Category Archives: Ishirō Honda

Blu-Ray News #291: The H Man (1958) & Battle In Outer Space (1959).

Mill Creek’s been offering up some really good stuff lately, and this one’s gonna be terrific. Here’s a Blu-Ray twin bill of Toho pictures from director Ishirō Honda — The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959).

The H Man plays like a bit of a Japanese radioactive tiff on The Blob (1958), with some gangsters thrown in for good measure. Columbia cut some of the criminal element out for its US release, making it 8-9 minutes shorter than what Japanese audience saw. Still, it’s a cool movie.

The great Eiji Tsuburaya at work on Battle In Outer Space.

Battle In Outer Space, aside from the English dubbing, Columbia left alone. It’s set in the future, 1965, with Earth being attacked by the planet Natal, which is causing natural disasters and other chaos from afar. Eventually, the UN battles it out with the saucer fleet from Natal. Toho’s special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya had a real field day with this one.

Both pictures were in Eastmancolor and Tohoscope, and they should look great in high-definition. Coming in June. Boy, us grown-up monster kids are getting spoiled these days!

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Filed under 1958, 1959, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Mill Creek, Toho

Blu-Ray Review: The Return Of Ultraman (1971-72).

When the Japanese special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya passed away in 1970, his son Hajime took over the family business, Tsuburaya Productions. In what would prove to be a very smart move, he resurrected the Ultra Series with The Return Of Ultraman. (Sadly, Hajime Tsuburaya passed away in 1973.)

The Return Of Ultraman was the fourth entry in the Ultra Series, and what’s cool about this batch is that Ishirō Honda, the principal director of Toho’s Godzilla movies and other kaiju pictures, was on hand for a few episodes, including the first one, “All Monsters Attack.” Honda is the John Ford of Japanese monster movies — everyone copies what he did, but no one could come close to the master’s work. (Years later, Akira Kurosawa would coax Honda our of retirement to work on his later films, sometimes as a second unit director.)

You could probably say The Return Of Ultraman is more of the same. Which, if you like the earlier stuff, sounds like a pretty good deal. (Today, Hollywood pretty much lives on the “more of the same” approach to filmmaking.) There are some subtle differences in how our new Ultraman, a race-car driver named Hideki Go, works — and there are some alterations to the Ultraman outfit, but when it comes to Ultraman battling monsters, the Tsuburayas knew they were onto a good thing.

The Monster Attack Team (MAT) and their gorgeous 1971 Mazda Cosmo Sport.

What I found interesting about The Return Of Ultraman is that the Ishirō Honda episodes have a slightly different look and feel to them. Honda’s style, while maybe hard to describe, seems to be impossible to duplicate (whether it’s Godzilla or Ultraman, features or TV).

Mill Creek has released The Return Of Ultraman as part of their ongoing Ultraman DVD/Blu-Ray program, and like its predecessors, it looks and sounds terrific. They’re presented in Japanese with nice English subtitles (even the theme song),  they look like a million bucks, and they’re packaged with obvious care. The monster “roster” included in the booklet is a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see something like this, as goofy or juvenile as it may seem, receive stellar treatment like this. For fans of this sort of thing, this is highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1971, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek

Making Movies: King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).

I absolutely love behind the scenes photos from Toho’s kaiju movies. Here’s a batch from King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).

Eiji Tsuburaya was the special effects genius on the early movies. Here he is with the picture’s leads.

Godzilla, Kong and Tsuburaya on the Mount Fuji set.

King Kong floats above the studio. Next, Godzilla and Kong among various bits of rubble.

Haruo Nakajima played Godzilla and Shoichi Hirose portrayed King Kong. Of course, the picture was directed by Ishirō Honda.

The US Blu-Ray of King Kong Vs. Godzilla is lovely, by the way.

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Filed under 1962, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Making Movies, Toho, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #248: Godzilla – The Showa-Era Films (1954-1975).

If I had a nickel for every minute I stared at this FM cover as kid…

For their 1000th release (or spine number), The Criterion Collection has gone very big with a great big giant box of Godzilla movies. Not those new things — no thank you — but the real ones.

Of course, this being a Criterion release, you can count on each of these the films — all 15 Godzilla movies released from 1954 to 1975 — shining like a jewel. And naturally, there will be tons of extras, from alternate versions to commentaries to documentaries and trailers and so on. Does my heart good to know the work of Mr. Honda and Mr. Tsuburaya will get the level of respect these folks will give it.

The films are:
Godzilla (1954)
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1963, 2.35 AR)
Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964, 2.35 AR)
Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964 2.35 AR)
Invasion Of Astro-Monster (1965, 2.35 AR)
Son Of Godzilla (1967, 2.35 AR)

Destroy All Monsters (1968, 2.35 AR)
All Monsters Attack (1969, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Ss. Hedorah (1971, AKA Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, 2.35 AR)

Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974, 2.35 AR)
Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975, 2.35 AR)

I absolutely love some of these movies. One of them I hate with a passion. Son Of Godzilla is criminally lame, and at 10, I considered it the worst movie I’d ever seen (that was before The Witches Of Eastwick). The very thought of making my way through this thing (yes, even Son Of Godzilla)  makes me happy.

Stomping its way to TVs everywhere in October. Make sure yours is one of them.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, AIP, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Toho

Blu-Ray News #234: Mothra (1961).

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Starring Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyôko Kagawa, Yûmi Itô, Emi Itô, Ken Uehara

Mill Creek has announced a Blu-Ray of Mothra (1961) in one of those spiffy-looking steel cases, seen above, with extras like a commentary and still gallery. Mothra‘s a picture with really gorgeous Technicolor, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in high-definition. A digital showing at a local theater a couple years ago was really something to see. Coming in July.

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Filed under 1961, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek, Toho

Blu-Ray News #193: Battle In Outer Space (1959).

Directed by Ishirō Honda
Starring Ryo Ikebe, Koreya Senda, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Sonny has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release — at end end of this month — of Toho’s 1959 sci-fi picture Battle In Outer Space.

Eiji Tsuburaya at work on Battle In Outer Space.

This Technicolor and Tohoscope bit of dead-serious nonsense, which takes place in 1965, looks great on DVD in the Icons Of Sci-Fi collection from Sony. I’m sure it’ll be a real stunner on Blu-Ray.

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Filed under 1959, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ishirō Honda, Toho

Screening: Frankenstein Conquers The World (1966) And War Of The Gargantuas (1970).

Directed by Ishirô Honda
Starring Nick Adams, Tadao Takashima, Kumi Mizuno, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Directed by Ishirô Honda
Starring Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Nobuo Nakamura

Boy, I’d love to make it to this. The New Beverly has Toho’s Frankenstein Conquers The World (1966) paired with its sequel War Of The Gargantuas (1970) this Friday and Saturday.

The alterations to the US versions remove any indication that the two films are related. My best friend and I saw Gargantuas at a Saturday matinee many years ago and loved it. It remains one of my favorite of the Kaiju movies.

Tim Lucas has written a great piece on these films for The New Beverly’s blog.

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Filed under 1966, 1970, AIP, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Screenings, Toho