Tag Archives: Kinji Fukasaku

Japan Journal, Part 1: The 47 Ronin

8 Apr

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My last blog entry, covering ESCAPADE IN JAPAN, was designed to be something of a hint as to why I’d go a month without a new entry. This week I returned from four weeks in Japan, a trip I’d long been planning to take after my retirement in September 2015. I spent three weeks in Tokyo and one week in Osaka, from which I visited Kyoto and Nara. There were a number of film-related sightseeing trips during that time, although my blog entries on the trip won’t be limited to those. I have a steady stream of thoughts, impressions and photos to share and I’m finding that the effort to process and sort through everything is slow and painstaking. I packed a lot of activity into four weeks and took thousands of photos and it will take some time and numerous entries to chronicle the key events. But I wanted to start with a short account of one of the first things I did on the trip, something that was important for me to do and an early emotional high point of the trip.

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American Stars in Japanese Movies: MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978)

27 Jul

MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978) was designed as Japan’s answer to STAR WARS. It was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who’d directed THE GREEN SLIME nine years earlier (see my entry of April 22, 2012). I remember seeing it in a neighborhood theater (the Loew’s Paradise) in late 1978 and enjoying it a great deal. On a technical level it may not be as good as STAR WARS, but it certainly pleased me a lot more. I was taken with the baroque imagery created by its mix of historical styles in the design of its spacecraft, costumes, sets and spacescapes. That space-traveling sailing ship was the clincher.

I was also moved by Vic Morrow’s performance as Garuda, a world-weary ex-General who’d resigned from the Earth Federation’s military after losing his R2D2-like robot sidekick, Beba I, and getting reprimanded for making unauthorized use of a spaceship to send the deceased robot into orbit. ( It’s never clear how the first robot “died” or why he simply couldn’t be repaired. Besides, Garuda’s got another one, Beba II, all lined up to take his place.) Morrow invests his character, a disillusioned old warrior, with a level of emotional layering that we don’t often find in American characters created for Japanese films.

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American Stars in Japanese Films, Part 1: THE GREEN SLIME (1968)

22 Apr

I remember seeing the trailers for THE GREEN SLIME back in 1969 and being put off somewhat by the cheesy-looking design of the title monsters, so I didn’t make the effort to see it back then. I was a high school sophmore at the time and more interested in “serious” sci-fi, such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, PLANET OF THE APES and…BARBARELLA!  I eventually saw it on TV and kicked myself for not seeing it in a theater when I had the chance. It’s a film that’s historically important for several reasons. It was the first U.S.-Japan co-production shot in Japan with an entirely Caucasian cast and the first with more than one name actor from the west. It was the first science fiction film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would make two other significant entries in the genre, MESSAGE FROM SPACE and VIRUS, both also featuring American stars. (He’s been more famous in the past decade for his final film, BATTLE ROYALE, 2000.) The film was released in December 1968 in Japan and in May 1969 in the U.S.

I have a still from the film, scanned here, as well as screen grabs from the Warner Archive DVD, which I watched for this review.

Robert Horton, in dark blue uniform, on the far left; Luciana Paluzzi, with stethoscope, on the right, in THE GREEN SLIME

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