An Interview with Henry G. Saperstein


An important person associated with Godzilla and Toho movies in the United States is the late Mr. Henry Saperstein (1918 – 1998) who was president and chief executive officer of UPA Productions of America. UPA has owned the licensing and merchandising rights to Godzilla since the 1960s, and Mr. Saperstein had been responsible for the release of several Toho movies in theaters in the United States. In 1995, Mr. Saperstein was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to meet with John Rocco Roberto.

Roberto: The first obvious question is: How did you get involved with Toho?

Saperstein: I was approached (at UPA) by some of the marketers and they were looking for solid, theatrical-quality monster pictures. So I went to the Motion Picture Academy (MPA) to find out which MPPA company made the most. They told me the most prolific were Hammer Studios in England, and Toho Studios in Japan. I had no desire to deal with Hammer, so I spoke to Toho.

JRR: How did Toho react?

HGS: Well, they were wary of any gaijin, it doesn’t mean foreigner, it means outsider. You’re outside of their “kingdom oft he sun,” they’re wary of anyone coming in who wants to be involved, in any meaningful way. But I came in, and I offered up some ideas that made the pictures more viable in the international marketplace, and I was willing to put money on the line, this appealed to them, and I guess that’s how I broke through. They thought it was interesting.

JRR: In regards to your involvement in the films and the actors chosen to star in them, is it true that David Janssen originally signed to the Nick Adams contract, and then backed out of it due to his commitment to the TV show The Fugitive?

HGS: He never signed a contract. We had discussions. We had to get somebody who was willing to go there and live there for a while, not just drop in for a couple of days. I can tell you, in the 1960s, that wasn’t easy. I had convinced Toho that they needed an American actor to star in their kinds of films, so I brought Nick Adams there and we did Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. The Russ Tamblyn picture was after that. I wasn’t involved in any of the production process or consulting of the earlier film (Frankenstein Conquers the World). They already had that picture underway and I just participated in the financing and co-distribution. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero was my first full involvement.

JRR: Did you have any input into the script of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero?

HGS: We made suggestions. For example, most of the pictures made before then always opened up with a press conference or a government conference of scientists and officials. The exposition always went on forever from there, telling the viewer all about what the story was and what was about to happen. That seemed to be a typical way of Japanese storytelling. We convinced them that we needed to get into the picture a lot quicker. The conference could take place later on, but at the beginning, the essence of the picture, the characters, the reason for the picture, what the French call the “raison detre” needed to be developed.

JRR: I hadn’t thought about it before, but Godzilla vs. Monster Zero really does start in the middle of the action.

HGS: It jumps right in. Otherwise we might lose the attention of the American TV audience, which doesn’t want to wait for all that. They’ll tune you out and go to another channel. The theatrical market is different. Once people have paid their money and sat down with their popcorn, they’ll let you play around with the development of it, but not on TV. That’s zap time.

JRR: Did you witness any of the filming of the special effects sequences?

HGS: That was one of the joys of my life, the pleasure and the honor of meeting Mr. Tsuburaya, the genius who created the special effects. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have said publicly they were inspired by Tsuburaya’s work. He had a special effects stage where everything was in miniature yet everything operated, cars moving, traffic lights going on and off. The water ran in the river. I walked in there and I felt like Paul Bunyan walking around the stage. I watched Tsuburaya work and he was a genius. Consider what he worked with in his day: there were no electronics, no computers or anything like that.

JRR: What was your impression of Tsuburaya personally? Did he seem very shy to you?

HGS: Tsuburaya? Tsuburaya was in his own world. I wouldn’t say shy. He was always thinking of the next thing he was going to do. It’s like asking was Einstein shy? Who’s gonna find out, he was always in his own world.

JRR: There’s a story about him. He’d been working non-stop on the set for a week or something, and a woman came up to him and asked him if he was okay. He didn’t recognize her. The woman turned out to be his wife.

HGS: That would not be unusual for Tsuburaya. He was always lost in thought and planning; how can we do this differently, better, more advanced. It was fabulous. Toho had an unusual, wonderful team working together. Tanaka as producer was very, very knowledgeable. Honda was really a good, what I’d call a workmanlike director. That combination with Tsuburaya is what made those pictures what they were.

JRR: What kind of input would Tanaka make?

HGS: Tanaka-san was the father of Godzilla. I mean there’s no question about it. He had a resolute idea about what Godzilla does and doesn’t do. I wish the modern-day filmmakers could have as clear an idea going in as Tanaka always had. Tanaka was very much on the ball.

JRR: When was the last time you saw him?

