An Interview with Teruyoshi
Conducted by David Milner
Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata
in July, 1994)
Having first learned his craft from special effects pioneer
Eiji Tsuburaya during the 1960s, Mr. Nakano graduated to special effects
director on such Toho genre films as Godzilla vs. Hedorah (a.k.a.
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, 1971), Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974),
Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975), Submersion of Japan (a.k.a.
Tidal Wave, 1977) and Godzilla 1985. He also directed
the special effects for movies such as Evil of Dracula (1975). This
interview is from a series of interviews conducted by renowned kaiju historian
David Milner during the 1990s.
David Milner: I know that
you began working as an assistant to Eiji Tsuburaya in 1962, so I would like
to begin by asking a few questions about Toho's earlier science fiction films.
(Mr. Tsuburaya directed the special effects for GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS
(1954), MOTHRA (1961), KING KONG ESCAPES (1967), and many of the other movies
that have been produced by the Toho Company Ltd.)
Why wasn't the footage showing
a number of United States Navy ships attacking Godzilla that is in the American
version of GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964) included in the Japanese version of
Teruyoshi Nakano: The footage
was shot for American audiences. The American distributor (American International
Pictures, Inc.) wanted the version of the movie that was going to be released
in the United States to have a longer running time than the Japanese version
was going to have.
DM: A sequence showing
Frankenstein battling a giant octopus was shot for FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS
THE WORLD (1965), but it wasn't included in the film. Why wasn't the sequence
TN: It was a matter of
running time as well. The running time of the movie was seven minutes shorter
than the American distributor (United Productions of America, Inc.) wanted
it to be, so we had to go back and shoot the sequence after filming already
had been completed. (The sequence wasn't included in either the Japanese
version or the American version of FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD.)
DM: Were the Spiga and
Gimantis puppets that were used in the production of SON OF GODZILLA (1967)
very difficult to manipulate? (Spiga, a giant spider, also appears in DESTROY
ALL MONSTERS (1968). Only one of the giant praying mantises called Gimantis
also appears in GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969) in new footage. The rest are seen
in the movie in stock footage.)
DM: Was the Spiga puppet
especially difficult to manipulate since it had so many legs?
TN: We made six different
Spiga puppets. They were all different sizes. The one that was the largest
was the most difficult to manipulate.
DM: In both the Japanese
and American versions of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, it is announced that Baragon
is destroying the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile while Gorosaurus is seen doing
so. Why is this? (Baragon, a quadrupedal prehistoric creature, also appears
in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. Gorosaurus, a dinosaur resembling a tyrannosaurus
rex, also appears in KING KONG ESCAPES in new footage and GODZILLA'S REVENGE
in stock footage.)
TN: I don't know.
DM: When Mr. Shibata and
I interviewed Kenpachiro Satsuma, he told us that the Hedorah costume was
very heavy because a large amount of material gradually was added onto it.
Why was the material added onto the costume? (Mr. Satsuma plays Hedorah,
a monster created by pollution, in GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, and Gigan,
a cyborg, in both GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972) and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973).
Since 1984, Mr. Satsuma has been playing Godzilla.)
TN: My recollection is
that we made two different Hedorah costumes. One was quite light. The other
was very heavy and bulky.
DM: For which scenes was
the heavier costume used?
TN: It was used when we
needed to show Hedorah's rickety movements.
DM: A laser beam is seen
coming out of an opening in Gigan's forehead in some of the stills that were
used to publicize GODZILLA VS. GIGAN. However, the cyborg never uses the
beam in the film. Why is this?
TN: I very much was interested
in the sixth sense of human beings at the time. I knew that many statues
of Buddha had auras around their heads, and I had read an article about strange
rays coming out of the foreheads of human beings. So, I originally intended
to have a ray come out of Gigan's forehead. However, I changed my mind because
the ability didn't seem to fit the cyborg. It fit only human beings. That's
why I didn't use it.
Gigan had a very strong and angular
form. It was enough to express the great power of the monster. So, the laser
beam wasn't needed.
DM: GODZILLA VS. MEGALON
is the earliest Godzilla movie in which Haruo Nakajima does not play Godzilla.
Did any problems arise because another person had taken over the role?
TN: No. There were no special
DM: Did you make the decision
to portray Godzilla comically in GODZILLA VS. MEGALON?
TN: I made the decision.
The Champion Festival versions of Toho's earlier monster films were being
released at the time, so we had to produce a movie that would appeal to children.
