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The Other Side of Toho

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Toho Company Limited. To the kaiju enthusiast the name brings one thought to mind: Godzilla! Here you have the Japanese Pop Culture Trends and if Godzilla does not immediately spring forth, then one of the many other giant kaiju does, for if there is one thing Toho Studios is known for throughout the world, it’s their giant monsters. However, History Vortex offers you an information about Toho, that has produced a vast variety of genre films including the bulk of the work of Akira Kurosawa, and while the release of Godzilla in 1954 seemed to have pointed the company in the direction for which it would become famous, the 1950s could have just as easily seen Toho become a horror outlet, as Hammer became in England. Of the many films produced by Toho from 1954 to 1962, sixteen of them were science fiction/horror oriented, and only five of those were “giant monster movies”. The mid fifties (1954-1958) saw the company experiment with many different formats, anyone which could have defined the direction of future films. The release of Godzilla in 1954 was followed by The Invisible Man (also in 1954) and “Monster Snowman” in 1955 (re-titled Half Human for its American release in 1958). These two films were as radically different from each other as they were from Godzilla.

The Invisible Man, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Motoyoshi Oda was a horror oriented story starring Seizaburo Kozu, Miki Sanjo, and Yoshio Tsuchiya. The plot was a loose reworking of H.G. Wells’ original novel where Kozu’s character, an invisible man who earns a living dressed as a circus clown, uses his unique power to put a halt to a gang of crooks spreading terror and havoc through out the land as “The Invisible Gang” (the mob boss having seized upon the idea from the news that invisible men exist in the world). Subduing the members of the gang and avenging the death of Miki Sanjo’s character’s grandfather, the Invisible Man and the mob boss fight it out a top a burning oil tanker, both perishing in the flames.HalfHumanPhoto2

Monster Snowman was Ishiro Honda’s first production after Godzilla, and unfortunately the film has a rushed look to it. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka from a screenplay by Takeo Murata, the film starred Akira Takarada and Momoko Kochi as a pair of anthropology students on a ski-and-research trip who come upon the Snowman (and his young son), in the mountainous region of northern Japan. Too bad there weren’t many used snowmobiles available in the 1950’s. Check out this link about the Inside Toho.

The story follows the attempts of the students, along with their university professor, to find and study the beast, the creature’s effect on the small native village near the cave where it lives (the natives worship it as a God), and the attempts of a circus impresario to capture it. Throughout the film the snowman is portrayed as an docile creature, only becoming a danger when its son or territories are threatened. It is also taken aback by beauty. It is not until the circus men kill its son that the creature turns completely vicious, killing everyone in the small village (except a lone native woman) and kidnaping Momoko Kochi’s character, taking her to its cave and threatening to throw her into a sulfur pit. The beast is finally killed when the native woman lunges at the snowman, knocking herself and the creature over the edge and into the pit. Although integrating the “Beauty and the Beast” theme from King Kong (the native woman is the only normal looking person in the entire village, the others displaying deformities or abnormalities), the film falls far short of it’s giant predecessor released the year before. The creature in the film is considered a monster, but at only ten feet tall, it was no where near the scale of Godzilla.
While both early films did well in the theaters, The Invisible Man being seen by 300,000 movie goers (box office attendance is not available for Monster Snowman), their box office appeal did not reach as near the level of Toho’s non-science fiction/horror related projects at the time (Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was released by Toho in 1954 to excellent box office turn out).

1955 also saw the release of the second Godzilla film, Godzilla no Gyakushu, capitalizing on the remarkable success of the first Godzilla the year before (thanks in part to a huge promotional campaign, 9,610,000 people saw it). Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Motoyoshi Oda from a screenplay by Takeo Murata, it starred Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki. Although a somewhat inferior film when compared to its predecessor, what would become Gigantis the Fire Monster in the U.S. did perform well at the box office, attracting 8,340,000 viewers. Inspired, Toho continued its trend of kaiju movies. Of interesting note was the conclusion of the film. Godzilla had seemingly perished under tons of ice, as Tanaka had believed he had used Godzilla to its fullest potential, but the ending ultimately allowed for future Godzilla appearances.

