"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, July 16, 2015

24-Hours of Japanese Monster Movies and Me!


The monstrous event starts this Saturday at Midnight, Eastern Time!

Prepare yourselves for something monstrous on July 18th...

Shout! Factory TV has teamed up with the original monster fan magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, to bring you the Kaiju Movie Marathon! Featuring nine classic Showa-era kaiju eiga (Japanese monster movies) from Toho Studios, spotlighting Godzilla, including hand-picked episodes of Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRA Q (1966) and ULTRA SEVEN (1967), streaming live for 24 hours on July 18th (from midnight to midnight Eastern Time). Hosted by Yours Truly!

Back in March, I was approached by a creative team at Shout! Factory to see if I wanted to be involved in this project, and I couldn't say no. Not only because this would be a fantastic opportunity, but because it was a chance to become a full, red-blooded, American Horror Host, just like my childhood hero, Bob Wilkins of "Creature Features" fame (if just for one day). They forwarded a rough script and told me to "make it your own." And that's exactly what I did.

We shot all of my segments in late June and I hope that everyone will enjoy them — I tried to keep it light, have fun with the material, but also be informative, drop some little known facts, and be completely respectful to the films and the genre (why wouldn't I? I love these films). I brought along some of my favorite Bullmark figures, several original movie posters, and some "Creature Features" tributes to decorate the set (shot at Chronicle Books in San Francisco).

Director Brian Blum, Cameraman Michael Bloom, and I had a blast!

This weekend's event will stream at www.shoutfactorytvlive.com. For mobile, tablet and connected TV devices the marathon is accessible via the Pluto TV app. The marathon is also available via Pluto TV (CH 427) in the living room (Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Chromecast and Apple Airplay), on the go (apps for iOS, Android and Amazon) and at your fingertips on PCs, Macs via the web.


12:00 am — GODZILLA: The Uncut Japanese Original (1954)
01:45 am — ULTRA Q (1966)
05:15 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
08:15 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
09:00 am — RODAN (1956)
10:30 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
11:15 am — GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955)
12:45 pm — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
01:30 pm — GODZILLA VS. THE THING (1964)
05:00 pm — MONSTER ZERO (1965)
06:45 pm — GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969)
10:00 pm — Repeat: GODZILLA: The Uncut Japanese Original (1954)
11:45 pm — Repeat: GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969)
01:15 am — Repeat: TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)

Just a note on the episodes I picked for this special presentation; all of them were not picked as the best of their respective series, but as the best of the kaiju-oriented episodes of each show. So, tune in for the kaiju calamity on July 18th, and live tweet with #godzilla. Shout! Factory TV and Famous Monsters of Filmland will be giving away prizes to fans and viewers of the marathon, including a $100 gift certificate for Shout! Factory merchandize.

In the words of Bob Wilkins, remember to "Watch Horror Films... Keep America Strong!"

(Viewers outside North America can view via Channel 427 on Pluto TV.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Coming to DVD & Blu-ray on October 20, 2015!

小林正樹のノカット版『怪談』はBlu-ray とDVDに米国に来ます!

New cover art for KWAIDAN designed by Sean Freeman.

For the first time, the uncut, original three-hour version of Masaki Kobayashi's haunting anthology, KWAIDAN (1964), will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States this October 20, 2015 by Janus Films and the Criterion Collection!

From the Criterion press release: After more than a decade of sober political dramas and social-minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted.

This all-new home video release of KWAIDAN will include:

• New 2K digital restoration of director Kobayashi’s original cut
• Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince
• 1993 Kobayashi interview by director Masahiro Shinoda
• New interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara
• New piece about author Lafcadio Hearn
• Trailers
• New English subtitle translation
• An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

181 minutes

The Criterion Collection's page for KWAIDAN

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

22nd Annual Chicago Kaiju Con July 10th-12th


This year's incredible G-Fest Charity print by Chris Scalf!

Yes, it's time to return to the the Windy City, Chicago (it's really in Rosemont at the Crown Plaza O'Hare) for the annual event known as "G-Fest", the longest-running all-kaiju event in North America. I've been asked to return as a convention guest, but this year, I've been given the moniker of "Special Guest Presenter" (sure, I'll take that, thank you).

For the 22nd show, I'll be stationed at my booth in the Dealer's Room (between my pals, Bob Eggleton and Michael Cherkowski's "Vampire Robots"), and will be signing copies of the paperback edition of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" while supplies last — and yes, you can bring your pre-purchased copies (I'll deface those for free, too).