(During the 1970s, Toho released edited versions of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
(1962), GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, and a number
of its other science fiction films on double or triple bills with animated
features and superhero shows such as RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-1972) and
MIRROR MAN (1971).)
DM: Who edited the Champion
Festival versions of the movies?
TN: Ishiro Honda edited
them. (Mr. Honda directed GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, KING KONG VS.
GODZILLA, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, and many of Toho's other science fiction
DM: In the Japanese trailer
that was used to promote GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974), there is an alternate
to the sequence in which MechaGodzilla emerges from its disguise as Godzilla.
Why was the alternate sequence shot?
TN: It most likely consists
only of test footage.
DM: TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA
(1975) has a more serious tone than the other Godzilla movies that were produced
during the 1970s. Why is this?
TN: It was decided to portray
Godzilla the way he had been in GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS.
DM: Whose idea was it to
TN: Tomoyuki Tanaka's.
(Mr. Tanaka produced virtually all of Toho's science fiction films.)
DM: Do you know why he
made that decision?
TN: Toho wanted to revise
the Godzilla series. So, Mr. Tanaka decided to portray Godzilla the way he
had been in 1954.
DM: I've heard that Mr.
Honda originally wasn't going to direct TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA. Is this
TN: Yes. That's right.
DM: Was Jun Fukuda originally
going to direct the movie? (Mr. Fukuda directed GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER
(1966), SON OF GODZILLA, GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, and GODZILLA
TN: The matter of choosing
a director came up only after the script had been completed. I don't remember
who the director originally was going to be.
DM: Was the Godzilla cybot
used in the production of GODZILLA 1985 very difficult to control? (The cyborg/robot
was just under five meters tall.)
TN: It was very difficult
DM: Was it your idea to
TN: It was my idea to build
it. (The cybot was used not only to show facial expressions that the Godzilla
costume could not provide, but also to show Godzilla breathing.)
DM: I know that a television
series based on TIDAL WAVE was broadcast in Japan shortly after the film
was released. Were you involved in the production of the television series?
TN: I wasn't involved in
the production of the series.
DM: Was the series produced
DM: In the book JAPANESE
SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY AND HORROR FILMS, Stuart Galbraith IV suggests that
THE LAST DAYS OF PLANET EARTH (1974) is based on THE LAST WAR (1961). Is
TN: Yes. It is.
DM: Mr. Galbraith also
suggests in his book that the same model was used to depict the Alpha in
LATITUDE ZERO (1969) and the Goten in THE WAR IN SPACE. Is this true? (The
Alpha is a submarine. The Goten is a spaceship.)
TN: No. Different models
were used to depict the Alpha and the Goten.
DM: What was Mr. Tanaka
TN: He had a lot of ideas.
He was very decisive.
DM: Would Mr. Tanaka take
an active role in production?
TN: He had a split personality.
He would allow the members of the staff to do their work, but then he would
begin making suggestions.
DM: What was your professional
relationship with Mr. Fukuda like?
TN: Mr. Fukuda and I worked
on a large number of movies together. So, there was a very special type of
relationship between us. It's very difficult to describe. It was as if we
were related to each other. There was a very strong mutual understanding
DM: Would you discuss ideas
with each other during planning?
TN: There were three different
types of approaches. We both had to read the scripts very carefully, but
sometimes Mr. Fukuda would draw the storyboards, sometimes I would draw them,
and sometimes we both would draw them. However, I always made the final
decisions regarding the special effects.
DM: Did Mr. Fukuda allow
you to choose which special effects footage would be used?
TN: I chose the footage
that would be used. I would edit all of the special effects sequences, and
then turn them over to Mr. Fukuda.
DM: How was working with
Mr. Honda on TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA different from working with Mr. Fukuda?
TN: Mr. Honda and I had
known each other for a very long time, so it can be said that our friendship
and mutual understanding were even greater than those between Mr. Fukuda
DM: How did you get to
know Mr. Honda?
I worked as an assistant director
under Mr. Honda before I started working with Mr. Tsuburaya. Strangely enough,
the first film Mr. Honda and I worked on together was distributed by Daiei
instead of Toho. (NIGHT SCHOOL (1956) was distributed, but not produced,
by the Daiei Company Ltd.) If Mr. Honda had continued working with Daiei,
we both might have ended up working on Gamera movies! (Daiei produced all
of the Gamera films.)
DM: Did you draw the storyboards
for TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA?
TN: I drew the storyboards
for all of the special effects sequences.