The year 1956 saw the release of Madam White Snake and Sora no Daikaiju Radon (“Giant Monster of the Sky Rodan”), released as Rodan the Flying Monster in America. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka from a screenplay by Toshio Yasumi, Madam White Snake was based on the Chinese fairy tale “Pai-She Chuan”, and starred Shirley Yamaguchi in the title role. This fantasy film is in such short supply on this side of the Pacific that very little is known about the production. Six hundred thousand people saw it in Japan, twice the number that saw Invisible Man two years before.
Once again it was Rodan, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Ishiro Honda from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura and Takeo Murata, which commanded greater appeal at the box office and continued Toho’s trend of using dinosaur type creatures as their main subject. No accurate attendance figure is available for Rodan, but the success of the film may have influenced production for the following year. In 1957 Toho decided to produce a film which combined two popular genres: space travel and kaiju.

OtherSidePhoto2.jpgB-movie type space films were very popular in the America of the 1950s, and as the American market was opening up to Japan’s kaiju films (thanks mainly to the 1956 release of Godzilla King of the Monsters), Toho may have seen a chance to explore an unplowed field and further cash in on the American market. The result was Chikyu Boeigun (“Earth Defense Force”, released as The Mysterians in America), a typical 1950’s “B” space invasion movie encompassing a giant monster movie in its first half. (Though this film could be considered the sixth kaiju film made during the 1950s I have chosen not to do so, as Moguera only appears for a few minutes while the rest is a space invasion movie.) Produced by Tanaka from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura and directed by Honda, the film, dealing with male aliens from the Asteroid Belt coming to Earth to mate with human woman, starred Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa and Momoko Kochi. It was Toho’s first feature to be filmed in Tohoscope and did a fairly good box office; 350,0000 people saw it.

Also released in 1957 was the American version of Godzilla King of the Monsters, and while it has been rumored that the Japanese audiences did not quite understand the involvement of Raymond Burr’s character, this version of the film also did well. The following year saw the release of The H-Man, another sf/horror oriented movie like Half Human, only this time the antagonists were radioactive blob-like creatures which dissolve human flesh. Produced by Tanaka and directed by Honda from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura, the film is an excellent period piece, combining the suspense of a detective story (the main plot of the film follows the attempts of the police to track down and break a drug ring), and the mood of a horror film (the “blobs” are H-bomb mutated human beings). This eerie, and visually thrilling film is much better executed than Half Human, and is probably one of the finest films Tanaka ever produced, highlighting the best work of Ishiro Honda since Godzilla. However, with only 400,000 people seeing the film, it was becoming obvious that the Japanese public preferred Toho’s kaiju films over the more mainstream sf/horror productions.
Unfortunately, 1958 also saw the release of the disastrous Daikaiju Varan (“Giant Monster Baran”, renamed Varan the Unbelievable when released in OtherSidePhoto7American in 1961). Produced by Tanaka and directed by Koji Kajita (billed as assistant director with Honda taking top billing) from a screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa, this Godzilla type rip-off, about another giant monster terrorizing Japan, was originally commissioned for American television release. Poorly written (the film opens with the main character speaking directly to the audience) and produced (stock footage is use extensively from Godzilla), its apparent failure at the box office may have mistakenly led Toho to believe they had exhausted the giant monster concept. In defense of the film (it is one of my personal favorites), the production budget did suffer because of Toho’s The Three Treasures epic being produced at the same time. After Daikaiju Varan, no more giant monster movies would be produced by Toho for three years.