There's going to be a lot happening, especially with the guests from Japan, autograph signings, fan sessions, presentations, panels, a costume contest, vendors and more (see the convention links for details). Here's a list of my whereabouts for the weekend:

—FRIDAY JULY 10, 2015—

2:00 PM - 4:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

4:30 PM - 5:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

6:00 PM - 6:30 PM • Opening Ceremonies (Ballroom 2)

6:45 PM - 7:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

—SATURDAY JULY 11, 2015—

10:00 AM - 11:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM • “50 Years of Gamera” (Ballroom 2)

1:45 PM - 2:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM • “Monster Zero” Live!” (Ballroom 2)

5:15 PM - 7:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

—SUNDAY JULY 12, 2015—

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM • Awards Luncheon (Ballroom 1)

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

Hope to see some of you in Chicago for this year's crazy kaiju convention!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

JULY 10, 1901 - JANUARY 25, 1970


Goofing around on the set of FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON (1965).

The “Father of Japanese Special Visual Effects” was born on July 10, 1901 as Eiichi Tsuburaya in the town of Sukagawa, Fukushima. As with his life, even his date of birth is steeped in legend — official sources have often listed that Eiji Tsuburaya was born on July 7th — a date of fortune in the celebration of Tanabata (meaning “Seven Evenings”), a Japanese star festival derived from Obon (a celebration of ancestors). Tanabata is usually celebrated on July 7th or August 7th, to commemorate the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).

Tanabata originated from the Chinese Festival to Plead for Skills (Oi Xi), which came to Japan in the Heian Period (795-1192), and spread to the public during the Edo Period (1603-1867), where it was then combined with Obon traditions. From the Edo Period, girls wished for better sewing and craftsmanship skills, while boys wished for better calligraphy skills, by writing wishes on strips of tanzaku paper, which were hung on bamboo trees. This tradition is still practiced today in Japan.

Even if Eiji Tsuburaya was not born on July 7th, the myth of being born on the Tanabata certainly was apt, because Tsuburaya would become famous for his multiple artistic and practical skills, which he had in spades — and eventually, the name Tsuburaya would become world-renown with the production of GODZILLA (1954).

Order your copy of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" (Chronicle Books), today!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

JULY 5, 1943


Alas, poor Ultraman! I knew him, Officer Amagi...

At the age of five or six, ULTRAMAN came into my life through our living room television set, my life would never be the same. While I loved dinosaurs, monsters, the space age, and having already met Godzilla kith and kin, it was the weekday broadcasts of the silver and red superhero, which drove me to obsess over science fiction and fantasy films and teleseries from the land of the rising monsters.

And the actor who brought this savior from the stars to life was Satoshi "Bin" Furuya.

Born in Tokyo's upscale Azabu Ward (now a part of the Minato Ward), Furuya was picked as one of Toho Studio's 15th Annual "New Faces" (along with his ULTRAMAN co-star Masanari Nihei), after graduating from Toho's Acting School in 1960. Cast in several small or background parts, in films such as Ishiro Honda's MOTHRA (1961), he garnered his first screen credit (as "Ken") in the Jun Fukuda crime thriller, THE HOWLING JAILBREAKERS (1962).

After appearing in a number of kaiju eiga (such as GHIDRAH), Furuya's towering stature and physical proportions didn't go unnoticed by Eiji Tsuburaya, who thought the tall thesp would be a wonderful monster suit actor for the series ULTRA Q (1966). Furuya resisted, at first, but who could refuse working for Japan's visual effects wizard? He soon found himself under the wing of Haruo Nakajima, Godzilla himself. After ULTRA Q, Eiji thought that Furuya would be the perfect choice to portray the titular character of his next series: ULTRAMAN.

And the rest, as they say, is history — Furuya was the first and the best Ultraman. Shortly after the conclusion of the series, all of the young actor's efforts and suffering beneath the suffocating suit, was rewarded by Tsuburaya Productions for their next series. This time, featured — sans masks — in the main cast of ULTRA SEVEN (1967) as "Officer Amagi" of the Ultra Guard; a character who has endeared himself to a generation of Japanese fans to this very day.

But, to me, he will always be the one and only Ultraman!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

ULTRA Q & ULTRA SEVEN on Shout! Factory TV!

ストリーミング『ウルトラQ』と『ウルトラセブン』VOD !

Watch episodes of ULTRA Q online anywhere or on your TV via Roku!

Launching this past February, Shout! Factory TV is a free "premiere digital entertainment streaming service that brings timeless and contemporary cult favorites to pop culture fans," with the "highest quality video available for all titles," free-to-consumer ad supported, original videos, special bonus behind-the-scenes featurettes, and live programming (such as the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon).

Watch episodes of ULTRA SEVEN online or on your TV via Roku!

On July 1st, the service uploaded all 28-episodes of the classic 1966 kaiju-fantasy series ULTRA Q (click link to start viewing), precursor to ULTRAMAN, and 48-episodes of the 1967 sci-fi superhero series ULTRA SEVEN (click to start viewing), which followed ULTRAMAN, produced by Eiji Tsuburaya's world-renown Tsuburaya Productions, and are fully subtitled in English!

So, for any of those of you in North America who passed on picking up the either or both of these series on DVD from the Shout! Factory label — here's your chance to see both of these classic series and find out what all the fuss is about. So, tune in and kaiju out!