"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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Could Toei Possess Original Korean Elements?

韓国の怪獣映画『大怪獣ヨンガリ』東映の外海配給ポスター !

Toei's international sales poster for the South Korean monster movie.

Conceived during Japan's "Monster Boom" of the mid-'60s, the South Korean production of YONGGARY, THE GIANT MONSTER (promoted as "The Great Monster Yongary") was made by the Seoul-based Keukdong Entertainment Company and directed by Kim Ki-duk in 1967, but also employed veterans of Japan's home-grown kaiju eiga, including key members of the effects staff from Daiei Motion Picture Company's Gamera films to helm the miniature effects, as well as Masao Yagi and the staff of Equis Productions to create the monster.

American International Pictures picked up the film and released it directly to Stateside television in 1969 as YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP. While it was readily assumed that YONGARY's worldwide distribution was handled by Keukdong, several sources have listed the involvement of Tokyo-based Toei Company Ltd. in connection with the film. While Toei served as an investor and broker on YONGARY, the foreign sales poster (courtesy of Akira Takiguchi) provides some proof that Toei also handled the international distribution.

All things considered, more research should be taken up to unearth as much as possible on the Japanese involvement in this South Korean imitation of the kaiju eiga, as there may be a chance that some of the film's original language elements (woefully incomplete in the Korean Film Archive) may be sleeping deep within some Tokyo film vault... Or did Toei ship everything to American International? Sure, it's not the legendary "bloodier" Japanese version of Hammer's DRACULA (1958), but doesn't YONGARY deserve some love, too?

Postscript: While the film was issued last July on R2 DVD in Japan, it was the English-dubbed version, licensed by Run Corporation through MGM as "Daikaiju Yongari." MGM contacted Toei in 2002, and were told that they had no extant materials for YONGARY. Unless Toei turned all of their materials over to AIP, perhaps they are elsewhere (such as the National Film Archive), if not discarded...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Discarded Rider of the '70s Revived for Today

幻の仮面ライダー3号が登場 !

New teaser art for the upcoming film introducing Rider No. 3!

Fans all know Kamen Rider V3 is the third cybernetic hero, created by Riders No. 1 & No. 2 in his own series in 1973, but the initial concept was very much different. Originally, KAMEN RIDER (1971-1973) would continue, with the 100th episode introducing a new Rider: No. 3! The character was to be an android conceived by the Double Riders to help combat the latest enemy organization, Ghost Shocker! Rider No. 3 only appearred in pages of the October 1972 issue of Tanoshii Yochien (Shogakukan Publishing) in the manga story, "No. 3 Rider vs. Black Shogun" (illustrated by Norihiko Ishikawa), where the character was created by Black Shogun to defeat the Double Riders.

Former pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada plays the new Black Shogun.

Ultimately, this character was scrapped and KAMEN RIDER V3 was created instead. Now, the discarded hero comes to life in Toei's upcoming feature directed by Takayuki Shibasaki, SUPERHERO WAR GRAND PRIX: KAMEN RIDER NO. 3 (Supahiro Taisen GP: Kamen Rider San-go), opening on March 21, 2015! Noting the broken manacle chains on his wrists, it seems that No. 3 may have the same origin as the '70s manga. While the Kamen Riders have traditionally mounted motorcycles, Rider No. 3 has been granted a car, to tie in with the currently-running series KAMEN RIDER DRIVE (2014) and the "Grand Prix" theme of the film.

Kamen Rider No. 3 production design. Note manacles and chains.

Meanwhile, the design and execution of the costume recalls the re-imagined titular characters featured in the theatrical films KAMEN RIDER: THE FIRST (2005) and KAMEN RIDER: THE NEXT (2007). Any direct tie-in or crossover with the previous pair of stories is unknown at present, but Toei has already produced a number of movies and series in which the "alternate realities" of the Kamen Rider Universes bleed through. Now, Kamen Rider No. 3 comes to life and becomes canon. And in spite of the wildly uneven nature of Toei's seasonal superhero movies, there's no guarantee it will be any better (or worse). Hopefully, if nothing else, the film will be entertaining.

Click to jump to the official website to see the first teaser trailer!