'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' — Trailer

Here’s the rather clever teaser for Paramount;s TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.
One hopes the actual film will be as interesting.
The third TRANSFORMERS film stars Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Turturro, and Tyrese Gibson.
Directed by Michael Bay from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger (THE RING).
Coming to theaters July 1st, 2011 from Paramount Pictures.

'Taken" Director to Helm Raimi's 'EDF'?

X_Earth_FlareAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, Pierre Morel (TAKEN) is in talks to direct EDF (EARTH DEFENSE FORCE). 
The project is being produced by Sam Raimi (SPIDER-MAN) and Bill Block, the head of film finance outfit QED International, and the article describes ot as a “giant alien invasion movie.”
Warner Brothers is set to distribute the film, which will feature the contries of Earth assembling a space defense force to combat the alien threat.
Sounds kinda like a jazzed-up Toho sci-fi/monster film.

Godzilla 3-D Moves Ahead

At the 3D Summit in Universal City, producer Brian Rogers told Zennie 62 that Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers’ planned 3D GODZILLA reboot will be taking a darker, more serious approach.
In the video, Rogers mentioned  BATMAN BEGINS/THE DARK KNIGHT as an example of how an existing franchise can be improved for a modern audience.
However, he also suggested that there might  be other monster(s) for Godzilla to fight, suggesting aspects of the old-fashioned monster rallies of the 1960’s and 70’s.
The project was actually brought to him by Yoshimitsu Banno, director of GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (Godzilla Vs. Hedorah), as he had the rights to do Godzilla in IMAX — which doesn’t seem to on the table at this point.
The iconic Japanese monster will be realized via computer animation, but Brian Rogers emphasized that it will be a live-action film. A tentative 2012 release is anticipated.

Monsters: theatrical playdates

This is a slightly longer trailer, with additional scenes and dialogue not seen in the one previously posted here. Magnet Releasing will release writer-director Gareth Edwards’ giant monster movie via VOD on September 24, followed by a limited theatrical distribution starting on October 29. The initial salvo includes engagements in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles (West Hollywood), New York, San Diego, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. Subsequent screenings take place in Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Sacramento. You might want to check out the official website, in case new engagements are added near you.

  • OCTOBER 29
  • Atlanta, GA: Midtown Art Cinemas 8
  • Austin, TX: Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar
  • Dallas, TX: Magnolia Theatre – Dallas
  • San Antonio, TX: Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro 6
  • West Hollywood, CA: Sunset 5
  • San Diego, CA: Ken Cinema
  • New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema 5
  • Philadelphia, PA: Ritz at the Bourse
  • Portland, OR: Hollywood Theatre
  • Seattle, WA: Varsity Theatre
  • Monterey, CA: Osio Plaza 6
  • Santa Cruz, CA: Del Mar Theatre 4
  • Berkeley, CA: California 3
  • San Francisco, CA: Lumiere Theatre 3
  • Sandy, UT: Megaplex 17@Jordan Commons
  • Washington, DC: E Street Cinema
  • Chicago, IL: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
  • Minneapolis, MN: Lagoon Cinema
  • Detroit, MI: Burton Theatre
  • Tucson, AZ: The Loft Cinema
  • New Haven, CT: Criterion Cinemas 7
  • Little Rock, AR: Market Street Cinema
  • Denver, CO: Mayan Theatre
  • Lansdowne, PA: Cinema 16:9
  • Cleveland Heights, OH: Cedar Lee Theatres
  • Kansas City, MO: Tivoli @ Manor Square
  • Syracuse, NY: Palace
  • Columbus, OH: Gateway 8
  • Sacramento, CA: Crest Theatre
  • Asheville, NC: Carolina Asheville 14
  • Coral Gables, FL: Coral Gables Art Cinema

Check out the photos below. Sorry, no monsters on view, unless you count some mural on a wall.
Monsters (2010) photo_01 Monsters (2010) photo_02 Monsters (2010) photo_03 Monsters (2010) photo_04 Monsters (2010) photo_05 Monsters (2010) photo_06 Monsters (2010) photo_07 Monsters (2010) photo_08

