken into account, it's completely plausable that "Battle of the Leyte Gulf" could have been Shiro Moritani's ZERO FIGHTER: THE GREAT AIR BATTLE (Zero Faita Daikusen), released in Japan in 1966.]
Although not all of the Toho-Saperstein projects outlined in these agreements would become realities, this is how Toho's long relationship with the self-made Hollywood mogul began. Over the next few years, Saperstein's contributions to Godzilla's career were sometimes heroic, sometimes dubious. Among them were the following:
The following interview was conducted in August 1993 at the UPA offices, then located in Sherman Oaks, CA (the company later moved to Beverly Hills). At the time, I was working as a staff writer for a suburban newspaper, and was here to interview Saperstein (then 75 years old) for a "history of Godzilla" feature story that my editor had indulged me to write. Although I ended up using only a couple of Saperstein's quotations in the story, Saperstein and I spoke for well over an hour, covering a range of topics. Meeting Mr. Saperstein was a turning point in my life, of sorts - immediately, my interest in Godzilla and all things Toho (dormant for about a decade) was completely rekindled and I began the research that eventually led to the writing and publishing of the book Japan's Favorite Mon-Star (However, at the time of this interview, I was still very "green," so please excuse the uninformed nature of several questions). Note that Saperstein refers to several projects in development, including TriStar's GODZILLA and the live-action MR. MAGOO, which have now come and gone, and talks about videocassettes as the standard home-video medium (DVDs were still a thing of the future). During the interview, Saperstein lit up a gigantic cigar that filled the room with smoke. This is the first time the interview has been published in full.
- Saperstein was first to bring American "stars" Nick Adams and Russ Tamblyn to Japan to increase the overseas marketability of Toho's science-fiction films, resulting in a trio of genre classics: FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, and MONSTER ZERO. Later, other U.S. producers would follow suit, bringing actors like Rhodes Reason (KING KONG ESCAPES), Richard Jaeckel, Cesar Romero, and Joseph Cotton (LATITUDE ZERO) to Japan.
- MONSTER ZERO and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, although produced in Japan in 1965 and 1966, respectively, were not released in the U.S. until 1970, when they played on a double-bill, mostly in drive-in theaters, and were subsequently syndicated to TV. The inexplicably long gap between the two pictures' Japanese release dates and their joint American debut is one of the great mysteries of Godzilla's career, in light of the fact that the pictures featured imported American actors to make them more marketable in the West. Saperstein never fessed up to what really happened. In a 1995 interview with John Roberto and Robert Biondi, published in G-Fan, he said, "Toho doesn't always put a picture into quick release internationally ... There's a lot of technical work to be done: sending in interpositives, soundtracks, effects and music tracks, and then there's the things that we have to do with them here ... So if they [Toho] drag their feet ... it just impacts on how much longer down the road it gets pushed."
- It's likely that Saperstein originally planned to release MONSTER ZERO to American cinemas sometime in 1966; on June 1 of that year, Variety reported that Saperstein had just wrapped up post- production (i.e., English dubbing) of the film and that he was "currently negotiating a distribution deal" for the picture. Saperstein probably intended to distribute the picture through American International Pictures, as he had done with FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY? and other films. Perhaps Saperstein and AIP's Samuel Z. Arkoff had some sort of falling-out around this time, for after WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY? was released in November 1966, Saperstein released no further movies through AIP. Thus, MONSTER ZERO and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS "...sat on the shelf at [UPA] because [distributors] figured they had no potential" until 1970, when Saperstein struck a deal with Maron Films to release them, according to a September 1970 Variety article.
- UPA bought the U.S. rights to the 1969 Toho picture ORU KAIJU DAISHINGEKI (ALL MONSTERS ATTACK) and planned to release the film in the U.S. sometime in 1971 with the title MINYA: SON OF GODZILLA. But after realizing (a little too late) that Walter Reade was already showing the 1967 film SON OF GODZILLA on U.S. television stations, Saperstein feared that his new film might be mistaken for the other. It is not known how extensively MINYA: SON OF GODZILLA was released, however some collectors of Godzilla memorabilia have unearthed advertising posters, indicating that at least a very limited release occurred. "There was a confusing thing there. Toho had already released a SON OF GODZILLA made in 1967, so we released it as GODZILLA'S REVENGE instead," Saperstein told G-Fan in 1995.
- Saperstein claimed that he not only distributed TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA in the U.S., but that he also co-financed the film with Toho. There is some doubt as to this, however: neither UPA nor Saperstein's name appears in the movie's Japanese credits (as with previous Toho-UPA films), there were no American actors sent to Japan to beef up the marquee value and no creative contribution from a Saperstein-hired writer (again, as in previous films).
- Saperstein presided over a series of haphazard editorial decisions that have caused lingering confusion about differing versions of TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, and even about its title. In Summer 1978, Saperstein made a deal with Bob Conn Enterprises, a small Beverly Hills-based independent distribution film founded by a former sales executive for 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers. The picture was released (in a heavily edited, G-rated version) for matinee theater screenings as THE TERROR OF GODZILLA. Strangely, the film continued to play in theaters through 1980, even after Saperstein released it to television, in more complete form, with its actual title, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA. Thus, some U.S. fans had the odd experience of seeing TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA first on television, then later going to the cinema to see THE TERROR OF GODZILLA, believing it was a different film, only to learn it was an edited-down version of the same picture.
- When TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA was originally syndicated to TV stations, it included a six-minute prologue telling the story of Godzilla's "origins," consisting of footage pieced together from GODZILLA'S REVENGE and MONSTER ZERO. Reading from a kindergarten- level script, a narrator tells the story of Godzilla's first appearances, his destructive rampages, and how Godzilla became Earth's defender. Bizarrely, this added footage makes it appear that the Planet X aliens from MONSTER ZERO are the creators of Mechagodzilla!
- Around 1977, reports surfaced in Japan (and were transmitted to the U.S. in the fanzine Japanese Giants #5, published 1978) that Toho and UPA Productions would jointly produce GODZILLA VS THE DEVIL, to be released sometime in 1978. Although details were sketchy, it was said the film had a $4 million budget, its script would be written by an American (presumably, Saperstein's longtime associate Reuben Bercovitch) and its proposed running time was 110 minutes. The climax of the movie was to feature a confrontation between Godzilla and Satan. Another rumored Toho-UPA co-production in the late `70's was GODZILLA VS GARGANTUA.
[Notes by August Ragone: There was another Godzilla vehicle that pre-dated both of these proposed projects, called "The Resurrection of Godzilla" in a 1977 television interview with Famous Monsters editor Forrest J. Ackerman (conducted by San Francisco horror film host Bob Wilkins for his show "Creature Features"). The next year, the now- defunct Toho Records issued the soundtrack album "Godzilla!" (AX- 8100), in which the liner notes insert contained a listing of all the Godzilla films. This ended with an entry heralding an upcoming US co-production, simply titled "Godzilla", to start lensing in 1978. The co-producers were listed as "Benedict Productions" -- the name Saperstein worked under in his co-productions with Toho(the film was also mentioned in the notes for the follow-up album "Godzilla! 2", but this time with no mention of Benedict Productions). This proposed remake of the original 1954 film, like "Godzilla vs. the Devil" and "Godzilla vs. Gargantua", never materialized.]
- Although many people tried to take credit for the idea to make an American GODZILLA, co-producer Cary Woods said it was Saperstein who, in the early 1990's, "had been contacting all the major studios in town, trying to put a deal together for some time."
|UPA passed on "lesser" Godzilla movies like GODZILLA VS GIGAN © 1972 Toho Co., Ltd.|
RYFLE: First off, I'd like to ask how you met Godzilla.
SAPERSTEIN: Well, to make a long story less long, in 1948 I bought a package of 50 cheap westerns and quickly doubled my money by selling them to television stations. Myself, and a few others around the country, we who had films became the first suppliers of programming to the early television stations because the studios wouldn't license their films to TV at the time. We pioneered television distribution of programming. And I liked the business and stayed in it, and had a sales force who were calling on television stations as they were emerging. I had a company called Television Personalities Inc., and my salesmen would come to me and say, "we need a certain type of programming that the stations want." DING DONG SCHOOL, which was the first educational program..we syndicated that program for over eleven years. Joan Cooney, who does SESAME STREET, always says that DING DONG SCHOOL was her inspiration for doing SESAME STREET.
Then the guys told me that they needed sports programming, so we put out ALL-STAR GOLF and CHAMPIONSHIP BOWLING, which became the first big sports television shows to gain a wide audience. And then the salesmen came to me and said, "we need cartoons," so I bought the UPA studio because they owned MR. MAGOO and GERALD McBOING BOING, and we began making MR. MAGOO, DICK TRACY, GERALD McBOING BOING cartoons for television and have been doing so ever since. And then one day, the guys said we have to have some sci-fi monster pictures. "They're very hot," he said, "they always pull ratings." This was around 1960, '61, or '62, and I did some research on the companies that were doing continuously good sci-fi monster pictures, and I found out there were only two: Hammer Films in England and Toho in Tokyo. I went to see both of them, and ended up making a deal with Toho to co-finance and co-distribute many of their films, principally Godzilla, and we had the distribution rights for North America and all media, and Toho kept them for the rest of the world. I also acquired the merchandising, so we were merchandising Godzilla, Mr. Magoo, Dick Tracy, Roy Rogers, Wyatt Earp, Lone Ranger, Lassie and Elvis Presley all at the same time. The merchandise licensing turned into a huge business, driven mainly by the television exposure of the shows bearing those names, so that the public was aware of them on a weekly basis.
That's my background. Here I am, after all these years still doing these things. And now we have a major big-budget MR. MAGOO live- action film being done by Steven Spielberg and Warners, which is in the scripting stages now. And we have a new state-of-the-art special- effects big-budget film of Godzilla being made for the first time in the U.S., and that's likewise in the scripting stages now. So it's a lot of fun and a lot of action.
RYFLE: What was the first Godzilla film that you got the rights to?
SAPERSTEIN: The first was GODZILLA VS MONSTER ZERO, and that's when we provided Nick Adams to star in the film, the first time an American had starred in one of these films. We took Nick Adams to Tokyo. We did two films with Nick Adams there, then we took Russ Tamblyn there, put him in to co-star in WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS and we've been doing that kind of thing ever since with Toho.
RYFLE: Since you had this agreement with Toho, why is it that the Godzilla films of the 1960's and `70's were imported by different distributors, and some took longer than others to arrive in America?
SAPERSTEIN: Oh, there's some that they made like GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS GOGAN [sic, actually GODZILLA VS GIGAN] or GODZILLA ON MYSTERY ISLAND [sic, GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND] and some things like that. These were the smaller budgeted pictures. We were involved with the larger budget ones, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, GODZILLA'S REVENGE, GODZILLA VS MOTHRA and so on. So those are the films that we have been distributing for more than 25 years. They're on television every week and they are out on videocassette from Paramount Home Video.
[Note: The UPA library was acquired by Classic Media, who released several of the Saperstein Toho films on DVD in 2002.]
RYFLE: Do you think a Japanese Godzilla movie will ever be released theatrically in the U.S. again, or are they strictly straight-to- video?
|Saperstein caused confusion with multiple names and edits for TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA © 1975 Toho Co., Ltd|
SAPERSTEIN: I think the later films will go straight to video. If they have a theatrical release, it will be a limited theatrical release. You see, the business has changed dramatically. There used to be a business in theatrical for you to put out the second half of a double feature, or for films that were mainly for the drive-in. But with the kind of prices being paid by cable and pay-per-view TV today, and the prices paid by videocassette, it doesn't pay to put out a smaller picture in the theaters. The cost of the marketing campaign is too great. In the marketplace today, with this blockbuster mentality, unless a movie makes big money the first weekend at the box office, the picture gets kind of pushed off to the side and it's hard to make any money. Whereas the videocassette money is straight profit from day one, and television money similarly.
You can't hit medium, that's not good enough. You have to hit big, and that's driven by a couple of weird factors. The theater owners, first of all, want a lot of people to buy tickets for admission, but even more so, they want a lot of people at the concession stand. A picture that's just pulling in a medium audience isn't delivering it to them at the concession stands. That's where they're making their big profit, they're not making it off the movies.
RYFLE: Do you have a favorite Godzilla movie?
SAPERSTEIN: Yeah, my favorite is GODZILLA VS MOTHRA [a.k.a. GODZILLA VS THE THING], because these two little princesses on the island and in the box singing their corny songs while the war dance is going on. Mothra is the only one -this giant caterpillar- who has bested Godzilla without harming him, by spinning this web of gooky, sticky stuff around him like a cocoon. It immobilized him. What a clever way to immobilize this ferocious hero without inflicting any damage on him. I kind of like Mothra.
RYFLE: What's the worst Godzilla movie, in your opinion?
SAPERSTEIN: I would suppose GODZILLA'S REVENGE, because the reach was made to give Godzilla a little son, Minya and I don't think you can humanize a fanciful character. I always had a lot of trouble with Superman taking Lois Lane flying on his back all around the city. I think heroes should be heroes. The Lone Ranger never had a girlfriend. Wyatt Earp had his 16-inch-barrel, .45-caliber peacemaker and that was it. I think the purer you keep a fantasy hero, the easier it is for the audience to accept him. If you try to humanize him in some way, then he no longer is as fanciful and I think it dilutes him.
RYFLE: You've talked about Godzilla being a hero, but he really started out as a symbol of nuclear apocalypse, didn't he?
SAPERSTEIN: Well the first picture was GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS. The theme of it was, someone sets off a nuclear explosion. This reaches all the way down into his watery resting place at the bottom of the sea in Japan. He can't believe that anyone would be stupid enough to do something so violent that it would even wake him up after millions of years. He comes storming out of the sea and he starts going all over Tokyo looking for who did this. Now, the fact that he steps on a few railroads, and knocks down some buildings with his tail - my God, if you were his size, you would do it, too. He's like a lovable klutz as he moves around, but he searching for who [set off the explosion]. And the army and the navy and the air force, they're scared of him because of his size and because of his thrashing things, so they think he's an evil to be disposed of. But the audience is cheering for him! That's the first time I got interested, when I saw GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in Japanese, at the Toho La Brea theater, which used to exist on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
RYFLE: You saw the original version of the movie, not the Raymond Burr version?
SAPERSTEIN: Yes, it was called GOJIRA, which means "devil monster."
|The first Toho film with a US star -- Nick Adams in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
[Note: The monster's name is actually a combination of "gorilla" and "kujira"-- the Japanese word for "whale"]
I sat in the audience and I saw that although they were depicting him as a villain, the audience saw Godzilla as a hero and was cheering for him. That's when I went to Tokyo to talk to Toho about playing him as the hero he was, rather than cloaking it in a metaphorical message. I told them that if they did that, Godzilla would become a worldwide phenomenon.
RYFLE: I wish the Toho La Brea theater were still open today. Were strictly Toho films shown there?
SAPERSTEIN: No. They showed Japanese films, mainly the Toho movies, but they showed movies by Toei and other companies. This was in the 1960's and early '70's. The reason I used to go there is that, upstairs they had one of the greatest Japanese restaurants ever in this town. There was a Toho theater in San Francisco, one in New York and one here on La Brea near Olympic Boulevard. It's now a Korean temple.
RYFLE: What's the key to Godzilla's longevity, as opposed to the more conventional monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, which have their roots in literature and folklore?
SAPERSTEIN: In my opinion, Godzilla has had such longevity because we've let Godzilla be Godzilla. You take something like Frankenstein - there was FRANKENSTEIN, then you had the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, then SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, and then the nephew, then the son-in-law, and soon you didn't believe in Frankenstein any more.
Let's take BATMAN, for example. BATMAN, to me, is a pure type of story because BATMAN derives its power from the villains. You're not playing it off of Batman - it was Jack Nicholson who intrigued you as the Joker. And the same goes for the second BATMAN film, it was the Penguin who had the major role. Audiences back in the silent movie days loved to hiss the villain. You sat there and you booed the villain, and you knew that the hero, even though he might have great difficulty and obstacles in his path, somehow or other would save the baby from the burning house, would cut the ropes that tied the beautiful girl to the railroad tracks, or something like that. We grew up with that kind of culture in the cinema, and we liked our hero and we liked him pure.
What is Clint Eastwood's appeal? In all the DIRTY HARRY pictures he is the big, strong, silent type that will not be deterred by anything in his pursuit of right as he sees it. The same thing with Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, you can go all through the decades. Now we're doing it with Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis. The moment you move the hero away from that type of story and into another type of story, they die, these type of pictures die. Because that's not what the audience wants to see. The audience wants their heroes pure -- beat up, damaged, in great danger, in mounting jeopardy, but eventually to emerge successfully.
RYFLE: Yes, but Godzilla is a villain again in the newer Toho films.
SAPERSTEIN: Oh, they're trying to be a little more villainous in the last two films, but that's not the way the new [American-made] feature is going to be. It's going to be pure Godzilla as we know and love Godzilla - corny lovable, klutzy, effective, a little scary, a little comedic. There's a lot of humor in Godzilla. But the beautiful thing about the Godzilla films is demographic.We have three separate audiences: we have little kids who like him because he's so big and what he does; we have teenagers who thinks it's the corniest, coolest, campiest thing there is; and we have adults who grew up with him who say, "yeah, too bad we don't have that monster out on the streets today, taking care of things." It's interesting to have three different audiences. Godzilla is the kind of programming that each member of the family can enjoy through their own eyes.
RYFLE: You sound rhapsodic when you talk about Godzilla. What do you like about him?
|Classic Media now owns the UPA library and has released the films on DVD © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd |
SAPERSTEIN: Godzilla is an icon figure. Godzilla is like an old- fashioned morality play, the good guys versus the bad guys. Godzilla is the guy in the white hat, and he comes forth reluctantly when some bad guys are trying to disturb the tranquility of the earth - upsetting the peace, polluting the atmosphere, the things which we read on the front page of our papers every single day that evil forces are trying to do. So, Godzilla comes out to try to stop this. And like a typical morality play, or like a Rocky movie, the villain beats the hell out of him for nine rounds, and in the tenth round he gets off the canvas and he decks the villains, then goes back to his haunt to try to sleep quietly without being disturbed - the good guy rides off into the sunset. If Godzilla were on a white horse like the Lone Ranger, riding off and waving goodbye, that's not much different.
So, that's a very basic story, and it's very easy for the audience to understand, you know who the good guys and the bad guys are quickly, you know who to root for and who to hiss. And you know if you just have patience enough to watch your hero getting beat up that eventually he's going to give it to these guys. The audience sits there, it's corny as all hell, but they love it because they understand it, it's easy and they're rooting for him and waiting for him to get up and really lay it into those bad guys. And the bad guys can be anything from humans to aliens to forces of nature to whatever it is that's messing things up. And God knows all you have to do is look at today's paper with the floods in the Midwest, and the hurricanes in the southeast, and the earthquakes around here, and what's going on in Bosnia, and what's going on in the Middle East and in Cambodia. We need a Godzilla once in a while. I guess the public is so fed up with the conventional authorities not being able to handle adverse situations, that in their fantasies they want Batman, Superman - they want someone bigger than life because those that are just the size of life aren't pulling it off. So the Godzilla that arises - the Batman, the Superman, the Meteor Man, Terminator, whoever it is, we need them for our fantasies to lick the bad forces, because we aren't doing it in real life. So, the need for the fantasy is very real.
My wife walked out to her car the other day and someone took a key and scratched the car from the headlight to the taillight. Just out- and-out mindless vandalism. Believe me, she would have given anything for Godzilla to come down on the sidewalk and thrash them at that time. And that's typical in our society. Every one of us can name a situation recently where they wish there was a bigger-than- life icon hero figure to do something about it, because it's not being handled.
RYFLE: The special effects in the older Godzilla movies were pretty flashy for the times, yet today, some people ridicule them. How do you feel about that?
SAPERSTEIN: It is too bad that the great Eiji Tsuburaya doesn't get more recognition, because Steven Spielberg and George Lucas tell freely any class they ever address that they were inspired by Tsuburaya. Tsuburaya built a stage in Tokyo at the Toho Studio that was about a block and a half long by three quarters of a block wide. And everything was in miniature scale. I walked into that stage and I thought I was Paul Bunyan - there were mountains below me, there were rivers with running water, there were traffic lights working and their were cars moving, and with me above all of this. Tsuburaya pioneered the miniature, the model, the rear-screen projection. Special effects had not even advanced all that much from Tsuburaya's day until we came to one Industrial Light and Magic, and what Stan Winston did in Jurassic Park. We no longer can see the blue line for the matte shots. Computer graphics will change all of this, as the computers get faster and the chips get more sophisticated. But that's the progress of technology.
RYFLE: Did you admire any other Toho filmmakers, such as director Ishiro Honda?
SAPERSTEIN: Honda just died the past year. He was a good director, but the man responsible for keeping Godzilla going all these years was Tomoyuki Tanaka, the producer. Tanaka was the soul, the passion, the inspiration for continuing making Godzilla films. All the rest of these people - Honda the director, Tsuburaya the special effects director, and such - they would not have continued if not for Tanaka's push for it, so he's the one that I ascribe the major credit to.
RYFLE: Do you know what the budgets of the 1990's Godzilla movies are, compared to what they cost back in the 1960's?
SAPERSTEIN: Back in the old days, the budgets were between $1 million and $2 million on my Toho co-productions, and we supplied 50 percent of the production costs. Today, they spend anywhere from $5 million to $10 million. In Japan, Godzilla films usually open in the month of December, with lines around the block - you can't get into the theaters. So, Toho makes back their whole cost in just the month of December. I would say Toho's revenue from the merchandise licensing, in Japan only, pays for the entire production cost of the movie. That's how big it is. As I say, this is their icon figure.
RYFLE: Sort of like a national folk hero, on a scale similar to Mickey Mouse.
SAPERSTEIN: Well, the people in England and Scotland see the Loch Ness monster as something, and the people in Hungary and Romania have the weird gypsies, and Dracula is in the forest. In every region, people set up a fanciful character and it becomes bigger- than-life. How about Bigfoot? Do you know anybody that's ever seen Bigfoot? But yet, you go up to the northwest and Bigfoot is very real. So these things exist and they grow bigger and bigger as we attempt to escape from reality. I think all of this is fostered by our need to stay sane. The only way we can stay sane in an insane society - where we have drive-by shootings to two-year-old children, where we have carjacking and even when you hand over your keys they blow you away - in an insane society, you preserve your sanity by escaping into fanciful allusions. That's why the Disney characters and the animated characters last as long as they did. That's why the super figures of Godzilla and King Kong and so on satisfy a need that the public has, a need to escape.
|One of the last UPA-AIP collaborations; THE BIG TNT SHOW © 1966 American International Pictures|
RYFLE: There really haven't been all that many licensed Godzilla items in the U.S. over the past 20 years or so. Why is that?
SAPERSTEIN: We have a very controlled merchandising thing, which makes my characters last for a very long time. We got 22 years out of Elvis, we had 19 years out of Lassie, we had 15 years out of Wyatt Earp, 30 years out of the Lone Ranger, Mr. Magoo has lasted almost 40 years in merchandising. Only because we won't overdo it, we won't saturate the marketplace. We have the plastic figures of Godzilla, [pointing to an Imperial Godzilla figure on a shelf] like you see up there. We have the inflatable Godzillas, which are a huge success. We have new comic books, which are really state of the art, from Dark Horse Comics. We have the hobby kits that you assemble. And then we have had a lot of corporate relationships, the most famous of which we just recently made with Nike where Godzilla challenges Charles Barkley - they go one-on-one on the basketball court and walk off friends. That commercial was a huge success. We had the Godzilla campaign with Dr. Pepper, and with Samsung Electronics and Konica. We are about to come out with Godzilla T-shirts, which have a lot of different themes on them. And we're negotiating at the present time for a master toy license with one of the major companies, and we have a Godzilla video game and computer software.
RYFLE: Why isn't there an official Godzilla fan club in the U.S.?
