Friday, April 29, 2011
Above, Godzilla and King Kong go after each other while demolishing Atami Castle in the process.
Over at the Classic Horror Film Board (CHFB), there is currently a topic in the Japanese Giants section titled, "Was KING KONG VS GODZILLA especially loathed in monster fandom?"
One thing about G-fans (or fanatics of any genre), there's always disagreements (some heatedly) amongst them. The subject of King Kong vs. Godzilla is one of those that brings up the passion level.
King Kong vs. Godzilla was released in the U.S. by Universal Pictures in June 1963. It as a heavily-edited version that inserted American actors to "help" with the narrative. Unfortunately, those edited-in scenes actually marred the movie. The original Japanese version plays out better as the satire it was intended to be.
I first saw King Kong vs. Godzilla at the Balboa Theater in Los Angeles in the Manchester-Vermont shopping area with my parents and friends. We sat in the balcony (photo left). I was nine-years-old at the time. It was paired with John Wayne's Donovan's Reef. (This was the subject of my first G-FAN article, by the way.)
While my parents and us kids laughed at the mangy King Kong suit, we were still greatly entertained by the movie. It was my first Godzilla movie to be seen on the big screen.
The premise of the thread, "Was KING KONG VS GODZILLA especially loathed in monster fandom?" really doesn't have any legs as there was no "fandom" back in 1963. Maybe a few monster elites didn't much care for it (Forrest J. Ackerman was one, so maybe that's why he came up with the phony "two-endings" tale), but to younger teens and pre-teens (and some adults), King Kong vs. Godzilla was good, mindless entertainment. If anyone "loathes" the movie, it is mainly by revisionist fans of today. King Kong vs. Godzilla still remains the boxoffice champ (by number of tickets sold) of all the Toho-produced Godzilla movies.
As an adult, I still find it fun and entertaining, but I now prefer the Japanese version.
A few side notes:
Back in 1972, I was perusing the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner's sports section and on page two, there was a doctored photo of King Kong and Godzilla in a boxing ring wearing boxing gloves. It was to hype KABC-TV Channel 7's airing of the movie. That got me wanting to see it again.
Some of the locations in King Kong vs. Godzilla are covered in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. They include Atami Castle, Diet Building, Mt. Fuji and Ginza (interestingly, the overhead tracking shots of Ginza are only in the American version).
The Balboa Theater still stands, but it had been converted into a mosque and is now up for sale. The theater opened in April 1926. It was once part of the Fox-West Coast Theater chain.
Sources: Avery Guerra / Robert Hood
Ohio based Mitch Teemley and the folks over at Moriah Media are about to lampoon one of the largest movie franchises ever, a iconic movie series that the great Mel Brooks never had the stones to take on himself. I am, of course, talking about the "King of Monsters" ...... Godzilla.
Okay, I know what your thinking. "Wow! Hold on lawyer alert! Legal team ready......ATTACK!!!!
Over the past several years Toho has shown that they are more than happy, and willing, to sue anyone that produces anything that remotely resembles their beloved monster. This time, surprisingly, the famed Japanese movie company has given their blessing at having "Big G" parodied by an American film company ..... more on that in a moment.
Teemly has a script at the ready for "Notzilla: Duke of the Monsters" a script that has already gained a lot of attention when it made it into the final round of the Worldfest Contest, one of the largest screenplay competitions in the world.
After the screenplay was so widely praised Teemly actually stuck it under the nose of Toho to see if they had any interest in developing it into a film.
The film maker explains, "Actually I offered the project to Toho not long after I wrote it. They weren’t interested in spoofing their own films, but wished us well. Parodies are not plagiarism; if they were, Saturday Night Live would have been shut down 35 years ago! Notzilla will not feature any footage from Toho films, nor will the monster be a visual copy of Godzilla."
Understanding why Toho may not want to lampoon their own monster Teemly then set his sights on making the film here in America with a big budget and with any luck a major studio behind him.
He adds, "Notzilla is intended for mainstream release (we have serious interest from both the majors and large indie distributors), and Moriah Media is for-profit company, by the way. A Fox Searchlight analyst estimated a $40 million North American box office gross; international box office is expected to exceed that. We are actively seeking completion funding!"
That's a lot of greenbacks!
Teemly knew that if he wanted to get a studio to take him seriously he would have to produce something visual to go along with his beloved screenplay. A teaser trailer was in order!
