"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, October 2, 2008

Monster of the Month
Drill Devil-Beast: DORILLING

ドリル魔獣ドリリング 「サンダーマスク」より

©Toyo Agency/Hiromi Productions

Height: 56 meters • Weight: 4,200 metric tonnes • Origin: Japan Alps • Original Appearance: THUNDER MASK (1972-73) Episode 9 “Bore Through the Earth!" • Design: Makiho Narita • Fabricator: Ekisu Productions

Bemking, the self-proclaimed "Ruler of the Universe," created this cybernetic colossus at his base on the surface of the Moon. Activated in the Japan Alps, Dorilling's mission is to bore massive tunnels to collapse major urban centers and plunge the human order into chaos. The monster's razor-sharp claws can smash solid rock, his drill trail can be weaponized, and his three 100,000 horse-power, head-mounted drills, can bore through five meters of solid steel in five seconds. These powerful drills can also be launched as guided missiles, which return to its housing after striking. Dorilling's deadly Nitroglycerine-spewing flame thrower, located in his mouth, can easily demolish buildings in a single strike.

Imagined by Makiho Narita, a former illustrator who worked for the "God of Manga," Osamu Tezuka, the artificially-engineered Devil-Beasts featured in THUNDER MASK are some of the weirdest and evocative creatures to ever grace Japanese television. Seriously. Produced during the peak of the "Henshin Boom" of the early 1970s, THUNDER MASK was among sixty superhero shows that aired between 1971 and 1979. This series has never been released on home video, and thus is virtually unknown outside of Japan because of the tangled web of ownership issues between the investors. It's a shame, because cool monsters like Dorilling, with his "Rocket Punch"-like drill missiles, must be seen to be believed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's time for SHOCK IT TO ME!

One of the things that made Monster Kids happy, back in the day.

It's October. My favorite month of the year—the entire 31 days are Halloween, as far as I'm concerned. I guess you know that something is wrong with you when you become visibly excited when your local variety stores have busted out the Halloween decorations... I guess that I've loved Halloween all of my life. Back when I was a wee little monster, there was a much bigger deal made about Halloween But, it seemed to lose something into adulthood. Or was it just me?

When I was growing up, kids went to school in costumes and hundreds of us went Trick-or-Treating; there were horror films and monster movies on all of the local stations and movie theaters (even more than usual in those days), and boy, did I love monster movies. I still do. Monsters were anti-social malcontents that I could live through—because they could express themselves with careless abandon and blatant disregard for societal order—it's no wonder children naturally gravitate towards them—we loved them!

During October, I would put on my own Halloween Parties in our garage, decking it out with dummies adorned with monster masks. I was also very lucky that my mother allowed me to decorate the spare room in our flat with all of the monster stuff I owned—including my collection of Famous Monsters of Filmland and The Monster Times and Aurora model kits—which also doubled as my own private screening room, where I ran those Super 8mm digests of feature films, such as THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA, all year round.

By the late 1980s, our local horror hosts vanished from the airwaves; and by the 1990s, even local movie theaters stopped booking horror movie marathons at Halloween. I guess that I lost the Halloween Spirit during that decade, and moved on to other interests—becoming a music and events producer (and also concentrated on writing about Japanese Fantasy Films). But, the spectre of "Creature Features" was always creeping in the dark recesses of my mind.

After programming "Godzillafest" in 2004—a big 50th Anniversary celebration of Japanese Monsters—I knocked around the idea of staging an all-day classic horror movie marathon in San Francisco with fellow kook, Michael Monahan (aka "Doktor Goulfinger"). While there were others doing Halloween-themed events across the Bay (most notably, Will "The Thrill" Vaharo's "Thrillville" at the Parkway Theatre in Oakland), San Francisco had nothing.

Armed with our proposal, we approached another lifelong monster kid, Bill Longen, Events Producer at the Castro Theatre. A former film editor at KTVU-2, Bill (who worked on "Creature Features" and ran "Trailers on Tape"), thought that we were nuts—and thus the SHOCK IT TO ME! Classic Horror Film Festival was born. Now, running 8mm reels for the neighborhood kids, has mutated into screening 35mm prints for everyone who loves monster movies! Four years later, Halloween seems much blighter.

So, we hope that you'll join us for SHOCK IT TO ME! on October 17th and 18th... We'll be lurking for you!