SAPERSTEIN: Every time someone has tried to pitch me about a fan club, I have been adverse to it because most of the time it's run for the benefit of the person who wants to organize the fan club. I don't want to risk some so-called well-intentioned fan club person ripping off anybody else. I don't want any part of that. We had an Elvis Presley fan club and we had hundreds of thousands of people writing in, and it became an impossible thing to handle because for every nine letters you get from a good fan, you get one weirdo writing with prints that we would have to turn over to the post office authorities. It's difficult because the consumer writes a letter and thinks you owe him an answer and we don't owe anybody—we didn't ask them to write in the first place. And then they demand that you send them autographed pictures, and pretty soon the demands started getting ridiculous.
In July 1995, I had an opportunity to speak to Mr. Saperstein once again, this time by telephone. Again, I was working on a newspaper story, about the death of Godzilla in the then-upcoming film, GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH, which had recently been announced and made worldwide headlines. At this time, director Jan DeBont had quit TriStar's Godzilla movie, and the project appeared dead.
RYFLE: Is Godzilla really going to die? It seems impossible.
SAPERSTEIN: Yeah, sure, Godzilla's dead. In 22 films, they have told the same story about 18 times. I don't know what the problem in Tokyo is with ideas. Have you seen the release that was issued the next day by Toho?
[Note: Saperstein is referring to a Toho press release, issued shortly after the initial "Godzilla dies" announcement]
The bottom line of it was, "let's hope a miracle happens." I have to tell you, I've been involved with television and motion pictures for over 35 years, and I can only say to you, "yeah sure, Godzilla dies." Did you ever hear of anybody killing the golden goose? Godzilla has already died three times in the series. We've made 22 films, and three times he died in the film only to be resurrected because of the great need for him. All I can tell you is that Godzilla is not just a series of films, it's an industry. We've sold three million plastic figures of Godzilla this year, in a soft retail market. You think we'd kill that off right now? In WalMart, Kmart and Toys `R' Us all over the country we have displays of Godzilla toys.
RYFLE: When they said "let's hope a miracle occurs," are they referring to the TriStar movie? It seems to be a lost cause.
SAPERSTEIN: They allude to the TriStar movie, but you can bet your bottom buck a miracle will occur. The story of this most recent movie, the 22nd one, is that he gets killed at the end. And that's not unusual, if you look back at your Superman series, look at how many times Superman comes back. And I love the way each time Tarzan is made he's a young man again. The guy hasn't aged for 70 years. He's drinking some kind of water I'd like to get to. So this is publicity stuff that comes out of the studio by a particular producer at a given time on a given film. But, I have to ask you, if you were in the place of the owners of Godzilla, and you had made 22 films over a period of  years, and had an industry going like this, would you close it off?
RYFLE: What happened to the TriStar film? It seems to have self-destructed.
SAPERSTEIN: They decided at the studio that they were going to make the most special effects ever in a film. Well, they found out that's a mistake, you should do it with the best special effects, not the most special effects. Because the most special effects drove the budget up to $130 million. And everybody in this town is scared stiff about WATERWORLD, because everybody's expecting WATERWORLD to crash and if so, there's always repercussions at the studios.
So when GODZILLA's budget got to $130 million, I for one said to them, "hey guys, we've made over 20 of these films and we've never spent over $8 million, we had a guy running around in a rubber suit. What's all this nonsense of computer generated graphics and all that?" But they've been revising the script to pare the budget down to something that is more workable. That's a joke in itself: is $80 million better, or $70 million? What happens is that you get caught up talking in these boxcar numbers and suddenly someone says, "I just saved $30 million on the Godzilla movie," and somebody else says, "that's like we earned $30 million." The trouble is, you never see a quarter in your pocket. But the budget has now been pared to $100 million. They cut $30 million out of it, and I am told out of Culver City that their goal was to get it down to about $75 million to make it a viable project.
I say to you, $70 million? Come on, we never made one for more than $7 or $8 million, and we did okay. It boggles my mind. When I say to people, "what's wrong with keeping the rubber suit?" They look and me and say, "yeah, thanks a lot." Different isn't necessarily better. Better is better, but more expensive isn't necessarily better. But I'm not the one spending the money, they are.
I have said to the studio people, you take the same kind of a basic story that we've always done, and it's always worked. And you put American actors instead of Japanese actors. And you build some sets that don't look like they're cardboard. And keep Godzilla hokey and corny, and the public will love it. What do you want to change it for? It's an icon. Don't make him slick - it won't be Godzilla. The trouble is, it won't cost $100 million, and you can't brag about how much you spent on it. I don't want to make high tech movies like JUDGE DREDD or JOHNNY MNEMONIC, that die in one day. They're very slick, but everybody sits there and there's no entertainment. I like that Godzilla is corny and hokey, and he dies every so often and he comes back to save the day again.
|Big Fighters & Little Beauties, Shanghai Burns and Monster X Revealed!|
Breaking News and Scoops on GODZILLA FINAL WARS
Author: August Ragone with Keith Aiken
Source: Anioha, Various Japanese News Sources
Following the casting announcement of K-1 fighter Don Frye as "Captain Gordon" of the Undersea Warship Goten (aka "Atragon"), another real-life tough guy has been cast in Ryuhei Kitamura's upcoming GODZILLA FINAL WARS. The 35 year-old founding father of Pancrase fighting, Masakatsu Funaki, has been cast as "Kumasaka," Commanding Officer of the special mutant soldier squad. The 6' tall, 205 pound two-time "King of Pancrase" should be an imposing on-screen presence and create a great contrast with star Masahiro Matsuoka, who plays mutant soldier "Ozaki."
|A complete view of the Mutant Soldier Battle Suit concept art by Yoji Shinkawa.. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.|
Going from Beast to Beauty, the biggest little news for Godzilla fans is that idols Chihiro Otsuka and Masami Nagasawa have been tapped for FINAL WARS to reprise their roles as the "Shobijin" (Little Beauties), the guardian priestesses of Mothra, from last year's GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. This stands as more continuity to the original Godzilla universe, known in fan circles as the "Showa Era", because these are films that were produced during the reign of Hirohito, the Showa Emperor.
Meanwhile, Japanese news reports are claiming that Godzilla and Angilas are to engage in their duel to the death in Shanghai, China. Location shooting began in "The City on the Sea" on the morning of July 4th and wrapped on the 5th (Shanghai Time). Overseas Location Director Ryuichi Takatsu visited Shanghai for the first time to take charge of the filming. "Shanghai is a city where the impression of the future is overflowing, and is very well suited to the futuristic atmosphere of this film," Takatsu remarked." But, after only two days of shooting at this location, you become very aware of the mixture of old and new... the old buildings begin to take more of your attention because they are so fascinating."
|Chihiro Otsuka and Masami Nagasawa return as the Shobijin © Futabasha/Toho Entertainment & Tetsuya Arai|
Over 200 extras gathered at the Shanghai Car Ton and were directed to flee for their lives from Godzilla, who suddenly comes ashore at the famous international city. The extras were told that the monster king is full of anger and fury and were directed to react accordingly. They started with a look of shock and surprise, then began running in different directions as Godzilla stalked them towards the Oriental Pearl Tower and the famous Peace Restaurant.
But, perhaps the latest and greatest news concerns the true identity of the mysterious and H.R. Giger-inspired "Monster X," which has been the source of much speculation in both Japan and America. Inside sources have revealed exclusively to Henshin! Online that Monster X is indeed none other than a first stage creature which will transform into a new version of Godzilla's greatest foe, -- the "Monster of Monsters" -- King Ghidorah! The katakana (the Japanese writing system reserved for foreign words) spelling of the creature's name translates as "Kaiser-Ghidorah" (taken from the German word for "emperor"). Two suit actors will be required to operate the massive winged Kaiser-Ghidorah costume, similar in operation to the "Death Ghidorah" from REBIRTH OF MOTHRA.
|What is the true identity of Monster X? Read the article and find out! © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.|
Here are a couple of other shots from the press kit:
A new look for the Aliens from Planet X; but are they still up to their old tricks?
A detailed look at the new Atragon design from the FINAL WARS presskit.
Stay tuned to Henshin! Online as more developments on GODZILLA FINAL WARS become available.
|Changing the Ultra Guard|
New Appointments for Tsuburaya Productions Personell
Forward: August Ragone
Source: Tsuburaya Productions
As the makers of the hugely successful ULTRAMAN franchise are gearing up for newer and bigger productions for the 21st Century, members of the Tsuburaya family are changing positions within the company to better utilize their creative abilities and business savvy. Three letters were issued by Masahiro Tsuburaya, overseer and producer of the ULTRA SEVEN original video series, who recently served as President and CEO; fromer Chairman and CEO Kazuo Tsuburaya, who now has become Chairman and CO; and Executive Managing Director, Hideki Tsuburaya, who now moves into the position of President and CEO of Tsuburaya Productions. Exclusively, Henshin! Online presents their official statements:
As of May 28, 2004, I have decided to step down from my position as President and CEO of Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. in order to concentrate on active production duties as head of our company's Production Headquarters. I will be leaving the running of the company in the capable hands of Kazuo Tsuburaya who will become our Chairman and Chief Operating Officer and Hideaki Tsuburaya who will assume the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. I thank all of you for your support and assistance during my time as President and CEO.
General Manager, Production Headquarters
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
On May 28, 2004, I accepted the appointment from Tsuburaya Productions' Board of Directors to become the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Tsuburaya Productions. This will mean I will have a greater personal responsibility in the day to day operations of the company than I had previously as Company Chairman. It will be a great challenge but I look forward to it with confidence, knowing I can count on the support of all of our longtime business partners around the world.
Chairman, Chief Operating Officer
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
As of May 28, 2004, I have been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd., by our Board of Directors. As many of you already know, I have been serving the company as its Executive Managing Director. It has been a demanding job. But being President and CEO is even more demanding. As President and CEO of Tsuburaya Productions, I look forward to leading this company to greater achievements in the 21st century.
President, Chief Executive Officer
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
|TWO WEEKS OF TOHO!|
Big Godzilla 50th Anniversary Film Festival Comes to New York
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum
East Coast Godzilla fans rejoice! In celebration of King of the Monsters' 50th anniversary, the Film Forum in New York City is hosting "They Came from Toho: Godzilla and the Kaiju Eiga" a 14 day-long Toho fantasy film festival running August 27th-September 9th, 2004. Bruce Goldstein (head of Rialto Pictures, the company responsible for the current theatrical release of GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL) and William Hohauser have scheduled 21 movies, including both the Japanese and US versions of the original GODZILLA, the New York premiere of 2003’s GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, plus fan favorites both old and new such as RODAN, MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS MONSTER ZERO, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, GMK, and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA.
|Watch out New York - Godzilla is coming your way! © 1964 Copyright Toho Co., Ltd.|
The Film Forum is located at 209 West Huston Street, New York City, NY 10014. Tickets are $5.00 for Forum members and $10.00 for the general public, and can be ordered at 212-727-8110 or online at theater’s official website.
Here are the complete schedule and film notes, taken from the Forum’s press material:
AUGUST 27-SEPTEMBER 9 -- 2 Weeks!
50 years ago, Tomoyuki Tanaka, a producer for the Toho Motion Picture Co., Japan’s leading film studio, had a brainstorm: why not make the first home-grown monster-on-the-loose movie? Employing the most special effects ever for a Japanese movie, the ensuing production was even more costly than Toho’s other epic that year, Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. But Tanaka’s gamble paid off: Gojira (that’s Godzilla to us) proved to be box office gold, spinning off fifty years (and still counting) of sequels and a whole new genre - the kaiju eiga, or Japanese monster movie. Tanaka and his original Godzilla team - director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube, special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya, et al. - were the key talents behind a new Toho universe that would also spawn Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and all their over-sized cousins. . . as well as legions of devoted fans around the world. This sampling of 50 years of Toho monsters, from the very first Godzilla (in both Japanese & U.S. versions) to the New York premiere of its 26th sequel, includes some films for the first time ever in their original Japanese (and English-subtitled) versions.
|SPECIAL THANKS TO SHOZO WATANABE, MASAHARU INA, MASAKI FUJIWARA, TETSUSHI SUDO (TOHO CO. LTD.), MICHAEL SCHLESINGER, SUSANNE HOLZMAN (SONY PICTURES REPERTORY), ERIC DI BERNARDO (RIALTO PICTURES), BOB O’NEIL & PAUL GINSBURG (UNIVERSAL PICTURES), DENNIS BARTOK (AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE) AND THESE ACE KAIJU EIGA AFICIONADOS FROM ACROSS THE NATION: STEVE RYFLE (AUTHOR OF JAPAN’S FAVORITE MON-STAR), KEITH AIKEN (HENSHINONLINE.COM), LEE KAPLAN, GREG PFLUGFELDER (COLUMBIA UNIV.), AND ED GODZISZEWSKI (PUBLISHER OF JAPANESE GIANTS). PROGRAMMED BY BRUCE GOLDSTEIN & WILLIAM HOHAUSER|
AUGUST 27/28 FRI/SAT
|The King of the Monsters is back! © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
GODZILLA: THE UNCUT ORIGINAL
(SUBTITLED - 1954, ISHIRO HONDA)
H-Bomb tests unleash a giant radioactive Jurassic-era monster whose Tokyo temper tantrum can’t be stopped by conventional weapons. But what about the mysterious Dr. Serizawa and his "Oxygen Destroyer?" Re-edited for U.S. release, this is the uncut, undubbed and uncensored Japanese original - with 40 minutes of footage deleted from the "Raymond Burr version" (see Sept. 1). "Magnificent. . .Visionary . . . The great movie monster of the post World War II era." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice. 2:45, 6:25, 10:05
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS!
(1968, ISHIRO HONDA)
Mt. Fuji-based aliens from the planet Kilaak use their remotes to destroy New York, Peking and Moscow -- via Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. An all-star Toho monster mash, with Anguirus, Baragon, Spiega, and multi-headed King Ghidorah just for starters! "The ultimate Japanese monster movie!" - Michael Weldon, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia. 1:00, 4:40, 8:20
AUGUST 29/30 SUN/MON
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
(1961, ISHIRO HONDA)
When two identical six-inch twin princesses, guardians of a mysterious giant egg, are kidnapped and forced to sing in a Japanese nightclub, the egg’s larva transforms into a really pissed-off giant moth. One of the best-loved of all kaiju eiga, with the memorable title song performed by "The Peanuts." 1:00, 4:35, 8:10
GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER
|Ebirah, Horror of the Deep causes trouble in GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER © 1966 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(SUBTITLED) NEW 35mm PRINT! (1966, JUN FUKUDA)
The original Japanese sub-title says it all: Great Battle in the South Seas. The Big G teams with Mothra to battle Ebirah, a giant crab-like crustacean, and nuke-toting terrorists "The Red Bamboo." "An underrated entry in the Godzilla canon." - Steve Ryfle. 2:55, 6:30, 10:05
AUGUST 31 TUE (2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE
(1960, ISHIRO HONDA)
When Earth is attacked by flying saucers in the year 1965, a new super-weapon is sent to clash with the alien invaders. Featuring an Akira Ifukube score and impressive Eiji Tsuburaya special effects, including the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the burning of New York! 1:00, 4:15, 7:30
(1958, ISHIRO HONDA)
The Blob, Nippon style, as cops and crooks take on radioactive creatures that turn men and women into pools of living green ooze. One of Honda’s most serious antinuclear films, though this dubbed version features a scene in which every single character has the unmistakable voice of Paul Frees (Rocky & Bullwinkle’s "Boris Badenov"). 2:40, 5:55, 9:10
SEPTEMBER 1 WED (2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
|Raymond Burr sweats it out in a rare screening of GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS!
("RAYMOND BURR" VERSION)
(1956, ISHIRO HONDA & TERRY MORSE) A post-Rear Window, pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr stars as reporter Steve Martin (you heard us), who stops over in Tokyo just in time for the scoop of the century. Burr’s scenes, inserted into the Japanese original, were filmed in Hollywood in a single day. This rare print includes the even-rarer final credit sequence. 2:55, 6:20, 9:45
GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO
(1965, ISHIRO HONDA)
In exchange for a miracle drug that would wipe out all disease, Earth lends its prized monsters Godzilla and Rodan to help rid far-off Planet X of the eponymous terror -- 3-headed King Ghidorah -- but astronauts Nick Adams and Akira Takarada get hip to the Xians’ ulterior motive. aka Invasion of the Astro-Monsters. 1:00, 4:30, 7:55
SEPTEMBER 2 THU
|Rodan and GODZILLA VS MONSTER ZERO © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
SON OF GODZILLA
(SUBTITLED) NEW 35mm PRINT!
(1967, JUN FUKUDA) U.N. weather control experiments on the Pacific island of Solgell cause the local plants and animals to grow to monstrous proportions, unleashing a horde of giant mantises - not to mention Spiega, a humongous spider - that terrorize the newlyhatched toddler of the title. But where’s Mrs. Godzilla? 1:00, 4:15, 7:30
TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA
(1975, ISHIRO HONDA)
Aliens, with the help of vengeful scientist Akihiko Hirata, send giant dinosaur Titanosaurus and cyborg monster MechaGodzilla to duke it out with the Real McCoy. Honda’s directorial and Godzilla farewell, aka The Terror of Godzilla. 2:40, 5:55, 9:10
SEPTEMBER 3/4 FRI/SAT
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
|The two greatest monsters in movie history just can't get along: KING KONG VS GODZILLA © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd.|
NEW 35mm PRINT!
(1962, ISHIRO HONDA) The mighty Kong, drugged by stoop-to anything advertising men and dumped at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and Godzilla, freshly liberated from an Arctic iceberg after a U.S. atomic sub accident, go head to head for a TohoScope and color battle royale. 1:00, 4:30, 8:00
GHIDRAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER
(1964, ISHIRO HONDA) A princess from the tiny kingdom of Selgina predicts the world’s destruction by three-headed, fire-breathing space dragon King Ghidorah [sic], soon to make a spectacular entrance via fireball. It’s up to Godzilla and new allies Rodan and Mothra to stop him. English dubbed with Spanish subtitles! 2:45, 6:15, 9:45
SEPTEMBER 5/6 SUN/MON
|Godzilla reminds everyone why he's the king in the acclaimed GMK © 2001 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH
(SUBTITLED - 2003, SHUSUKE KANEKO)
Mothra and King G as "guardian" monsters protect the Earth from Godzilla - a blank-eyed, bloodthirsty killer possessed by the vengeful spirits of innocents killed in WWII! SUN 2:00, 6:00, 10:00 MON 6:00, 10:00
GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH
(1995, TAKAO OKAWARA)
The "Oxygen Destroyer" of the 1954 original inadvertently brings forth a new, even more fearsome giant monster - Destoroyah! - while a glowing red Godzilla may be on the verge of meltdown. SUN/MON 4:00, 8:00
SEPTEMBER 6 MON
|RODAN skreeches across the big screen! © 1956 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(MATINEE ONLY - 2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
(1956, ISHIRO HONDA)
After wolfing down a swarm of giant dragonflies, a newly-hatched pterodactyl grows to enormous proportions, with giant wings that allow him to fly at supersonic speed - wreaking atomic-level destruction throughout Japan. But what’s that shrill screech coming from the volcano? 2:30
GIGANTIS: THE FIRE MONSTER
|GIGANTIS (that's "Godzilla") has his first battle with another beast- the spiny Angilas. © 1955 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(1955, MOTOYOSHI ODA)
Don’t let the title fool you: it’s Godzilla with an alias, in the very first sequel and the rarest of them all. A second Godzilla takes its grudge match to Osaka to do battle with fourlegged, spiky-backed reptile Anguirus. aka Godzilla Raids Again. 1:00
SEPTEMBER 7 TUE
(2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS
(SUBTITLED) NEW 35mm PRINT! (2001, MASAAKI TEZUKA)
When The Dimension Tide, a device to create artificial black holes, is used to rid the world of Godzilla, it lets in a new breed of constantly-multiplying, shape-changing giant insects, presenting an ever more powerful and baffling foe for the King of the Monsters. 3:10, 7:10
(1999, TAKAO OKAWARA)
A long-dormant alien spacecraft at the bottom of the sea awakens and releases the genie-like essence of Orga, latest in a line of super-kaiju. Guess who gets to save us? "Lively, engaging series entry with fine effects and sharp script." - Leonard Maltin. 1:10, 5:10, 9:10
SEPTEMBER 8 WED (2 FILMS FOR 1 ADMISSION)
|Ghidorah returned after nearly two decades with GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH. © 1991Toho Co., Ltd.|
GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH
(SUBTITLED) NEW 35mm PRINT! (1991, KAZUKI OMORI)
Time travelers from Earth’s future offer to go back to 1944 to remove the living fossil, Godzillasaurus, from the island where H-Bomb tests would have caused it to mutate into the fearsome fire-breathing giant of legend. A good plan... but then King Ghidorah rears his ugly three heads. 1:00, 4:40, 8:20
GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA
|Godzilla Tokyo SOS © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
(SUBTITLED - 2002, MASAAKI TEZUKA)
Facing yet another Godzilla attack, Japan’s Ministry of Science readies Kiryu, a MechaGodzilla built using the skeleton and DNA of the 1954 original. But is that such a smart idea? This is Vol. 1 of the epic that concludes with Tokyo S.O.S. (see Sept. 9). 2:55, 6:35, 10:15
SEPTEMBER 9 THU
GODZILLA, MOTHRA, MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S.
(SUBTITLED) NEW YORK PREMIERE! (2003, MASAAKI TEZUKA)
The tiny identical twin princesses rom Infant Island show up with good news: Mothra will help fight Godzilla. The bad news: Mothra sees MechaGodzilla as an affront to nature and will attack the Earth if humans insist on using it! A sequel to the original Mothra and 2002’s Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla brings the "Kiryu Saga" to an action-packed conclusion. 1:20, 3:20, 5:40, 7:40, 9:30
|EASTERN FRONT UPDATED|
Bite-sized News from the Eastern horizon!
THE GRUDGE comes to America! Daveigh Case quits THE RING 2. American martial artists join the cast of GODZILLA FINAL WARS! New online article on CUTEY HONEY! Toho goes all out with 30 disc Godzilla DVD boxed set! More than 100 films to play at Canada's FanTasia. GODZILLA: THE SERIES comes to DVD! Japanese horror goes worldwide! ULTRAMAN TIGA comic series concludes! Great JU-ON and FINAL WARS coverage in FANGORIA! College professor writes a Godzilla book. SABU shows a new side of director Takashi Miike. Godzilla soundtracks on CD! All this ...and the long-awaited return of Damon Foster's ORIENTAL CINEMA are now here.
|FULL DETAILS FOR GODZILLA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION|
Source: American Cinematheque Publicity Materials
KING OF MONSTERS - A 50TH BIRTHDAY SALUTE TO GODZILLA!!
|Godzilla tears thru Hollywood this June © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd. |
Sponsored by the Japan Foundation
Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood
Boulevard, Hollywood, CA, 90028
June 24 - 29, 2004
In the spring of 1954, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka approached his boss, Toho executive Iwao Mori, with an idea to make a movie about "a monster that invades Tokyo the way King Kong attacked New York." While not the most original of concepts, it was certainly timely; a successful 1952 reissue of the original KING KONG had launched a wave of 'giant monster on the loose' pictures - most of which featured beasts awakened by atomic radiation. At that time, fear of the effects of radiation was at an all-time high in Japan. Two atomic bombs had been dropped on the country in WWII and, after a Japanese fishing boat had been covered in fallout from a recent American H-Bomb test, there had been a massive recall of contaminated fish.
While a film of this nature had never before been attempted in Japan, Mori saw the potential in the concept and gave his approval. Initially called G (for 'Giant') Project, the film and the monster were soon named Gojira - a combination of the words 'gorilla' and 'kujira' (Japanese for 'whale').
