Tag Archives: Kenji Sahara

Rodan (1956, Honda Ishirô)

The end of Rodan makes the monster’s death tragic—there are two Rodans (giant pterosaurs) and one commits suicide after its mate dies in volcano fumes. Even more tragic is the Japanese defense force hounded these big dumb birds until they intentionally attacked populated areas and those volcanic fumes? The defense force, advised by a rather not smart scientist (Toho regular Hirata Akihiko in a terrible performance), also caused that volcano eruption by firing rockets at it to cause a cave-in. They were warned by environmentalists and humanists, but why listen to them?

It’s unclear why the audience is supposed to be sympathetic towards the creatures at the end… maybe because their painful deaths make a girl cry.

The first half of the film doesn’t even have the Rodans (either of them). It’s about a mining village discovering these gigantic, man-eating caterpillars. That part of the film—led by Sahara Kenji and Shirakawa Yumi as possibly star-crossed lovers—works. Both actors make up for lack of ability with their appeal and it’s sort of interesting.

Then the giant monster—initially in unrelated sequences—shows up and Hirata and a variety of actors playing military men take over and Rodan plummets.

There are some good miniature effects and some bad ones. If Honda had shot the film in black and white, it probably would have been fantastic. The colors just don’t work with his composition here.

Excellent sound design.

Rodan starts inoffensively enough, then drags on and on.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; screenplay by Kimura Takeshi and Murata Takeo, based on a story by Kuronuma Ken; director of photography, Ashida Isamu; edited by Iwashita Kôichi; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Tatsuo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Sahara Kenji (Kawamura Shigeru), Shirakawa Yumi (Kiyo), Hirata Akihiko (Professor Kashiwagi Kyuichiro), Kobori Akio (Police Chief Nishimura), Yamada Minosuke (Colliery Chief Osaki) and Tajima Yoshifumi (Izeki).


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Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994, Yamashita Kensho)

To say Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla has it all is an understatement. It has more than that. It has dirt bikes, black holes, a “Muppet Babies” version of Godzilla, a superwoman, walks on the beach at sunset, and, apparently, the first butt shot in a Godzilla movie. It’s a wacky mess, proving having no story is sometimes a good thing. The 1990s Godzilla series was so dependent on continuity, at one point during the film, I thought Joss Whedon wrote it. Space Godzilla has a bunch of little details, but the thing moves at such a fast pace, they’re not used for any reason other than storytelling brevity.

I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a comedy. While the writer did go on to do other Godzilla movies, the director only did this one, which probably means Toho wasn’t happy with his performance. How could they be? He’s created a perfect Godzilla movie. It ends with a U.N. anti-Godzilla military guy opining, “Godzilla’s not that bad, is he?” After he’s just destroyed a city–of course, so has the Japanese anti-Godzilla military guy, in a giant robot (from these films, I’ve learned the Japanese solve all their problems with giant robots)–during a pointless fight with Space Godzilla. Maybe the lack of purpose–the film flip-flops between being about the telepathic control of Godzilla and the Space Godzilla’s origins in a black hole–is what makes Space Godzilla so good. It’s a bunch of scenes strung together, some of them really big–there’s some great matte shots in Space Godzilla, probably the most impressive in any Godzilla movie–all connected through the five main characters. Oh, I forgot–in my list up above–there’s a mad scientist too. Dirt bikes, black holes, and a mad scientist. Not much else offers you those three items.

There’s also the “Muppet Babies” Godzilla, which is cute and totally absurd. But really, it’s the cast. At one point, I got thinking about Yoshikawa Towako’s performance–when she’s standing around talking about mind-controlling Godzilla–she’s actually taking this absurd acting job seriously and making it all believable. All the other principals, Hashizume Jun, Yoneyama Zenkichi, and Odaka Megumi are good. Very likable, people you want to spend an hour and a half with. The best is Emoto Akira, playing a soldier obsessed with killing Godzilla. The film treats him as a goof-ball, running around on foot trying to catch the monster. It’s hilarious.

Technically, I already mentioned the sometimes great composites (usually when there’s no urban destruction involved). There’s also a really good score in Space Godzilla, something akin to a 1970s John Williams disaster score (except the two scenes I’m convinced are homage to From Here to Eternity). The most impressive thing about Space Godzilla, besides its approach to storytelling, is its sound design. The final fight scene has little weight, since no one’s really fighting for anything (the earlier fight, when Space Godzilla is trying to beat up Little Godzilla, is much more effective), but the sound design is amazing. Some great editing in the last fight scene too.

Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla is a big dumb mess and it appreciates and understands it’s a big dumb mess and does everything it can with that condition. It’s constantly delightful.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Yamashita Kensho; written by Kashiwabara Hiroshi; director of photography, Kishimoto Masahiro; music by Hattori Takayuki; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki and Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Hashizume Jun (Shinjo Koji), Yoneyama Zenkichi (Sato Kiyoshi), Emoto Akira (Major Yuki), Yoshikawa Towako (Dr. Gondo), Saitô Yôsuke (Dr. Okubo), Sahara Kenji (Minister Segawa), Nakao Akira (Commander Aso) and Ueda Kôichi (Deputy Commander Hyodo).


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King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962, Honda Ishirô)

I thought movies about giant monsters fighting were supposed to be exciting, but apparently not. I haven’t seen King Kong vs. Godzilla in maybe fifteen years and now, this time, I watched the original Japanese version. Frighteningly, it’s only seven minutes longer, so I imagine the Americanized version is boring too. The main problem with the film is its stupidity. It’s supposed to be a comedy, except Honda Ishiro’s direction doesn’t take humor into account. Honda’s direction doesn’t take a lot of things into account–like coverage or shot continuity, but whatever. He visibly doesn’t know how to shoot for 2.35:1 here, filling the middle of the frame with action; the film is VHS safe twenty-five years before anyone else was worried about it.

To compensate, there’s a lot of stuff with the lame people in the story. A pharmaceutical company captures King Kong to be their corporate mascot and there’s all these people who run around–with high level military access apparently–and they’re mostly useless. The boss, who’s doing a Groucho Marx impression, is mildly amusing, but the lead is real broad. The romantic male lead (interested in the lead’s sister), played by Sahara Kenji is actually all right. So is Hirata Akihiko (who died in the original Godzilla, playing a different scientist). He’s actually the funniest, walking around, spouting off useless commentary. The scenes where people bet on the outcome of the fight are lame.

I couldn’t tell what was wrong with the movie until I realized no one got hurt. Both King Kong and Godzilla destroy trains, but there are no victims. They destroy houses, they stomp things… no one gets hurt. The tone isn’t light, it’s stupid.

Another technical problems involve the music–it’s terrible, especially when Honda fills the running time with montages of Godzilla trap preparation–and the sound design. The sound design’s just incompetent.

No movie called King Kong vs. Godzilla was going to be good, but there’s usually something amusing about Godzilla movies (from my cursory reading, it seems like the dubbed, Americanized version might be a cleaner cut). Honda’s repeated failures throughout really make the original Godzilla even more of an achievement (and shock).

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shinichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Kaneko Reiko; music by Ifukube Akira; production designers, Abe Teruaki and Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takashima Tadao (Osamu), Sahara Kenji (Kazuo), Fujiki Yu (Kinsaburo), Arishima Ichiro (Tako), Tazaki Jun (General Shinzo), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Shigezawa), Hama Mie (Fumiko), Wakabayashi Akiko (Tamiye), Negishi Akemi (Dancing Girl) and Omura Senkichi (Konno).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | GODZILLA, PART ONE: SHOWA.