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda – book review

click to purchase
click to purchase

The late Ishiro Honda has long been considered Japan’s premier fantasy film director, and certainly worthy of a book-length study, which is what author Peter H. Brothers’ Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda provides. Clearly, Brothers is well-read and well-informed on his subject.
Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda is divided into three major sections. In the first, Brooks provides comments and insights on the hallmarks of Honda’s approach to direction and storytelling. In the second, he provides a mini-biography of the director, filling in many background details on his life (such as his extended military service and his long apprenticeship as an assistant director) that I have not previously seen or read. He also makes clear why the preferred spelling of Honda’s first name is Ishiro, despite his early films being credited as Inoshiro.
The final, and longest section of the book, examines each of Honda’s fantasy films in detail. This section is divided into several subsections, charting the rise and fall of Honda’s film career. Brooks does take an unusual approach to titles: he addresses each film by a translation of the Japanese title rather than by the English release title or by the Japanese title rendered in the letters of the Western alphabet. Thus, ATRAGON is referred to as SUBMARINE WARSHIP. While Godzilla and Mothra are referred to by their English names, Rodan is consistently referred to by his Japanese name of Radon.
One strength of Brothers’ work is the emphasis placed on a Honda’s collaborators. He notes the differences between the approaches of his two major screenwriters, Takeshi Kimura (whose work tended to be downbeat and critical) and Shinichi Sekizawa (whose work was more child-like and hopeful). Brothers frequently cites the quality of Eiji Tsuburaya’s work, Honda’s main special effects expert. He carefully comments on the scores of Akira Ifukube, noting the orchestrations used for the various pieces. Additionally, he makes note of actors who make multiple appearances in Honda’s films.
On the downside, however, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda contains no illustrations whatsoever. (Toho Studios, which produced most of Honda’s movies, are notoriously difficult about granting permission to reproduce stills, and there are no pictures of Honda himself, even personal ones). Brothers assumes the reader will already be familiar with each of these films and so doesn’t bother with summaries and other basic information. When commenting on Ifukube’s scores, Brothers seems to mention individual pieces by translations of soundtrack cue titles rather than referring directly back to the films themselves.
Additionally, there are some other difficulties. The copy-editing is poor, for example. There are a couple of references to “eye-pooping” effects rather than “eye-popping.” Brothers uses “mute” when he means “moot.” At one point the word “contretemps” is misspelled, and a few times letters or words are omitted, obscuring meaning.
Another problem that occasionally crops up is unsupported suppositions. For example, Brothers hints that Tsuburaya contemplated suicide if the original GODZILLA had not been a success, also that Honda was never “particularly interested in directing films that stressed creatures over characters” and that he “longed to return to the kind of sweet, sentimental pictures that he was fond of directing that stressed human values.” A quote or source citation would make these claims more convincing.
However, Brothers is certainly correct in his assertions that Honda didn’t make his monster movies with the intention of frightening people. Though the creatures in them are colorful characters of mass destruction, Honda does not create typical suspense or scare scenes, and largely eschew depicting gory demises, though his original GODZILLA gains great power from its depictions of the Japanese detailing with the aftermath of the irradiated lizard’s onslaught in ways that evoke memories of the post-Hiroshima survivors.
Additionally, Brothers correctly notes Honda’s repeated emphasis on the hopes for a United Nations-oriented peaceful solution, showing Japan joining a league of nations in combating alien or monster menaces or other major problems (such as GORATH’s potentially world-destroying planetoid). When the Godzilla series was revived in the ‘80s, the tendency then was to show a more militaristically aggressive Japan (Kimura’s scripts tended to be very critical of the Japanese military establishment).
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)One issue I wish that Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda had delved more into is the differences between the Japanese and American versions of the films. Brothers doesn’t mention how Honda’s ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN was turned into an abomination called HALF HUMAN for its American release (something nicely covered recently on the And You Call Yourself a Scientist website). For the most part, Brothers concentrates on the original Japanese versions, not even mentioning how classic Universal horror themes were added to the soundtrack of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA for its American version (though he does note that the American version of the film lets the Seahawk disaster sequence run without the interruption of scenes from the Pacific Pharmaceuticals bon voyage party, as in the Japanese version).
Though Brothers does at times have a tendency to lay on the superlatives, he doesn’t stint from criticizing what he perceives as Honda’s lackluster later fantasy productions. After box office receipts began falling off on Godzilla films in Japan, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka ordered the budgets slashed, and the Godzilla films became increasingly geared towards children. Under these restrictions, Honda fell far short of his previous proven abilities with such uninspiring fare as GODZILLA’S REVENGE and TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA.
Kumi Mizuno turns into a mushroom person.
Kumi Mizuno turns into a mushroom person.