The two men then approached Eiji Tsuburaya, head of Toho's special effects department. KING KONG had been a major inspiration to Tsuburaya, and he leapt at the chance to create his own monster movie. Time and budgetary constraints prevented him from extensively utilizing KONG's stop-motion techniques to bring Gojira to cinematic life, so Tsuburaya relied on puppetry and (primarily) a large monster suit worn by actor Haruo Nakajima.
|Director Masaaki Tezuka and his biggest star are coming to LA . © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Ishiro Honda, who had previously collaborated with Tsuburaya on EAGLE OF THE PACIFIC and FAREWELL RABAUL, was chosen to direct the film. This was an inspired choice - Honda had a background in documentaries and was able to bring a sense of realism to an outlandish premise. The director had also been a prisoner of war in WWII and had visited the remains of Hiroshima in 1946. Honda decided that Gojira would not only be revived by the H-Bomb, but also twisted and mutated by it into an unstoppable force - in essence, the bomb made flesh. "It was a matter of the feeling I wanted," Honda said in an interview, "of an 'invisible fear' that, since science had advanced even farther beyond the atomic bomb, this technology has now even become an environmental problem. Ever since those days I felt the 'atomic fear' would hang around our necks for eternity."
GOJIRA premiered on November 3, 1954 and immediately struck a chord with the Japanese public. The film sold more than 9,691,000 tickets in its initial theatrical run and grossed nearly $2,250,000- more than 8 times its production costs. The following year, Toho's International department began promoting the movie under the Anglicized name GODZILLA. It was quickly sold to a group of American investors who dubbed and re-edited the picture with new scenes starring actor Raymond Burr and released it in the US and abroad as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS.
Success both in Japan and overseas prompted Toho to make more monster movies, starting with the first Godzilla sequel GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (a.k.a. GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER) and including such hits as RODAN and MOTHRA. By the time KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was released in 1962, Toho began to use a lighter, family-friendly approach to their monster films- as Godzilla's popularity with children grew, he became a more heroic, and occasionally comic, figure in films like INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER and GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH before returning to his antagonistic roots in GODZILLA 1985.
|Other Toho classics like RODAN will also be shown. © 1956 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Over the past two decades, Godzilla has generally been portrayed as either a force of nature, destructive but not evil, or as a malevolent beast attacking everything in his path (as in the recent films GMK and GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S.).
In celebration of Godzilla's 50th anniversary, we are proud to present the King of the Monsters in all his many guises - destroyer, hero, father figure, comedian and force of nature - with a cross- section of some of the most popular films in the series.
We are opening with U.S. premieres of the two latest Godzilla films, GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA and GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S., plus no less than 8 of the first 12 Godzilla movies, including such gems as KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and the extremely rare second movie GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER (unseen in US theaters for more than 40 years!). In addition, Toho's classic monster movies RODAN and THE H-MAN, and Tsuburaya's ULTRAMAN are also on hand.
Rounding out the celebration are Godzilla series director Masaaki Tezuka and F/X craftsmen Yasuyuki Inoue and Akinori Takagi, who will attend the event to discuss their work and sign autographs. This will be the first US appearance at a Godzilla event for all three men.
|Toho fx legend Yasuyuki Inoue will be in LA while wife Reiko and dog Riki keep an eye on things back home. |
Series Compiled by Dennis Bartok, Stuart Galbraith and Keith Aiken, with the special assistance of Oki Miyano. Program Notes by Keith Aiken.
Special Thanks to: Tetsushi Sudo/TOHO CO.; Kaai Nishida/THE JAPAN FOUNDATION; Michael Schlesinger/COLUMBIA PICTURES REPERTORY; Paul Ginsburg/UNIVERSAL DISTRIBUTION; Brad Warner/TSUBURAYA PROD.; Steve Ryfle; Ed Godziszewski.
Thursday, June 24 - 8:00 PM
|Mechagodzilla returns to the big screen with two new films © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.|
U.S. Theatrical Premiere!!
GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, 2002, Toho, 88 min. Dir. Masaaki Tezuka. Starring Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma and Akira Nakao. Special Effects by Yuichi Kikuchi. In the decades following the death of the original Godzilla in 1954, Japan has successfully repelled numerous attacks by other giant monsters. But when a new Godzilla appears in 1999, Japan's defenses prove useless. The only thing that could possibly stop the monster is another Godzilla, so the government creates the "Machine Dragon" Kiryu - a cyborg built from the remains of the 1954 beast. But will this "Mechagodzilla" follow orders, or will the original Godzilla return to its destructive ways? In this fast-paced adventure, his second Godzilla film, director Masaaki Tezuka brings a great new spin to a classic foe. Popular model/actress Yumiko Shaku (PRINCESS BLADE, SKY HIGH) stars as a woman wracked with guilt over the deaths of her comrades in a battle with Godzilla. Shin Takuma (GODZILLA 1985) returns to the series as a scientist who helps create Kiryu. The story concludes in GODZILLA TOKYO S.O.S., screening tomorrow.
[In Japanese with English subtitles.]
Introduction to movie by director Masaaki Tezuka.
Friday, June 25 - 7:00 PM
|Mothra fans rejoice! The Queen of the Monsters stars in four films this month. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd. |
U.S. Premiere of the Newest Godzilla Film!!
GODZILLA TOKYO S.O.S., 2003, Toho, 91 min. Directed by Masaaki Tezuka. Starring Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Katsuya Inozuka and Hiroshi Koizumi. Special Effects by Eiichi Asada. Professor Shinichi Chujo is visited by some old friends: Mothra's twin priestesses, the Shobijin. The pair announce that Mechagodzilla is an affront to nature and the remains of the 1954 Godzilla must be returned to the sea. If this is done, Mothra will protect Japan from Godzilla; if not, she will become an enemy of mankind. The Japanese government is reluctant to put their trust in a creature that attacked them 40 years ago - but before a decision can be reached, Godzilla returns to take matters into his own hands. A direct sequel to both MOTHRA (1961) and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002), GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S. brings an action-packed conclusion to the "Kiryu Saga." Godzilla is animalistic and violent in this film as it attacks naval forces and battles Mechagodzilla, Mothra and twin Mothra larvae; the giant turtle Kamoebas (from the 1970 Toho film YOG: MONSTER FROM SPACE) also makes a brief appearance as an early victim of the monster. After more than four decades, actor Hiroshi Koizumi reprises his role of Professor Chujo from in the original MOTHRA, while Yumiko Shaku has a cameo as Akane from GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA.
[In Japanese with English subtitles.]
Discussion following with director Masaaki Tezuka.
[Note: Masaaki Tezuka, Yasuyuki Inoue and Akinori Takagi will be available prior to the screening from 5:30 - 6:30 PM in the Egyptian courtyard to sign autographs and take photos.]
Friday, June 25 - 9:30 PM
|King Kong joins in the Godzilla fun with a brand-new print of their classic rumble. © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd. |
New 35mm Print! KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, 1962, Universal, 91 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Ichiro Arashima, Mie Hama and Yu Fujiki. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. In 1960, legendary stop-motion artist Willis O'Brien approached producer John Beck about doing a sequel to the original KING KONG entitled "King Kong vs. Frankenstein." Beck promptly removed O'Brien from the project and pitched the idea to studios in the U.S. and Italy before approaching Toho Studios in Japan.
Recognizing that a battle with the Eighth Wonder of the World would be the perfect comeback vehicle for Godzilla, Toho replaced Kong's opponent with their own King of the Monsters. Released as part of Toho's 30th Anniversary Celebration, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was a massive hit, selling more than 11 million tickets in Japan and establishing Godzilla as a franchise character.
Director Honda and screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa crafted a light- hearted satiric romp that poked fun at the commercialism running rampant in the wake of television. The cast includes an eclectic mix of genre stars, comedy actors and Toho starlets - including actress Mie Hama, who holds the unique honor of playing love interests for both King Kong and James Bond (she co-starred with Sean Connery in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE).
Before selling U.S. rights to Universal, Beck jettisoned most of the comedy and Akira Ifukube's incredible score in favor of newly-shot scenes featuring Michael Keith, James Yagi, and Harry Halcombe explaining the onscreen events, with music lifted from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Despite constant rumors to the contrary, one thing not changed for the U.S. release was the film's ending - it is the same as in the Japanese version.
[Note: We will be screening an English-dubbed print of the American version of the film.]
Super Rare Screening! GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER (a.k.a. GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN), 1955, Toho, 78 min. Directed by Motoyoshi Oda. Starring Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Here, Japan must deal with both a new Godzilla and another beast - the spike-backed dinosaur Angilas. The second Godzilla film and the first in Toho's long line of "monster vs. monster" movies, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN premiered barely 6 months after the release of the original GODZILLA. The U.S. rights were purchased by many of the same investors who had Americanized the first film. For GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, they hired voice actors Keye Luke ("Kung Fu"), Paul Frees ("Bullwinkle") and George Takei ("Star Trek") for a quickie dub job, renamed Godzilla "Gigantis" in an attempt to trick the public into thinking the movie starred a brand-new monster, then leased theatrical rights to Warner Bros. After Warners' rights lapsed in the early 1960's, GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER became known as the "lost" Godzilla movie, rarely shown on television and long out- of-print on home video. We will be hosting the first authorized theatrical screening of GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER in more than four decades.
|Don't walk--RUN-- to the first screening of GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER in 40 years! © 1955 Toho Co., Ltd.|
[English dubbed version.]
Introduction to screenings by art director Yasuyuki Inoue and model mechanic Akinori Takagi.
Saturday, June 26 - 5:00 PM
|Toho's "Dream Team" reunited for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS © 1968 Toho Co., Ltd. |
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, 1968, Toho, 88 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Akira Kubo, Yukiko Kobayashi, Jun Tazaki, Kyoko Ai, Yoshio Tsuchiya and Kenji Sahara. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and Sadamasa Arikawa. In the year 1999, all of earth's monsters have been imprisoned on Ogasawara Island until alien invaders from the planet Kilaak release them and send them on a rampage of destruction around the world. Going all-out for their 20th kaiju eiga (monster movie), Toho combined 11 giant monsters - Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Angilas (from GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER), Varan (VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE), Manda (ATRAGON), Baragon (FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and the recent GMK), Gorosaurus (KING KONG ESCAPES), Minya and Kumonga (both from SON OF GODZILLA) - in one motion picture. This final collaboration by the creative team behind the original GODZILLA features several wonderful sequences: quick shots of the destruction of New York, Paris, Moscow and Beijing; four monsters attacking Tokyo; an assault on the Kilaak's base at Mt Fuji and a battle between the earth monsters and King Ghidorah.
[Toho's English dubbed version.]
Discussion following with art director Yasuyuki Inoue and model mechanic Akinori Takagi.
Preceded by: "ULTRAMAN - Episode 10: The Mysterious Dinosaur Base," 1966, Tsuburaya Prod., 25 min. Directed by Kazuho Mitsuda. Starring Akiji Kobayashi, Susumu Kurobe, Masanari Nihei, Sandayu Dokumamushi and Hiroko Sakurai. Special Effects by Tohru Matoba. In 1963, Toho's renowned special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya established his own f/x shop, Tsuburaya Productions. Initially created to supply visual effects to Toho and other Japanese studios, within three years Tsuburaya was also making its own original productions. The most popular of these was the television series "ULTRAMAN" - a massive hit which launched a franchise still going strong to this day. The series followed the adventures of the Science Patrol, a team sworn to protect Earth from alien invaders and giant monsters. In times of great crisis they were aided by Ultraman, a 120-foot-tall alien superhero who had merged his life force with Patrol member Hayata. Many popular actors, crewmembers, props and monster costumes from Toho's monster films were used for "ULTRAMAN." Episode 10 of the series is particularly famous since it features Godzilla - or, more precisely, a thinly disguised Godzilla suit playing the role of the "Paleolithic lake monster" Jiras (renamed Keerah in the English dub and played by Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima). We are pleased to present a rare screening of the battle between the two greatest icons of Japanese science fiction.
|A disguised Godzilla gives Ultraman a bad time. Here's a rare chance to see their fight on the big screen! © 1966 Tsuburaya Pro.|
[English dubbed version.]
Saturday, June 26 - 8:00 PM
|Don't get caught without tickets. © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd. |
INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER (a.k.a. MONSTER ZERO), 1965, Toho, 93 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya and Akira Kubo. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Two astronauts are sent to discover the source of mysterious signals from Planet X, a planet hidden on the far side of Jupiter. There they encounter an alien race that asks if they can "borrow" Godzilla and Rodan in order to defend themselves from Monster Zero - better known as King Ghidorah! Introducing the "alien invasion" theme to the Godzilla series, INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER features many of Toho's most popular genre actors, including Akira Takarada (GODZILLA, GODZILLA VS. THE THING), Akira Kubo (SON OF GODZILLA, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS), Yoshio Tsuchiya (GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER, SON OF GODZILLA, GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH) and the stunning Kumi Mizuno (FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD) - whose look in this film became one of the iconic images of Toho's fantasy films. Another first was the inclusion of an American actor, Nick Adams (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, the 1950's television series "The Rebel"), in a prominent role in a Godzilla film. Unlike Raymond Burr's performance in GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS, which was later edited into the film for U.S. release, Adams was part of the original Japanese production. The English-language version is probably the most quotable Godzilla movie; Adams' voice was thankfully untouched and nearly every line of he speaks is a gem.
[English dubbed version]
New 35mm Print! EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP (a.k.a. GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER), 1966, Columbia, 83 min. Directed by Jun Fukuda. Starring Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Toru Watanabe and Akihiko Hirata. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. A bank robber and several young men wash ashore on tropical Letchi Island - where they find the secret base of a terrorist organization called "The Red Bamboo" that uses natives kidnapped from Mothra's island home as slave labor. With Mothra in hibernation on Infant Island and the giant crustacean Ebirah prowling the nearby ocean depths, escape seems impossible - until the castaways discover Godzilla asleep in one of Letchi's caves! Originally written as OPERATION ROBINSON CRUSOE: KING KONG VS. EBIRAH, a live-action adaptation of the 1966 Rankin-Bass "King Kong" cartoon show, the story was reworked and Godzilla became a last-minute substitute for the famous ape. As with INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER, the human cast (led by INVASION co-stars Akira Takarada and Kumi Mizuno) carry the story, and once again deliver an entertaining adventure that would have been enjoyable even without the presence of giant monsters. EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP was released directly to television in the U.S. as the English dubbed GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, so this is a rare opportunity to see the original Japanese version on the big screen.
|First US screening of the Japanese version of EBIRAH HORROR OF THE DEEP © 1966 Toho Co., Ltd. |
[In Japanese with English subtitles.]
Introduction to screenings by art director Yasuyuki Inoue and model mechanic Akinori Takagi.
Sunday, June 27 - 2:00 PM
Triple Feature Toho Monster Marathon!!
RODAN, 1956, Toho, 72 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa and Akihiko Hirata. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. A mining crew in Kyushu digs too deep and awakens monstrous insects - and something even larger and more terrifying. The team behind the original GODZILLA (including co-writer Takeo Murata and legendary composer Akira Ifukube) reunited for Toho's first color monster movie, which was a box office success in both Japan and the U.S. Rodan became one of Toho's most popular creations, returning to battle against and alongside Godzilla in films like GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (which are all being shown at this festival), while the giant insects called Meganuron were revamped for 2000's GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS. RODAN also provided the first starring role for actor Kenji Sahara, who appeared in a record 12 Godzilla movies! This is a rare-screening of an original IB Technicolor print of RODAN.
[English dubbed version.]
GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, 1964, Toho, 85 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Yosuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, the Peanuts, Hisaya Ito and Akiko Wakabayashi. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. A mysterious prophetess makes horrifying predictions that soon prove true: Rodan and Godzilla both return to menace mankind (and each other) while the "Monster of Monsters" King Ghidorah emerges from a fallen meteor and proceeds to destroy all in its path. Can Mothra convince Godzilla and Rodan to join forces against this new and greater menace? A landmark film in the Godzilla series, GHIDORAH teamed the King of the Monsters with his two most popular monster co-stars; introduced the golden space dragon who would become his arch nemesis; and was the first step in Godzilla's gradual change from villain to hero.
[English dubbed version with Spanish subtitles.]
THE H-MAN, 1958, Columbia, 79 min. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara and Akihiko Hirata. Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. After her gangster boyfriend mysteriously disappears, a beautiful nightclub singer draws the attention of police, mobsters, a young scientist and the Liquid People - strange, radioactive creatures dwelling in Tokyo's sewer system!! Director Ishiro Honda, working from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura (RODAN, THE HUMAN VAPOR, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS), creates a more adult (by 1950's standards) film than the usual Toho monster movie. A great combination of the popular sci-fi, horror and crime genres, THE H-MAN features a bit of everything sure to please moviegoers - monsters, cops, gangsters, the stars of RODAN, a haunted ship and musical numbers - topped off by an amazing score by composer Masaru Sato (Akira Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW and YOJIMBO). H-MAN was also the first Toho film released in the U.S. by Columbia/Sony Pictures.
|The Honda/Tsuburaya classic THE H-MAN is also being shown. © 1958 Toho Co., Ltd. |
[English dubbed version.] There will be a 10-minute break between each feature.
Introduction to screenings by art director Yasuyuki Inoue and model mechanic Akinori Takagi. Special Ticket Price: $12.00 General Public; $10.00 Students/Seniors; and $8.00 Cinematheque Members for this event only.
Tuesday, June 29 - 7:00 PM
|The fx crew for GODZILLA VS HEDORAH will be on hand to discuss their work © 1971 Toho Co., Ltd. |
GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (a.k.a. GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER), 1971, Toho, 87 min. Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno. Starring Akira Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Kawase and Keiko Mari. Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Spawned from a fallen meteor, an alien creature feeds on Japan's industrial pollution, rapidly growing larger and stronger. Can Godzilla defeat Hedorah before it destroys the world? Released during a period of growing concern about pollution and the environment, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH combines scenes of victims being eaten away by acid mist, surreal and psychedelic imagery and fuzz-stoked rock music into what is surely the oddest entry in the Godzilla series. Also, this is the only film where Godzilla flies. Hedorah, an inspired creation whose sludge body proves immune to Godzilla's physical assaults, was played by Kengo Nakayama, who (under the name Kenpachiro Satsuma) took over the role of Godzilla starting with GODZILLA 1985. Child actor Hiroyuki Kawase starred in Akira Kurosawa's DODES'KA-DEN and would return for the 1973 movie GODZILLA VS. MEGALON.
[Toho's English dubbed version.]
Discussion following with art director Yasuyuki Inoue and model mechanic Akinori Takagi.
Tuesday, June 29 - 9:15 PM
GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, 1972, Toho, 89 min. Directed by Jun Fukuda. Starring Hiroshi Ishikawa, Tomoko Umeda and Yuriko Hishimi. Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. From a secret base hidden inside a life-sized Godzilla-shaped office building in a children's amusement park, alien cockroaches (!!) launch an assault on earth using King Ghidorah and the cyborg monster Gigan. While a comic book artist and his friends attempt to foil the invaders' plans, Godzilla and Angilas battle the space monsters. Despite a remarkably low budget and lots of obviously recycled stock footage, this entry is a high- energy slug-fest that introduces one of Toho's most colorfully imaginative monsters: the sickle-armed evildoer Gigan. It is also your only chance to hear Godzilla speak! This was suit actor Haruo Nakajima's final performance as Godzilla.
[English dubbed version]
New 35mm Print! GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH, 1991, Columbia, 100 min. Directed by Kazuki Omori. Starring Anna Nakagawa, Isao Toyohara, Megumi Odaka, Chuck Wilson and Yoshio Tsuchiya. Special Effects by Koichi Kawakita. Time travelers from the 23rd Century arrive in Japan and announce Godzilla will soon cause a nuclear accident that will destroy the country. In order to prevent this, the Futurians offer to go back in time and erase Godzilla from history... but their agenda is not as benevolent as it appears to be. While a rather convoluted plot may confuse some viewers, GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH is an entertaining Godzilla film befitting Toho's 60th Anniversary. The beautiful Anna Nakagawa (CURE) stands out as time traveler Emi Kano, popular actress Megumi Odaka reprises her GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE role of psychic girl Miki Saegusa and Kurosawa and Godzilla series veteran Yoshio Tsuchiya steals the show as Shindo, a man who sees his savior Godzilla become the destroyer of Tokyo. Tsuchiya's face- off with the King of the Monsters ranks as one of the most memorable and touching scenes in the entire Godzilla series. King Ghidorah returns to the big screen after an absence of 19 years to once again bedevil Godzilla, and a new version of the monster is also introduced - the futuristic cyborg Mecha-King Ghidorah.
|See the original Japanese version of GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH. © 1991 Toho Co., Ltd. |
[In Japanese with English subtitles.]
Popular STAR TREK actor George Takei has been added to the festival guest list. While a student at UC Berkeley, he applied to a company that was looking for voice actors to dub Japanese films into English. Mr Takei was hired and traveled to the MGM lot in Culver City, CA (now owned by Sony Pictures) where he created voices for eight characters in the American version of RODAN. The following year he worked on the dubbing of GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER. Because RODAN was his first professional acting job the film holds particularly fond memories, so Mr Takei has agreed to come to the Sunday, June 27th screening and take part in a Q&A discussion about the Americanization of that movie.
In addition to official guests Masaaki Tezuka, Yasuyuki Inoue, Akinori Takagi, and George Takei, several people involved in the Godzilla series, merchandise, and fandom are also expected to attend the event. The tentative list includes Sony's Mike Schlesinger (writer/producer of the Americanized GODZILLA 2000); representatives from Toho LA; HUGO Award-winning artist Bob Eggleton (who painted the covers for the Random House Godzilla books and the Dark Horse Godzilla comics) and his wife, artist Marianne Plumridge; JAPANESE GIANTS editor Ed Godziszewski; JAPAN'S FAVORITE MON-STAR author Steve Ryfle (who is also responsible for the press notes to Rialto's GODZILLA '54 release); GODZILLA: THE SERIES writer Bob Skir; GODZILLA: THE SERIES voice actor Tom Kenny (best known these days as "Spongebob Squarepants"); GODZILLA: THE SERIES and Dark Horse Godzilla artist Keith Aiken; Japanese film historians Bob Johnson and August Ragone from Henshin! Online; popular Japanese Godzilla book author Takahiko "Taki" Mamiya (GODZILLA: 1954-1999);and Satoshi Nakamura, a reporter covering Mr Tezuka's visit to America for the acclaimed Japanese film magazine UCHUSEN.
Ticket prices to the Egyptian Theatre are $9.00 general, $8.00 students and seniors, and $6.00 for Cinematheque members.
|LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!|
Toho Unveils the Secrets of GODZILLA: FINAL WARS!
Author: August Ragone
Source: Toho's Official Godzilla Website, Midnight Eye and various Japanese news sources
Additional information: Oki Miyano, Kyle Yount, Aaron Cooper and Robert Saint John
One of the most anticipated monster movies of all time, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS marks the 50th Anniversary of the long-running series. The film has been the subject of much more "official secrecy" than any Toho production in recent memory. There has only been one short press release since the movie was announced on December 13, 2003 which stated that GFW would be the biggest and best Godzilla film of them all, with Godzilla battling a Dirty Dozen of Toho's classic kaiju (monsters) and that this would be "Godzilla's last movie" (haven't we heard that one before?).
|Godzilla returns for a star-studded finale! © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
With much hoopla surrounding the official press conference, but little known about the film or the plot, 500 reporters crowded into the Imperial Hotel in the Chiyoda Ward at 10 am on Tuesday, May 25th (Japan time) to hear the latest news from Toho. At the same time the studio also updated their Godzilla website, providing details on the cast, crew, and plot of the upcoming film. The official site also confirmed earlier reports that, at 110 minutes, the cinemascope-lensed film would run longer than previous entries and be distributed world-wide.