Check out the great clip that Moriah Media produced!
But wait .... that's not all!
Teemly then set out to get some "star power" for his "Notzilla" film and landed Patrick Warburton, who you may remember from the spoof superhero series, "The Tick". Just like when Franklin J. Schaffner landed Charlton Heston for a "talking monkey movie" no one was interested in called "Planet of the Apes"Teemly hopes the presence of Warburton will add credibility to his production and ultimately aide in getting the backing he needs.
The film maker notes, "Patrick Warburton is attached to star. I wrote the lead role of the “brilliant young American scientist”, Dr Dick Harvard (who’s actually not very brilliant nor very young) for him. All of the other leads are Japanese.
"Notzilla" has not yet been filmed. We are in the midst of capitalization and are using the teaser to generate investor interest. I appeared as a guest at G-Fest in Chicago last year and read segments of the screenplay to a very enthusiastic crowd. We’ve lined up some crack crew heads: Production Designer Robert Harbour designed sets for Heroes and X-Files; multi-Emmy winning Director of Photography Jeff Barklage shot the teaser; Oscar-nominated producer Melissa Godoy is also attached to oversee production."
Here is the story:
In the future (1975), “brilliant young American scientist” Dr Dick Harvard (played by not-so-brilliant and not-so-young Raymond L. Suave) leads a team of crack scientists in atomic testing (no one knows why) near Yomama Bay. The unexpected result (these scientists don’t watch enough B-pictures): a prehistoric egg is shaken loose, after being exposed to massive amounts of radiation. Of course.
Dick’s mentor, “brilliant old Japanese scientist”, Dr Nissan Toyota, succeeds in hatching a dinosaur! But then it escapes, and begins growing at an alarming rate. Of course.
Dr Toyota wants to save the creature. But Dick is certain it will attack Tokyo. “Because that’s what always happens”. The two split up. Dick goes off to build his atomic molecule blaster, which he admits will leave a radioactive cloud over Tokyo for fifty years (“but after that you’ll never even know it was there”), while Toyota seeks a gentler alternative that will keep the monster alive.
Notzilla attacks Tokyo. Sort of. Actually he’s on a lark, playing with the miniature city, reversing toy trains, eating plastic soldiers, running a touchdown with a blimp under his arm. He parties hard while thousands of people run screaming in the streets (actually a couple dozen of the same people run screaming over and over again).
The army, led by General Buzz Kurosawa (George Takei—Star Trek, Heroes), is powerless to stop the monster (though Kurosawa, an amateur filmmaker, does get some great footage). Dick completes his controversial molecule blaster. He’s about to use it when Dr. Toyota shows up with his alternative device. In a rage, Dick accidentally turns the blaster on himself, resulting in his own over-the-top death scene—which schlock actor Raymond L. Suave had hoped would result in an Oscar nomination. It didn’t.
Toyota’s device stops Notzilla, but does not kill him, leaving the creature free to defend Tokyo from other latex monsters in the future!
- also -
"Notzilla" purports to be a restored print of a 1966 Japanese film, a long-lost classic of the genre. It begins with a special “anniversary release” prologue in which Rudy McBernstein, president of Great Big Impressive Pictures International, introduces viewers to the 1966 masterpiece, "Notzilla, the Duke of Monsters", the last film ever to feature American TV star Raymond L. Suave (Patrick Warburton).
How can you not love that?!
Teemly adds, "Notzilla is a classic monster movie spoof with heart—it makes a gently teasing statement about cultural arrogance. Also … reversing the trend toward raunchy, R-rated parodies, Notzilla is a family-friendly PG film with positive values. It’s clean enough for grandparents to take their grandkids to … and hip enough for college guys to drag their girlfriends to. Everyone will love Notzilla!"
Everyone should .... and if they don't they should be taken out in the desert and ...... wait ..... I got a little worked up there .... sorry.
Here are some bullet points that Teemly wants everyone to know:
- The expected budget is $1.5 million. There’s a complete package (Investors Memorandum and Business Plan) available for any potential investors out there. It’s a great opportunity; they expect return on investment in the 1,000 to 2,000% range.
- They’re looking at a 2012 shoot and a 2013 release.