HGS: About five years ago, six years ago. He’s in semi-retirement now. I have great respect for him.

JRR: Did you ever visit Ishiro Honda’s set?

HGS: Oh yeah, I was on the set many, many times. The beauty of watching a Toho crew under Honda was that, when he got the shot that he wanted and he said “cut”, you’d better get out of the way, cause you’d get killed in the rush as they were striking a set and setting for the next shot. I mean it was “hustle hustle!” On a Hollywood set, the director says “strike” and everybody will goes for coffee, sit down and shoot the breeze, call their bookie. Boy, you’d better get out of the way when Honda yelled cut! They had a ten-our workday as opposed to our eight hour day. Only a half hour for lunch, and no coffee beaks. In a Hollywood day, if you get three minutes of film out of eight hours, then it’s a big day. A Toho crew would work ten hours a day, six days a week, and they really got out the footage.

JRR: Did you observe any Japanese directors other than Honda?

HGS: No. Honda was the only one I observed at work.

JRR: Getting back to the films, how did you come to be involved with Godzilla’s Revenge? Wasn’t it originally called “Minya Son of Godzilla”?

HGS: We only distributed it. There was a confusing thing there. Toho had already released a Son of Godzilla made in 1967, so we released it as Godzilla’s Revenge instead.

JRR: Does the “Godzilla vs Gargantua” story come from this same time period? Supposedly Reuben Bercovitch wrote a story.

HGS: He was one of my executives. The treatment was written, but we didn’t co-produce it. I’ll have to scratch my memory pretty hard.. . This had to be in the early seventies.

JRR: Speaking of War of the Gargantuas, I’m a bit confused by the number of writing credits on the film.

HGS: I think we added material to the film, stuff we thought would be more appealing to the American marketplace. Like, we’d take a scene from the middle of the film and put it up front, as a prelude, and write new dialogue for it that would carry you much easier and quicker into the story. So the writing credits on the American prints are not necessarily the same credits that are on the Japanese prints.

JRR: Would these scenes be written by the same people that wrote, for instance, Russ Tamblyn’s or Nick Adam’s lines on the set?

HGS: In many cases yes.

JRR: What was it like for the actors involved?

HGS: Nick Adams was terrific, a real professional. Very cooperative, always on time, ready with his lines, available, totally cooperative. He loved being there. He stayed on after we left. He fell in love with a Japanese actress. He was enjoying the whole Japanese experience and being with her, so he worked in pictures there (including The Killing Bottle, 1967). An actor works in pictures any place. Russ Tamblyn was a prima donna pain in the ass. Sharp contrast to Nick Adams or Kipp Hamilton. We had to re-shoot and re-record almost everything Russ Tamblyn did. He wasn’t a Nick Adams and I don’t want to pursue that any further! There are professionals, and people who think they’re professionals.

JRR: Did you on Godzilla vs. Monster Zero or War of the Gargantuas ever request any special effects scenes just for the American market?

HGS: The one that I did request in Gargantuas was the hand going into the nightclub, lifting Kipp Hamilton right off of the stage I wanted kind of a King Kong-style sequence, so that’s what we suggested.

JRR: I remember Kipp Hamilton from the James Mason movie Bigger Than Life. How did she get this particular job?

HGS: I was looking for a singer with a certain kind of look to her. I knew her brother Joe Hamilton, the producer who married Carol Burnett. He suggested her. I auditioned her; she was a very personable and very cooperative young lady, and we hired her. She was a professional.

JRR: Why did it take so long (until 1970) for Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and War of the Gargantuas to be released in this country?

HGS: Well, Toho doesn’t always put a picture into quick release internationally. They make a picture and put it into release usually in December in their own theatres. Depending on what their international division wants, they might not put it into quick release. The last three pictures they made haven’t been released (referring to Godzilla vs King Ghidorah through Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla).

JRR: In other words, Toho made the decision.

HGS: When they make a picture available, that’s a contract point. There’s a lot of technical work to be done: sending in interpositives, soundtracks, effects and music tracks, and then there’s the things that we have to do with them here, there’s a lot of preparation necessary. So if they (Toho) drag their feet, for whatever their reasons are, it just impacts on how much longer down the road it gets pushed.

JRR: You put money into Terror of MechaGodzilla. Did you also have any influence in the hiring of Ishiro Honda to direct?

HGS: I liked the idea of it, I liked the idea of cloning Godzilla as a robot, to go against Godzilla’s primitive weapons. I thought it made an interesting contrast, but I had no say in hiring Mr. Honda. I had a consulting relationship with them but no influence. I did not visit the set, I was in Europe at the time.