Earlier this year, rumors began circulating that one of the hottest directors in the world, 34 year-old Ryuhei Kitamura, would be at the helm. Toho formally announced this was true on March 2nd. At the age of 17, Kitamura (a self-proclaimed high school dropout) moved to Australia to study filmmaking because he was obsessed with Australian and American action movies such as MAD MAX and ALIENS (and Australian rock bands like INXS). He entered the Film Department at the School of Visual Arts where he won Best Direction and the Kodak Award for his graduation project, the short film EXIT. After returning to Japan, Kitamura formed his own production company, Napalm Films. With a budget of 300,000 yen and a crew of six Kitamura made the horror film DOWN TO HELL (a prequel of sorts to VERSUS) in 10 days. The movie went on to win the grand prize at the Indies Movie Festival. He followed this up with his first theatrical release HEAT AFTER DARK(1996), which was produced by and starred acclaimed actor Atsuro Watabe (INUGAMI, ZEBRAMAN). But, despite these calling cards to his unbound talent, Japanese producers were hardly interested in what he was doing.
|The man in charge - director Ryuhei Kitamura. © 2004 Ryuhei-Kitamura.com.|
After spending time in a rock band, Kitamura took the international film scene by storm with his impressive low-budget action film VERSUS (1999). Always on the move, he was able to direct several projects including the science fiction thriller ALIVE (2002), the supernatural tales SKY HIGH and ARAGAMI (both 2003), and the cut scenes for the video game METAL GEAR SOLID: THE TWIN SNAKES. He then secured studio confidence with the success of his first big-budget film, AZUMI, which was a major box-office hit for Toho in 2003. Following AZUMI, he was approached by Toho to take the director's chair for the 50th Anniversary Godzilla film. The director pushed back his upcoming Miramax project (to be produced by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez) in order to take up the reins on GFW.
Kitamura is currently in a unique position. Being the hottest director to come out of Japan in years, he has been given extreme latitude on this production and has brought aboard the principal staff of Napalm Films to insure that GFW is truly a "Ryuhei Kitamura Film." These include screenwriter Isao Kiriyama and cinematographer Takumi Furuya, who have both been with Kitamura on all of his previous professional films.
Another interesting development is that Toho is pulling out all the stops for the 50th Anniversary film -- extending the production time from four months to six and, according to the official press conference, increasing the budget to 4 billion yen (more than twice the amount allowed for previous films) to accommodate the scope of GFW. This allows an unprecedented four units -- live action, overseas locations, and two effects teams -- to work simultaneously on bringing GFW to the screen. 1 billion yen has been put towards shooting in foreign countries, a rarity in Godzilla films. This month sees filming in Sydney, New York City, Paris and Shanghai. Effects director Eichi Asada is also raising the bar by creating almost a dozen elaborate monster suits (supervised by Shinichi Wakasa). The film's action scenes are to be choreographed by VERSUS star Tak Sakaguchi who is planning some intense scenes, including an eye-popping motorcycle sequence. Principal photography begins in Japan on June 4th and is scheduled to wrap on November 11th.
|Toho's 50th Anniversary Logo. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
GFW will also be unique in its look, with some of Japan's leading young artists and designers breathing new life into the long-running series' characters and costume designs. Fan-turned-Pro Shinji Nishikawa, who has worked for Toho since GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989) and is also currently working on Toho's GRANSAZERS television series, is coordinating the film's production designers. This conclave of artists is the most impressive line-up ever assembled for a Godzilla film:
Yasushi Nirasawa came to prominence in the early 1990s with his progressive creature designs for films such as MECHANICAL VIOLATOR: HAKAIDER (1995). He became recognized outside of Japan for revamping Go Nagai's "Devilman" creations for a popular line of figures for Fewture Company, which led to character designs for the animated AMON: THE APOCALYPSE OF DEVILMAN (2000), VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000), and FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2001). More of his work will be seen in the upcoming live-action Toei film DEVILMAN (2004). For GFW, Nirasawa has designed the revamped Gigan (from 1972's GODZILLA VS. GIGAN) and the aliens from Planet X (from 1965's MONSTER ZERO).
Katsuya Terada is an artist receiving much attention in the US due to several projects, including an art show sponsored by Dark Horse Comics at the Compound Gallery in Portland, Oregon. While inspired by European artists like Moebius, Terada approaches his own art mainly in the digital medium by scanning his own sketches then rendering colors and painting them digitally. He previously designed costumes for Kieta Amemiya's MOON OVER TAO (1997) and was a writer and effects director for BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2000). For GFW, Terada was commissioned to design Godzilla's greatest antagonist, Monster X.
|Production Sketch for Godzilla's newest foe, Monster X. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Yoji Shinkawa is most familiar in the States for his incredible and celebrated renderings for the METAL GEAR SOLID video game series, but is also well-know for his involvement with ZONE OF ENDERS. For GFW, Shinkawa has provided designs for the new Goten warship (from 1963's ATRAGON).
One element of GFW that has fans across the world at the end of their nerves was the list of monsters that would be appearing in GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. Toho finally revealed that 13 monsters will appear onscreen, breaking the record set in 1968 with DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. In addition to Godzilla; such classic beasts as Rodan, Mothra, Gigan, Minilla (aka "Minya"), Kamakiras (aka "Kamacuras"), Kumonga (aka "Spiga"), Manda, Ebirah, Anguirus (aka "Angilas"), King Caesar (aka "King Shisa"), and Hedorah (aka the "Smog Monster") will return, along with the newest creation which is currently dubbed Monster X.
Other tightly guarded elements of the production are the suits and props Shinichi Wakasa's company Monsters Inc has built to bring the monsters to life. At Toho's official press conference it was revealed that vast improvements are being made with the Godzilla suit since the movement in previous costumes was stiff and somewhat limited. In order to allow Godzilla to use Judo-based techniques, a special type of foam latex has been employed for his arms. The material is similar to that used in some cosmetic sponges and is commonly used for prosthetic appliances in American films. Compared to the heavy rubber and urethane which are commonly used in making Japanese monster suits, this material is much less resistant and can be damaged easily.
But, the Hollywood material has greater flexibility and a more life-like appearance than the traditional Japanese urethane. It is also far lighter, which is a relief to the suitmation actors (who have to endure the sweltering conditions inside 90 pound costumes that can cause them to lose about 20 pounds by the end of the shoot). Additionally, it is now much easier for the suitmation actors to move in than the earlier, stiffer costumes. Before these new methods were employed the actor's face was positioned at the crest of Godzilla's chest, but this time it is positioned at the center of the suit's neck, allowing the shoulders of the performer to now fit precisely in the suit's shoulders. This radical change from "easily made" to "better fit" allows for increased movement for the suitmation actors. Previously, in order to turn Godzilla's neck the actor would have to move his whole body; now the range of head movement on the new suit is far greater. The new base materials used to create these suits will allow for facial expressions never before possible.
|Future soldier Masahiro Matsuoka. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Director Kitamura commented excitedly about the new Godzilla suit; "There will be movement that has never been seen before. Its movement is quick, but retains the sense of mass and strength. The hands, feet and tail -- their movement is absolutely smooth. I really want to see him make fast, single blows [in this film]."
The cast is also unconventional and differs from the usual Toho production. Headlining the cast is 27 year-old musician-turned-actor Masahiro Matsuoka, who plays the powerful mutant soldier Shinichi Ozaki. Matsuoka made his debut as the drummer for the band Tokio in 1994. Despite a heavy touring and recording schedule he found time to appear in television commercials and variety shows -- even performing on the perennial Red & White Song Festival, in which he received rave notices from seniors to teens.
Matsuoka's first serious dramatic role was for the prestigious NHK network (the equivalent or PBS or BBC) in their Taiga (historical) drama MUSASHI, which chronicled the life and battles of the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Mushashi. He received excellent reviews for his performance in the pivotal role of Kojiro Sasaki, Mushashi's arch rival. Matsuoka followed the series with the TBS drama MANHATTAN LOVE STORY and is planning to act in the American stage production of TRUE WEST. GFW is his first starring role in a motion picture.
|Brains and beauty - Rei Kikukawa stars in GFW. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Cast opposite of Matsuoka is 26 year-old Rei Kikukawa as Miyuki Otonashi, a molecular biologist who is trying to discover the secret of the mummified monster. Kikukawa was born to act, receiving an Oscar Grabuer Grand-Prix award in 1998 while attending the University of Tokyo. Although she has been widely seen in numerous television commercials, she appeared in the dramas MY BLUE HEAVEN 2002 (alongside Akira Takarada) and SHINSENGUMI. She also has been featured in a prominent role in the feature film DOUBLE DECEPTION (2001) and starred in GUN CRAZY: THE BETRAYAL (2002).
A half-century after starring in the original GODZILLA, distinguished actor Akira Takarada will play the role of UN Secretary General Naotaro Daigo. The 70 year-old Takarada debuted in Toho's THUS AS YOU SOUND THE BELL OF FREEDOM in 1954. After his role in GODZILLA, he became a much sought-after leading man and was one of the biggest stars during Japan's Golden Age of Cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. During those wonderful years, he appeared in numerous SF and Monster pictures for Toho, including HALF HUMAN (1955), GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964), MONSTER ZERO (1965), GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966) and LATITUDE ZERO (1969). The English-speaking Takarada also became an accomplished stage actor, appearing in dramatic roles (as Rhett Butler in GONE WITH THE WIND) and musicals (ANNIE GET YOUR GUN). GFW is Takarada's sixth Godzilla appearance.
American-born actor Kane Kosugi will play the role of M-Organization super soldier Kazama. The son of 1980s action star Sho Kosugi, Kane appeared in several of his father's ninja movies such as PRAY FOR DEATH (1985). He moved to Japan in the early 1990s and has since carved a niche in the Japanese entertainment industry with a number of action films, starting with his father's production of JOURNEY OF HONOR (1992). The 30 year-old Kane is also no stranger to sharing the screen with giant monsters, having starred in two superhero series, ULTRAMAN: THE ULTIMATE HERO (1993) and NINJA TASK FORCE: KAKURANGER (1994). His other films include ZERO WOMAN (1995), CAT'S EYE (1997), Jackie Chan's WHO AM I? (1998), and MUSCLE HEAT (2003).
|Veteran Godzilla star Akira Takarada plays the role of UN Secretary General Naotaro Daigo. © Sanken-RJ|
34 year-old veteran Maki Mizuno appears in GFW as investigative reporter Anna Otonashi. In 1987 Mizuno was first runner-up in Toho's second Cinderella Contest. This launched a prolific career on stage, screen and television, plus work as a spokesmodel for Kanebo Cosmetics in 1991 and 1992. She has appeared in such TV series as CX's STEWARDESS DETECTIVE (1996) and TBS's HOSTESS INVESTIGATOR (2000) and is currently a regular cast member in the drama THIS IS HON-IKEGAMI POLICE STATION, which co-stars Masanobu Takashima (GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE) and Yuriko Hoshi (GODZILLA VS MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS). GFW is Mizuno's first Godzilla film.
Playing the representative from Planet X is the 34 year-old Kazuki Kitamura in his first Godzilla role. The veteran actor, who recently became known world-wide as Crazy 88 #2 (with the spiky red hair and braces) in Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003), has been a familiar fixture on Japanese television shows, commercials, stage and screen. In addition to his performance in Ryuhei Kitamura's hit AZUMI, some of Kitamura's more notable roles have been in NINE SOULS (2003), RODEO DRIVE (2003), BASTONI (2002), MAN-HOLE (2001), TURN (2000), DEAD OR ALIVE (2000), FREEZE ME (2000), BOOTLEG FILM (1999), LEY LINES (1999) and FULL METAL YAKUZA (1997).
|Action star Kane Kosugi faces his biggest challenge. © Mu-Tairiku|
Other notable actors appearing in the film are Masahiro Takashima, the son of veteran Toho star Tadao Takashima. The junior Takashima starred in Toho's OROCHI: THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON (1994) and had a supporting role in GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995). Also joining the cast is musician/actor Kenji Sawada, who was married to one of The Peanuts of MOTHRA fame. His fantastic film roles include THE MAN WHO STOLE THE SUN (1979), HIRUKO: THE DEMON HUNTER (1991) and most recently appeared in Takeshi Miike's historical drama SABU (2002).
Toho is currently recruiting extras for GFW. The extras will be featured as the audience attending Akira Takarada's speech to the UN, which will be filmed on Friday, June 11th at Tokyo Big Sight. The company is also launching an internship program, with many of the applicants working on the film. GFW producer, now Toho's CEO, Shogo Tomiyama is also planning to hold the world premier of GFW in the US, and hopes to have Hideaki Matsui attend the event. Stay tuned to Henshin! Online for more details on a US premiere when it is announced later this year.
|Maki Mizuno appears in GFW as investigative reporter Anna Otonashi. © Asahi Net|
As a lifelong fan of Japanese Fantasy Films (and with the Big G having a special place in my heart), I feel confident and excited that this film is going to be audacious, exhilarating, and unlike anything audiences have ever seen before. Ryuhei Kitamura's GODZILLA: FINAL WARS opens nationwide in Japan on December 4th.
THE STORY SO FAR
In the near future, almost a century of nuclear tests, modern warfare and unchecked scientific advances have resulted in serious damage to the earth's environment. This ripple causes an unbalance in nature and rouses a score of giant monsters from their slumber. The nations of the world set aside their petty differences when these enormous creatures become the one true threat to the survival of mankind. The United Nations forms the Earth Defense Forces in order to face this crisis head-on.
In the years before this hell-on-earth broke loose it was discovered that a new breed of people all over the globe were reaching the next stage in human evolution. Blessed with extraordinary abilities, these mutants were soon recognized for their exceptional qualities by the United Nations. They are brought together to form a special branch of the Earth Defense Forces called the M-Organization.
|Godzilla stands amidst an apocolyptic metropolitan crater. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
One of the most promising members from Japan, Shinichi Ozaki (Masahiro Matsuoka), is gifted with incredible reflexes and strength. Acknowledged by his peers as a hard-as-nails soldier, he quickly moves up in the ranks of the M-Organization. When the mummified corpse of a giant monster is sighted off the coast of Japan's northern island, Hokkaido, Ozaki is called into action. He is assigned as a bodyguard to one of the United Nations' most brilliant molecular biologists, Miyuki Otonashi (Rei Kikukawa) while she tries to uncover the riddle of this strange discovery.
Suddenly, a plague of colossal beasts appear across the planet and attack the major cities of the world. New York, Shanghai, Sydney and Paris all suffer the wrath of these monsters. During this chaos, the United Nations is further thrown into panic when the private plane of UN Secretary General Naotaro Daigo (Akira Takarada) mysteriously disappears.
The Earth Defense Forces tries desperately to maintain its operational command, but the marauding monsters prove overwhelming. In a desperate bid, Ozaki and his fellow mutant soldier Kazama (Kane Kosugi) rush headfirst into the battlefield on their special motorcycles and use their super-human strength to challenge the powerful creatures.
Suddenly, enormous flying saucers appear in the skies and cause the monsters to disappear in a beam of light. From a cluster of saucers hovering over the Earth Defense Forces headquarters in Japan, the missing Secretary General Daigo is brought back by a man who identifies himself as a being from Planet X (Kazuki Kitamura). Daigo proposes cooperation between the two worlds:
"This is a test for Mankind; a time to step up to the next stage of human progress. The X-ite's technology is far more advanced than our own, but we can move forward with their help and the universe will be united. The era of the United Nation is over... now is the time to found the United Universe!"
The UN concedes to the notion, but both Ozaki and Miyuki have their doubts about the motives of the X-ites. As Miyuki's sister Anna (Maki Mizuno), an investigative reporter, seeks to uncover the aliens' true intentions, a secret call for help goes out to the Captain of the Goten (aka Atragon). Ozaki and his comrades board the undersea warship to commence the final war to save humanity!
Meanwhile, in a glacier at the South Pole, Godzilla continues to sleep peacefully...
|THE RETURN OF KAMEN RIDER V3!|
The Avenging Bionic Bug Bounces Back on Hawai'i Television
Author: August Ragone
Source: JN Productions
Arguably the greatest Toei Tokusatsu of the 1970s, MASKED RIDER V3 (1973-1974) is about to return to Hawai'i airwaves and North American DVD, thanks to JN Productions, which specializes in bringing Japanese programming to the Islands. Three years ago, Honolulu-based outfit spearheaded the return of the classic series KIKAIDA, which is currently available on Region-1 DVD. JN Productions is titling the series "Kamen Rider V3" (what it was called, "back in the day") to tap into the nostalgia market generated by the recent KIKAIDA revival. The first episode of KAMEN RIDER V3 premiered on Sunday, May 16th at 6:30 pm on Channel 78 Hawaii (Oceanic Cable).
|V3 races back to US television on his superbike, the Hurricane. © Toei/Ishimori Pro. Courtesy of JN Productions|
"I am so happy to be able to offer this to viewers of 'Generation Kikaida' and their children," said Joanne Ninomiya, owner and president of JN Productions. "KAMEN RIDER V3 is packed with action, so I'm confident that it will continue to attract live-action fans," Ninomiya said. In 1975, Ninomiya brought KAMEN RIDER V3 to KIKU-TV, following the phenomenal success of KIKAIDA on the station. The 52-episode series quickly appealed to KIKAIDA fans, with its dynamic and colorful hero (based on the strength of insects), a handsome human alter ego (played by Hiroshi Miyauchi), and its memorable theme song ("Akai, akai, akai kamen-no V3!").
KAMEN RIDER V3 picks up after the MASKED RIDER series (1971-1973) leaves off: The hard-won peace obtained with the defeat of Gel-Shocker, by Kamen Riders One and Two, is now shattered by a more powerful secret society known as Destron. Disposing of all those who witness their sinister movements, they target Shiro Kazami, a young motorcross racer. After Scissors-Jaguar murders his family, Shiro vows vengence and becomes Kamen Rider V3.
The series was developed by the late manga author Shotaro Ishimori (CYBORG 009) and Creative Producer Tohru Hirayama (JOHNNY SOKKO), while the production was handled by the same team carried over from the original MASKED RIDER, the very same people responsible for what many fans consider the "Golden Age of Japanese Superheroes." When first broadcast, KAMEN RIDER V3's ratings and popularity in Japan were as high as its predecessor, and has come to be considered the best of the first-wave MASKED RIDER series in the 1970s and early 1980s.
JN Productions is handling the translation and subtitling for the return of the KAMEN RIDER V3 series (with scripts by Roy Mashima of KIKAIDA and Henshin! Online's co-founder, August Ragone), as well as promotions and marketing, including an entire line of merchandise -- encompassing t-shirts and, eventually, DVDs of the series. Updated information on KAMEN RIDER V3, and related promotional events and appearances, will be available at the official web site "Generation Kikaida". For more information on KAMEN RIDER V3, Henshin! Online recommends Gelshocker's KAMEN RIDER V3 Home Page and IgaDevil's KAMEN RIDER Page.
|INTERVIEW: MASAAKI TEZUKA AND WATARU MIMURA|
The two filmmakers discuss their work on GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA
In anticipation of the US theatrical premieres of GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002), and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (2003) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Henshin! Online presents a lengthy discussion between director Masaaki Tezuka and writer Wataru Mimura. Either individually or together, the two men have been involved with the majority of Toho's kaiju films from the past decade; the list of titles include GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2 (1993), OROCHI: THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON (1994), REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 2 (1997), REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (1998), GODZILLA 2000 (1999), GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS (2000), GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001), and the upcoming GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004).
|The creators of Megaguirus and Kiryu go head to head! © Toho Co., Ltd.|
Tezuka and Mimura provide insight into their collaborations on GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, their early days in the film industry, the actors they've worked with, budget problems and production schedules, Toho's unofficial policy of not bringing back their newer monsters in future films, and what kinds of movies they hope to make in the future...here.
|GPN: "GODZILLA SETS SIGHTS ON MORE U.S. CITIES!"|
An updated schedule of GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL showings.
Source: Rialto Pictures
|The one, the only, the original Godzilla © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
NEW YORK, NY: Film Forum 05/07 - 05/20
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: The Castro Theatre 05/07 - 05/20
LOS ANGELES, CA: Nuart Theatre 5/14- 5/28
WASHINGTON, D.C.: AFI National Film Theater 05/14 - 05/20
PHILADELPHIA, PA: Ritz Theaters 5/21-6/3
SILVER SPRING, MD: AFI Silver Theatre 05/21 - 06/03
BERKELEY, CA: Shattuck Cinemas 5/21-5/27
NEW YORK, NY: Cinema Village 5/21-6/3
SAN JOSE, CA: Camera Cinemas 5/28-6/3
CAMBRIDGE, MA: Brattle Theatre 6/11-6/17
DALLAS, TX: Angelika Film Center 6/18 -7/1
MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Oak St Cinema 6/18-7/1
PLANO, TX: Angelika Film Center 6/25-7/1
PORTLAND, OR: Cinema 21 6/25-7/1
SAN DIEGO, CA: Ken Cinema 6/25-7/1
CHICAGO, IL: The Music Box Theatre 7/2-7/15
SEATTLE, WA: Varsity Theatre 7/2-7/8
DETROIT, MI: Detroit Film Theatre 7/16-7/18
MILWAUKEE, WI: Times Cinema 7/16-7/22
ATLANTA, GA: Midtown Art Cinema 7/23-7/29
HARTFORD, CT: Cinestudio 7/28- 8/3
ST LOUIS, MO: Tivoli Theatre 8/13-8/19
SANTA FE, NM:
|TOKYO SOS and ULTRAMAN join GODZILLA’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!|
Complete Egyptian Film Schedule Includes US Premiere of Godzilla’s Latest Movie
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: American Cinematheque
Special thanks to Dennis Bartok
The American Cinematheque has announced the final film schedule for the "Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute", which will be held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA from June 25-29. Sony/Columbia Pictures were unsure if the new subtitled print of MOTHRA would be ready in time for the festival, so it has been dropped from the schedule - but filling in the gap are three movies (including a US premiere!) and one short feature. Among the films recently added to the schedule are the Toho international English versions of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and GODZILLA VS HEDORAH. Yasuyuki Inoue, who designed the monster Hedorah, will take part in a question and answer session about the film following the screening of that movie.
|The latest Godzilla film, GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS will premiere at the Egytian for this summer's festival! © 2003 Toho Co. Ltd.|
Tsuburaya Productions, founded by renowned special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, is also taking part in the celebration by supplying Episode 10 of their classic television series ULTRAMAN. This show is particularly famous since it features Godzilla - or, more precisely, a thinly disguised Godzilla suit playing the role of the “Paleolithic lake monster” Jiras (renamed Keerah in the English dub and played by Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima). This is a rare opportunity to see Eiji Tsuburaya’s two most famous characters battle it out on the big screen.
Last, but certainly not least, comes the news that Toho has approved the first American screening of Godzilla’s latest film GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (aka GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS) at the festival! Picking up where the previous year’s GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA left off, this 2003 film features Godzilla’s rematch with Kiryu in the heart of Tokyo- only this time three Mothras are added to the mix. The Egyptian is thrilled to host the US theatrical premieres of both new Mechagodzilla movies, in Japanese with English subtitles. Director Masaaki Tezuka will also be on hand to sign autographs and talk about his films.
GODZILLA 50TH ANNIVERSARY SERIES - Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles
Sponsored by the Japan Foundation
Friday, June 25
5:30 PM - Autograph/photo session with director Masaaki Tezuka, production designer Yasuyuki Inoue, and model maker Akinori Takagi
7:00 PM - US Premiere!
GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira, 2002) Directed by Masaaki Tezuka, Special Effects by Yuichi Kikuchi, Starring Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma, and Akira Nakao. (Toho, 88 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles) Discussion following with Mr. Tezuka.
9:15 PM - Double Feature
New 35mm Print! KING KONG VS GODZILLA (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, 1962/63) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Ichiro Arashima, Mie Hama, and Yu Fujiki. (Universal, 91 minutes, English Dub)
Super-Rare Screening! GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER (Gojira-no Gyakushu, aka GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, 1955/59) Directed by Motoyoshi Oda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki. (Toho, 78 minutes, English Dub) Introduction to double-feature by Mr. Inoue and Mr. Takagi.