OtherSidePhoto1.jpgThe late fifties and early sixties started off with a bang, as Toho released its epic saga Nihon Tanjo, “The Birth of Japan” (The Three Treasures in America). Produced by Sanezumi Fujimoto and Tomoyuki Tanaka from a screenplay by Toshio Yasumi and Ryuzu Kikushima, the film chronicles the origins of the Shinto; the Japanese religion founded in harmony with nature and ancestor worship. Starring Toshiro Mifune and directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, this epic production, regarded as Japan’s equivalent to The Ten Commandments, is highlighted by a good story and exceptional special effects from Eiji Tsuburaya’s spfx unit (the stop-all being when Mifune’s character battles a seven-headed dragon in the film’s second act). The Three Treasures was the unexpected hit of 1959, with over 1,000,000 people cramming into the movie houses to catch it.
The Three Treasures also heralded another ambitious product from the Toho special effects department to be released that same year, Battle In Outer Space. Repeating their former success with space oriented B-movies, Battle in Outer Space showcases some of the finest miniature effects to come out of Tsuburaya’ s department. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Ishiro Honda from a screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa, this compelling story, concerning the invasion of Earth from outer space, is one of the finest examples of “space war” films to come out of the 1950s. The battle scenes on the moon were truly inspirational. Battle In Outer Space, seen by more than 500,000 people, can be seen as one of the many inspirations for George Lucas’ Star War series.
The new decade saw Toho turning back to sf/horror films with the releases of Secret of the Telegian, and The Human Vapor. Produced by Tanaka, directed by Jun Fukuda, screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa, and starring Koji Tsuruta and Tadao Nakamura, Secret of the Telegian was the story of revenge and the horrors of science when used by the wrong hands. Tsuruta plays a Imperial Japanese Army solder assigned to transfer an important scientist into hiding at the end of the Second World War. He is betrayed by the other men in his unit and left for dead (the others, including his commanding officer, were using this as an opportunity to steal Imperial gold). Fourteen years later he begins to murder each of the men with the use of a teleporting machine, which can literally get him in and out of the murder scene in a wink of an eye, and thus allowing him to set up alibis.
Tanaka and Honda teamed up again to release The Human Vapor from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura. Starring
Yoshio Tuschiya in the title roll, The Human Vapor is a slightly more compelling film than Secret of the Telegian because it deals with love and obsession. The story follows Tushiya’ s character, given the ability to change into a vaporous form by a scientific experiment, as he uses his powers to rob several banks to help finance the comeback of a young dancer whom he loves.
While each film did not retain the mood or feel of The H-Man (the night club scene in Telegian is an obvious retake of the night club scene in H-Man), they did represent Toho’s attempts to produce contemporary films dealing with the misuse of science, and the horrors which can arise when unscrupulous men gain control of power. Unfortunately neither film did as well as expected (both only drawing 250,000 people) and the typical movie goer was drawn toward giant monster films, although neither Toho nor Tanaka yet realized the extent.

In 1961 Toho released The Last War, produced by Tanaka and directed by Shue Matsubayashi from a screenplay by Toshio Yasumi and Takeshi Kimura. A science fiction story along the lines of On The Beach, survivors of a nuclear holocaust aboard a freighter contemplate the fates and lives of their loved ones (shown in a series of flashbacks) in a story typical of the 1960’s. What makes this version so different from others of it’s type produced on both side of the Pacific, is the films distinctly Japanese point of view; the emphasis being placed on the victims of the war rather than the survivors. The film also did well (mostly due to current Cold War tensions), with 820,000 people attending. OtherSidePhoto5.jpg
With the box office receipts of their horror related productions being far from impressive, Toho’s return to the giant monster genre commenced with the 1961 release of Mothra. Produced by Tanaka and directed by Honda from a screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa, Mothra was a huge success, and created one of the most popular kaiju to ever come out of Japan. It was mostly because of Mothra’s box office success that the heads at Toho felt the time was right to return to producing kaiju related films, but not before they would venture into pure science fiction one more time.

Gorath, released in 1962 and portraying the Earth about to be destroyed in a collision with a giant runaway star, is truly the last of Toho’s Sci/Fi B-movies. Produced by Tanaka and directed by Honda from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura, the story concerns the attempts of the nations of Earth to move the planet from the path of the approaching star by means of rockets installed at the South Pole. Though somewhat enjoyable, the film is a far cry form the company’s early entrants into this field. It is of special note thaOtherSidePhoto4.jpgt a giant monster did appear in the Japanese print of Gorath. Magma, a gigantic walrus released from the polar ice caps by the rockets’ heat, is so poorly executed and given so little screen time that it was best left out of the American version. Gorath was seen by 500,000 people.