JRR: Did you go to them or did they come to you?

HGS: It never really happened like that. It was kind of an ongoing relationship. When they had a project at a certain level of realization, they would tell me about it. I passed on some of the Godzilla films, the latter-day ones, because I didn’t think they had the potential some of the others did. For example Biollante, Megalon, Hedorah, Gigan, I didn’t think they were in the same class with Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla vs. Mothra, and Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

JRR: So did you have any involvement with the first MechaGodzilla film?

HGS: No, just Terror of MechaGodzilla.

JRR: I’m curious as to what you think of the Paramount Video version of Terror of MechaGodzilla? (Mr. Roberto furnished an explanation of its defects.)

HGS: … (Simply, gravely) I will check that out.

JRR: How would you compare Toho’s executives and producers today, compared to back when you collaborated?

HGS: Well, I have very little to do with Toho’s producers these days. The Toho executives, they’re top-notch professional people, like Mr. Matsuoka, the head of the company. A very bright man.

JRR: What do you think of the new cycle of films they’re making?

HGS: No comment.

JRR: How did you come to acquire the video rights to Godzilla, King of the Monsters?

HGS: The distribution rights were held by RICO Pictures. I acquired the rights from RKO, and when their rights expired I acquired the right of renewal directly from Toho.

JRR: Have you, or do you intend to pursue other pictures in the series, such as Destroy All Monsters?

HGS: No.

JRR: What’s your involvement with the TriStar Godzilla?

HGS: I brought the project to TriStar, set up the negotiations. The deal was concluded between Toho and TriStar. My involvement is strictly in the merchandising licensing.

JRR: And in closing, what do you see as the future of Godzilla in the United States?

HGS: I think Godzilla’s an icon that has been established, and that Godzilla will continue to remain an icon with the public. The public has been going through all these periods of reality being a little too much to take, it’s too harsh. So the fantasy of something that’s bigger than life… Godzilla’s a morality play; good guys against bad guys, and Godzilla, like the Lone Ranger, coming forth, reluctantly, to strike down the bad guys, is something that appeals to the psyche of a public that is beset by problems of poverty and homelessness and AIDS, and government pressures and the stock market and all those other things. It’s kind of nice to sit back, kick off your shoes, open your belt and watch Godzilla do his thing… it feels good.

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So Just How Big Is Godzilla?

A Model Builder's Guide to Godzilla's Size Changes                                                    Contrary to what the English dub of the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters would have us believe, Godzilla was never "over 400 feet tall". What follows is a history of Godzilla's height, or correctly, increase in height. In the 1954 Japanese original, Dr. Yamane estimates that Godzilla is 50
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The Six Faces of The Master

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An Online Interview With Satsuma and Nakajima

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The Ultra-Family Who’s Who

ultra family

When Ultraman came into my life in the early 1970s, I mistakenly thought that he was the only hero from M78. Oh, how wrong I was! I discovered the other members of his family quite by accident, while attending a comic’s convention in the 1980s. There was a video presentation by Dave Studzinski, in which he ran an episode of Ultraman 80, explaining that this hero was one of the Ultra-Brothers. I was shocked, since I didn’t know Ultraman had brothers, or sisters for that matter. Way back in Ultra-Fan #2 (before the zine was later named Kaiju-Fan) I did an Ultra-Family “Who’s Who” covering all the Ultra-Beings (all the way up to Ultraman Zearth) at the time. Since there have been more Ultra-Family members added since Zearth, and at the request of John Rocco Roberto, I thought it was time to do an updated one. So to the many Ultra-Fans out there who still don’t know which Ultra-Fighters are which; here’s a new; updated version of the Ultra-Family “Who’s Who.” Part One covers the main Ultramen and later, part two will cover the supporting Ultra-Beings. Shoowat! And enjoy!

Height: 40 meters
Weight: 35.000 tons
Flying Speed: Mach 5
First Television Appearance: Ultraman July 1966
Alter ego: Science Patrol Officer Hayata
Method of Transformation: The Beta Capsule

The most experienced of the Ultra-Fighters. Ultraman is a pure fighting machine. One of the best at hand-to-hand combat, Ultraman’s powers is equal to that of Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, possessing great strength, although unlike Godzilla, Ultraman can fly. He can also teleport himself from one place to another, as well as relying on a large arsenal of weapons. His main weapons are the Spacium Ray (which he directs by crossing his arms and hands) and The Ultra Slash, a pure white hot energy ring (that can slice through anything), which he throws from his right shoulder. He can also change his size from microscopic to giant.