Saturday, June 26
ULTRAMAN - Episode 10: THE MYSTERIOUS DINOSAUR BASE (Nazu-no Kyoryu Kichi, 1966) Directed by Kazuho Mitsuda, Special Effects by Tohru Matoba, Starring Akiji Kobayashi, Susumu Kurobe, Masanari Nihei, Sandayu Dokumamushi, and Hiroko Sakurai (Tsuburaya Pro., 25 minutes, English Dub)
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (Kaiju Soshingeki, 1968) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and Sadamasa Arikawa, Starring Akira Kubo, Yukiko Kobayashi, Jun Tazaki, Kyoko Ai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Kenji Sahara. (Toho, 88 minutes, English Dub) Discussion following with Mr Inoue and Mr. Takagi.
|DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and more added to June's festival roster! © 1968 Toho Co. Ltd.|
8:00 PM - Double Feature
INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS (Kaiju Daisenso, aka MONSTER ZERO, 1965) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Akira Kubo. (Toho, 93 minutes, English Dub)
New 35mm Print! EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Gojira, Ebira, Mosura: Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, 1966) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Akira Takarada ,Kumi Mizuno, Toru Watanabe, and Akihiko Hirata. (Columbia, 83 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles) Introduction to double-feature by Mr. Inoue and Mr. Takagi.
Sunday, June 27
2:00 PM - Triple-Feature Toho Monster Madness!!
Rare I.B. Technicolor Print! RODAN (Sora-no Daikaiju Radon, 1956/57) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, and Akihiko Hirata. (Toho, 72 minutes, English Dub)
GHIDRAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (San Daikaiju Chikyu Saidai-no Kessen, 1964/65) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Yosuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, the Peanuts, and Akiko Wakabayashi. (Toho, 85 minutes, English Dub with Spanish Subtitles)
THE H-MAN (Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, 1958/59) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, and Akihiko Hirata. (Columbia, 79 minutes, English Dub) There will be a 10 minute break between each feature. Introduction to screenings by Mr. Inoue and Mr. Takagi.
7:15 PM - US Premiere of the Newest Godzilla Film!
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, 2003) Directed by Masaaki Tezuka, Special Effects by Eiichi Asada, Starring Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Katsuya Inozuka, and Hiroshi Koizumi. (Toho, 91 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles)
Tuesday, June 29
GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (Gojira tai Hedora, aka GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971) Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno, Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, Starring Akira Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Kawase, and Keiko Mari. (Toho, 85 minutes, English Dub) Discussion following with Mr Inoue and Mr. Takagi.
9:15 PM - Double Feature
GODZILLA VS GIGAN (Chikyu Kogeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan, 1972) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, Starring Hiroshi Ishikawa, Tomoko Umeda, and Yuriko Hishimi. (Toho, 89 minutes, English Dub)
New 35mm Print! GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingughidora, 1991) Directed by Kazuki Omori, Special Effects by Koichi Kawakita, Starring Anna Nakagawa, Isao Toyohara, Megumi Odaka, Chuck Wilson, and Yoshio Tsuchiya. (Columbia, 102 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles)
Ticket prices to the Egyptian Theatre are $9.00 general, $8.00 students and seniors, and $6.00 for Cinematheque members, with a special ‘Sunday Triple-Feature’ price of $12.00 general, $10.00 students and seniors, and $8.00 for Cinematheque members. Additional information on the films being shown will soon be available at the Egyptian’s website and here on Henshin! Online.
|GODZILLA’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION UPDATE|
More Films and Filmmakers Coming to Godzilla Film Festival in Los Angeles
Author: Keith Aiken
Special thanks to Oki Miyano, Dennis Bartok and the American Cinematheque
The American Cinematheque has made several excellent additions to their "Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute," a Toho film festival to be held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA from June 25-29. The latest announcement is that GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingu Ghidora) has joined the scheduled list of movies previously announced here on Henshin! Online. The Egyptian is planning to show a brand new 35mm print of the 1991 box office hit, in Japanese with English subtitles.
|Director Masaaki Tezuka joins the celebration! © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Even more exciting for Godzilla fans is that the Cinematheque is in discussions with Toho cast and crew members from both Japan and the United States. Three guests have already confirmed that they will attend the festival. First up is Masaaki Tezuka, the popular director who helmed three of the last four Godzilla films; GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS (Gojira X Megaguirus: G Shometsu Sakusen, 2000), GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira, 2002) and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, 2003). His other credits include assistant director assignments on VIRUS (Fukkatsu-no Hi, 1980), SAYONARA JUPITER (Sayonara Jyupita, 1983), PRINCESS FROM THE MOON (Taketori Monogatari, 1987), GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1993), 47 RONIN (Shijushichinin-no Shikaku, 1994), REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 2 (Mosura 2: Kaitei-no Daikessen, 1997), and REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (Mosura 3: Kingughidora Raishu, 1998), plus second unit effects director for GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (Gojira-Mosura-Kingughidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki, aka "GMK", 2001). Tezuka is known for his trademark post-credit ending sequences and his "Hitchcock-style" cameos in the Godzilla films (which even included a small non-speaking role in Shusuke Kaneko’s GMK).
|Director Masaki Tezuka will attend the US premiere of GxMG . © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.|
This will be Mr. Tezuka’s first appearance at an American Godzilla event. Due to his busy schedule he has repeatedly turned down requests to attend US-based Godzilla conventions and film festivals, but despite being in preproduction on his next movie, he has graciously agreed to make an exception this year. Tezuka will be coming to the Egyptian Theatre for the US premiere of his film GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, followed by a discussion of his work.
|Model maker Akinori Takagi at work. © 1984 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Also coming to the anniversary tribute is legendary production designer Yasuyuki Inoue. In 1954 Inoue was hired by Toho to build the miniature sets for Godzilla’s stunning rampage thru Tokyo in GODZILLA and went on to design and build props, vehicles and sets for most of Toho’s special effects films for the next three decades. A partial list of his credits includes such classics as GIGANTIS: THE FIRE MONSTER (Gojira-no Gyakushu, 1955, aka GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, 1959), RODAN (Sora-no Daikaiju Radon, 1956), MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961), KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, 1962), INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS (Kaiju Daisenso, aka MONSTER ZERO, 1965), EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, 1966), KING KONG ESCAPES (Kingu Kongu-no Gyakushu, 1967), DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (Kaiju Soshingeki, 1968), SUBMERSION OF JAPAN (Nippon Chinbotsu, 1973), LAST DAYS OF PLANET EARTH (Nostradamus no Daiyogen, 1974) and THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (Gojira, aka GODZILLA 1985, 1984). Inoue also designed Godzilla’s titular opponent for GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (Gojira tai Hedorah, aka GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971) as well as Toho’s famous "Big Pool", which has been used for ocean sequences in countless war and monster movies.
|Toho legend Yasuyuki Inoue. © 1984 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Joining Mr. Inoue will be his long-time friend and assistant Akinori Takagi. Takagi came to Toho in 1962 and quickly established himself as one of the most talented model makers from the studio’s Golden Age. He built what was arguably the most famous military weapon from Toho’s classic monster films - the Maser Cannons. Introduced in WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Furankenshutain-no Kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira, 1966), the Maser Cannons returned in films like GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (Gojira tai Gaigan, 1972) and were recently revived by Masaaki Tezuka for GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA. Among his many other miniature creations are the Super X from THE RETURN OF GODZILLA and the battleship Yamato from the WWII epic THE GRAND FLEET (Rengo Kantai, 1982).
|Yasuyuki Inoue building the power plant for GODZILLA 1985. © 1984 Toho Co., Ltd.|
This will be Mr. Inoue and Mr. Takagi’s first visit to the US. Both men are planning to bring production materials and/or props from the Godzilla films to display at the Egyptian so don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet the filmmakers and see their work up close.
Ticket prices to the Egyptian Theatre are $9.00 general, $8.00 students and seniors, and $6.00 for Cinematheque members. Please visit the Egyptian's website for general information and check back with Henshin! Online for news of additional films and guests coming to "The Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute".
|SONY ACQUIRES CLASSIC GODZILLA FILMS|
Studio's Plans Include DVDs and Subtitled Theatrical Prints
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment
The King of the Monsters' 50th Anniversary year just keeps getting better and better! Sony Pictures has recently acquired North American rights to some early films from Toho Studios' long-running Godzilla series and plans to release them on DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. The list of titles includes such classics as EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, 1966), SON OF GODZILLA (Gojira-no Mosuko, 1967), GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (Gojira tai Hedorah, aka GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971), and GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1974), all of which are currently unavailable on Region 1 DVD and are long out-of-print on VHS in this country.
|Gear up for more Godzilla DVDs that could be on the way from Sony! © Toho Co., Ltd.|
In addition to home video releases, numerous older Toho fantasy films will also be returning to theater screens in the coming months. Sony's Repertory Division is striking new English-subtitled 35mm theatrical prints of several movies for screenings at festivals, conventions, and art-house theaters across the US. First up are EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP and the original MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961), both of which will premiere at the Egyptian Theatre's "Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute" in June. In the near future subtitled prints of THE H-MAN (Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, 1958), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (Uchu Daisenso, 1959), SON OF GODZILLA, and all five films in the 1990s "VS" series; GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingughidora, 1991), GODZILLA AND MOTHRA: THE BATTLE FOR EARTH (Gojira tai Mosura, 1992), GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1993), GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (Gojira tai Supeesu Gojira, 1994), and GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (Gojira tai Desutoria, 1995) should also be available for theatrical bookings. No word at this time if any previously-released Sony DVDs of these films will be reissued to include the Japanese language audio tracks.
|THE MAIN EVENT!|
Godzilla 50th Anniversary Film Festival to be Held in Los Angeles
Author: Keith Aiken
Special thanks to Dennis Bartok and the American Cinematheque
American Godzilla fans wanting to celebrate the King of the Monsters' anniversary would be hard-pressed to find a better way than "The Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute", a Toho film festival to be held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA. The American Cinematheque is working closely with Toho, Sony, and others to screen a dozen (yes, a dozen) or more Godzilla and Toho monster movies from June 25th - 29th, 2004. The list of titles includes one US premiere and several films that have not played theatrically in North America for decades.
|Godzilla Looms Over Hollywood this Summer! © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.|
The complete schedule is still being worked on, but several movies have been confirmed. First up is the first public theatrical screening of GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira), the 2002 film in which Godzilla battles a cyborg created from the bones of the original Godzilla. The film is being shown in Japanese with English subtitles. Toho is also supplying three movies featuring Godzilla's arch-nemesis, the golden space dragon King Ghidorah. These include the US version of the monster's first appearance, GHIDRAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (Chikyu Sandai-no Kessen, 1964) and the international English dubbed versions of INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS (Kaiju Daisenso, aka MONSTER ZERO, 1965) and GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (Gojira tai Gaigan, 1972).
A new 35mm print of the American version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, 1962) will also be shown, courtesy of Universal. Sony is providing their Columbia Pictures US release of THE H-MAN (Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, 1958), plus brand-new 35mm prints of MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961) and EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, 1966). The latter two films will be the original Japanese versions with English subtitles.
|Some of the classic films that will be shown at the Egyptian Theatre's Godzilla Film Festival this June! © Toho Co., Ltd.|
Toho has also approved the use of two film prints from private collector Ed Godziszewski for the Anniversary Tribute. They are the American version of the second Godzilla film, GIGANTIS: THE FIRE MONSTER (Gojira-no Gyakushu, 1955), and the studio's first color monster movie, the classic RODAN (Sora-no Daikaiju Radon, 1956). GIGANTIS has not played in theaters in more than 40 years, and RODAN is an original Technicolor 35mm print. Seeing these two films on the big screen will be a rare treat for Toho monster movie fans.
Ticket prices to the Egyptian Theatre are $9.00 general, $8.00 students and seniors, and $6.00 for Cinematheque members. Several of the films shown will be double features, and Sunday, June 27th will be an all-day marathon of four Toho movies (ticket price and titles to be determined). Please visit the Egyptian's website for general information. Full details of "The Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute" will be available on Henshin! Online in the near future.
This is THE event for Godzilla fans in North America -- don't miss it!
|THE MOVIE THAT STARTED IT ALL|
Rialto's Bruce Goldstein discusses the 50th Anniversary theatrical release of GODZILLA
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Rialto Pictures
Special thanks to Bruce Goldstein and Michael Schlesinger
1954 was a milestone year for Toho Co., Ltd. At a time when the average Japanese movie was made in 4-6 weeks at a budget of approximately $75,000 US, the studio decided to produce not one, but three films that would require much more time and money. The first (and most expensive) of these was Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (Shichinin-no Samurai). Nearly a year of production, much of it on location, had pushed costs up to $560,000, nearly 8 times higher than usual. Hiroshi Inagaki's SAMURAI: THE LEGEND OF MUSASHI (Miyamoto Mushashi), the epic life story of the legendary swordsman (played by Toshiro Mifune) based on the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, was also a massive production as well as being Toho's first film in Eastman Color. Its final budget ended up at $500,000. The last of the trio was Ishiro Honda's monster movie GODZILLA (Gojira). No Japanese studio had ever attempted to make a movie of this nature, so a great deal of money was needed for Eiji Tsuburaya to develop the special effects and create all the miniature props and sets. While GODZILLA cost far less than SEVEN SAMURAI or SAMURAI: THE LEGEND OF MUSASHI, its $170-250,000 budget was still three times that of the average Toho film.
|Rialto's New 50th Anniversary Poster © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
These three films were a huge risk for Toho -- if any of them had failed at the box office it could have crippled the company -- but it turned out the studio had gambled wisely. SEVEN SAMURAI opened on April 26th and went on to become the highest-grossing movie of the year. In addition, its critical reputation has grown to the point where it is now widely regarded as the greatest film ever made in Japan. Opening on September 26, SAMURAI followed a successful theatrical run by becoming the first Toho film to be widely released in the United States, where it won the 1955 Academy Award for "Best Foreign Picture". The film is now known in the US as SAMURAI I (one) and is available on home video and DVD (along with its two sequels) from Criterion. GODZILLA premiered on November 3rd and sold over 9,691,000 tickets in its initial theatrical run. The movie grossed nearly $2,250,000, more than eight times its production costs, and inspired an ongoing franchise that includes 27 sequels, one American remake, and a wave of monster movies from Toho and its rival studios in Japan.
Following SAMURAI's success in America, Toho opened a small office in Los Angeles in order to promote and sell more of their films in the US. An English subtitled print of GODZILLA was shown in LA in 1955, most likely at the Linda Lea Theatre in Little Tokyo. There it was seen by Samuel Arkoff of American International Pictures, who approached Toho and made a bid for the movie. "The whole situation was ridiculous," Arkoff said decades later. "We were dickering with [Toho] for about three months, then came to find the rights were already sold." It turned out the US theatrical and television rights to GODZILLA had been purchased by Edmund Goldman, owner of a small distributing company called Manson International, for $25,000. "I made them an offer and they accepted it rather quickly," Goldman told author Steve Ryfle in 1995. "It turned out to be a bonanza."
|The Original Theatrical Poster © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Since Goldman's expertise lay in selling American movies to Asian countries, not the other way around, he decided to sell the rights to Harold Ross and Richard Kay, owners of Jewell Enterprises. The two screened GODZILLA for Joseph Levine of Embassy Pictures, who agreed to pay $100,000 for a 50% share of the film. Levine then brought in additional partners to create a new company, Trans World Releasing Corp., to `Americanize' and distribute the movie. Director Terry Morse was hired to write and film the new version. Nearly 40 minutes of footage from the original GODZILLA was removed; what remained was dubbed into English by James Hong (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA) and Sammee Tong (BACHELOR FATHER) and edited with new footage of actor Raymond Burr (REAR WINDOW, PERRY MASON) playing an American reporter in Tokyo. Morse and co, did a masterful job adapting GODZILLA so that it would appeal to 1950s America, but much of the power and symbolism of Honda's film was lost in the process.
After briefly considering the title "Godzilla: The Sea Beast", Trans World decided to release the film on April 4, 1956 as GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. It did amazing business for a low-budget, independently distributed movie, grossing more than $2,000,000 at the box office. The American version was also sold to foreign markets; playing in such countries as Mexico, Italy, Britain, France, Argentina, Cuba, Belgium, and Sweden. Thanks in part to the worldwide success of the "Raymond Burr cut", Godzilla became an international icon.
|The King of the Monsters Returns to Theaters. © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Following the release of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, the original Japanese GODZILLA has been rarely shown in America. After nearly three decades, the subtitled version finally resurfaced in 1982 as part of a New York film festival entitled "Thank You, Godzilla". Since then, there have been a handful of screenings; one or two in Chicago, a couple in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the past few years -- but the majority of US fans have never had the opportunity to see the original, uncut, undubbed version on the big screen.
In celebration of GODZILLA's 50th Anniversary New York-based Rialto Pictures has acquired the theatrical rights to the film. Founded by Bruce Goldstein in 1997, Rialto has released a slew of classic films from around the world to theaters across America. The company's list of titles include the Mike Nichols/Dustin Hoffman hit THE GRADUATE, Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT, Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS, and Federico Fellini's JULIET OF THE SPIRITS. Rialto has received praise for their restorations of THE THIRD MAN, GRAND ILLUSION, LE CIRCLE ROUGE, RIFIFI, and NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, and their efforts won them both the Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics in 1999, and a special award from the New York Film Critics in 2000. Several of Rialto's theatrical releases have become best-selling DVDs from the Criterion Collection.
|Toho's International Sales Poster © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
For GODZILLA, Rialto is planning the first-ever nationwide US release of the original Toho version starting in the spring of 2004. To whet the public's appetite, the company has created a 50th Anniversary theatrical trailer that has been running with their current releases EYES WITHOUT A FACE and THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS and is also available online at Apple.com. New prints of the movie have been struck, a new translation and subtitles prepared, and the company is now in the midst of making deals with theaters to screen the film. In spite of this hectic schedule, Bruce Goldstein was kind enough to discuss Rialto's plans for GODZILLA with Henshin! Online:
HENSHIN! ONLINE: How did Rialto get involved with GODZILLA? Were you a fan of the film?
BRUCE GOLDSTEIN: Yes, I was. I've been trying to get the film rights from Toho for over 10 years, but they weren't available until recently. Most of the foreign films Rialto has released came from France and Italy and for some time I've wanted to branch out from strictly European fare. GODZILLA was a natural first choice to do that.
H!O: What are your plans for the theatrical release? How wide will it be?
BG: GODZILLA will open in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC in May, then is scheduled to play all the major markets in the US until October or so. After that, the movie will be made available for film festivals, conventions, etc. Rialto has the theatrical rights for seven years.
H!O: In comparison to a "typical" Rialto release, has there been much interest from theaters in booking this film?
BG: The response from theaters has been tremendous. Godzilla is a household name and the first film has a well-deserved reputation as a classic.
Here's the theatrical schedule so far:
|© 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
NEW YORK, NY: Film Forum 05/07 - 05/20
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: The Castro Theatre 05/07 - 05/20
LOS ANGELES, CA: Nuart Theatre 5/14- 5/28
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Kennedy Center 05/14 - 05/20, AFI Silver Theatre 05/21 - 06/03
SEATTLE, WA: Varsity Theatre 6/25-7/1
PORTLAND, OR: Cinema 21 6/25-7/1
SAN DIEGO, CA: Ken Cinema 6/25-7/1
BOSTON, MA: Brattle Theatre
CHICAGO, IL: The Music Box Theatre 7/2-7/15
ATLANTA, GA: Midtown Art Cinema 7/23-7/29
SANTA FE, NM:
H!O: If a theater or festival wanted to screen GODZILLA, how could they get a print of the movie?
|© 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.|
BG: The easiest way is to email us with any serious inquiries. Our contact info is available on the Rialto website.
H!O: How many prints of the movie are being struck?
BG: We're starting low -- maybe two or three prints. More will added if the demand warrants it.
H!O: Was much restoration work needed?
BG: Not really. The film negative Toho supplied us with was in surprisingly good shape.
H!O: I've heard that GODZILLA will have a new translation and subtitles. Who is handling that for Rialto?
BG: I'm working with a Japanese translator on the new subtitles. We're just making the subs less stilted and more descriptive. There will be no modern phrasing and slang -- GODZILLA will still come across as a movie taking place in the 1950s.
H!O: Will this be tied into any other projects for the 50th anniversary of the film? Are you involved with the American Cinematheque event at the Egyptian Theatre in late June?
BG: We're not working directly on any other 50th anniversary project, though I have made some suggestions to Toho. We are trying to work with the American Cinematheque, but the film will open at the Nuart in May.
H!O: Several Rialto titles are available on DVD; mostly from Criterion. Is either company planning to release GODZILLA on home video?
BG: It's too early to say about that -- any decisions regarding video are way down the line. At this time, we only have US theatrical and non-theatrical (not home video) distribution rights to GODZILLA.
H!O: If the film is successful, do you have plans for any future releases? Would you like to release other Godzilla or Japanese fantasy films?
BG: That's definitely a "wait and see." But it would be tough to find another one as special as this one -- a classic that's entirely different from the version people know.
For additional information and updates - including future screening dates, please visit Rialto's GODZILLA page.
Note: Much of the information on the original theatrical releases of both GODZILLA and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS came from three excellent books. I would like to credit and thank the authors for their assistance:
Stuart Galbraith IV, THE EMPEROR AND THE WOLF: the lives and films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune (Faber and Faber, 2002) Steve Ryfle, JAPAN'S FAVORITE MON-STAR: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big "G" (ECW Press, 1998) Guy Mariner Tucker, AGE OF THE GODS (Daikaiju Publishing, 1996)
|THE RETURN OF EASTERN FRONT|
Informational Terror back from Vacation
There's a flood of news on several US remakes of Japanese properties, including the return of several key players (and possibly one director) for THE RING 2, the end of the live-action DRAGONBALL, a quality cast for DARK WATER, and some interesting info on THE GRUDGE. Plus, reports on the arrival of ULTRAMAN NOA and for ULTRAMAN TIGA. Godzilla goes to college! Kikaida celebrates 30 years in Hawaii! Who won at the Japan Academy Awards? The Russian pop duo tATu goes anime. 25 years of Gundam! Trailers for DEVILMAN, SHIBUYA STRANGE STORIES, CASSHERN, GUSHER NO BINDS ME, and ZEBRAMAN are now online! Big Godzilla exhibit in Japan showcases the works of Yasuyuki Inoue! ASTRO BOY booted off Kids WB? Kazuki Omori battles City Hall. DVD releases from Japan, America, Britain, and Hong Kong include ANDRO MELOS, BATTLE HEATER, Gamera, JU-ON 2, MAGIC SERPENT, Ultraman Boy, BATTLE ROYALE II, and the final batch of Showa Godzilla movies! You can read all this and much more here.
|MONSTROUS MYSTERIES RETURN TO JAPANESE TELEVISION!|
ULTRA Q is back after 38 years!
