"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tribute to Eiji Tsuburaya in San Francisco

On March 20th, in celebration of the release of my book, EIJI TSUBURAYA: MASTER OF MONSTERS, San Francisco's Clay Theater will proudly present a spectacular Tohoscope double feature dedicated to the legendary director of visual effects (known in Japan as the "Tokusatsu-no Kamisama"). The event will feature beautiful 35mm scope prints of Ishiro Honda's MOTHRA (1961) and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959) for one night only — courtesy of Sony Repertory — where they belong, on the big screen!

The Clay will be screening the uncut Japanese-language version of MOTHRA, featuring scenes edited from the original U.S. release in 1962, and fully subtitled in English. The spectacle that is MOTHRA is one of my personal favorite of all of Toho's fantasy films from the Golden Era, and was a big hit on both sides of the Pacific: New York Times film critic, A.H. Weiler said, "There's that color, as pretty as can be, that now and then smites the eye with some genuinely artistic panoramas and décor designs... Fantastic though the plot may be, there are some genuinely penetrating moments, such as the contrast of the approaching terror and those patient, silvery-voiced little 'dolls,' serenely awaiting rescue. Several of the special effects shots are brilliant, such as the sight of a giant cocoon nestling against a large city's power station tower."

Meanwhile, BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE will be the English-language version produced and released by Columbia Pictures in 1960. A sequel to THE MYSTERIANS (1957), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE is generally derided as a lesser film by some fans, but I find it more dramatically and technically accomplished than the former — the stakes are much higher, the destruction is world-wide, and the final confrontation above the Earth was the first of its kind (18 years before STAR WARS). New York Times film critic, Howard Thompson said, "Some of the artwork is downright nifty, especially in the middle portion, when an earth rocket soars to the moon to destroy the palpitating missile base... The Japanese have opened a most amusing and beguiling bag of technical tricks, as death-dealing saucers whiz through the stratosphere like fireflies... the lunar landscape is just as pretty as it can be."

For the evening performance, I will be on hand to introduce both features and sign copies of my book during the intermission (courtesy Super 7, who will be also selling related merchandise). For more information on this event, and how to order tickets, please click here: TOHO DOUBLE FEATURE @ Landmark After Dark.


Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

I was lucky enough to see a screening of the English dub of Mothra on the big screen during college (c. 1984) and it's truly spectacular when seen as intended. It's my favorite of the Showa-era Toho films and has a timeless quality not found in any of the other entries.

You're going to plotz when it see it large!

August Ragone said...

Yes, I've seen MOTHRA several times on the Big Screen, both here and Japan, and it is truly a visual spectacle - underscored by Yuji Koseki's operatic music.

The print we are screening is from Sony Repertory is the original Japanese version with English subtitles and it is simply breathtaking — we screened it as part of Godzillafest at the Castro Theater in 2004, and it was just a stunning print.

Can't wait to see it again — and I hope that as many people as possible catch this opportunity to see it at the Clay in a couple of weeks!

Executive Koala said...

I wish I could go to San Fransisco! I enjoyed your book about Tsuburaya a lot! Great work!

August Ragone said...

Thanks for the kind words, they're very much appreciated. We're trying to work out book signings beyond California. So, we'll try to get out to the midwest, south and east coast. Already got an offer to come out to Austin, TX — perhaps an event at the Alamo Drafthouse?

Anonymous said...

I dropped a note over at Henshin!Online - not sure if you got it.

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this program, and praise you (a fromer film presenter to another) for your intro - it set the mood really well. Kudoes!

August Ragone said...

Thanks for the thanks! Unfortunately, Henshin! Online has come to an end, so I started this blog to continue in its place.