Height: 40 meters
Weight: 35.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 7
First Television Appearance: Ultra-Seven October 1967.
Alter ego: Dan Moroboshi
Method of Transformation: The Ultra Eye

This Ultra-Hero is the most famous of all the Ultra-Fighters. Renowned for his sharp cunning, Ultra-Seven’s main weapons are the Emulium Rays and his very deadly Eyeslugger, a powerful boomerang like blade that can also emit energy that is located atop on his head which he throws and can cut though almost anything into pieces. Ultra-Seven wears a chest mounted sun-absorbing unit, which can provide him with a never-ending energy charge. The unit unfortunately, is non-operational in extreme cold temperatures.

Height: 40 tons
Weight: 35,000
Flying Speed: mach 5
First Television Appearance: The Return of Ultraman April 1971
Alter ego: Hideki Goh
Method of Transformation: Calls “Ultraman Jack” by sheer will.

This Ultraman is nearly identical to the first Ultraman. He has identical powers. Later on in this series Jack obtained the Ultra-Bracelet, given to him by Ultra-Seven. This Bracelet can change into any weapon Jack requires to defeat his foes. Jack is also called “Shin (New) Ultraman.”

Height: 40 meters
Weight: 35,000
Flying Speed: mach 5
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Ace April 1972
Alter egos: Seiji Hokuto and Yoko Minami (later when Yoko resumes Luna’s identity, Seiji takes the mantle of being the alter ego of Ultraman Ace)
Method of Transformation: The Ultra-Rings

Ultraman Ace is the Ultra who can create almost unlimited assortment of energy rays. As well he can travel through time and space and traverse dimensions. Ace is skilled in using Ultra-Barriers for defense and attack. His main weapon is the Metallium Rays and the Ultra-Guillotines. Plus his helmet can absorb power that can recharge him fully in just seconds.

Height: 35 meters
Weight: 55.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 20
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Taro April 1973
Alter ego: Kotaro Higashi
Method of Transformation: The Ultra-Star Badge

Ultraman Taro is the sixth Ultra-Brother introduced to the Ultra-Universe (Ultraman Zoffy appeared in the last episode of Ultraman). Taro was specifically trained to be the most powerful Ultraman of all, personally trained by Ultra-Father from childhood to accomplish this. Taro wears the Ultra-Horns on his head. These are the most powerful of all energy absorbing devices. With these horns Taro can absorb as many as six Ultramen lives at once and become a Super Ultraman. In this state he can emit the universe’s most powerful ray, The Cosmo Miracle Ray. Taro also wears the Ultra-Chest protector, which can deflect back any energy projected towards him. In addition Taro wears an Ultra-Bracelet (like Ultraman Jack’s), which can become many weapons and objects Taro needs to defeat his foes. Taro’s other special powers include the Ultra-Dynamite, which can transform his whole body into a wall of flames, deadly to his enemies.

Height: 52 meters
Weight: 48.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 7
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Leo April 1974
Alter ego: Gen Otori
Method of Transformation: The Leo Ring

Leo was the first Ultra-Hero was not from M78 but was in The Lion Constellation of L77. Leo came to Earth and received training by Dan Moroboshi (Ultra-Seven) in order to protect Earth from the evil Magma invaders and their super-monsters. Leo’s individual powers include the CrossBeam and his deadly Ultra-Kick (his feet become burning energy). Later on Leo received a weapon called the Ultra-Cloak, which can be changed into many different types of weapons. Ultraman King (The ruler of M78) gave Leo this gift.

Height: 70 meter
Flying Speed: mach 8
First Television Appearance: The ULTRAMAN (animated series)
Alter ego: Choichrio Hikari
Method of Transformation: Star Beam Flasher

Ultraman Jonias is part of a group of Ultra-Beings that immigrated to another galaxy and then defends the Earth from invasions of giant kaijus. Jonias is the best fighter of his U-40 group. His best weapon of attack is the Platinum Energy Ball.

Height: 50 meters
Weight: 44.000
Flying Speed: mach 9
First Television Appearance: Ultraman 80 April, 1980
Alter ego: Takeshi Yamato
Method of Transformation: The Bridal Stick

This fighter is among the most agile Ultra-Heroes. Ultraman 80’s special powers include his own Ultra-Kick (that his feet can become burning energy). Among his various weapons are the Sacksuim Rays and the Buckle Beams; rays that spring from his diamond shaped buckle. These beams can burn anything into cinders.

Height: 60 meters
Weight: 59.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 26
First Television Appearance (released on video): Ultraman Towards the Future September 1990
Alter ego: Jack Shindo
Method of Transformation: Delta Plasma Pendent

Ultraman Great is one of the fastest and strongest of the Ultra-Brothers. He is much better in attack than at defense. His main weapons are his Magnum Shot and Burning Plasma.