Author: Bob Johnson
Translations by Oki Miyano
Additional Material by August Ragone, Keith Aiken and Oki Miyano
Source: Feb. 25, 2004 issue of Sports Hochi newspaper, Tsuburaya Productions Fan Club magazine, Livedoor Blog
Special thanks to Norman England
"I also have a plan to air a brand-new ULTRA Q series, late night. This will be a pure horror show. Most Japanese horror films after THE RING prefer to describe the inner psychology of horror. ULTRA Q is outdoor horror' [threats from the outside, rather than from within the psyche]. I'm thinking of making this into a thoroughly scary series." -- TPC Vice President Akira Tsuburaya, in an interview with Newtype: The Live
True to his word, the new ULTRA Q is returning to Japanese television. Initially christened "Ultra Q: Midnight" (Urutora Kyu: Middonaito) in pre-production, the show has been officially named ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY (Urutora Kyu: Dakku Fuantaji). The series will premiere on April 6, 2004 and is scheduled to run for 26 episodes (6 months) on TV Tokyo network affiliated stations every Tuesday at 1:00 am. Each episode will also be repeated two weeks after their original broadcast on the CS Animax cable channel. Don't let the odd airtime confuse you though, this is no cheap filler in the vein of American pre-dawn programming. In recent years, Japanese TV has been attracting teen-to-twenties audiences by running offbeat shows (the kind that would not be normally seen in prime time) in late-night time slots such as MASKED ANGEL ROSETTA (Kamen Tenshi Rozetta, 1998) and DIMENSION DETECTIVE: WECKER (Jiku Keiji Uekka, 2001). NEON GENESIS: EVANGELION (Shin Seiki Evangelion, 1995) first caught on with Japanese viewers when it was rebroadcast at late night, and TV Asahi's SKY HIGH (2003) spun off both a film and sequel series starring the popular Yumiko Shaku (GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, THE PRINCESS BLADE).
Tsuburaya Productions has assembled an amazingly talented cast and crew to make this show the first of a new line of TPC classics. Shozo Uehara, whose credits include scripts for OPERATION: MYSTERY! (Kaiki Daisakusen, 1968), ZONE: THE HUMAN METEOR (Ryusei Ningen Zon, 1973), SECRET TASK FORCE: GORANGER (Himitsu Sentai Gorenja, 1975) and ULTRAMAN TIGA (Urutoraman Teiga, 1996) has signed on as head writer. Heisei Ultraman Series writer Ai Ota returns as well. Legendary director Akio Jissoji (See his 11/5/03 interview and biography here on H!O.) will direct several episodes. He will be joined by Tsugumi Kitaura from ULTRAMAN TIGA and Masaki Harada from ULTRAMAN DYNA (Urutoraman Daina, 1997).
|A brand new team tackles brand new problems! © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
Complementing such high-calibre veterans are some of Japan's hottest directors and writers -- many of whom are lending their talents to the Ultra Series for the first time. They include Hiroshi Takahashi, who wrote the screenplays for the 1998 hit RING (Ringu), its sequels RING 2 (1999) and RING 0: BIRTHDAY (Ringu 0: Basudei, 2000), and supervised the making of the two JU-ON video movies. Aya Takei's credits include TALES OF THE UNUSUAL (Yomino Kimyouna Monogatari) while Hiroki Hirota wrote 2ND CLASS HOUSEWIFE (Kaji-Sankyu, 2000). Sadayuki Murai has written scripts for the anime hits PERFECT BLUE (1997), COWBOY BEBOP (1998), MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (Sennen Joyu, 2001), and Katsuhiro Otomo's upcoming STEAMBOY (2004). Mitsunori Hattori is a director from Akio Jissoji's production company Godai. Norio Tsuruta directed the horror films RING 0: BIRTHDAY and SCARECROWS (Kakashi, 2001), plus episodes from both the SKY HIGH and SKY HIGH 2. The acclaimed horror/suspense director Kiyoshi Kurosawa was a natural choice for ULTRA Q. His credits include CURE (Kyua, 1997), CHARISMA (Karisuma, 1999), SÉANCE (Korei, 2000), PULSE (Kairo, 2002), and DOPPELGANGER (Dopperugenga, 2004). Shusuke Kaneko is well known for directing and writing films that are very popular with both audiences and critics, including the 1990s Gamera trilogy, PYROKINESIS (Kurosufaia, 2000), and GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (Gojira, Mosura, Kingugidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki; aka "GMK", 2001). The new series is a dream project for Kaneko; he is a lifelong fan of ULTRA Q who had once hoped to direct 1990's ULTRA Q THE MOVIE: LEGEND OF THE STARS (Urutora Kyu Za Mube: Hoshi-no Densetsu) and his Godzilla film GMK included several references to the original series. The director is handling two episodes; #7 "Who Are You?" (Anata-wa Dare-desuka) and #8 "Kiara".
Kunio Miyauchi, composer for the original ULTRA Q as well as ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966), THE HUMAN VAPOR (Gasu Ningen Daiichigo, 1960), and GODZILLA'S REVENGE (Oru Kaiju Daishingeki, 1969), is creating an updated version of the classic opening theme music. J-Pop vocalist Kayako will perform the show's ending theme song, "A Flower Blooms at Dusk" (Yugata-ni Saku Hana). The soundtrack will be issued in May, containing the ending theme and an instrumental piece called "Gara-Q Ondo" (this track is in a traditional Japanese dance music style similar to what is heard early in Toho's 1957 film THE MYSTERIANS).
The new series stars Yoshiko Hakamada, Kumiko Endo, and Masao Kusakari. Genre fans may recognize Hakamada (age 30) as the scientist who analyzed Gyaos' DNA in GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (Gamera Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen, 1995). The actor also provided the voice for the character "Baron" in Studio Ghibli's THE CAT RETURNS (Neko-no Ongaeshi, 2002) and appeared in Takashi Miike's recent ZEBRAMAN (Zeburaman, 2004). In ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY he plays Goichi Sakamoto, a 30 year-old reporter for the photo magazine "Mind". The magazine covers a wide range of topics -- everything from politics to the occult. Sakamoto is unpopular with his colleagues because of his sloppy appearance and constant tardiness. But looks can be deceiving; he has a strong mind and takes his career as a journalist very seriously. Plus, Mind's circulation dramatically increased since he joined its staff, so the editor reluctantly allows Sakamoto pursue his story ideas. He has a wide network of connections from years spent traveling around the world. He was a bit of a rogue in college, where he studied under Professor Watarai. Sakamoto's hobby is magic. He is quite knowledgeable about computers too, and can usually hack a computer with little difficulty.
|Yoshiko Hakamada. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
26 year-old Kumiko Endo appeared in the horror movie TOMIE: REBIRTH (2001) and the Sonny Chiba film TOUGH GUY (Akumyo, 2001). Her ULTRA Q character, Ryo Kusunoki, is a freelance camerawoman who often works with Sakamoto. While she seems to dislike his methods and style, deep in her heart she respects and even subconsciously loves the young reporter. The 25 year-old photographer has a lot of curiosity and that sometimes gets her too caught up in the events she is covering. Luckily, she always has Professor Watari to take care of her. Kusunoki is from an old district of Tokyo and is the typical "Edokko"; cheerful and friendly. [Note: Tokyo was called "Edo" from 1603 to 1867. To this day the name is still used in Shitamachi, the old part of Tokyo made up of wards like Ueno, Asakusa, and Ryogoku on Tokyo's eastern side beyond the Sumida River. About 300 years ago, this area was the equivalent of the Edo suburbs -- home to middle-class merchants and people who had a cheerful and friendly reputation. Some authorities think the Shitamachi way of life ended with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the incendiary bombing campaign late in World War II. Today, Shitamachi had many modern buildings and has mostly lost the old atmosphere. You can still find old and dear things there-- especially the few people whose families have lived here since it was called Edo. "Shitamachi-kko" refers to people who grow up in that area and "Edokko" families have been living in Tokyo more than three generations.
|Kumiko Endo. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
Rounding out the main trio is Masao Kusakari. Born in Fukuoka, Kyushu to an American father and a Japanese mother on September 5, 1952, Kusakari's exotic appearance made him a popular heartthrob in Japan during the 1970s and '80s. In the early 1970s, both he and actor Jiro Dan (star of the RETURN OF ULTRAMAN series) were chosen as fashion models by Shiseido Cosmetics. Despite acting in a wide variety of films and television shows, including ESPY (Esupai, 1974), THE PHOENIX (Hinotori, 1979), TIMESLIP (Sengoku Jieitai, 1979), VIRUS (Fukkatsu-no Hi, 1980), and GHOST HERO (Yokai Tengoku, 1990), Kusakari was generally considered just a "good looking guy". That changed when he was able to show his talent and range in the 1990s with performances in the stage musicals "Cabaret" and "My Fair Lady". Still popular at age 51, Kusakari stars in ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY as Kakunoshin Watarai. Watarai is a 54 year-old inventor and professor of Applied Physics at Teito University. His deep well of knowledge encompasses everything from biology to folklore so he is popular subject for interviews, known as a proverbial "walking encyclopedia". Because of his years studying in the UK, he puts on the airs of an English Gentleman; taking time out for tea and occasionally baking British-style cookies (which are just not baked right, displeasing the tastebuds of those who eat them). His eccentric behavior has made him a bit of an outcast with the status quo, but he is also respected for his genius.
|Masao Kusakari. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
The stars of the original show, Kenji Sahara, Hiroko Sakurai, and Yasuhiko Saijo, are currently working on the TBS radio series THE ULTRA Q CLUB (see H!O's 2/21/04 article for details) but will also appear in ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY in guest appearances. Their characters, Jun Manjome, Yuriko Edogawa, and Ippei Togawa will serve a role similar to that of Dr. Ichinotani (Ureo Egawa) in the first ULTRA Q; providing information and assistance to the main characters from time to time. Contrary to their portrayal in the radio show, initial reports indicate that in the TV series Manjome is now a professional writer, Edogawa is a newspaper editor, and Togawa is the president of Hoshikawa Air Service.
Each episode will feature a special guest star, many of which should be familiar to fans of Japanese fantasy film and television. GMK actor Yoshimasa Kondo reunites with Shusuke Kaneko for the director's first episode, which is scheduled to air this June. Hironobu Nomura, who starred in HEAVEN AND EARTH (Ten to Chi to, 1990) the first three movies in Toho's SCHOOL OF GHOSTS (Gakko-no Kaidan) series, and Shusuke Kaneko's F (1998) will appear in the episode entitled "Kiara". Also Slated to appear early in the series are Mai Hosyo, whose credits include MECHANICAL VIOLATOR HAKAIDER (Jinzo Ningen Haikaida, 1995), ONMIYOJI (2001) and SUICIDE CLUB (Jisatsu Sakuru, 2002); and Tamao Sato from MOON OVER TAO: MAKARAGA (Tao-no Tsuki, 1997), SUICIDE CLUB, and the fishing comedy FREE AND EASY #13 (Tsuri-baka Nisshi, 2002).
|Hironobu Nomura in Ultra Q Episode 8. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
Since providing the narration for the original series in 1966, Koji Ishizaka has performed similar duties on ULTRA Q THE MOVIE and ULTRAMAN COSMOS: FIRST CONTACT (Urutoraman Kosumosu: Fasuto Kontakuto, 2001) and acted in such movies as THE INUGAMI FAMILY (Inugami Ike-no Ichizoku, 1976), RETURN OF GODZILLA (Gojira, 1984) and PRINCESS FROM THE MOON (Taketori Monogatari, 1987). He was recently seen as the current incarnation of Prince Mito on the long-running Jidageki television series MITO KOMON. Following surgery for intestinal cancer, Ishizaka decided to take only a brief break before returning as one of the main actors in the medical drama SHIROI KIYOTO. The show has been a huge hit for Fuji Television, drawing an average 25% share of the ratings. (For full details see the J!-Ent Dorama Database).
With Ishizaka unavailable, Shiro Sano has stepped in as narrator of ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY. The popular character actor has appeared in several films and shows, including such genre efforts as EVIL DEAD TRAP 2: HIDEKI (Shiryo-no Wana 2: Hideki, 1991), GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingughidora, 1991), EVIL DEAD TRAP 3: BROKEN LOVE KILLER (Chigiretta Ai-no Satsujin, 1993), GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Nisen-no Mireniamu, 1999), GMK and THE PRINCESS BLADE (Shurayuke- Hime, 2001). Sano said the original ULTRA Q is one of the things that inspired him to become an actor and he is both excited and nervous about working on the new show. "Mr Ishizaka's performance has always been in the back of my mind," he stated. "I understand how important it is to convey the script's intent as clearly as possible."
|Concept design for the upcoming "Kiara" episode. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
Just as the original series featured both monsters and mysterious occurrences in everyday life, ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY will thrust bizarre events and creatures into the modern world of the 21st Century. Expect to see both new monsters as well as those based on such classic original ULTRA Q creatures as Kanegon, and Kemur-Jin. Garagon, an updated version of the popular Garamon, has also been announced. Tsuburaya Productions has provided descriptions for the first few ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY episodes:
1. DANCING GARAGON (Odoru Garagon)
Director: Takeshi Yagi
Teleplay: Shozo Uehara
Scheduled airdate: 04/06/2004
An Aibo-like dancing robot called Gara-Q has become popular throughout Japan. Suddenly, a meteor falls to earth, releasing the strange monster Garagon. Is there a connection between Garagon and Gara-Q?
2. THE SLAVE OF HIELONIMUSU (Hielonimusu-no Geboku)
Director: Takeshi Yagi
Teleplay: Hiroshi Takahashi
Scheduled airdate: 04/13/2004
An online prediction by someone with the screen name "Hielonimusu's Slave" claims that a well-known television newscaster will disappear -- the prediction grabs the public's attention when, indeed, the woman vanishes into thin air right in front of the television camera. Who is "Hielonimusu's Slave", and how did he know this would happen?
ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY
Producer: Yukiko Omote
Head Writer/Script Editor: Shozo Uehara
Directors: Masaki Harada, Mitsunori Hattori, Akio Jissoji, Shusuke Kaneko, Tsugumi Kitaura, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Norio Tsuruta, Takeshi Yagi
Teleplays: Hiroki Hirota, Sadayuki Murai, Ai Ota, Hiroshi Takahashi, Aya Takei
Music: Kunio Miyauchi
End Theme: Kayako
Yoshihiko Hakamada as Goichi Sakamoto
Kumiko Endo as Ryo Kusunoki
Masao Kusakari as Professor Kakunoshin Watarai
Shiro Sano as the narrator
FILMING ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY
An "on the set" report by Norman England
ULTRA Q was one of the most influential TV shows in Japan in the 1960s. The revival of the series has attracted the talents of directors who grew up watching on the original shows. One of these is Shusuke Kaneko, better known for the 90s Gamera series and the more recent Godzilla film, GMK. Due to my longtime association with the director I was invited to appear as an extra and to observe shooting.
My day of lensing occurred on Sunday, February 22 in Shinjuku at a small Izakaya restaurant almost directly across from the Odakyu train line. I've been on the set of several Kaneko productions, but this was the first time for me to see him work with TV. The feeling on the set was very light and unhurried, with the crew obviously enjoying themselves. This episode--as is the case with the entire series and nearly all Japanese TV--is shot on digital video. However, as much care as goes into normal film was given, particularly the show's lighting. I'm confident the episode will look as good as DV can look.
The episode, #7 of the first season, is entitled " Anata-wa Dare-desuka ". It is the story of a man who meets up with a childhood friend he thought had died during their youth. The scene I was a part of was the two of them catching up on old times. I was told that later on in the story the lead hears from friends that this man had indeed died when they were children. After this, he tries to unravel just who it was he met. Thus, the title of the story: "Who are you?"
Starring in the episode is Yoshimasa Kondo, who fans of GMK will recall as the man who tried to snap a photo of his wife with Baragon in the distance just prior to the red kaiju's battle with Godzilla in Hakone.
All in all, it was a fun little shoot. Kaneko was upbeat and as it was shot in a restaurant, I was able to get lots of free food as my part (if you can call it that) was that of a customer having dinner with some friends. In my group was Jiro Kaneko (scriptwriter and brother of Shusuke Kaneko) and the lovely Kiyo Kiuchi.
For additional info, see Norman's update and photos on the Shusuke Kaneko Information Website.
|GODZILLA: SANTA MONICA SOS|
Toho Holds First US Screening of GMMG at American Film Market in CA
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Toho press materials, American Film Market
AFMA (formerly the American Film Marketing Association) is a trade association made up of more than 130 independent film and television companies. Among its members are such well-known studios as New Line (the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy), Miramax (KILL BILL), Artisan Entertainment (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), and Lions Gate (MONSTER'S BALL). Since 1981, AFMA has held an annual motion picture trade show in Santa Monica, CA called the American Film Market (AFM). The eight- day long event is the largest of its kind in the world, routinely drawing 300 motion picture companies and 7,000 acquisition and development execs, producers, distributors, agents, attorneys, buyers, and film financiers from around the globe. 2004 marks the 24th annual AFM, which runs from February 25 to March 3. During this time all 23 theater screens on Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade are being used in order to accommodate more than 600 screenings of approximately 400 movies-- an average of 23 new films every two hours.
|Toho's international sales flyer for GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
An impressive number of Japanese studios and distributors are on hand at this year's AFM. Micott and Basara, Inc are showing both films in the "Duel Project" competition: Yokihiko Tsutsumi's 2LDK and Ryuhei Kitamura's ARAGAMI, while Pony Canyon has the smash hit BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2 (Odoru Daisosasen 2: Rainbow Bridge wo Fusaseyo!), the thriller G@ME, and COSMIC RESCUE, the latest picture from director Shinsuke Sato (THE PRINCESS BLADE) and starring the J-pop band V6. Horizon Entertainment is presenting Yukio Ninagawa's period drama KWAIDAN: ETERNAL LOVE, Microvision Inc. has Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest mystery, DOPPELGANGER (Dopperugenga), and Shochiku's list of titles includes the post-WWII drama OUT OF THIS WORLD (Kono Yo no Soto E) and a preview of their live-action update of the anime hero CASSHERN. Exhibitors also include the anime studio GAINAX Co, US distributor Media Blasters, the Tohokushinsha Film Corp, Toei Company, Ltd and, last but certainly not least, the famed Toho Co., Ltd.
Representing Toho at AFM are managing director Satoru Terada, general manager Shozo Watanabe, and sales manager Tetsushi Sudo. The trio is promoting such titles as the Japanese Academy Award-winning LIKE ASURA (Ashura no Gotoku), Tomoyuki Furumaya's "feel good" family film ROBOCON, and two WWII biographies; Yasuo Furuhata's RED MOON (Akaitsuki) and Masahiro Shinoda's SPY SORGE. Toho also screened two movies for the very first time in the United States; the drama MILK WHITE (Gege) and the 27th film in the long-running Godzilla series, director Masaaki Tezuka's GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, aka "GMMG")
|Back of sales flyer for GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
MILK WHITE was shown at 3 pm on the first day of the trade show at the Laemmle Monica, a smaller theater that generally plays foreign and independent films. The movie was released in Japan on January 17, 2004 and is nearing the end of a successful theatrical run. Directed by Itsumichi Isomura, MILK WHITE stars Takao Osawa (ARAGAMI) as a teacher who learns he has contracted Behcet's Disease and will soon go blind (the movie's English title comes from the effects of the disease). Much of the film takes place in Nagasaki, and takes full advantage of the city's lush greenery and hilly terrain to help create a beautiful and touching motion picture. The excellent cast is rounded out by Yuriko Ishida (the voice of PRINCESS MONONOKE), Akira Emoto (GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA, ZATOICHI), Seiichi Tanabe (THE SPIRAL, RING 0: BIRTHDAY), Junko Fuji, and veteran actor Tatsuo Matsumura (MADADAYO, KING KONG VS GODZILLA).
Five days later came Godzilla's return to Santa Monica. The King of the Monsters is no stranger to AFM; for the past three years Toho has chosen the trade show to premiere the latest Godzilla films outside Japan. This first happened on February 22, 2002, when Shusuke Kaneko's GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (Gojira, Mosura Kingughidora: Daikaiju Soukougeki), which was shown at the Cineplex Odeon Broadway Cinemas mere weeks after concluding its theatrical run in Japan. Masaaki Tezuka's GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira) also played at the Cineplex the following year on February 21, 2003. This year GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS was screened at the Mann Criterion 6 Theatres on Monday, March 1 at 11 am. Toho is marketing the motion picture overseas under the simplified English title GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, and it is under this name that it was promoted at AFM. The event's official website provided the following description of the film:
|The Motley Kaiju Krew at AFM. Photo: Matt Buzzell|
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS
|The Magic Ticket!!|
Action/Sci-Fi; Dir: Masaaki Tezuka; Cast: Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Akira Nakao (91 min.); Dist: Toho Co., Ltd. Tokyo is attacked by Godzilla again. As the combat among Godzilla, Mothra and Mechagodzilla begins, new giant monsters are heading for Tokyo. Is it man's friend or foe? The final battle of monsters sets the stage for an unimaginable catastrophe...
As previously stated, the purpose of the American Film Market screenings is to introduce movies to potential buyers and distributors from around the world. They are not media events, and no press or reviewer passes were issued. I attended both MILK WHITE and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS at the invitation of Toho LA, and for that reason it would be unfair of me to give away any plot spoilers or provide a detailed review at this time. On the other hand, since there is interest on how GMMG played to an American audience and of its chances for an international release, I will provide details on the events surrounding the screening.
The attendees began to gather at the 3rd St Promenade around 10 am. There were several familiar faces mingling in front of the Criterion, including noted genre author Steve Ryfle (JAPAN'S FAVORITE MON-STAR), G-Fan's Armand Vaquer, Coco Kiyonaga from Cult Movies magazine, indie filmmaker Matthew Buzzell, Dennis Bartok of the American Cinematheque (which will be hosting a Godzilla 50th Anniversary film festival in Hollywood this June) and Sony vice president Michael Schlesinger, the man who handled the US release of GODZILLA 2000 plus the theatrical screenings of GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GMK. Henshin! Online was represented in force this year as I was joined once again by fellow H!O correspondent Richard Pusateri plus AFM first-timers Bob Johnson, August Ragone, David Chapple, and Oki Miyano. Godzilla suitmaker Shinichi Wakasa had been in Los Angeles for last year's screening, but a sudden increase in his workload prevented him from attending this year. As showtime neared Shozo Watanabe presented everyone with a promotional flier for the film.
|Toho's AFM publicity pic for GMMG © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS was shown in Theater #3, a mid-size auditorium that held approximately 140 seats. Attendance seemed heavier than in years past with the theater at about 1/3 capacity when the movie began to play and others trickling in throughout the screening. A full house was never expected as GMMG was not open to the press nor the general public unless they had purchased a one-day AFM Industry Badge for $250. For AFM attendees there are nearly two dozen films to choose from at any given time so crowds are obviously spread very thin. Some may sit and watch one movie from beginning to end, but many potential buyers choose to hop from one theater to another, watching each film just long enough to see if there's anything of interest, take down a few notes, and move on to the next screening.
|Private Screening! Photo: Bob Johnson|
According to Mr Watanabe, the print shown was the same one used for GMMG's world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on November 3, 2003. Since this was only the second time this print was (semi)publicly screened it was obviously in excellent shape. The picture was bright and colorful with no scratches or damage and the subtitles were clear and easy to follow. I noticed that while most of the characters referred to Mechagodzilla by it's true name of Kiryu in the spoken dialogue, the subtitles always read "Mechagodzilla" or "Mecha-G". About 30 minutes into the movie a problem with one of the Mann Criterion's speakers caused an odd warbling effect in Michiro Oshima's score. This was soon corrected and both the music and sound effects were clear and impressive for the remainder of the film.
As for the movie itself, the audience reaction was decidedly mixed. Back at 2002's GMK screening the audience clearly reacted to what was happening onscreen and even applauded director Shusuke Kaneko's credit at film's end. In contrast, the crowd at GMMG seemed much more sedate, offering only a smattering of applause on a few occasions. After the screening I chatted with a dozen or so attendees. None of them were overwhelmed by the film and, surprisingly, most seemed to feel GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA was the better of the two Kiryu movies. One area that drew near unanimous praise was the visual effects (the new Mothra design, the matte work, and compositing were widely complimented) though most felt the editing of the monster fight sequences was awkwardly done. All in all, it's a fun movie and it will be interesting to see how American fans react once it becomes more widely available here (Mike Schlesinger expects Sony will pick up the television and home video rights in the near future). My guess is that most fans who enjoyed Tezuka's previous two Godzilla films will like this one as well.
|Mann Critereon Theater - Santa Monica. Photo: Bob Johnson|
Following last year's GxMG screening we introduced Wakasa to quality America dining by taking him to America's finest eating establishment… Hooters! It appears that the restaurant is going to become a post-AFM tradition since everyone decided a return visit was in order, and we even managed to drag Mike Schlesinger along this time. The next hour or so was filled with food, drink, talk about GMMG, AFM, movies and jazz and, of course, the "sincere" flirting of the famous Hooters Girls. After lunch a group of us decided to drive out to San Gabriel for some DVD shopping. But not five minutes after leaving the parking garage Oki, apparently feeling that David and Augie had a little too much Stella Atois to drink, wisely requested that he be let out at the nearest bus stop. Luckily his fears proved unfounded.