DM: What was Mr. Tsuburaya
TN: I have many stories
We went on location to shoot the
sequence showing King Kong battling an octopus in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.
After we finished shooting the sequence, Mr. Tsuburaya ate the octopus.
The shot showing Baragon approaching
a stable in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD could very easily have been done.
It could have been a composite shot with real horses. However, Mr. Tsuburaya
insisted that we instead use puppets. When I asked him why, he replied,
Mr. Tsuburaya would become very
preoccupied with his work. One day, while he was working on a movie, a woman
came up to Mr. Tsuburaya, and he said, "It's been quite a long time." He
couldn't remember who the woman was. She was his wife.
Mr. Tsuburaya was a man who very
much enjoyed making films. He also was very neat. He always would wear a
suit and tie to work. The studio was quite sacred to Mr. Tsuburaya.
DM: How were Mr. Tsuburaya
and Mr. Honda different from each other?
TN: They both enjoyed making
movies. They both also took their work very seriously, no matter what type
of film on which they were working. So, I think they were more alike than
Mr. Honda and Mr. Tsuburaya would
inspire each other. They would create scenes that were not included in the
scripts. Mr. Fukuda and I had the same kind of relationship. We also created
scenes that were not in the scripts.
DM: Mr. Honda would tell
actors with whom he was working how they should walk, how they should move
their arms, and so on. Did Mr. Tsuburaya do that as well?
TN: Mr. Tsuburaya was very
shy. He was just the opposite of Mr. Honda in that regard.
Mr. Honda choreographed the movements
of the aliens in THE MYSTERIANS (1957) and GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO. He
also choreographed some of the dancing of the natives in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
and GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA.
While we were working on GODZILLA
VS. MOTHRA, Koji Kajita, the assistant director, and I decided to write song
lyrics about Mothra. Mr. Kajita could speak French, so he wrote the lyrics
in that language. However, he pronounced them the way they would be pronounced
in English. After that, Mr. Kajita translated the lyrics into Esperanto.
That's the process by which they were created. (Esperanto was created by
the United Nations in an attempt to provide a means by which everyone in
the world could directly communicate with each other. The thinking was that
everyone would learn their native language and Esperanto.)
DM: Do you know why Teisho
Arikawa left Toho? (Mr. Arikawa worked on VARAN - THE UNBELIEVABLE (1959),
GORATH (1962), WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), and a large number of Toho's
other science fiction movies as a special effects cinematographer before
directing the special effects for SON OF GODZILLA, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS,
and YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE (1970).)
TN: You'd have to ask Mr.
Arikawa. However, I know that he wanted to be a producer instead of a director.
DM: FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS
THE WORLD originally was going to be called FRANKENSTEIN VS. GODZILLA. Why
was Godzilla replaced with Baragon?
TN: I know that the script
was revised several times, but I don't know why Baragon was pitted against
DM: GODZILLA VS. THE SEA
MONSTER originally was titled KING KONG VS. EBIRAH. Why was King Kong replaced
TN: I don't know. Godzilla
was in the first draft of script that I saw.
DM: Were all of the other
monsters in the film originally going to be in it?
TN: Ebirah wasn't going
to be in the movie. Instead, a giant octopus was going to be in it. (Ebirah,
a giant lobster, also appears in GODZILLA'S REVENGE in stock footage.)
DM: Yoshimitsu Banno wrote
a sequel to GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER in which Godzilla and Hedorah were
going to face each other in Africa, but the sequel wasn't made. Do you know
why it wasn't made? (Mr. Banno directed GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER.)
TN: I don't know why it
DM: A few Godzilla films
were planned, but not produced, between 1975 and 1984. Do you know anything
about them? (Among them are RESURRECTION OF GODZILLA and GODZILLA VS. GARGANTUA.)
TN: After TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA
was released, many Toho employees thought that there would be no more Godzilla
movies made. However, some thought that there could be another one made if
it were very different. So, several such films were planned.
DM: In what year did you
begin working for Toho?
TN: 1959. I first worked
on a war movie. After that, I took part in the production of THE THREE TREASURES
(1959), but I did not work on the special effects sequences that are in the
film. (THE THREE TREASURES, like YAMATO TAKERU (1994), is based on KOJIKI,
the mythological story of the creation of Japan.)
DM: What is the name of
the war movie?