- No, there are no other daikaiju, aliens, or creatures. Notzilla is basically a spoof of the original one-monster flicks (Godzilla/Gojira, Mothra, Rodan, Gamera, etc.), rather than the “versus” films. It’s in colour, of course, widescreen, and utilizes a single Anglo-American actor in a lead role as did a number of the Toho films.
- All f/x will be suitmation and miniatures, since Notzilla purports to be a film made in the pre-CGI era. Other vintage f/x will include rear-screen projection, robotics, and cheezy practicals—shaking the camera, for example, to indicate an explosion.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world. There were once many people here who could've told of what they saw... now there are only a few. My name is Steve Martin. I am a foreign correspondent for United World News.
55 years ago today, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released to theaters in the United States.
This was the Americanized version directed by Terry Morse that inserted actor Raymond Burr, into the movie. The original was produced by Toho Co., Ltd. in 1954 and released in Japan in November 1954.
It was this version that was released around the world that made Godzilla an international star. A new American Godzilla movie is now in pre-production by Legendary Pictures.
Burr's scenes were filmed at tiny Visual Drama studios in Los Angeles on Vermont Avenue near First Street. The Frank del Olmo Elementary School now occupies the site and a commemorative plaque honoring Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is mounted at the school's entrance (above photo). The plaque was funded by fan contributions and co-sponsored by The Godzilla Society of North America and Platrix Chapter No. 2 of E Clampus Vitus. Terry Morse Jr. attended the plaque dedication.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Summertime is approaching and before you know it, it'll be here! That means VACATION time!
Starting now through May 31, The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan will be available from me at 20% off the $15.00 cover price. Saving you $3.00 per copy!
Right, Miki Hayashi with "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan." Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Orders postmarked from now through May 31 are only $12.00 plus $2.00 shipping & handling per copy.
Go to the "About The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" page for ordering information. The above sale price supercedes the listed price on the page from now to May 31. The pre-vacation sale only applies to direct orders from me and not through ComiXpress.
Now's the time to take advantage of this offer!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
When monster movie fans think of the names Godzilla, King Kong, Rodan, Mothra and Varan they most often times have fond memories of 200-foot-tall creatures stepping on buildings while terrified townspeople flee for their lives in terror. Though these monsters may be household names to just about everyone, the man who actually climbed into the hot and cumbersome costumes to make them come to life has been an unsung hero who has very rarely received any credit.
That man is Haruo Nakajima, a Japanese actor who from 1954 to 1972 put on the heavy rubber costumes to play Toho's most famous movie monsters.
Nakajima started out in the Japanese movie industry as a bit player in the early 1950's. The eager young actor was mostly cast as a background extra and often times found himself on the wrong end of a sword, that is, until one day Eiji Tsuburaya (known as the father of Japanese special effects) approached him about volunteering for a risky stunt. The film that would ultimately bring both Nakajima and Tsuburaya together was the WWII action film "Operation Kamikaze" in which a pilot was to emerge from a crashed aircraft completely engulfed in flames. A stunt where an actor was to be set on fire had never been attempted in Japan before and Tsuburaya was looking for someone brave enough to be the guinea pig. Nakajima was the only actor to step forward when called.
As fate would have it, a year later Tsuburaya would be looking for someone to once again do something never before attempted in a Japanese movie, this time however he needed an actor to wear a heavy monster costume made of melted car tires for a film called "Gojira" (Godzilla). As Nakajima explains Tsuburaya, and the film's director Ishiro Honda (who also directed Operation Kamikaze) knew exactly who to call, "The film makers were scratching their heads wondering who they could get to put on the suit, then the remembered my stunt. They thought, hey let's get that guy we set on fire last year."
Though Nakajima didn't know what he was about to get himself into, he accepted the job, if for nothing else, to keep himself employed.
Nakajima endured wearing that 200-pound costume for the entire filming of "Gojira". Though other actors were cast to play the monster, only Nakajima could tolerate the costume, long working hours and awful filming conditions.
The filming for "Gojira" took place in the summer of 1954, which would be one of the hottest on record in Japan. Since the stages at Toho had no air conditioning and because Nakajima had to wear that heavy costume, the production was moved from a normal shooting during the day to a 5pm to 5am schedule. According to the actor "The crew often times said that the shooting schedule was the real Gojira (Monster)."
