"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 31, 2011

First Official Home Video Release In The Works

GODZILLA VS. MEGALON ©1973 Toho Co,, Ltd.

Right off of the bat, I have to begin by stating that this is not some April Fool's post. Now, after more than three decades of questionable cropped and dupey public domain copies of Jun Fukuda's ultimate kids monster movie, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973) is finally getting the deluxe, anamorphic release that it deserves, according to some sources. Sure, most serious Godzilla fans seem to revile its mere existence, because of its singular attempt at imitating the colorful, kinetic, and psychotronic Terebi Manga and Henshin Hero programs which had taken over the Japanese airwaves and seized the minds of tens of millions of viewers, at that time. Hence the faux Ultraman stand-in, Jet Jaguar. While it was a far cry from the original GODZILLA (1954), MEGALON was emblematic of trends in Japanese pop culture in the early-to-mid 1970s.

After the release of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS in 1968, Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka thought that if Godzilla were to continue, the films would be specifically made and marketed to children. Starting in 1969, with the release of Honda's GODZILLA'S REVENGE the subsequent films were issued as part of Toho's "Champion Festivals", a package of cartoons and re-edited kaiju eiga to keep kiddies occupied for hours, while their mothers shopped in peace. While it is far more polished than its predecessor, GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972), MEGALON is far more juvenile — like a kid's daydream — right in step with Tanaka's dictum. While the battlefields are sparse, and the city-destruction relegated to stock footage, there are some nice miniature effects (the destruction of the dam), with impressive photography by Yuzuru Aizawa (DESTROY ALL MONSTERS).

As for the proposed upcoming release, according to a relative of one of the people who worked on MEGALON, a licensed Special Edition is being prepped, and will be replete with special features — including an audio commentary — which are underway or being negotiated for this proposed anamorphic release for the US market. It is not known whether MEGALON will be issued on DVD and/or Blu-ray at this writing, but we have been told that the film has is being licensed by Media Blasters. The New Jersey-based label made a mark issuing a number of classic Toho Fantasy Films, including THE MYSTERIANS (1957), MATANGO (1963), and ATRAGON (1963). Previously, MEGALON was offered to Sony, when they picked up a number of Godzilla titles for release in 2004/05, but passed due to a glut of public domain releases.

In any case, will GODZILLA VS. MEGALON finally be released in all of its scrumtrulescent glory for American fans to rejoice? Toho is notorious for being difficult to work with and Media Blasters' recent stability has been in question, so let's hope that they both can come to a quick agreement and get the wheels on this running as soon as possible. Personally, I can't wait to see a visibly embarrassed Robert Dunham wearing a silky toga and silver tiara in glorious HD, and turn up the volume on legendary vocalist Masato Shimon singing "Godzilla & Jaguar, Punch! Punch! Punch!" — and let myself be transported back to 1976, when things were more simpler and sweeter for children, and Godzilla was our undefeatable King of the Monsters!

SIA Agent Arashi: Born March 31, 1936


A recent headshot of Dokumamushi from his official website.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How Can You Help the People of Japan?


Kyodo News/The Associated Press


In the aftermath of this terrible disaster, a consortium of Japanese Cinema bloggers and writers, including Chris McGee, Jon Jung, Jasper Sharp, Tom Mes, Kimberly Lindbergs, Jason Gray, Aaron Gerow, Patrick Macias, Todd Brown, Emi Ueyama, and many others, have banded together to help raise money for Tohoku Earthquake relief, by endorsing and supporting the Japan Society of New York's "Japan Society Relief Fund". Please join us in this dire time for Japan and her people — many of whom are friends, family and loved ones.

The Japan Society has created a disaster relief fund to aid victims of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Over the years, Japan Society has partnered with several Japanese and American non-profits working on the frontlines of disaster relief and recovery. 100% of your generous tax-deductible contributions will go to organization(s) that directly help victims recover from the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.


You can also contribute to the "Japan Earthquake Relief Fund" by sending your check to:

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
New York, New York 10017
Attn: Japan Earthquake Relief Fund

Please make your checks payable to Japan Society and indicate “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” on the check.

For additional information, please email japanrelief@japansociety.org.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yakuza Chronicles of Sin, Sex & Violence


From March 9th-19th at the Japan Society of New York, the Globus Film Series presents the Japanese gangster movie genre through its various avatars, transformations and contradictions, from 1960s productions featuring chivalrous kimono-clad, sword-wielding gangsters and gamblers to today's ruthless gun-toting villains dealing in debt, hustling hardcore porn and scheming and scamming in dark trades and deeds. Over the past 50 years, they've remained snarling, swaggering, tattooed and inexplicably sexy.

The violent romantic world of the yakuza (the Japanese mafia) steeped in cryptic ritual and customs involving full-body tattoos and missing digits, has long excited the imagination, decades before viewers started existing on a diet of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire melodrama, and has been one of the mainstays of the Japanese film industry since the 1960s. Harking back to the days when samurai still embodied traditionalist values of honor, selfless duty (giri) and the noble warrior spirit (ninkyo) on the silver screen, the shadowy demimonde of organized crime (which included wandering gamblers and lowly peddlers) rivaled with the noble swordsmen as the representatives of honor and heroism, in the context of a rapidly changing society trying to come to terms with a shameful defeat. In the darkness of movie theaters, they became the very picture of superhuman macho cool and reptilian menace.

In the line-up, there will be blood and broken bones, hookers and hopheads, and plenty of juicy political blackmail… in 15 films that rack up the stiffs like Jacobean tragedies and show grand visions of manly amity and betrayal: classics and lesser known titles by Kinji Fukasaku, Takashi Miike (Dead or Alive), Hideo Gosha (The Wolves), Takeshi Kitano (Outrage), Rokuro Mochizuki (A Yakuza In Love, Onibi: The Fire Within) and Sydney Pollack (The Yakuza), among other offerings you can't refuse.

My personal recommendations for this festival, lays squarely on the shoulders of the pre-1980s films, produced during the prolific Golden Age of Japanese Cinema. These include Hideo Gosha's THE WOLVES (1971), Teruo Ishii's THE WALLS OF ABASHIRI PRISON 3: LONGING FOR HOME (1965), Kiyoshi Saeki's BRUTAL TALES OF CHIVALRY (1965), Tadashi Sawashima's THEATER OF LIFE: HISHAKAKU (1963), Tai Kato's BLOOD OF REVENGE (1965), Kinji Fukasaku's COPS VS. THUGS (1975), Fukasaku's THE YAKUZA PAPERS 3: PROXY WAR (1973), Seijun Suzuki's YOUTH OF THE BEAST (1963) — even Sydney Pollack's THE YAKUZA (1975), which teams up Ken Takakura and Robert Mitchum, is a must-see!

For more information on this film series, showtimes, and how to purchase tickets, please visit the Japan Society's official page at THE HARDEST MEN IN TOWN!