Nevertheless, Honda made a total of 25 fantasy films, a sizeable and significant body of work worthy of the serious attention Brothers gives them. In addition to the Godzilla movies, these included his science fiction invasion trilogy THE MYSTERIANS, BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, and GORATH; his science fiction efforts THE H-MAN and THE HUMAN VAPOUR, his submarine movies ATRAGON and LATITUDE ZERO, his Frankenstein duo FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, as well as launching MOTHRA and RODAN on their merry careers. There is also the fascinating morality tale that is MATANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE), with its evocation of the Seven Deadly Sins and the beautiful Kumi Mizuno actually becoming more alluring as she transforms into a fungus.
Despite some caveats, for the serious lover of kaiju movies, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda is worthy of your time and attention. This kind of attention focusing on one of the most prolific directors of fantasy films is long overdue.

Tim Burton To Do 'Monsterpocalypse'

monsterpocalypse_logoAccording to SlashFilm, frequent genre filmmaker Tim Burton (PLANET OF THE APES) is developing the board game MONSTERPOCALYPSE as a movie, with the intention to direct.
The site spoke to producer Roy Lee (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON), who confirmed Burton’s involvement, and that John August (Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE) is writing the screenplay.
Game creator Matt Wilson is consulting, and will be a co-producer.
The plot will deal with an invasion of ailen giant monsters, and the ultimate response to that menace will be giant robots. (Naturally…)
A 2012 release is tentatively planned.

Son of Godzilla at Spooktacular

Son of Godzilla at SpooktacularGodzilla fans in New Hampshire get a rare chance to see a 35mm print of SON OF GODZILLA on the big screen – as part of the Colonial Theatre’s Fouth Spooktacular, a semi-annual event co-presented by SATURDAY FRIGHT SPECIAL, a local cable-access show. The presentation includes vintage monster movie previews, cartoons, and give-aways. Horror comic artist S.R. Bissette (SWAMP THING) will be donating an original Godzilla sketch.
The Colonial Theatre is located at 95 Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire. Phone: (603) 352-2033 or  (800) 595-4849.
Showtime is 2:00pm on July 31. Tickets are $10.00, available at the door.
Read the press release below:

KEENE, NH – July 1, 2010: Giant monsters once again return to Keene, NH at The Colonial Theatre’s SPOOKTACULAR, Saturday, July 31st 2010 at 2PM. Curated by Saturday Fright Special, New Hampshire’s first home-grown horror host TV show, the event features a rare 35mm screening of the 1967 Japanese monster melee SON OF GODZILLA. In addition to the main feature, vintage monster movie previews, a cartoon, and snack bar ads will precede the film, along with prize giveaways and on-stage appearances by Scarewolf and other Saturday Fright Special characters. The event will be the finale of the Colonial’s annual Family Film Series, and will be an all-ages event, bringing back the feel of an old-time kiddie matinee.
“We’re thrilled to be able to present a Godzilla film to the Colonial audience on a Saturday afternoon, the same way that so many kids in the 70s first saw these films, both in the theater and on TV,” said Mark Nelson, SATURDAY FRIGHT SPECIAL curator for the event. “In fact, we’re giving fans an opportunity they never had back then to see SON OF GODZILLA on the big screen, as the film was released directly to television in the US.”
The film tells the touching tale of the bond between a father and son (who just happen to be 30-story giant lizards), and what happens when giant insects come between them.
The SPOOKTACULAR will also feature prize giveaways including an original Godzilla sketch from renowned artist S.R. Bissette, as well as signed copies of a new Bissette comic that will premiere at the event. The costumed cast from Saturday Fright Special will be on hand to introduce the film and mingle with the public.
This will be the fourth Spooktacular presented by the Colonial Theatre, an event previously held in the evening. “We were looking at our Family Film Series schedule, and realized that the all-ages audience for past Spooktaculars would make it an ideal way to cap off our summer matinee series,” said Jessica Reeves, Director of Audience Services and Marketing for The Colonial Theatre. “We noticed a large number of parents bringing their children to our previous evening Spooktacular events, and realized that a daytime show would better serve those young and old who have a hard time staying up past a certain hour,” she laughed, “It’s hard to compete with the Sandman.”
Tickets are on sale now ($10 general admission). For more information, or to purchase, call The Colonial Theatre Box Office at 603/352-2033, toll free at 800/595-4849 or visit TheColonial.org.
About SON OF GODZILLA: A scientific team sets up camp on a remote island to conduct weather-controlling experiments, and unwittingly create giant man-eating insects, and only Godzilla and his young Son can save the day. Released in 1967 in Japan, this film marked a turning point for the Godzilla series, steering them away from the harsher elements of earlier films and aiming them directly at children. It is fondly remembered by a generation of Americans who first saw it on local TV as kids, and the sight of the Son of Godzilla attempting to breathe fire but instead blowing smoke rings is an oft-referenced pop-cultural touchstone.
AboutSATURDAY FRIGHT SPECIAL: Saturday Fright Special is New Hampshire’s first home-grown horror-host television program, featuring the best (and worst) public domain horror films from the 1950s to the 1970s. Hosted by Scarewolf, a well dressed werewolf with a good sense of rhythm, Saturday Fright Special evokes the spirit of drive ins and independent TV stations of days gone by, with vintage commercials, snack bar ads, and comedy bits sprinkled throughout the show’s two hour running time. Additional characters lend a hand in presenting the films, including Santoro The Honduran Grappler (a masked wrestler who fights for strong moral character and good nutritional values), Tae Kwon Dunk (a mischievious basketball-headed martial artist), and Morbia Poppatoppolis (a demented domestic diva). Saturday Fright Special airs weekly on public access stations in over 20 states coast to coast.
About The Colonial Theatre: The Colonial Theatre is a non-profit performing arts center serving the greater Monadnock region in fulfilling its vision to be the model regional performing arts center, exciting, educating and challenging audiences of all ages. In its 16th year as a non-profit organization, The Colonial Theatre presents world class live performances, acclaimed film selections, and hosts numerous community events for the benefit of local non-profit organizations. For more information, please visit TheColonial.org.