The success of "Gojira" spawned numerous sequels and other special effects driven films. Every time one of those films needed a monster Nakajima was called upon to do the dirty work. In the sequel to Gojira/Godzilla, entitled "Godzilla Raids Again" Nakajima's character was pitted against another monster, Anguirus, who was played by fellow actor Katsumi Tezuka. Nakajima took Tezuka under his wing to teach him how to act in the monster's cumbersome costume. Though the actor did his best, Nakajima knew that his understudy didn't have what it took, "He had a hard time in the costume and he could only move around in it for short periods of time."
As the years kept coming so did the monster roles for Nakajima. Next came "Rodan" then "Varan" and then "Mothra". The filming was long, hard and very dangerous. Nakajima admits that he was injured in some way or another on every single production. On the set of "Varan" the actor was hurt very seriously when a miniature building blew up underneath him. Despite being in severe pain he never let anyone know about it, "I felt like I could have gone to the hospital, but I knew if I had to go then the crew would have to go home, and not get payed for the time, so I stuck it out."
Likewise on the set of "Rodan" a cable snapped while Nakajima was inside the monster's costume suspended some 10-meters above the sound stage, "The cable broke and I began to spin wildly before the whole thing gave way and I came crashing to the ground. Luckily the costume had wings and I landed in the water which protected me."
Tsuburaya was very pleased to see that Nakajima was okay stating, "I'm glad that you didn't die."
Nakajima notes that not all of the parts he played were difficult, in fact the role of Moguera in "The Mysterians" was literally a walk in the park, "The role was easy, all the robot did was walk around and the suit was light."
Nakajima's hardest role came in 1967 when he was called upon to play another world-famous monster, King Kong, in "King Kong Escapes". The actor recalls, "The monster was very hard to play because the suit was so different. The arms were long, longer than my own, and I had to use sticks to control the hands, also the legs were short so I had to walk all hunched over."
On the set of "Frankenstein Conquers the World" Nakajima had the pleasure of showcasing his martial arts skills against fellow actor Koji Furuhata (as Frankenstein). Likewise he would also get to showcase his fighting skills three years later, this time against Yû Sekida in "War of the Gargantuas".
Nakajima remembers sparing against Furuhata and giving the young man a few tips on acting, "The guy that they got to play opposite me wasn't an actor so I had to take some time to teach him how to work in front of the camera. I did enjoy working with him though, we got to match our martial arts skills. He was a black belt and I used my judo."
As Baragon, however, the actor had yet another unique experience on set, "The monster didn't fly as such, but had to leap great distances. There were four or so crew members with wires that had to pull as hard as they could to get me to launch forward."
Though playing monsters was hard, Nakajima never complained, thinking that he would be a fool to pass up such work, a fact that Tsuburaya playfully reminded him of on several occasions, "He would say to me 'even a fool could do this', so I never complained or said no."
Though Nakajima has played a vast number of monsters, it was revealed at this years Monsterpalooza that two of the monsters he has been credited as playing were not actually him at all. One being the insect-like Meganeuron from "Rodan" and the other being the giant walrus from "Gorath". When asked about these two monsters Nakajima stated that he never played them, though several pieces of documentation state that he did.
Haruo Nakajima is not the only actor to ever play Godzilla, there were two others, but his ground-breaking work in the early days of Toho monster movies set a standard for which every other suit actor would be measured. He gave the "King of the Monsters" and his brethren life and helped establish the monster as a world-wide cinema icon. His hours of hard work has brought such joy to movie fans around the world. It is only fitting that this unsung hero of the silver screen get the kudos that he much deserves.
Haruo Nakajima we take off our monster heads to salute you!
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Veteran Godzilla suit-actor Haruo Nakajima was interviewed by the Los Angeles affiliate of NBC News at Monsterpalooza.
To view the interview video, go here.
Above, Carla Laemmle, 101 (born October 20, 1909), the last surviving actress of the 1931 "Dracula" and the niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, enjoyed talking with fans.
Here's my report on the first day at Monsterpalooza.
The convention itself was loaded to the Gill Man's gills with things to see and people to meet. I was able to meet Bela Lugosi, Jr. and we talked about how I came upon his Inglewood telephone book listing when I lived in nearby Hawthorne.
Above, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meet Frankenstein again in Monsterpalooza's museum.
Miki Hayashi discussed Japan with actress Julie Adams (Creature From The Black Lagoon). Adams said she was in Japan once for a USO show in the 1950s when the Korean War broke out.