Although films such as Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People), Atragon, and The Adventures of Taklamakan, would be made throughout the 1960’s, 1962 marked a turning point which would define Toho as the “Kings” of the kaiju genre for millions of people and years to come. Willis O’Brien, the man who had brought King Kong to life in RKO’s 1933 classic, developed a story entitled “King Kong vs. Frankenstein,” in which Carl Denham discovers another Kong on Skull Island and brings the beast back to San Francisco. Meanwhile, the grandson of Dr. Frankenstien has created another monster by using various parts of African ani- mals. The two monsters face each other in what would have been a climactic battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge. To get backing for this project O’Brien approached producer John Beck, who immediately removed the “Frankenstein” reference from the screenplay (and subsequently O’Brien from the production) and had screenwriter George.
Yates rework the story into “King Kong vs. Prometheus.” Unable to gain financing in the United States, Beck presented the film to Toho, where almost all of Yates’ ideas were thrown out and Prometheus replaced by Godzilla. Tomoyuki Tanaka and Ishiro Honda both felt the time had come for the King to retum after a seven year absence. With a screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa and starring Tadao Takashima, Mie Hama, and Kenji Sahara, King Kong vs. Godzilla, was the highest grossing kaiju film in Toho’s production history, seen by more Japanese movie goers than any other kaiju film before or since (12,550,000 to be exact). It was King Kong vs. Godzilla which established Godzilla as a genuine movie star and inspired the direction the company would take for the next two decades. After 1962 the number of kaiju films would reach an all time high of 19 productions throughout the 60s and early 70s. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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An Interview with Godzilla: Hauro Nakajima

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Here you have another post about the history of Japanese pop culture. When Godzilla: King of the Monsters was first released in 1954, many fans failed to realize that the film was more than your average monster-on-the-loose flick. It's stark imagery and haunting reflections of the Second World War severed as a grim reminder of man's follies. Especially to the
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Haitian Revolution and Its Impact in the Spanish Caribbean

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Historical Concealment Of Colonial Slave Rebellions In his article, you will find interesting facts about the history of Japanese pop culture - The Enigma of Jamaica in the 1790s: New Light on the Causes of Slave Rebellions1, David Geggus contends that; "It was precisely during the Age of Revolution (1776-1815), when French St. Domingue experienced the most successful slave revolt
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Twenty Years of Super Sentai

Twenty Years of Super Sentai
A CHRONOLOGY OF TOEI'S SENTAI TELEVISION SERIES (1975-1995) Japan has enjoyed for 20 years what America has only discovered in the last two: the super sentai television series (sentai means battle team or task force.) These live-action superhero epics run the gamut from serious drama to slapstick comedy, always packaged with a healthy dose of intense action and (sometimes) awe-inspiring
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An Interview with Teruyoshi Nakano

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History Vortex recommends you to read the interview with Teruyoshi Nakano. 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. After reading this interview, you may be interested in reading another post like this one, an interview with Godzilla: Hauro Nakajima .

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 the film?

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 used?

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.)

TN: Very.

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 problems.

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 films.)

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 do so?

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 true?

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 VS. MECHAGODZILLA.)

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 to control.

DM: Was it your idea to build it?

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 by Toho?

TN: Yes.

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 this true?

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 like?

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 between us.

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 and myself.

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 like?

TN: I have many stories to tell.

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, “It’s funny.”

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 different.

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 Frankenstein.

DM: GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER originally was titled KING KONG VS. EBIRAH. Why was King Kong replaced with Godzilla?

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 wasn’t made.

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 NOT SURRENDER.

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 in it.)

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 tight.

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 (1993).)

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 by Toho?

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 could.

DM: On which rides have you worked?

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 correct?

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 PARK (1993)?

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?

TN: Probably.

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.

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