Height: 55 meters
Weight: 55.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 27
First Television Appearance (released to video): Ultraman the Ultimate Hero 1995
Alter ego: Kenichi Kai
Method of Transformation: The Beta Capsule (updated version)

This Ultra Hero is better at defending himself than Ultraman Great, and is very weak in attack. His main weapons are the Ultra-Energy Balls, Small Slicer Rings and the Mega-Koshin Spacium Ray, but his “Ultra-Shove and Ultra-Push” are his best methods of fighting.

Height: 58 meters
Weight: 59.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 29
First Television Appearance: Aborted 1996 television pilot.
First Upcoming video Release: Ultraman Neos (sometime this year of 2000)
Alter ego: Genki Kagura
Method of Transformation: Estreilar

Ultraman Neos is as acrobatic as Ultraman 80 and Ultraman Zearth. And he flies the fastest of all the Ultra-Beings. His weapons include the Ultra-Light barriers and his Neos Spacium Ray. Note: any other powers are yet to be revealed in his new upcoming video series.

Height: 60 meters
Weight: 54,540 tons
Flying Speed: 19.9
First Film Appearance: Ultraman’s Wounderful World March 1996
Alter ego: Katsuto Asahi
Method of Transformation: An electric toothbrush

The second Ultra-Being not hail from outside of M78 and one of the klutzy Ultra-Heroes. Ultraman Zearth is from Z95 the Land of the Flash. He can fight extremely well due to some training he received from going to a karate school as Katsuto Asahi. His main weapons of attack are the flying drop kick and his famous Space Supula Beam. Note: Zearth had a dreaded fear of dirt and grime, however he overcame that.

Height: 53 meters
Weight: 44.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 5
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Tiga September 1996
Alter ego: Daigo
Method of Transformation: The Spark Lance

Ultraman Tiga is the last surviving of three Ultra-Beings who were stationed on Earth thousands of years ago to protect it from giant monsters. Tiga is one of the first Ultramen with the ability to change his colors of his costume to call upon powers to defeat his opponents. He can shift his powers into 3 forms. Multi Type, is his regular form (Silver, White and Purple) for his regular rays. Sky Type (purple) is used for hyper speed in either running or fighting and Power Type (all red), is used as a last resort for ultimate strength and the most powerful weapons. Later in the last episode of Ultraman Tiga: Tiga appears in a Glitter like form mode. Note: In the new movie Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey, Ultraman Tiga will be in five different mode. There will be added 3 new modes.

Height: 55 meters
Weight: 45.000 tons
Flying Speed mach 8 (flash type) mach 5 (strong type) mach 10 (miracle type)
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Dyna September 1997
Alter ego: Shin Asuka
Method of Transformation: The Red Flasher

Ultraman Dyna is another Ultra-Hero that has the power to transform into 3 different types of modes in combat. His are; Flash Type (standard mode) where he can unleash the powerful Solgent Beam, 1000-meter jump and mach 3 running speed. Strong Type, which for serious hand to hand combats against very powerful super monsters and Miracle Type. This last mode is a very strange mode. It enables Dyna to have special telekinetic powers and weapons like the Revolium Wave. Also he has a 1500-meter jump and mach 5 running.

Height: 52 meters
Weight: 46.000 tons
Flying Speed mach 15
First Television Appearance: Ultraman Gaia September, 1998
Alter ego: Gamu Takayama
Method of Transformation: The Espendler

The latest Ultra-Hero, Ultraman Gaia is the third Ultra who can transform into various forms. Gaia is excellent in hand to hand combat. As a last resort, if necessary, Ultraman Gaia can transform into Supreme Gaia to defeat his foes. In this state he can unleash his most powerful weapons, however this can deplete his energies very quickly.

Height: 52 meters
Weight: 46.000 tons
Flying Speed: mach 15
First Appearance: Ultraman Gaia
Alter ego: Fujiyama Hiroya
Method of Transformation: The Agulator

Ultraman Agul is the rival of Ultraman Gaia. Unlike Gaia who protects mankind. Agul prefers to protect the Earth itself not mankind. Agul is a very vicious fighter when it comes to this. He and Gaia from time to time came to blows because of their differences. Agul has many weapons that he doesn’t have any qualms in using to destroy his enemies. His main weapon is the Photon Crusher beam. Although enemy’s Agul and Gaia soon became friends even uniting against a terror flying seizen nearly 100’s of times their own giant sizes.

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