Miki got Haruo Nakajima's autograph and posed for a photo with him. Earlier, she said that he is very famous in Japan. She is from Kyoto, Japan.
Above, the original Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima with Miki Hayashi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Later, I introduced Miki to kaiju suitmaker Shinichi Wakasa (below). Wakasa was the primary Godzilla suit maker for the Millennium Series of G-films.
Monsterpalooza's museum again was loaded with some great wax figures that didn't disappoint attendees.
Above, Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man prowled Monsterpalooza's museum.
At 7:00, I headed over to catch Peter H. Brothers's talk (below) on Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and prepared the table for sales of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. At 8:00, my presentation on Japanese monster locations began. Pete and I shared the table out side of the ballroom for book sales.
Although both of our presentations were well-received, unfortunately, the room for the presentations was away from the convention center and in the main hotel. (This was to make room for more vendors.) This resulted in a sparse attendance for our presentations. We each had about 35-45 attendees. Additionally, the people of the next presentation, "Zombies From The Supermarket" (John Naulin) sabotaged our book sales by grabbing the table immediately following my presentation. We were promised a table before and after our presentations. What gave them the right to grab our table?
Above, Miki in the Monsterpalooza museum.
The Monsterpalooza staff tried to get people over for the presentations by making announcements over a p.a. system, but we were told that the noise in the convention center drowned out the announcements. At past Monsterpaloozas, the presentations took place in the convention center, which was easily accessed. Having the room for presentations away from the convention center is like being out in the boonies. The Monsterpalooza planners need to address this problem for future shows.
Above, my "Scene To Seen" presentation in progress. Photo by Richard Pusateri.
Following my presentation (and table fiasco), Miki and I left for dinner at Fuddrucker's in the media center area of Burbank. We were both starved. We both enjoyed our meals.
Above, following my "Scene To Seen" presentation. Photo by Richard Pusateri.
Despite the aforementioned glitches, Monsterpalooza was fun. I'll be heading back today to take more of it in.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Monsterpalooza is only two days away in "beautiful downtown Burbank!" Actually, it is at the Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, just across the street from Bob Hope Airport at 2500 Hollywood Way.
Monsterpalooza will be held April 8-10.
The original Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima will be making his first appearance in Southern California since 2000 and it will likely be his last appearance in North America. So don't miss this chance to meet the original Godzilla!
He will be signing books and posters and will gladly pose with fans for photographs. Nakajima will also be taking part in the following panels (click on images to view larger):
Along with Haruo Nakajima, there's plenty more for Japanese science-fiction fans!
Peter H. Brothers will kick-off opening day at Monsterpalooza with his presentation of Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda, which is based on his book of the same name.
Following Brothers Friday night, I will be presenting "Scene To Seen," a look at locations and landmarks used in your favorite giant Japanese monster movies based on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.
Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda and The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan will be available for purchase before and after the sessions.
Additionally, there will be dealers with Japanese monster toys including Clawmark Toys and Toyfreak.
Don't miss out on a great weekend of monsters!
For additional information, go here.
Burbank, CA – March 29, 2010 – Legendary Pictures announced today that they will develop and produce a new film based on Toho Company’s famed GODZILLA character. Through the terms of the agreement, Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a movie inspired by Toho’s Godzilla, a franchise the Japanese company created and has nurtured for over fifty years.
Toho’s GODZILLA franchise boasts one of the most widely recognized film creatures worldwide, resulting in a series of books, television programs, video games and more than 25 films worldwide. Legendary intends to approach the film and its characters in the most authentic manner possible. The company will, in the near future, announce a filmmaker to helm the film for an intended 2012 release. The film will fall under the company’s co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Toho will distribute the film in Japan."
"Godzilla" is coming back -- this time, with Legendary Pictures taking the lead, co-producing and co-financing with Warner Bros. for release in 2012.
Legendary announced Monday it had obtained rights to the iconic monster character from Japan's Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 "Godzilla" films. Toho will release the pic in Japan.
Legendary said it's planning to announce a director shortly.
In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.
"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise," said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."
Legendary noted the film will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary's productions with Warners have included "The Dark Knight," "300" and "The Hangover."
Speculation about a new "Godzilla" has been active since last summer. The Bloody Disgusting web site reported in August that the project was in development.