Sense of Wonder: King Kong stomps onto Universal Studios

This Tuesday, wearing my other hat – as proprietor of Hollywood Gothique, the website of Fantasy Films, Mystery Movies, Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in Los Angeles – I attended the press preview of the new “King Kong 360 3-D” attraction, which opens today at Universal Studios Hollywood. For those who don’t recall, Universal’s back lot was devastated by a fire two years ago that destroyed prints (but thankfully not negatives) of classic horror films, along with part of the tram tour. Among the casualties was the old King Kong, a life-size mechanical replica, seen from the chest up, pulling the wires of an elevated train. The replacement Kong is a combination of 3-D projection and motion simulation modeled after the 2005 remake of KING KONG directed by Peter Jackson, who is given a “created by” credit for the new attraction.

Peter Jackson appeared via 3-D video clip
Peter Jackson appeared via 3-D video clip

Universal rolled out King Kong 360 3-D with a press event that featured celebrities walking the red carpet, studio executives expressing their pride at getting Kong back on the tour, and a 3-D video clip of Jackson himself, who explained his involvement by saying, because the KING KONG film does not lend itself to a sequel, he “was just thrilled to have an excuse to go back and have a bit more fun with King Kong.”
Fun is the operative word. I was not a big fan of Jackson’s KING KONG (reviewed here), which was like watching a rough draft of a concept, in which each and every idea is included, whether or not they gel, and I found the special effects set pieces like the dinosaur stampede and especially the Kong-Tyrannosaurs battle (dangling from vines in a chasm) to be laughably absurd. Fortunately, this kind of excess, which works to the detriment of a narrative film, is perfectly tuned for a theme park ride, where visceral impact outweighs any credibility concerns. King Kong 360 3-D is one wild ride.
However, potential visitors should consider that, unlike Universal’s TERMINATOR 2 3-D, or any of the motion-simulation rides that have graced the theme park of the years (including BACK TO THE FUTURE and, currently, THE SIMPSONS), King Kong 360 3-D is not a stand-alone attraction; it is one of many sights seen the tour through the back lot. Situated near the old rickety bridge (which used to sag on cue as the tram rolled over it), the new Kong attraction takes you inside a darkened tunnel, leading you to Skull Island, which is visualized on two colossal digital screens, one on either side of the tram.
The crushed tram does not bode well for your chances on Skull Island.
The crushed tram does not bode well for your chances on Skull Island.