And so ends another AFM. As a lifelong fan of Godzilla it is a real treat to see a new film in the series as it should be seen for the first time… on the theater screen. That it was so close to home, so soon after the Japanese theatrical run, with subtitles, in the company of so many good friends, and at Toho's invitation just adds to my considerable enjoyment. I doubt there was a much better way to see GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS--or to start off Godzilla's 50th Anniversary Year.
NOTE: The following Toho films were exhibited at this year's American Film Market. All information comes from publicity material provided by Toho.
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS
As the combat among Godzilla, Mothra and Mechagodzilla begin, new giant monsters are heading for Tokyo. Is it man's friend or foe? What will become of Tokyo? The final battle of monsters sets the stage for an unimaginable catastrophe... [Official website]
Japan's five top movie directors have gathered to make an action- packed omnibus movie "Killers". Mamoru Oshii who made "Ghost in the Shell", Kazuhiro Kiuchi of "Partners in Crime" fame, Toshimichi Ohkawa who directed the "Crime Hunter" series, and two promising young directors, Shuji Kawata and Takanori Tsujimoto whose talents are highly acclaimed by the former three. Each episode is a thrilling pageant of action and gunplay...
"PAY OFF": At an underground parking lot at midnight, Izumi alights from his car to meet the "merchants of death" who deal in weapons through a secret black market of guns all kinds: revolvers, shotguns, submachine guns, automatic rifles... Negotiations begin with thrills and suspense. For Izumi, though, it is a matter of life and death...
"CANDY": A pretty young clerk who suffers her manager's sexual harassment slaps him and loses her job. She wants to work as a bar hostess and takes an audition, but it is, in fact, a test for an assassin. What fate awaits her?
"PERFECT PARTNER": As assassin shoots a big boss and escapes with an old friend and a girl who happens to deliver a pizza to him. Hunted by the gangsters, the three set out on a trip replete with adventures...
"KILLER IDOL": A killer appears in a TV variety show as a guest and eloquently expresses his philosophy of homicide. But in the studio where the show is unfolding, a hitman among the spectators aims his gun at him. A gunfight begins in front of the camera...
".50 WOMAN": A woman of mystery is furtively setting up a 50-caliber gun with a sniperscope in a certain building. Who is her target? What is her mission? An unexpected happening follows suit...
|Toho's AFM publicity photo; LIKE ASURA. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Four sisters have respective problems. Tsunako, a widow, is intimate with a restaurant owner who is married. Makiko incidentally discovers her husband's secret rendezvous with his secretary. Takiko hires a private detective to tail her father, but unexpectedly he woos her. Sakiko is crazy about a young boxer, who, after she marries him, gets fatally wounded in the ring. The sisters are worried about each other, sometimes hostile to each other and, deep in their hearts, jealous of each other. New from Yoshimitsu Morita ("The Family Game","Lost Paradise", etc.).
Takayuki is a grade school teacher in Tokyo. One day, he learns that he will lose his sight sooner or later. He resigns from school and returns to his hometown of Nagasaki where his mother and sister live. When Yoko, his girlfriend, follows him to Nagasaki, he must deal with his feelings for her and his worries about the future. [Official website]
Based on Rei Nakanishi's bestseller "The Red Moon", the film depicts what happened to the novelist's mother during the war in Manchuria. Japan sent thousands of colonists Manchuria, some of whom, like Namiko(heroine)'s husband, made a fortune there, but Japan's defeat toppled their success. While the Soviet invasion plunged the colonists into misery, Namiko survived days of hardship in postwar Harbin thanks to her strong will. [Official website]
|Toho's AFM publicity photo; ROBOCON. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Satomi is an apathetic student at a technical college. One day at the advice of the class teacher, she joins Robot Club #2. At the school, there are two Robot Clubs: elitist Robot Club #1 and fallout Robot Club #2, which has only two active members and little activities.
Both of the clubs attend a local robocon(robot contest) where similar clubs compete each other with their robots. Robot Club #2 loses, but the contest's judges choose the club as one of the few representatives for the area at the national contest because of their robot's unique features. Robot Club #2, which is otherwise a team of losers, is elated and for the first time in their lives find what they really want to do: to win this heaven-sent opportunity to prove them. Their true robocon starts now... [Official website]
|Toho's AFM publicity photo; SPY SORGE. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
The Soviet Union under Stalin was perplexed at the beginning of World War II. How could they protect their vast country from the Nazi invasion in the west and Japanese military advancement in the east? Without help, they could never repel the invaders. Then came a secret message from a Russian spy in Japan; "Japan has no intention to invade the Soviet Union." On the heels of it, Stalin sent his Far-East Army to defend Stalingrad against the Nazis, thus turning the course of the war. That single piece of information led the Soviets to victory. Richard Sorge, the spy who stole top secrets from the Japanese and German governments for the Soviet Union, when arrested by the Japanese police, said, "There are no longer any secrets in Japan for me to steal." His skill in gathering information were exceptional. Handsome and virile, he had a forceful personality. He had all the qualities of a talented spy and an ace journalist. He was also a charming playboy. [Official website]
|ULTRA N PROJECT|
The Next Phase of Ultraman Begins now!
Author: Bob Johnson
Source: Source: Tsuburaya Productions' Press Material from Tokyo Gift Show
Both Tsuburaya Productions and their Ultraman characters are about to launch into a new, fresh and exciting era! "Ultra N Project," an ambitious production and marketing plan, was unveiled at the 2004 Tokyo International Gift Show held from February 17th-20th at Tokyo Big Sight, one of Tokyo's largest and most prestigious event centers. Also unveiled was a 3-meter tall statue of the newest character: Ultraman Noa!
|Relfections of Ultraman from TPC promotional flier. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., ltd.|
What is Ultra N Project? Ultra N Project is the overall name for Tsuburaya Productions' 2004-2005 Ultraman business and marketing strategy, which includes the challenge of introducing a totally new type of Ultraman character to the market.
It has been 38 years since the first Ultraman TV series made its debut in Japan. Since that time 30 Ultra Heroes have been introduced and three generations have grown up with the Ultraman characters. The introduction of Ultraman Cosmos in 2001 marked the end of this first phase in their Ultraman business strategy.
So, on the occasion of Tsuburaya Productions' 40th anniversary, a new business strategy has begun -- a new brand of hero called the Neo Standard Hero will emerge. There are two main goals Tsuburaya hopes to achieve with this new strategy: To give people the kind of fresh, even shocking experience they had when they first saw the original Ultraman, and to let the millions of Ultraman fans know that this isn't just yet another Ultraman character. This is a whole new beginning to the Ultraman saga.
This won't be just for the kids or for the adult Ultraman fans that loved the early Ultraman series. It represents the beginning of a completely new generation of Ultraman characters.
|3-Meter tall statue of Ultraman Noa greets attendees at the Tokyo International Gift Show. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., ltd.|
The first new Ultra Hero to be unleashed on the public is "Ultraman Noa," however there has been much speculation as to exactly who and what Ultraman Noa is. To put those theories to rest, beginning in March, Ultraman Noa will be featured in events and print media, and in April licensed merchandise based on the character will hit the stores. Following this, and separate from the Ultraman Noa project, there are plans for the release of a new Ultraman motion picture and possibly a television series this year, though no details are available as of yet.
Ultraman Noa is a Neo Standard Hero designed specifically for appearances at live events and in the print media. No plans exist at present to feature Ultraman Noa in anything but live appearances and merchandise.
The material given out for their new business plan states, "The Saga Reborn: Ignition", but what does it mean? As the Neo Standard Heroes make their debut the message is that while TPC will not sacrifice all the things that made the previous Ultraman characters great, they will be trying to erase such ideas as "Ultraman is just for kids," and "Ultraman is old fashioned and not stylish." Ultraman and TPC will be entering an entirely new and unknown realm, like a rocket launching when Mission Command signals "Ignition!' A new legend is about to take off."
Other terms used in this marketing plan were also explained:
|Neo Standard Hero: Ultraman Noa! © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., ltd.|
TPC's aim is to return to the starting point. This doesn't mean they are going to go look at the programs made three decades ago and try to recreate what worked in the past. However, they want to return to the challenging spirit that made Tsuburaya Productions' characters such a resounding success. With this spirit they have chosen to begin creating a new breed of heroes called the "Neo Standard Heroes."
The goal here is to take the next step by bringing a new sense of realism and mystery, as well as an increased visual impact to the Ultraman series. The new Ultraman programs and movies will be more than mere TV shows and films. They will be a "visual story event for viewers."
TPC plans to complete the "three part chain." The Neo Standard Heroes will not just appeal to the core of loyal fans from the past. They hope draw in casual viewers and those completely unfamiliar with the Ultraman saga as well. They plan to do this not only through film and television, but also through live stage events as well as print, internet and other media.
The next phase of Ultraman begins now! Stay tuned to Henshin! Online as the excitement unfolds!!
|YOUR EARS WILL LEAVE YOUR BODY!|
ULTRA Q: The Radio Series
Author: Bob Johnson
Additional material and translations: Oki Miyano and Keith Aiken
Source: Tsuburaya Productions, The Official Tsuburaya Website, Special thanks to Hiroko Sakurai
Almost forty years after it first appeared and changed the face of Japanese fantasy television, Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRA Q is back, but this time in a totally different medium. Starting on October 5, 2003 Tokyo Broadcasting System Radio (954 kHz) has been running a new weekly radio drama called THE ULTRA Q CLUB every Sunday from 7:30- 8:00pm. The show is part of 'Ultra Collaboration 2', a new wave of Ultra-related programing and merchandising (See the ULTRA BLITZ! article posted here on 1/25/04 for further details).
|Ultra Q Club logo. © © 2003 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
Original series stars Hiroko Sakurai, Kenji Sahara and Yasuhiko Saijo have returned to reprise their roles of Yuriko Edogawa, Jun Manjome, and Ippei Togawa, respectively. In each episode they encounter many of the familiar monsters and alien creatures they faced 37 years ago in stark black and white, only this time in a modern, 21st Century setting. Plus, new creatures that will only "appear" on the radio are also at hand! Directing episodes of the radio drama are some of the original masters from the television series, such as Akio Jissoji and Toshihiro Iijima, from new scripts written by original scribes Mamoru Sasaki and Keisuke Fujikawa.
|Kenji Sahara,Hiroko Sakurai, Yasuhiko Saijo and TBS announcer Masao Mukai. Photo Credit: Oki Miyano.|
The first half of the radio show is the drama, which is taped at Three S Studio-desu in Waseda, Tokyo (located between Shinjuku and Ikebukuro). Later in the week, everyone gathers at TBS' sound studio to record the program's second half; an ULTRA Q ROUNDTABLE in which the cast and crew members of the original series share their memories and experiences in bringing the science fiction classic to life. Special guests, including original ULTRAMAN stars Susumu Kurobe and Masanari Nihei, also attend the roundtable from time to time.
THE ULTRA Q CLUB has done very well in the ratings, and the show is celebrating with a special 2 hour episode scheduled to
air on February 21. The episode is broken up into four 30 minute-long segments. These include a roundtable with guests Susumu Kurobe, ULTRASEVEN star Koji Moritsugu and ULTRAMAN LEO's Ryu Manatsu. Another features directors Akio Jissoji, Toshihiro Iijima, Hideaki Anno (best known for NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, but he was also an artist for the animated ULTRAMAN: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS), and Kazuya Konaka (ULTRAMAN ZEARTH, ULTRAMAN GAIA: THE BATTLE IN HYPERSPACE), plus a two-part drama ''Terror From the Year 2020: The Return of Kemur" (2020'nen-no Kyofu). As the title makes clear, this story is a sequel to Episode #19 of the original ULTRA Q: "Challenge From the Year 2020" (2020'nen- no Chosen), which featured the mysterious abductor being Kemur.
|The original Kemur-jin. © 1965 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd|
ULTRA Q is back in a new and exciting format and this is only the beginning. The success of the radio show has convinced Tsuburaya to move ahead with plans for an all-new ULTRA Q television series. The new TV series is off to a great start as popular filmmaker (and long- time ULTRA Q fan) Shusuke Kaneko has signed on to direct some of the early episodes. Creativity seems to be flowing again as Tsuburaya Productions experiments with various types of forums for its creations. Is the new era of Tsuburaya Productions about to begin? Keep an eye on Henshin! Online as we guide you through what could be a very exciting future!
For a detailed ULTRA Q CLUB episode guide, click here.
|ULTRA Q Is On the Air!|
In the studio with the cast and crew of the ULTRA Q CLUB
A first-hand account by H!O correspondent Oki Miyano, as told to Keith Aiken.
This past holiday season, I returned to my native Japan. In addition to seeing my family, I also planned to interview many of the special effects people who worked on Toho's classic 1954 to 1975 Godzilla films. The latest Godzilla movie, GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, opened the week I arrived, so I attended a screening with several friends (Ed Godziszewski, Norman England, John Lipartito and Bob Eggleton among them). Afterwards, Norman hosted a dinner party where we were joined by former Toho special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano, Godzilla suitmaker Shinichi Wakasa, and Tsuburaya Productions actress Hiroko Sakurai. During dinner I was introduced to Hiroko Sakurai by Shigeko Kojima, the owner of Disc Five video shop. Miss Sakurai is still as pretty and as charming as when she played Agent Akiko Fuji in ULTRAMAN 35 years ago. To my surprise, she invited me to a taping of THE ULTRA Q CLUB radio show. I never expected I would ever have an opportunity like this, so I quickly accepted her offer.
At 11 AM on December 18th, I met Miss Sakurai in front of the Tokyo Broadcasting System studio in Akasaka, Tokyo. The TBS building was constructed about 10 years ago, and its futuristic design reminded me of the Science Patrol headquarters from the original ULTRAMAN. Leading up to the entrance was a corridor lined with displays of many recent shows from TBS, including statues of Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Gaia . The lobby was dominated by a huge model of Tokyo Tower. While it was part of a display used to explain radio and television broadcasting to visitors, to me it seemed more like the set of an effects movie. The recording studio was on the 8th Floor. When we arrived, the engineers were making final preparations for the day's taping, which would be two of the roundtable discussions heard in every ULTRA Q CLUB episode. The place had a relaxed, cheerful atmosphere. I was introduced to producer Kazuaki Iijima, the son of ULTRA Q and ULTRAMAN director Toshihiro Iijima. As we chatted briefly, an old "Sonosheet" record (what we Americans used to call a Flexidisc) from Shogakukan Magazine was playing in the background. It was a recording made in the 1960s of Eiji Tsuburaya answering questions from children about monsters. I listened with interest; it was the first time I had ever heard Tsuburaya's voice. There's a possibility that the sound sheet will be used on a future episode of the radio show.
|The TBS building. © 2003 TBS.|
Miss Sakurai said that the ULTRA Q CLUB cast and crew had thrown a year-end party the night before, and everyone was out drinking until early in the morning. But this had little apparent effect on announcer Masao Mukai; despite partying until 3 AM his voice was still strong and clear. I was told that Mr. Mukai also provided many of the monster roars for the show. This had begun when a sound effect was needed for one of the episodes so he jokingly roared into the microphone. The director was impressed so Mr. Mukai decided to treat the matter more seriously from then on. Now he is able to express each monster's personality and emotion with just a few sounds. For the current episode he provided the sounds for the creature Kemur.
I next spoke with writer and director Toshihiro Iijima. He said that he was trying to make THE ULTRA Q CLUB a show that would appeal to all audiences, not just the hard-core fans. However, the new program still features elements that will remind listeners of the older Tsuburaya series. That includes references to locations that were used repeatedly in the old shows such as Tokyo Tower, a popular landmark in the original ULTRA Q (as well as Toho sfx films like MOTHRA and KING KONG ESCAPES). Mr. Iijima wants listeners to be able to easily visualize the story as it unfolds. He also provided additional details about the show. When the idea of an ULTRA Q radio show was first suggested TBS wanted to use it as a 5-10 minute bumper between longer broadcasts. The concept eventually evolved into a half- hour program with the drama portion running about 20 minutes. At this time the show is only heard in the Tokyo area but the producers have received fan mail from as far away as Kobe. It appears that some fans are making a great effort to hear the show.
Everyone listened to a recording of the most recent episode, then the taping of the roundtable began at noon. Since this episode would air the following week Mr. Mukai started things off with a big "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" that made everyone laugh. The theme of the discussion was the origins of the names for the various monsters and machines in the Tsuburaya shows. I learned that Gomess (from ULTRA Q Episode 1: "Defeat Gomess!") was named after a professional wrestler, and his opponent Litra was not named after 'tori' (the Japanese term for 'bird') but the English word 'little'. Since the creature Kemur had the ability to appear and fade like smoke its name was derived from 'kemuri', the Japanese word for 'smoke'. Not surprisingly, the MARS 133 gun (from ULTRAMAN Episode 16: "The Science Patrol Into Space") was named after the fourth planet in our solar system.
|Taping the roundtable. Photo Credit: Oki Miyano|
The taping wrapped after 30 minutes and we all went to lunch on the top floor of the TBS building. The restaurant provided an excellent view of Tokyo. I noticed that Tokyo Tower and the Diet Building, once the tallest structures in the area, were now dwarfed by Tokyo's modern buildings. Over lunch, talk turned to the English-dubbed versions of the Ultra shows, in particular the sample episode of ULTRA Q (Episode 3: "A Gift From Space"). Mr. Iijima said he felt the performances in that episode were improved by the English dubbing. We then returned to the studio to record the second roundtable and met up with Miss Sakurai's co-stars Kenji Sahara and Yasuhiko Saijo. The friendship and comraderie between the three was obvious; Sakurai called Sahara "Ken-chan" (basically "Kenny boy") and the two men referred to her as "Roko-san" or "Roko". When Mr. Sahara learned that I was from Los Angeles, he talked about his time visiting LA in 1965 when he was working on the Frank Sinatra movie NONE BUT THE BRAVE. He had stayed for about a month and had visited the now-defunct Toho La Brea Theater. Mr. Saijo heard we had been talking earlier about the English dubbed ULTRA Q and joked about his character Ippei being renamed 'Happy' in the dubbing.
For the second roundtable the actors discussed their own favorite moments from the original series. Mr. Sahara talked about wearing sunglasses in the episode with the refrigeration monster Peguila. The glasses were a gift from his sister, an airline stewardess who saw them in Paris, and he felt they fit his character. (It's interesting that he often played roles involving airplanes; including a pilot in ULTRA Q and later a stewardess instructor on the 1970 Toho TV series ATTENTION PLEASE!) Mr. Saijo said his most memorable moment was watching Koji Kajita get his first directing job on Episode 4: "Mammoth Flower". Kajita had been Ishiro Honda's assistant director on many films (including the original GODZILLA) and Mr. Saijo was happy to see him get promoted to lead director.
|Oki Miyano and Yasuhiko Saijo at TBS. Photo Credit: Oki Miyano.|
After the roundtable Miss Sakurai invited me to join her, Mr. Iijima, and Mr. Saijo at a coffee shop in the lobby. Both Sakurai and Mr. Iijima were busy with dealing with various show details, but Mr. Saijo was free and the two of us chatted for an hour or so. I enjoyed talking with him very much; he is a cheerful person who has many interesting stories to tell. He became an actor for Toho at the age of 15 while he was still a student at Seijo-gakuen High School. His mentor was director Seiji Maruyama (BATTLE OF THE JAPAN SEA), who would often educate and support young actors and actresses. Saijo feels that his early experiences on the Toho lot had a positive effect on his personal growth and taught him common sense and morality.
Mr. Saijo generally played small supporting roles in the Toho films, mostly as loud, happy-go-lucky characters. One of his first acting jobs was a bit part in SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN. He went on to work for many famous directors like Akira Kurosawa, Hiroshi Inagaki, Mikio Naruse and Ishiro Honda on such films as THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, THE OTHER WOMAN, OSAKA CASTLE STORY, LATITUDE ZERO, and his personal favorite I BOMBED PEARL HARBOR. Saijo appeared in 30 movies in one year, which he thinks may be the record for any Toho actor. On many occasions he would perform in one film in the morning, another in the afternoon, and yet a third in the evening. These days, Mr. Saijo lives in Kagurazaka in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. His family has lived there for several generations and he is known as a sort of "community leader" to his neighbors. One thing he is famous for is hosting an annual festival that uses many monster suits borrowed from Tsuburaya Productions.
The time came when Miss Sakurai had to leave so I thanked her for the kindness she had shown me that day. Mr. Saijo and I left TBS and continued our discussion until we arrived at the subway station. It was an interesting, informative and memorable day right up to the end.
|GMMG FALLS SHORT AT THE BOX OFFICE|
Latest Godzilla leads dismal holiday season for Japanese movies
Author: Keith Aiken
Translations: Oki Miyano
Source: Box Office Mojo, Nikkan Sports
The 2003 holiday season was a huge disappointment for Japanese studios as two American films, FINDING NEMO and THE LAST SAMURAI, utterly dominated the domestic box office. While US releases generally top the New Year's charts in Japan, this past year showed an even greater disparity in ticket sales than usual.
|GMMG Boxoffice aspirations go up in smoke! © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.|
In seven weeks THE LAST SAMURAI has taken in $86,455,420. Warner Bros had initially targeted the Tom Cruise period piece to the 30-40 year old demographic and were pleasantly surprised when the film drew in large audiences from teenagers to senior citizens. According to studio analysts, Japanese moviegoers have responded so strongly to the movie because they feel it treats their culture in a respectful manner. Predictions are now that THE LAST SAMURAI will make $120,000,000 -- possibly more since Japanese actor Ken Watanabe has received both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his supporting role in the picture.
Also topping the box office is the Disney/Pixar computer animated movie FINDING NEMO, which has made $90,302,686 since its debut on December 6, 2003. While adult men usually avoid this kind of fare, NEMO's "father and son" theme has brought them in surprisingly large numbers. The movie has also benefited from a huge marketing blitz that includes merchandising tie-ins with nearly 120 companies. Buena Vista expects the final box office take will be close to $115,000,000 -- a far cry from several Japanese anime films (including the INUYASHA and two ATASHINCHI features) released during this same time period that have earned less than $9,000,000 combined.
Another possible casualty of NEMO's success is Toho's latest Godzilla film, GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. While it was the highest grossing Japanese production during the 2003 holiday season, GMMG still trailed about 30% behind the previous year's GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. GXMG brought in more money in fewer theaters in 2002, beginning with its opening weekend take of $2,253,231 on 267 screens for an average of $8,439 per screen. By comparison GMMG made $1,686,009 on 298 screens in its first weekend; an average of $5,658 per screen. GXMG earned $14,122,958 in six weeks at first-run cinemas and finished up with a total box office of $17,000,000. GMMG made $10,724,345 during its initial run and is expected to finish up around $12,000,000, putting it in 3rd or 4th place out of the five Godzilla films released since 1999.
Following lackluster performances for both GODZILLA 2000 (1999) and GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2000), Toho decided to reinvigorate the series by bringing in popular filmmaker Shusuke Kaneko to write and direct 2001's GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK. To further ensure profits, and to introduce Godzilla to a new generation of potential fans, GMK was paired with a short film starring the popular children's anime character Hamtaro. The double feature was a hit, earning $25,000,000 in theaters, but each subsequent Godzilla/Hamtaro combo has drawn a smaller and smaller audience. Despite mostly positive reviews and word-of-mouth, GMMG saw a sharp decrease in ticket sales, approximately 700,000 less than GMK sold just two years before. Toho suspects this was due to FINDING NEMO drawing away Hamtaro's target audience. A disappointed Toho rep commented "NEMO was very strong. Its affect on our movies was much greater than we had expected."