TN: SUBMARINE I-57 DOES
DM: You served as the special
effects director on a number of episodes of the METEOR MAN ZONE (1973) television
series. How was this different from working on films? (The series is very
much like ULTRAMAN (1966-1967). Godzilla, Ghidrah, and Gigan make guest appearances
TN: We were shooting footage
not only for a small screen instead of a large one, but also for a standard
size one instead of a wide one. That was the most significant difference.
I think the best screen size for
monster movies is standard size. Giant monsters seem to be huge not because
they appear to be so wide, but instead because they appear to be so tall.
DM: Were you more rushed
when you worked on METEOR MAN ZONE than you were when you worked on films?
TN: The schedule was very
DM: Many years ago, Greg
Shoemaker wrote in the JAPANESE FANTASY FILM JOURNAL, "Teruyoshi Nakano...is
at his best when required to deliver animated rays and force fields and spectacular
pyrotechnics." Do you agree with Mr. Shoemaker's statement?
TN: Many Japanese fans
feel the same way. I think of monster movies as fantasy films. So, I think
that animated rays and explosions are very important elements in them.
I always would take great care
in preparing the pyrotechnics. Fire, like water, is one of the most difficult
elements to control.
DM: Which of the movies
on which you served as special effects director are your favorites?
TN: I like all of them,
so I can't choose any favorites. However, if you insist, I think it would
be wise for me to say that TIDAL WAVE is my favorite. (TIDAL WAVE was more
successful than any of the other science fiction films on which Mr. Nakano
served as special effects director.)
DM: Which of the Godzilla
movies on which you served as special effects director is your favorite?
TN: GODZILLA 1985. I also
especially like GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. It turned out the way I'd imagined
it would before shooting began.
DM: Which of Toho's earlier
science fiction films are your favorites?
TN: I was most influenced
by KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. It is the first monster movie on which I worked.
DM: How did you like the
last four Godzilla films? (They include GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), GODZILLA
VS. GHIDRAH (1991), GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA
TN: They are enjoyable.
DM: Some fans have criticized
Koichi Kawakita's work because they feel he uses optical effects (radioactive
breath, electrical rays, and so on) too much, and doesn't have the monsters
wrestle with each other enough. Do you think that this is a valid criticism?
(Mr. Kawakita directed the special effects for the last four Godzilla movies.)
TN: Mr. Kawakita's style
most likely stems from his personality. He is very technically oriented.
His approach is very different from mine.
DM: What do you think of
the Gamera films?
TN: They are enjoyable.
DM: How do you feel about
Daiei making a new Gamera movie? (In GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE,
Gamera will again face Gaos, the bird-like creature that is seen in both
GAMERA VS. GAOS (1967) and GAMERA VS. GUIRON (1969).)
TN: If I were assigned
to the Gamera film, I would have to work very hard because I would have
to find a new approach to take. I would have to work even harder on the
new Gamera movie than I would on one of the new Godzilla films because it
would be so difficult to find a new approach.
DM: I have heard that you
take part in the creation of rides for theme parks. Is this correct?
TN: I have worked on a
large number of them.
DM: Are you still employed
TN: I still work for Toho.
DM: So you just switched
from working on movies to working on rides for theme parks?
TN: I received a lot of
offers to work on rides for theme parks, but I never quit my job as a special
effects director. I think that theme parks provide the best means of entertaining
people these days.
I would have liked to have met
Walt Disney. I would have asked him why he chose to work on theme parks instead
of films. I think that he would have come up with a better answer than I
DM: On which rides have
I took part in the production
of the rides at Space World in Kyushu. It took us four years to plan and
build those rides. I also took part in the production of the rides at a
water park in Kyushu.
DM: Mr. Shibata told me
that you are going to travel to Hokkaido tomorrow to work on a ride. Is this
TN: That's right.
DM: What is the ride going
to be like?
TN: It will be about Earth.
Volcanos, climate, people - everything will be included.
DM: How did you like JURASSIC
TN: It seemed like a movie
featuring very good suitmation to me. (Suitmation is the term used to describe
the technique of portraying giant monsters with people in costumes.)
DM: Some people were disappointed
by JURASSIC PARK because they felt that the plot was too limited. Do you
agree with this criticism?
TN: Yes. I agree with it.
DM: How do you feel about
TriStar Pictures producing a Godzilla film in the United States?
TN: I am pleased because
a new approach will be taken.
DM: Will Toho continue
to make Godzilla movies if TriStar makes a series of them?
DM: What do you think the
next few Godzilla films that Toho produces should be like?
TN: Toho must take a different
approach. It will be very difficult.