"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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kaiyodo’s Subterranean Monster Figure

「特撮リボルテック SERIES No.004 バラゴン」発売中!

Kaiyodo, an Osaka-based hobby purveyor, and a prominent fixture in the Garage Kit movement, has become a player in the Japanese toy industry — establishing themselves with such great lines as Revoltech (articulated super robot figures from various Anime series) — has launched a new Revoltech line of figures from live action films and television series. These include such popular franchises as Batman, Alien, Predator, Nightmare Before Christmas, and also such classics as Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts. Of course, the Sci-Fi Revoltech line also includes characters and vehicles from Toho and Daiei’s famous monster movie franchises.

The first of these I will be reviewing, courtesy of Toy Freakz, is "Sci-Fi Revoltech No. 004: Baragon" — the subterranean monster from the 1965 Toho classic FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, directed by Ishiro Honda with visual effects by helmed Eiji Tsuburaya. Like all of the entries in this new line, the smartly-designed packaging opens like a book (sealed with Velcro discs), containing an essay on the monster and the film on the inside, and on the opposite is a plastic window, revealing the figure and all of its accessories (including a RevolContainer with one RevolChip worth 10 Points — redeemable only in Japan).

Standing 4.33” high (or 7.87” long, from head to tail) this is an extremely detailed realization of Baragon (sculpted by the renown Paleoartist, Shinobu Matsumura), and comes complete and ready to display, with no interchangeable parts or add-ons necessary — but it does come with some clever accessories lifted referencing scenes from FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. First of which is one of the mountaineering cabins of the fictitious Shirane Lodge, destroyed in Baragon’s entrance scene in film, with two trees for atmosphere, and a nameplate. Then there’s the horse. A horse? Why on earth is there a horse figure (with stand) in this set? “What’s up with that?” you might ask.

What’s great about this piece is the scene that it references from the film; after the destruction of the Shirane Lodge, Baragon attacks a small farm, and destroys a stable with a horse. The doomed animal was represented by a rod puppet, which was operated from beneath the miniature set, and looked exactly like… a rod puppet. When he was asked about this questionable technique by his assistant director, Teruyoshi Nakano, and why he employ a more realistic composite shot instead, veteran visual effects director Eiji Tsuburaya answered happily, “Because this is much more fun!” It’s a wry and very clever addition to this package by Kaiyodo.

Baragon itself is very nicely jointed, with 19 points of articulation, employing 13 Revoltech joints. Other articulated parts, such as the jaws and ears, do not employ Revoltech joints, while the neck is capable of an amazing amount of full-range movement. As for the arms, while the shoulders themselves are Revoltech-jointed, the wrists aren’t. Each leg has three points of articulation — the hip, the knee, and the foot — all Revoltech-jointed. An inner rod of flexible metal, inside of a long rubber-molded tail, allows some posing of this extremity (and is attached to a Revoltech joint inside the figure). Finally, Baragon’s signature glowing horn is simulated with frosted translucent plastic.

While I usually go for vinyl figures, I have been won over; this is a cool piece, from this excellent line, and will be a great addition to anyone’s monster collection (I’m looking forward to future releases) — and for those intimidated by the usually monstrous prices of most Japanese collectibles, the comparatively low cost of Kaiyodo’s Sci-Fi Revoltech line should keep you out of the poor house. For now…

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Original Godzilla: January 1, 1929

お誕生日おめでとう ゴジラさん、中島春雄!

Studio Portrait from Godzilla Museum

Congratulations to Mr. Nakajima, still going strong, who has turned 82 this year! Mr. Godzilla will be signing autographs and speaking about his monster career during this year's Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank — April 8th-10th — don't miss your chance to meet Mr. Nakajima during this rare appearance in California!