Tsuburaya Partners with Five Companies for Big Ultra Promotion
Author: Keith Aiken
Translations: Oki Miyano
Source: Official Homepage Tsuburaya, ASCII24
Tsuburaya Productions, the creator and owner of the popular Ultraman franchise, has launched "Ultra Collaboration 2", a joint project with Shogakukan Publishing, Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), Matsushita Electric (owner of Panasonic), and Digital Ultra Project. Recently appointed vice president Akira Tsuburaya [See his 8/30/03 interview in the H!O News Archives] has wasted no time getting his announced plans for Ultraman and company underway. Based around the theme of "The Origin of Ultra", this massive promotion of the classic Tsuburaya shows will include television, radio, books, home video, film, the internet, and merchandising. On September 19, 2003, actress Hiroko Sakurai (Yuriko Edogawa in ULTRA Q, Akiko Fuji in ULTRAMAN), actors Akihide Tsuzawa (the young boy Hoshino in ULTRAMAN), actor/singer Isao Sasaki (OPERATION: MYSTERY), Kenji Sahara (Jun Manjome in ULTRA Q), Yasuhiko Saijo (Ippei Togawa in ULTRA Q), director Toshihiro Iijima, and Akira Tsuburaya explained details of the joint project at a press conference in Tokyo.
|Ultraman and friends at the Tokyo press conference. © 2003 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
The first production is the classic series ULTRA Q (Urutora Q), which has returned as a weekly drama on TBS radio [Note: An extensive ULTRA Q article, including exclusive information and behind-the-scenes photos will soon be available here on H!O]. A new Ultraman television series, ULTRAMAN NOAH (Urutoraman Noa) is scheduled to air on TBS in the spring of 2004, followed by a remake of MIRRORMAN (Miraaman), and possibly a new version of OPERATION: MYSTERY! (Kaiki Daisakusen) in the near future. Shogakukan will be releasing several Ultra-themed books in the coming months -- they recently published THE GENESIS OF ULTRAMAN, a book that documents the making of the renowned series. Written by Hiroko Sakurai, GENESIS features lengthy interviews with cast and crew members including the long-lost Akihide Tsuzawa. Following the wrap of the series, Tsuzawa lost touch with his co-stars and had not seen or spoken to any of them for 36 years.
|Hiroko Sakurai and Akihide Tsuzawa together again. © 2003 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.|
Panasonic/Beam Entertainment continues their ongoing relationship with Tsuburaya Productions in remastering the best series in Tsuburaya's catalogue. Their most recent collaboration is the new DVD release of the 1968 teleseries OPERATION: MYSTERY!. Parent company Matsushita Electric is currently creating Ultra-themed streaming videos for the Tsuburaya Channel Broadband pay site. Members can access interviews with the cast and crew of Tsuburaya Productions shows, interactive games, and other exclusives.
The Digital Ultra Project is handling several home video projects. While the company was primarily founded to create new digital masters of old Tsuburaya films and shows for DVD release, DUP is also involved in brand-new projects like CRADLE OF ULTRA (Urutora-no Yurikago), a documentary on the making of ULTRA Q and ULTRAMAN. The DVD features interviews with staff members from the two classic television series (including director Toshihiro Iijima, optical effects animator Minoru Nakano, art director Noriyoshi Ikeya and Yozo Inagaki), re- creations, production material, promotional footage, featurettes, and details on how the special effects were created. DUP has also filmed the recording of, and behind-the-scenes moments from, the new ULTRA Q radio show. With a combination of state-of-the-art media and a "back to the basics" approach, Tsuburaya Productions has ensured that their classic characters will live on to enthrall a whole new generation of fans.
|MEET THE FUTURE|
The 2002 Hit RETURNER Comes to American Theaters & Home Video
Author: Richard Pusateri and Keith Aiken
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Official Returner site, Kodak Motion Picture
Special thanks to Michael Schlesinger
In the year 2084, an alien militia has nearly wiped out the human race. A 15 year-old girl named Milly time travels back to modern day Japan in an attempt to change history and save mankind; but she arrives right in the middle of a crime war between the solitary gunman-for-hire Miyamoto and the cold-blooded gang leader Mizoguchi.
|The US theatrical poster. © 2002/2003 Returner Film Partners/Sony Pictures|
This is the premise for RETURNER (Ritaana), the second film from director Takashi Yamazaki. Born in 1964, Yamazaki decided to become a filmmaker after seeing STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. After graduating from Asagaya Arts School, he went to work at the animation studio Shirogumi Inc. Yamazaki worked on digital composites and event videos for director Juzo Itami's THE LAST DANCE (Daibyonin, 1993) and A QUIET LIFE (Shizuka no Seikatsu, 1995) before making his directorial debut in 2000 with JUVENILE: BOYS MEET THE FUTURE (Jubanairu). The movie was a hit at the Japan box office and was awarded Best Children's Film at the Giffoni International Film Festival in Italy. He is currently working on the video game ONIMUSHA 3, which co-stars Jean Reno (LEON, GODZILLA) and RETURNER lead actor Takeshi Kaneshiro.
The pivotal role of Milly is played by actress Anne Suzuki. After numerous TV commercials and dramas, Suzuki got her big break in the American film SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (2000). Her performance as a second-generation Japanese-American had such an impression on viewers that she became the first Japanese actor to ever win the Young Star Award. She followed this up with JUVENILE, in which she so impressed director Yamazaki, that he wrote the part of Milly in RETURNER specifically for her.
Takeshi Kaneshiro stars as Miyamoto. Born in Taiwan in 1973, Kaneshiro received international recognition for his performance in Wong Kar Wai's CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994) and FALLEN ANGELS (1995). He is a popular actor throughout Asia and has starred in such films as HEROIC TRIO 2: EXECUTIONERS (1993), HERO (1997), SLEEPLESS TOWN (Fuyajo, 1998) and SPACE TRAVELLERS (Supeesu Toraberazu, 2000). RETURNER marks his return to the screen after a two-year break in which Kaneshiro modeled for Prada and was a successful pop star. He will next be seen in Yamazaki's ONIMUSHA 3.
Rounding out the main cast is Goro Kishitani as the ruthless gang leader Mizoguchi. Born in 1964, he became famous as a member of Yuji Miyake's "Super Eccentric Theatre." Following an award-winning performance in director Yoichi Sai's WHERE IS THE MOON? (Tsuki-wa Dotchi-ni Dete Iru, 1993), Kishitani has appeared in numerous films and television series including the RING sequel THE SPIRAL (Rasen, 1999) and NEW GRAVEYARD OF HONOR (Shin Jingi no Hakaba, 2002).
RETURNER is the twelfth film created by the Japanese production company Robot Communication. Founded in 1986, Robot specializes in TV commercials, music videos, graphic animation, and character design and development. Their first movie was the 1994 release UNDO. RETURNER was shot from October to December 2001 at several locations in Japan, including Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima and Kobe, and a thermal power plant in Himeji. The movie was funded by a consortium of companies including Toho, Shirogumi, Amuse Pictures, Fuji TV, Robot, and Imagica. Toho released the film to Japanese theaters on August 31, 2002 and it went on to become a domestic hit.
|Stars Anne Suzuki and Takeshi Kaneshiro. © 2002/2003 Returner Film Partners/Sony Pictures|
Sony Pictures Entertainment bought worldwide rights to RETURNER soon after filming had wrapped, then sublicensed the US theatrical rights to Samuel Goldwyn/Destination Films. The two companies formed a service deal (similar to an earlier arrangement that had been done for COWBOY BEBOP) in which Goldwyn was in charge of theatrical distribution while Sony covered expenses and handled the home video release. The movie opened on October 17, 2003 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Honolulu, and then spread to other art-house theaters around the country. The DVD and VHS release is scheduled for February 10, 2004.
RETURNER will most likely remind American viewers of several successful American films, but it is not all bad. RETURNER has so many merits as the story keeps a brisk pace, the performances are believable and the special effects are quite good. Most early reviews of RETURNER have focused similarities to THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR series. Some early reports on the new movie were quite negative and indicated it was just a mish mash of borrowed ideas. Likewise, the production design has many tips of the hat to the dingy "used future" leitmotif of such films as BRAZIL and BLADERUNNER (which were foreshadowed in such films as SOYLENT GREEN, THE OMEGA MAN, THE LAST WARRIOR and ROAD WARRIOR), but this is par for course if you are making a post-apocalyptic film. However, all of these movies can be seen as borrowing or even "sharing" ideas.
If the obviously borrowed elements are not too distracting and the time travel conundrum doesn't put you off, then the other, less taxing and well-executed components of this sci-fi fantasy may be well worth your time. One of the elements most appealing about Japanese fantasy films are the special effects. RETURNER is replete with miniatures, composites, CGI animation and other elements, which are some of the best created in such a modestly-budgeted Japanese domestic film, and will not disappoint those interested in seeing the future of Japanese special effects techniques.
Almost any description of this movie will mention THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR series. THE TERMINATOR featured a protagonist traveling back in time to change an event to allow the human race to survive in the future (itself borrowed from THE OUTER LIMITS episode "Soldier") and RETURNER revolves around the heroine returning to the "present" in order to save the world of the "future." But our human heroine on a mission of mercy is not a murderous cyborg with an Austrian accent. Other than the core plot device of the protagonist going back in time, RETURNER has little in common with THE TERMINATOR. The teaming of a young girl and a killer is reminiscent of the relationship between Natalie Portman and Jean Reno in THE PROFESSIONAL, but the young woman in RETURNER is a tough, yet idealistic soldier.
|The aliens open fire on a pocket of resistance fighters. © 2002/2003 Returner Film Partners/Sony Pictures|
Kaneshiro, the male lead of RETURNER, took much more from THE MATRIX. This is ironic though, as THE MATRIX has borrowed heavily from Asian cinematic sources (GHOST IN THE SHELL, INITIAL D, A BETTER TOMORROW, HARD BOILED, etc.); the main design of THE MATRIX good guys' appearance is obviously influenced by Japanese manga and anime and the fight sequences were directed by Hong Kong Kung Fu Choreographer Yuen Wo Ping. RETURNER's gangster elements have an influence from a combination of Triad and Yakuza films, as the bad guys are Japanese gangsters working for a branch of the Hong Kong mob.
RETURNER's blend of the sci-fi and gangster genres is quite appealing; the expertise of the special effects, the believability of the characters motivations and actions and the brisk pacing make for an enjoyable movie despite the obviously borrowed elements. So, if you are still curious about seeing RETURNER, please do so -- but, be sure to make plenty of popcorn and enjoy the ride!
|FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE GIANT DEVILFISH|
or "Pardon Me, But Your Tentacles Are In My Soup!"
Author: August Ragone
Source: Henshin! Newsletter (unpublished, circa 1996)
The most oft-asked question of fans of Japanese Fantasy Films on both sides of the Pacific is "What happened to that monster octopus that the giant Frankenstein was supposed to fight in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD?" -- mainly due to the article (and accompanying photos) which appeared in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" #35 (and reprinted in #114 in 1975) as a sneak preview in 1966.
|Original Japanese movie poster for FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Readers of "Famous Monsters" discovered that the film was allegedly envisioned as "Frankenstein vs. The Giant Devilfish," according to Forry Ackerman's uncredited piece. Two stills accompanying the article featured this confrontation, but when we went to go see the film in theaters, no Giant Devilfish unspooled before our eyes. In fact, there were no fish of any kind in the picture at all (unless you count what was offered for lunch in the Toho Salon).
So, while leaving that week's Grand Theater triple feature in 1973 (the others being ISLAND OF TERROR and THE PROJECTED MAN), I took a look at the display case again, and sure enough, as in FM, there was a still of Frankenstein engaged in a water-struggle with a mammoth octopod! Did I miss something when I had to answer Nature's Call from too much Cola? Was I distracted by the other kids starting trouble? Boy, was I a confused little kid and probably as confounded as Uncle Forry himself.
Now the truth can be told! The "Devilfish" did indeed exist and it actually mixed it up with the hulking Frankenstein Giant. But first, let's take a step back to the evolution of the picture itself.
The Toho Motion Picture Company having met critical success with the hybrid "Irregular Fiction" (read: Science Crime Drama)/"Mutant Film," THE HUMAN VAPOR (Honda, 1960) -- planned a sequel in which the Vapor Man brings his beloved Fujichiyo's body to a practicing descendant of Dr. Frankenstein. The project "Frankenstein vs. The Human Vapor" (Furankenshutain tai Gasu Ningen), penned by Takeshi Kimura (THE MYSTERIANS, THE H-MAN, MATANGO), never got past the scenario stage. But Frankenstein did not wait long and was quickly eyed for a return vehicle primed for Toho's titan of terror, when Universal International was optioning Willis O'Brien's "King Kong vs. Frankenstein." Toho immediately responded with the idea for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (but that's another story).
|"I thought that my agent said that I was working with Maude Adams?" © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
"Frankenstein vs. Godzilla," scripted by Shinichi Sekizawa (MOTHRA, ATRAGON, GHIDRAH) was similar to the plotline of resultant film, but ended with Godzilla being washed out to sea in a huge flood and Frankenstein being consumed by the collapsing earth around him. The project ended up back in the hands of Kimura, when Sekizawa went off to pen KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. It was at this juncture that Henry G. Saperstein of United Productions of America (who brought you "Mr. Magoo") intervened to offer a co-production deal with Toho. Finding out about this Giant Frankenstein idea, Saperstein had Reuben Bercovich and Jerry Saul (HELL IN THE PACIFIC) flesh out ideas and a synopsis spring boarding off of Toho concept.
One of these concepts concerned Nazi Germany handing over a trunk containing the immortal heart of the Frankenstein Monster to the Japanese in the last days of the war. Berlin was about to fall, and the Nazis did not want such a precious scientific treasure to fall into Allied hands -- perhaps wounded and dying soldiers could be cured by the secret of the Monster's Immortal Heart. But, sometime after the trunk arrived in Hiroshima, the city would meet the end of the war: The Atomic Bomb. The Immortal Heart, irradiated with all the horrific energy released by the destruction, began to mutate and grow a new body among the ruins of the vaporized city.
|"You'll never take me alive, Coppers!" © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
Soon, "Frankenstein vs. Baragon" went into preproduction with Saperstein supplying a name American star to the proceedings. Toho wanted David Jansen, due to his high-profile status in Japan from his hit teleseries THE FUGITIVE (they were also courting COMBAT star Vic Morrow). Unfortunately, Jansen backed out at the 11th Hour, and next in line was Oscar Nominee Nick Adams. Adams also had a hit series on the air in Japan, THE REBEL. Adams also seemed more youthful and cheerful than Jansen on screen and he was given the role of Dr. Bowen. The script would somewhat follow Sekizawa's in basic structure, but drawing from ideas by Bercovich and Saul and replacing Godzilla with a new antagonist: the subterranean monster, Baragon. But what about the Giant Devilfish?
According to an 1991 interview with the late director Ishiro Honda (1907 - 1993), FRAKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON "was a co-production between Japan and America; if I remember correctly, it was with Benedict Productions [UPA's overseas production moniker]. You see, the money [budget] came from over there [laughter] ...so, there was an order from Benedict requesting us to add this octopus [to the last scene], and we complied -- although we wondered about the logic that was involved, having this octopus popping out from the mountains [laughter]."
Kimura's script: After defeating Baragon, with the raging fire swirling around him, Frankenstein begins to feel the ground beneath him heaving, as if it were alive. Suddenly Drs. Bowen, Togami and Kawaji notice than the giant is sinking into the ground, the massive battle having weakened the very earth itself. Slowly, Frankenstein disappears from sight; Dr. Bowen and party look on with subdued shock.
|"Crouching Frankenstein, Crawling Octopus!" © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.|
"Frankenstein is finally dead," sighs Togami.The "Devilfish" was added to the script for the US version only (Honda would never allow such an outrageous occurrence in his cut): After defeating Baragon, and with the raging fire swirling around him, Frankenstein hauls the carcass to the end of a high precipice, and tosses the corpse into a ravine, where it is buried in an avalanche. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a giant octopus from the craggy rocks, to which Dr. Bowen exclaims "A Devilfish!"
Kawaji interjects, "He can't die. His heart will live forever."
Dr. Bowen adds, "He may be better off now; he couldn't live in this world."
The mammoth octopus attacks the Frankenstein giant. Finally, worn from his exhausting battle with Baragon, the giant is pulled into a lake by the mollusk, and still fighting, sinks beneath the waters, apparently to his death.
Dr. Bowen and party look on in subdued shock. Honda prepared the sequence for the Japanese version, having veteran voice actor Goro Naya dub Adams' line "A Devilfish!" with "Daitako-da!" (A giant octopus!), and scoring it with Akira Ifukube's cue for the colossal octopus in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962). Ultimately and ironically, the footage did not end up in either the Japanese or US versions of the film -- following Kimura's script exactly. The only difference in the two versions are several sequences that were specifically shot for the US version that would make Frankenstein appear more aggressive than the Japanese version, which portrayed him as a complete victim of a world he did not make and becoming aggressive only to save people threatened by the hungry wrath of Baragon.
"Frankenstein is finally dead," sighs Togami.
Kawaji interjects, "He can't die. His heart will live forever."
Dr. Bowen adds, "He may be better off now; he couldn't live in this world."
Then why did Saperstein want to add the damn octo-thing into an already action-crammed finale in the first place? According to Director Honda: "Well, abroad the octopus was apparently supposed to be something demonic [a devilfish]; besides, [Benedict Productions] said that the special effects shot by [effects master Eiji] Tsuburaya -- the Giant Octopus scenes in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA -- were so spectacular, that no matter what, please shoot a scene like that for our film." To paraphase United World Reporter Steve Martin, "perhaps Saperstein had too much sake."
For many years both Japanese and American fans were under the impression that the other's version contained the "missing devilfish," and both were wrong. It was not until 1983 when this author was given a VHS copy of the sequence by visiting Japanfans at the San Diego Comic Con. Two years later, Toho Video restored the footage into the film for its VHS and Laserdisc release. But now, the original ending was gone! Couldn't they have just added it to the end of the tape/disc as a supplemental? Well, eventually in 1993, Toho Video did just that on a disc which also contains Benedict's "aggressive" Frankenstein scenes (unfortunately in Pan & Scan), also as a supplemental. This is now available on Toho Video's DVD of the film just released at the end of 2001.
"We went all the way to America for discussions with the people at Benedict, and back with Toho. Eventually, we ended up doing that Giant Octopus for them twice," said Honda. Yes, the Giant Devilfish finally made its appearance to the world at the opening of WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (the very same marionette was also featured in an episode of Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRA Q, also in 1966). Guess what? Since the octo-limbed beast is seen being wrestled by Gailah, the Green Gargantua, who was an offshoot of the remains of the Frankenstein Giant. Well... (see it coming?) it finally took place: "Frankenstein vs. The Giant Devilfish"!
And you though you were going to get away easy, didn't you?
|TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS VS. CHAIYO PRODUCTIONS|
Ultraman Court Battle Proves to be Harder than Fighting Monsters!
Author: Bob Johnson
There has been much Internet buzz recently based on a court case going on both in Japan and Thailand. There have also been many reports in the Thai press. The case concerns something that is very important to many fans around the world, the fate of one of Japan's most recognizable icons, Ultraman.
|Former Tsuburaya Productions President, Noboru Tsuburaya. © 2004 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. |
On one side is Tsuburaya Productions, the company that created Ultraman and, for almost forty years, has produced television series and movies based on the character. The opposition is Thai filmmaker/businessman Sompote Saenguduenchai, owner of Chaiyo Productions, which also refers to itself as "Tsuburaya Chaiyo". Both sides have their own versions of the story and the outcome of the courts' decision so far. Sampote Thianthong of Pro Link of Thailand has been appointed Tsuburaya Productions' official agent and has been explaining the story to the Thai media for some time now.
The story began back in 1996, literally weeks after the death of Tsuburaya Productions' then president, Noboru Tsuburaya. Mr. Sompote approached Noboru's son Kazuo Tsuburaya, who had just been named CEO of the Tokyo-based company. Mr. Sompote presented him with a letter, allegedly issued and signed by his father in 1976, granting Mr. Sompote the international copyright to all Ultraman characters from the series ULTRA Q through ULTRAMAN TARO and another character, JUMBORG ACE.
When he presented this contract to Tsuburaya Productions in 1996, TPC considered it a forgery. In the very first line of the document, Tsuburaya Productions Co, ltd. is listed as "Tsuburaya prod. and Enterprise", a name it has never done business under. The fact that "productions" was abbreviated and rendered with a lower case "p", was a mistake that no one at Tsuburaya Productions would have let a document go out with. As the contract went on, some of the shows that it listed were under the wrong titles. ULTRA Q is listed as "Ultraman 1: Ultra Q" and ULTRA SEVEN is called "Ultraman Seven".
|Sompote shows Eiji Tsuburaya his book of Buddah Shrines. © 2003 Chaiyo Productions|
One question that immediately comes to mind is why Mr. Sompote waited over twenty years to come forth with his claim. There were ads in Variety and other media and industry publications by Tsuburaya attempting to sell these series to overseas markets. Not to mention the fact that some of these series also were running in overseas markets (including ULTRAMAN and ULTRA SEVEN in the US) during this time. Why didn't Mr. Sompote complain about violations of his rights when these were running? Obviously, in 1996, the one person who could have disputed his claims was deceased and unable to defend his company's rights.
Mr. Sompote also claims to have played a major part in the creation of Ultraman. As proof, he has presented a photo of himself showing Eiji Tsuburaya a book of photos of various Buddha shrines that he maintains look like Ultraman. However, there is no other evidence to support this claim. Mr. Sompote was a friend of Eiji Tsuburaya's and would occasionally visit him at the studios. This is apparently the extent of their relationship.
|Chaiyo Productions President Sompote Saenguduenchai. © 2003 Chaiyo Productions|
Tsuburaya Productions dismissed the contract, but out of respect for its founder Eiji Tsuburaya's friendship with Mr. Sompote, they granted him merchandising rights for Thailand and five other Asian countries. He accepted this, but claimed that Tsuburaya Productions had damaged his reputation in Thailand by disputing his contract. He asked the company to issue a letter to clear his name. He specifically stated that this letter must contain references to his alleged contract because he had already told his business associates about it. TPC reluctantly agreed and issued the letter under the intent that it would only be used in Thai business circles. The letter was not intended to be a binding legal document or to validate Sompote's "contract". This letter is now being used as evidence to support his claims that the original contract was valid.
Tsuburaya has brought the case to court. The first was in the Thai Intellectual Property and International Trade (IPIT) court. There were two more court cases at the Tokyo District Court and Tokyo High Court. All three courts ruled that TPC retained the copyright to Ultraman, the character they created. However, they ruled that Mr. Somopote would retain merchandising rights outside of Japan. Tsuburaya is contesting this and the case will be handed over to the Japanese Supreme Court later this year.
At no time was Tsuburaya Productions in a position to lose the copyrights to their characters, nor are they now. If Chaiyo retains their claim to the merchandising and distribution rights to overseas markets, what would this mean to the US, where ULTRAMAN TIGA is now being distributed? Some are wrongly speculating that it might loosen up the rights for the original ULTRAMAN to finally be released here in North America. However, Tsuburaya Productions still holds on to the original materials including negatives, English language soundtrack and all prints of the series, so anything Chaiyo could sell over here would be of dubious quality at best. Tsuburaya could still license the shows in the US, but most likely would avoid doing so until the final judgement is made by the Supreme Court. So, either way, for the time being, the fans lose.
|Pictures of Buddah Shrines from Sompote's photo book that Chaiyo claims inspired Ultraman. © 2003 Chaiyo Productions|
Hopefully things can be resolved smoothly in the Supreme Court. Keep watching Henshin! Online as details unfold!