After passing a smashed and smoking tram – a sign of the dangers to come – you enter a tunnel leading to Skull Island. Inside, images of dense foliage give way to raptors that appear to chase the tram – until they are interrupted by hungry T-Rexes, bring the tour to a stop. Just when all seems lost, Kong appears to battle the carnivorous dinosaurs. The action runs continuously on both screens as if happening in real time, synchronized so that when Kong tosses a T-Rex from one side of the tram, it appears to land on the other. The visual impact is heightened by motion simulation, creating the illusion that the tram is being buffeted by the battling creatures. As if that we’re not enough, you get sprayed by dinosaur saliva (actually water) as the reptiles shakes their heads at you.
The highlight is the convincingly realized illusion that a T-Rex has grabbed the last car of the tram, pulling it around until it is visible on the left – and then dragging it over the edge of a cliff, leading to what feels like a 100-foot free fall, arrested only by some convenient vines. Will Kong arrive in time to prevent you from plunging to the bottom of the abyss?
The tram takes visitors into the jungles of Skull Island.
The tram takes visitors into the jungles of Skull Island.

The computer-generated visual effects are well rendered, and the 3-D is also nicely done. (You are told when to put on the requisite 3-D glasses, handed out as you board the tram.) The imagery is especially effective when you consider that, essentially, you are seeing two long, continuous takes, uninterrupted by editing, in order to create the illusion that you are viewing live-action on both sides of the tram.
The slight downside is that the large screens (the size is necessary to fill your entire field of vision) are not quite perfectly bright and clear. Also, the 3-D illusion is ever so slightly marred by the fact that, depending on your seat in the tram, you are often not watching the action at a 90-degree angle to the screen. (It feels as if you should be able to see around and behind objects, but actually viewing them at an oblique angle undermines the illusion.) On the plus side, the initial glimpse of the Skull Island forest effectively conveys the sense that you are travelling past real objects.
The old King Kong, destroyed in the 2008 fire
The old King Kong, destroyed in the 2008 fire

The experience is visually impressive, but is King Kong 360 3-D worth a special visit to Universal Studios Hollywood? At a minute-and-a-half in length, probably not, but it is great to have Kong back in action on the back lot. Just remember that, despite the ballyhoo, this is not a stand-alone attraction. However, if you are considering a trip to Universal’s’ theme park, it is definitely worth the wait in line to take the back lot tour. You will not be disappointed.
Celebrities who attended the debut included Christopher Lloyd (BACK TO THE FUTURE), Mark Pelligrino (LOST), and Thomas Kretschmann (the 2005 KING KONG) and Jack O’Halloran (the 1976 KING KONG).
Christopher Lloyd Mark Pelligrino (LOST) Thomas Kretschmann (from KING KONG 2005) and Jack O'Halloran (from KING KONG 1976)

Godzillathon in San Francisco

godzilla in san franciscoGodzilla fans in San Francisco have a rare opportunity to view their favorite radioactive reptile on the big screen, courtesy of this week-long celebration of kaiju eiga (that’s “monster movies” to you Occidentals out there). The event kicks off on Friday, May 7, with “TokyoScope Talk – War of the Giant Monsters,” a discussion among Otaku USA Editor-in-Chief Patrick Macias, Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters author August Ragone, and Japanese film critic Tomohiro Machiyama. There will also be a raffle give-away of a new GAMERA THE GIANT MONSTER DVD from Shout Factory.
The city-stomping fun continues with four of Godzilla’s “most-loved films,” which will screen from May 8 through 13: Godzilla vs. Hedora (1971), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). (“Loved by whom?” is one of the questions you might ask of the discussion panel, as these titles all date from Godzilla’s early ’70s nadir – although Godzilla vs. Hedorah is certainly wild and weird enough to demand interest.)
All screenings and discussion take place at:
VIZ Cinema
1746 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Telphone: 415-525-8600.
Contact: info@vizcinema.com
Get directions and schedule information at: www.vizcinema.com
Tickets are $10.00 for General Admission; $8.00 for Matinees, Seniors (62+), and Children (-12).
Read the complete press release for the event below:

San Francisco, CA, April 26, 2010 – NEW PEOPLE and VIZ Cinema welcome the 3rd and latest installment of TokyoScope Talk – War of the Giant Monsters – on Friday, May 7th at 7:00pm. Join Otaku USA Editor-in-Chief Patrick Macias, Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters author August Ragone, and Japanese film critic Tomohiro Machiyama at the Bay Area’s hottest film venue for a fun and lively discussion on the “kaiju” (monster) movies featuring rare images and clips of Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera and other iconic creatures from classic Japanese sci-fi cinema. General admission tickets are $10.00.
VIZ Cinema invites Bay Area monster fans to a 5-day Kaiju Shakedown: Godzillathon!, running Saturday, May 8th thru Thursday, May 13th. Featured will be rare screenings of the Big G’s 4 most-loved films including Godzilla vs. Hedora (1971), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). Details and screening times at: www.vizcinema.com.
Don’t miss a rare chance to see the beauty and enormity of Godzilla in stunning 35mm prints with English subtitles and a premium THX®-certified sound system! These events may sell-out. Ticket prices: General Admission: $10.00; Senior & Child: $8.00. Advance tickets on sale at: http://www.newpeopleworld.com/films/films-5-2010/#godzillathon
TokyoScope Talk – War of the Giant Monsters will feature a special raffle giveaway of premium monster collectables including the brand new DVD release from Shout! Factory of Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965). The revered classic features the original Japanese version of the film presented with fresh English subtitles and anamorphic widescreen produced from an all-new HD master created from original vault elements.
VIZ Cinema is the nation’s first movie theatre devoted exclusively to Japanese film and anime. The 143-seat subterranean theatre is located in the basement of the NEW PEOPLE building and features plush seating, digital as well as 35mm projection, and a THX®-certified sound system.
NEW PEOPLE offers the latest films, art, fashion and retail brands from Japan and is the creative vision of the J-Pop Center Project and VIZ Pictures, a distributor and producer of Japanese live action film. Located at 1746 Post Street, the 20,000 square foot structure features a striking 3-floor transparent glass façade that frames a fun and exotic new environment to engage the imagination into the 21st Century. A dedicated web site is also now available at: www.NewPeopleWorld.com.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This event is part of the “100 Years of Monsters” celebration sponsored by Spherewerx, which owns Cinefantastique.

Sense of Wonder: A Mini-Tribute to Godzilla's Sadamasa Arikawa

Copyright Toho 1966
Filming effects for Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. Copyright Toho 1966

If you want to draw eyeballs to an online magazine, you have to fill it with stuff that is new, new, new, but one of the defining aspects of Cinefantastique was its love for classics, expressed in frequent cover stories and retrospective articles. We like to keep that tradition alive at Cinefantastique Online, especially on the weekend, when there is less news to fill our webpages. With that in mind, we offer today’s tribute to one of the un-sung heroes of Japanese giant monster movies, Sadamasa Arikawa.
Sadamasa Arikawa, who died in September of 2005, was one of the last living people who worked behind the scenes on the original GODZILLA way back in 1954.  He worked on the special effects for numerous other Japanese science fiction films throughout the 1960s, eventually ascending to the role of special effects director. Following in the footsteps of Eiji Tsuburaya, who retained credit as “supervisor” on the films for which Arikawa directed special effects, Arikawa never stepped out from under his legendary mentor’s giant shadow, but he did contribute some fine work of his own.
Arikawa began his career as an uncredited cameraman for the special effects crew on GOJIRA, that 1954 rampaging reptile flick that was re-edited, re-shot, and released in the U.S. (with much of its anti-nuclear message muted) as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in 1956. Arikawa became the protoge of Eija Tsuburaya, the man who directed the special effects in GOJIRA and countless other kaiju films produced at Toho Studios. After Tsuburaya started his own production company and began focusing his attention on television shows like ULTRAMAN, Arikawa graduated to directing the special effects for such films as GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.
By the time Arikawa took over the special effects department, the budgets for the Godzilla films had dropped, so his work often compares unfavorably with that of Eiji Tsuburaya. There was also a studio-mandated trend toward making the monsters more human and less frightening, in order to appeal to younger viewers. Yet Arikawa managed to turn out some colorful and engaging (if not always convincing) effects for SON OF GODZILLA and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.
In 2000, Arikawa came to the United States to take part in a festival of Japanese fantasy and horror films. He talked at length about his work on GOJIRA and SON OF GODZILLA. He was a lively and engaging speaker, even with the burden of having to answer questions through an interpreter, and he seemed genuinely touched by the fact that so many people and shown up at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood just to see a screening of an old film he had worked on 46 years previously:

“I would like to thank everyone for watching the film. It’s been [nearly] fifty years, and it’s a completely different point of view watching the film today than it was then. I can feel the warm appreciation from the audience — and felt for the first time such apreciation — so I would like to thank everyone for watching the film and enjoying it so much.”

These words are like music to our ears. If there is one thing we believe at Cinefantastique Online, it is that warm audience appreciation can exend beyond the years and beyond the generations. Cinematic styles come and go; new techniques become antiquated. Once popular films are either relegated to the dustheap of history, or they survive as classics (or at least cult films). So, we offer this affectionate appreciation of the work of Sadamasa Arikawa: