Friday, September 21, 2012

Finding Bigfoot Season Premiere

Animal Planet has announced the new season of "Finding Bigfoot" will begin November 11th at 10 p.m., with a 9:00 p.m. "pre-show" leading up to the episode.

"Finding Bigfoot" routinely takes a beating in online forums for a variety of reasons, to which I say, "Who cares?" The show is fun. It is post-modern folklore. It is character-driven. The search is the point, not the result. But I digress. Having met the cast, I am pulling for them. They are great to their fans and very generous with their time. We are very much looking forward to a twenty-episode, internationally flavored Season Three. For more info on "Finding Bigfoot" go here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

G-FAN #100; It's a Monster

The one-hundredth issue of G-FAN magazine is arriving in mailboxes across North America as of this writing. It is appropriately gargantuan, with lots of special artwork for the occasion. I am especially glad that Martin Arlt (editor and publisher of Mad Scientist magazine) took up the gauntlet of a "100 Best Moments" article--can't wait to settle in and savor that one.

This issue looks to be an excellent representation of North American Godzilla fandom that falls under the G-FAN/G-FEST umbrella. My "toybox of life" is much richer for having G-FAN to explore on a quarterly basis. Kudos to J.D. Lees and every contributor for sharing their enthusiaism for this genre!

Thanks for visiting Monsterland Ohio--more G-FEST reports are on the way...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "The Godfather of G-FEST"

Akira Takarada's return made for an extra special experience.
His affection for his North American fans is genuine!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Ultra Fans"

After the kaiju kids' thread wrapped up, we headed upstairs, and happened upon Mr. Bin Furuya--Ultraman himself. Thanks to Tim Bean for loaning Andy his Beta Capsule; it makes this a priceless shot.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Good Morning, Class"

Tim Bean, collector of all things Ultra

It was not a clean break from the end of Tom Tvrdik's art session to the beginning of Tim Bean's presentation. The child artists were still very much involved in their creations when Tim and I got his DVD up and running. However, as images of vinyl delights began to appear onscreen, attention began to shift, gradually at first, and then growing in intensity over the next twenty-five minutes.

Tim shared footage of figures from Japan's Bandai Museum, which is enough to cause embarrasing salivation from kaiju collectors. But then the video presentation turned to his own gargantuan collection, and by this time, a number a kids (and their parents) had amassed near the front of the room, and began to pepper Tim with questions and comments. It became a very interactive session, and was also pretty awe-inspiring, as Tim shared not only what he collected but why.

Andy takes aim at clueless kaiju

Last up was yours truly, giving a madcap half-hour crash course entitled "Diary of a Kaiju: All of Godzilla's Films in Thirty Minutes." Using a Powerpoint presentation timed to change slides once a minute, I broke down each film's plot from a kids' perspective. In other words, my point was not to say, "This is the best Godzilla film," or "This is the worst." I just treated each film as a vaild document about Godzilla (which is really what kids do) and tried to mix in a few interesting factoids for the adults who were present. How did I do? Aaron (Dr. AC) Christensen, writing on his blog, "Horror 101 with Dr. AC," called it "an awesomely inspired whirlwind tour," which is a better assessment than I could've hoped for, and was grateful to receive.

And then, just like that, the allotted two hours were gone. The kids' thread completely exceeded my expectations in terms of participation, and the presenters--J.D., Tom, and Tim, each brought a unique perspective and activity to the table. Best of all, Andy and I both made new friends, sharing the instant bond that happens the moment you ask, "You mean, you like Godzilla, too?" (Right here I'd like to give a special G-greeting to our friend Tommy from Wisconsin--looking forward to seeing you at G-FEST 20!)

Your friendly author firing up the laptop for "Diary of a Kaiju"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Class Is In Session"

J.D. breaks down kaiju names while his "pupils" look on

It all began with a letter. An e-mail, actually. After last year's G-FEST, I thought about things that could potentially enhance the experience, and kept returning to the idea of a "kid's thread." In other words, it seemed to me that many of the panels, interviews, and other presentations, while not kid un-friendly, were maybe a little too long for young attention spans. So why not create a little thread for G-kids? That's basically the question I posed in an e-mail to J.D. Lees, the editor and publisher of G-FAN, and he surprised me by including my correspondence in the letters section of the magazine. He further surprised me with a follow up question: would I be willing to organize the type of programming I had mentioned in my message? Of course, the answer was yes, which led to the events that took place on Saturday morning of G-FEST XIX.

Andy and I had scoped out the Haneda room the night before, to make sure there was a computer projector (there was) and to check various lighting levels (which, as it turned out, we never messed with on Saturday). So the only thing I was nervous about come Saturday morning was: would anyone actually show up?

I was optimistic, mainly because J.D. had voluteered to lead a session about the origin and meaning of Japanese monster names, and he was up first. It seemed reasonable to assume that he would be able to draw a decent crowd of interested kids. He did, and by the time he got rolling, it was a standing-room-only showing. I was relieved, delighted, and interested in the topic at hand. The kids were, too, and the discussion continued right up until the scheduled stop time. It was fun and fascinating, precisely what I had hoped we could provide. And then came Tom Tvrdik.

Tom Tvrdik shares the fun of kaiju art

Tom generously provided a Far East Monsters coloring poster and markers to each participating youngster, and let them go to work. (If you've ever seen (or perhaps own) an American Greetings Godzilla ornament, that's Tom's handiwork.) One of my favorite memories about this experience is handing out the posters to each child and seeing the looks on their faces as they received them. There was definitely a buzz in the room as the kaiju kids set to coloring. What Tom was able to do, then, was offer some practical advice about coloring the poster in such a way as to produce realistic reflections and shading. Mostly, though, he let each artist unleash his or her creativity. It was a perfect complement to the informative first session. And we were only halfway done!

Friday, August 3, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "King of the Monsters"

Exactly three weeks ago, my dad and I headed on down to the Pickwick to watch "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" with the G-FEST crowd. I love the original film in both forms, and I was reminded that just two years ago the Japanese version was being screened with Mr. Takarada in attendance. Plus, with the Criterion Blu-ray release, I've been seeing a lot of this movie. Well, I'm not just drinking the Sollgel Island Pond Water when I say that "Godzilla" gets better with time and repeated viewing. Over time I have become more and more enamored of Takashi Shimura's understated Dr. Yamane, the American dub's egregious "phenomemon" notwithstanding. And then there's Godzilla, with the intensely iconic scene where he lumbers toward the trainyards, which is one of my favorite moments in the film...
and the brooding silence of the underwater climax...

...and as much as I enjoy all these things, I have to admit: it is hard to stay awake for these late night showings. There. I said it. I mean, they start at 10:30 p.m., which is really 11:30 for those living in the East, and it's the tail end of an extremely exciting day, and now with the Pickwick's new rocker seats (with cupholders), well, let's just say that I had some missing time between the Prayer for Peace and Godzilla's demise. It's still worth it to go and applaud the Toho logo and the Godzilla puppet peering over the mountain ridge with other like-minded folk. It was a very satisfying Friday.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "More Friday Fun"

Toho's Kong, courtesy of Kaiju Modeler

Dealers Room Treasures: Mini-Gomess and Gomora

Tempting treats at the Chibi Goji Toys booth

Grampy gets his first official G-FEST tee

Monday, July 30, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Greeting the Guests"

Akira Takarada and Bin Furuya take the stage

The excitement gradually builds again on Friday evening, after the first wave of Dealers Room access, opening panels and catching up with friends crashes over. It was simply a thrill to see Mr. Takarada and Mr. Furuya together on the platform; it was everything a fan could have anticipated from the moment the announcement of their visit was made. As you can see, Mr. Furuya came dressed for the occasion in his suit from Ultraseven, complete with communicator and ray pistol. How fascinating it was to consider that this was the man who brought Ultraman to life--Ultraman, who I watched daily thirty-five years ago on Detroit TV, while getting over the chicken pox. Unbelievable.

Seeing Mr. Takarada again was a real treat. Something about the repsonse he has recieved from Western fans seems to have struck a chord within him. Perhaps that's reaching a bit, but it certainly appears that he enjoys his time here, and, after all, he not only came back, but was instrumental in attracting Mr. Furuya to attend. Here is where the seemingly tireless legwork of Brett Homenick must be acknowledged. He has been able to build bridges to the men and women of Japanese film, and his rapport with the likes of Mr. Takarada is key to their being willing to come to a fan festival in Chicago, Illinois. Many thanks, Brett!

Andy with Bin Furuya, the one and only Ultraman

The above picture is one of my favorites from this year's FEST. That's not my son's practiced camera smile; that's a smile of pure fan happiness. That's a nine-year-old thinking, "I'm getting my picture taken with ULTRAMAN." And maybe, in the end, that's why I love G-FEST so much. Not only does it make my son smile like that; but I can be a nine-year-old too, with no explanations or apologies.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Andy was given a unique task on Friday. After checking in at the "G-Fans Helping G-Fans" table, our first-ever G-pal and charitable giving organizer Dave Nunes offered Andy the chance to wear the only kid's sized "G-Fans Helping G-Fans" t-shirt in existence as a way of raising awareness for the adult t-shirt raffle. As you can see, Andy happily complied. "G-Fans Helping G-Fans" is one of the the most meaningful elements of G-FEST, in which funds are raised to assist families dealing with autism (and other medical conditions). It's fun to try to win stuff, but win or lose, it is good to be part of something altruistic. I'm not sure other such conventions create an opportunity like this.

And then it was time for the Dealer's Room to open. We used our volunteers-only early entry pass to good advantage (G-FESTers, take note: there are definite benefits for volunteering!) by securing the first three autograph tickets for Sunday. We also were able to say a quick hello to our friend and Cuyahoga Kaiju Club co-founder Tom Tvrdik, as well as our pal Matt Evangelista, the Kaiju Modeler himself. The Gorosaurus you see here is his handiwork.

There's nothing that compares to the sensory overload of the G-FEST Dealers' Room. Even for those who are being careful with their cash, there is so much to look at; so much to absorb and process, that it takes multiple trips through the store to really see what you're seeing. Even then, you have to act fast, as you may come across something you will never encounter again, at least here in the U.S. We were fortunate in our first foray to snag an in-box Ultraseven pull-string figure for an extremely reasonable price. (Yes, those can be found in the Dealers' Room, for those blessed with patience and a little luck.) Friday at G-FEST is so great, because the party is just getting started!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Grampy's First G-FEST"

Between Thursday's Flicks

     G-FEST XIX was special for many reasons, but none so special as having my dad on hand all weekend. He had heard us recount the previous three G-FESTs, and finally decided to experience the fun for himself.

     His first taste began upon check-in at the hotel, as he was sporting the above GMK t-shirt. Those who were there for G-FEST noticed his wise sartorial choice, and helped him feel "in the know." Then came the double-double feature and his first exposure to the Pickwick Theater (and our first chance to enjoy the brand new rocker seats). It should also be mentioned that my mom stayed for all four movies on Thursday too--what a trooper!

Friday morning brought with it the opportunity to give Grampy his first exposure to the tokasatsu room, where dreams of making one's own daikaiju movie come true. It was pretty neat to see his eyes get wide at the scope of the production and the detail of the costumes. His verbal reaction: "I could stay here all morning." This was a very good sign.

     But I believe the deal was truly sealed when he attended Tim Price's 8mm movie-thon on Friday afternoon. Not even the lure of the opening of the Dealer's Room could pry him away from seeing 8mm versions of "Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot," "Varan the Unbelievable," "Destroy All Monsters," and more. When we met up afterwards, I could tell he was not just participating; he was into it. And it wasn't even time for the special guests to be introduced.

     Dad took me to see "Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster" and "Godzilla on Monster Island" (known as "G. vs. Mechagodzilla" and "G. vs. Gigan" today) back in the late seventies when we lived in the Detroit area; having him with me at G-FEST XIX was a "full-circle" thing that words fail to totally capture.

     And I'm happy to say that his intially cool reaction to the Dealer's Room was broken Sunday afternoon with the discovery of gashopon (capsule toys). I was starting to worry.

Monday, July 23, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Movie Marathon"

Thursday's double-double feature is always an excellent experience: one has the great fun of four monster movies in a real theater (with other monster fans), while the entire G-FEST experience is still to come.

This year's films were chosen in a new and different way. Rather than featuring Godzilla, they each represented either a predecessor or a contemporary of the Big G. The first movie to be screened was 1933's "King Kong." We watch Kong at least a couple times a year, yet this was the first time we have seen it in a movie theater, and it was impressive. Even in a crystal clear digital format, there was nothing "fakey" about the special effects. They suit--and create--the world of Skull Island and Kong perfectly. Willis O'Brian's effects were made for the silver screen, and they just work.

Kong's battle with the T. Rex is, of course, a highlight of the story for most monster fans. It is still breathtaking to behold. What stood out at this screening is that Kong's famous "flapping-his-opponent's-jaw-to-see-if-he's-really-dead" move elicited a fresh laugh from the crowd. Certainly most people watching the movie knew that was coming, and yet it is rendered in such a believable way that the viewers reacted in the moment with delight. The other thing that struck me is how Kong does truly horrible things, yet by the end, the audience sympathy is squarely on the side of the giant ape. Volumes have been written about this, so I won't rehash it here, expcept to say that it never fails--I always hate to see Kong take that limp tumble off the Empire State.

Next up was "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms." We are Ray Harryhausen nuts here, so this was another treat. "The Beast" featured some very atmospheric set pieces, especially the ice fields of Act One and the fiery roller coaster ending. Harryhausen's stop-motion work in the film is exceptionally smooth, and the scene where the Beast capsizes a ship is outstanding in the way it realistically portrays the buoyancy of the sinking vessel. The story and acting are competent, and one can see how this served as an influence on the story that would become "Godzilla."

After supper, "Gorgo" was shown, a monster movie that I have become increasingly fond of over the past couple years. What sets "Gorgo" apart for this viewer is that the acting is above average and the story, while examining themes common to the science fiction genre, plays as a parable against human greed in a satisfying way. It does so, however, while hanging on to some ambiguity; for example, one partner in bringing baby Gorgo over to London drowns his guilt in drink, while the other partner (whose greed has led to the destruction of London) risks his life to save a young boy from the monster's rampage. It's not really a redemptive act, but it's more than you would expect from this character. Again, there was a pleasant sense of surprise on the part of the audience when Mama Gorgo showed up to get her young'un, a testament to the inventive story and pacing of the film.

Finally, there was "Gammera: the Invincible." Evidently it had been a long time since I had seen this particular version of the movie, which, a la "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," inserts footage of American actors into the flow of the original film. Unlike GKOTM, however, this footage is decidedly, intentionally campy, and at this point in the day, the levity was welcome. In any form, the first Gamera movie is a great riff on the daikaiju theme, and the cool thing about being in the presence of other knowledgable G-fans was seeing the warm round of applause that was reserved for director Noriaki Yuasa's name. Mr. Yuasa was a beloved past G-FEST guest, who has since passed away (2004), but his memory was saluted at the Pickwick Theater, and his work made for a crowd-pleasing close to the day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Dr. AC is in the House"

Aaron "Dr. AC" Christensen of HorrorHound magazine was on hand for G-FEST XIX. I met him after giving my "Diary of a Kaiju: All Godzilla's Movies in 30 Minutes" presentation in the kids' thread. He's written a fantastic blog post at the link you see below. He really nails the spirit of G-FEST, and it was intriguing to get his take on things I wasn't able to see. So what are you waiting for? Click the link!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Bittersweet Beginnings"

This was our fourth G-FEST, which doesn't seem possible. This picture was taken just steps from the box office of the Pickwick Theater, the grand movie house where G-FEST movies are screened. There is always a thrill at seeing the Pickwick's distinctive facade, yet for us it is also bittersweet.

In 2008, we were literally at the entrance to the Pickwick, gearing up for our first ever G-FEST double-double feature, when we received word that my mother-in-law was in her final hours. We immediately got back in the car and drove straight to Cleveland, and were able to be with her when she passed away. When G-FEST organizer J.D. Lees found out about our situation, he was very gracious to us, which only cemented our desire to return the following year.

Standing under the marquee of the Pickwick Theater with mere minutes to go before the first feature produces a complex swirl of emotions--everything from warm memories of Mom Long to simple (if somewhat selfish) hopes that "everything works out" this year. There was one year it didn't. That's life.

This year it did. That's what you'll be reading about in the posts that lie ahead, and we're looking forward to sharing it with you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

G-FEST XIX--Kaiju U. "Our Alma Mater"

Another remarkable G-FEST has come and gone. This year's Godzilla gathering was made especially memorable for a wide variety of reasons, which we will detail in coming posts. We earned advanced degrees in fun at Kaiju University, as this photo with screen legend Akira Takarada suggests.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ready for Kaiju University

I just put the finishing touches on our G-FEST kids' presentation, "Godzilla: Diary of a Kaiju." It covers all of Godzilla's movies in thirty minutes. It will be offered on Saturday morning, part of an awesome lineup of offerings just for children.

First up at 9:00 a.m. is J.D. Lees with a session on monster names. Then at 9:30, artist extraordinaire Tom Tvrdik gives pro coloring tips (and some groovy art supplies to use). At 10:00, super-fan Tim Bean talks about Ultraman toys, and at 10:30 is "Godzilla: Diary of a Kaiju."

Whether you are a kid, or just young at heart, you'll have no problem acquiring an advanced degree in fun at G-FEST XIX. If you're there, I hope you check out the kids' thread, taking place in the Haneda room!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mythic Monsters on Display

Andy and his grandparents were stunned to discover this display awaiting them at the entrance to the "Mythic Creatures" special collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Look closely and you will see figures from Godzilla, Ultraman and Spectreman!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

G-FAN # 99: Perfect Timing

Today's mail brought the brown mailer we're always hoping for; the envelope containing the latest G-FAN.

In a neat development, the print mag scooped the website and Facebook page in reporting the Saturday night film at G-FEST, which will be "Godzilla vs. Destroyah," a movie made for the big screen.

With a month to go, this issue arrives at just the right time. Can't wait to dig into its contents!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Surprises in Columbus

A quick trip to Columbus yielded some unexpected treats today. We literally stumbled upon a Japanese specialty gift store (Hana Gifts), and with minimal effort, found two Masked Rider photo books and an Ultraman board book with removable stickers!

As if that wasn't enough, while at a nearby Half Price Books, Andy spotted a CD entitled "Howl: The Grunts and Growls of all Toho Monsters" which includes a club music track peppered with kaiju roars called "Godzilla's Coming to Town." The other 48 tracks are, as advertised, grunts, growls, and sound effects from the movies you know and love. The Gargantuas, Minya, even the Meganuron from Rodan and the monsters from "Space Amoeba" are represented.

Inspired by our good fortune, we watched  "Great Decisive Battle: Super 8 Ultra Brothers" this evening and couldn't be more hyped up for G-FEST if we wanted to be! Quite a day... 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

G-FEST Movies Announced

It's the announcement G-FEST attendees like me (more than slightly obssessive) look forward to with great excitement: the movie line-up has been announced. The films are arranged around a cool "old school" theme that is very thoughtful--and I think it will likely lead to increased attendance at the theater.

The first two movies on Thursday represent Godzilla's cinematic origins. First up is 1933's "King Kong," a movie that needs no description, yet in the context of kaiju filmography is well known to have been an inspiration to none other than Eiji Tsuburaya. That will be followed by "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," the Harryhausen stop-motion tour de force that clearly gave some shape to what would become "Godzilla." Incidentally, this is the first monster movie my dad remembers seeing, so it would be pretty special to see it with him in this setting.

The evening will feature a first look at Godzilla's rivals, a non-obvious but interesting choice in "Gorgo," which blends elements of "Godzilla," "King Kong," and "Gappa: the Triphibian Monster." Thursday is capped off by "Gammera," the only kaiju that come close to challenging Godzilla's popularity, in his first on-screen incarnation.

Friday night will see a screening of "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," a great choice given the fact of Mr. Takarada's anticipated presence, yet not a total repeat of the festitivities from two years ago. Saturday night's movie has yet to be announced.

The key word with all these films is "accessibility." They should have broad appeal and bring lots of folks out to the Pickwick. This is shaping up to be a classic G-FEST!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Finding Bigfoot" Feedback

This was a fun postscript to our "Finding Bigfoot" encounter in January. I shared a link to Monsterland Ohio on Ranae Holland's Facebook page, and her response is displayed in the above screen shot.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mad Scientist # 24

Inertia and general busyness prevented me from getting my hands on Mad Scientist # 24 until just last week. It is another strong issue (two articles in this issue were nominated for Rondo awards), highlighted by a "Smog Monster" retrospective and Martin Arlt's memories of G-TOUR II. I was also amazed at the article about the Scholastic Monster Movie book--I still have my copy (or to be more precise, it now proudly resides in my son's library).

It was also cool to see that in the letters section, someone really enjoyed the article I submitted for issue 22 about "The Legend of Boggy Creek." When you write and put things out there for the world to see, whether in print or on the internet, you always wonder how your work is being received--especially a blog of this nature, which is by nature whimsically esoteric. To know that there is another "Boggy Creek" fan out there who cared enough to write in to Mad Scientist is kind of miraculous...and pretty gratifying.

Monday, April 30, 2012

TCM Strikes Again!

Turner Classic Movies is coming through again for monster fans. In June, they will be showing the original Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra movies, along with some other treats such as "The Manster."

For a full report, posted as Sci Fi Japan, go here.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Godzilla: The Criterion Collection

The booklet cover art from the Criterion Collection's "Godzilla"

The news that the Criterion Collection would be releasing a remastered version of Godzilla (54) along with "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" was extremely satisfying, to say the least. While I was a big fan of the Classic Media DVD release, and still think it is one of the best in terms of picture quality and extra features, I was underwhelmed by Classic's Blu ray release. So the idea of Criterion "doing it right" made me very hopeful for a definitive version of this classic film on Blu ray.

Having explored most of the features of the Criterion release, it is my opinion that they have delivered on that hope. Both versions are included, and they look and sound wonderful. I'm not one to pay extremely close attention to the technical specifics, so all I can tell you is that the team at Criterion has done an excellent job tweaking the film for this particular format. In many ways it reminds me of the print that was shown at G-FEST a couple years ago, when Mr. Akira Takarada was in attendance.

The thing I enjoy the most about this release, however, is the audio commentary provided by David Kalat. He turns in two commentaries--one for each film--and they simply are two of the most engaging audio commentaries I've ever heard for any cinematic work. Since the Classic release had audio commentaries of their own, Mr. Kalat did not mine the same territory, but took his thoughts in different directions, to outstanding effect. For example, for the original Japanese film, he delves into the cultural context of Godzilla, applying the "Lucky Dragon" incident to the opening scenes in a way that makes the history come alive. His commentary on the American release gives a highly detailed account of the process through which "Godzilla" went before it was presented to Western audiences. I was fascinated to learn that at the time of its release, dubbing was only done to films that distributors thought had a chance of making a dent at the box office. Today there is a perception that dubbing equals "cheap hack job," but according to Kalat that is certainly not the case with "Godzilla."

Not only is Kalat's commentary literate and substantive from a content standpoint, but it is also delivered with polish and enthusiasm. To put it tactfully, audio commentaries do not always live up to their potential; Kalat's efforts on this release demonstrate that an excellent commentary track can not only enhance the viewing experience, but also be enjoyable on its own terms.

Other fantastic extras are included, such as interviews with Akira Takarada and Haruo Nakajima, which are very well produced and presented in high definition. A concise documentary about the "Lucky Dragon" incident is informative and well worth watching, as is the longer-form interview with composer Akira Ifukube, whose musical themes are synonomous with the character of Godzilla. There is even more included that I have yet to explore, such as featurettes on the special effects of Godzilla. Even the packaging itself is worthy of comment, with part of it folding out into a Godzilla pop-up image! I am admittedly a sucker for this kind of attention to detail--and Godzilla, in both of these incarnations, deserves it.

By its own reckoning, the Criterion Collection is "a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films." To see "Godzilla/Godzilla: King of the Monsters" regarded as such is not just exciting, but also is a vindication of sorts for those who have long thrilled to its dark, visceral vision. Moreover, it is gratifying to see names such as Honda, Tsuburaya, Ifukube, Takarada, and Shimura where they belong--among the best of world cinema.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Three Generations at G-FEST

This summer's G-FEST was already highly anticipated, with the recent announcement of stellar guests Akira Takarada and Bin Furuya. But we have learned that another special guest will be attending: my dad and Andy's grandpa.

It's only appropriate that he should come to G-FEST; after all, his dad took him to see "It Came From Beneath the Sea" when it was in the theaters. Years later my dad would take me to see "Star Wars," "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla," and "Godzilla vs. Gigan" at the movies. So now, the chance to share his first G-FEST experience with him will be pretty special. Hopefully, these next four months go fast!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Monsterland Ohio Finds Bigfoot

Face to face with the cast of "Finding Bigfoot"

In mid-January, Andy and I had an unusually unique experience: we participated in the filming of an episode of Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot" that took place less than an hour from our home. It was a remarkable day--one that we will not soon forget.

I found out about the filming session through a notice in our local newspaper that I happened to see about two weeks in advance. I kept it quiet until the day before it happened, so that Andy wouldn't get overexcited, or let his hopes get too high, lest fate intervened, and we could not go.

And that is almost what happened; the night before the taping we got one of the worst ice storms of the year--not much, but enough for the local sherriff's office to issue a Level One Snow Emergency that morning. We seriously contemplated not making the 45-minute drive, but then decided to give it a try, rather than not. It was a great decision. Once we got to the expressway, it was relatively smooth sailing, and we soon found ourselves pulling into the parking lot of Deerasic Park, a nature preserve near the entrance to Salt Fork State Park.

James "Bobo" Fay and Andy

We had given ourselves plenty of extra time to get there; so much so that we were probably the first audience members to arrive. What this meant for us soon became clear, when Ranae Holland approached us, noticed Andy's "I Believe" Salt Fork T-shirt, and generally made us feel very welcome. It was a cool precursor to the day's activities.

Within minutes, the other members of the cast trickled in, and we were able to meet and speak with Cliff Barackman and Bobo. Andy, in particular, got to spend some quality time with Cliff, as they talked about what makes for good Sasquatch habitat and places in our region where they have been sighted. Bobo was just as approachable and laid-back as he appears on camera; in fact, one thing that stood out is that the stars of FB aren't acting. They truly seem to just be themselves whether the cameras are rolling or not.

Cliff Barackman and a young bigfooter

As the crowd began to swell, we found good seats near the front and got to know some of the folks around us. I was surprised to see a couple who had appeared in the "Ohio Grassman" episode of MonsterQuest, and got to talk with them at length about their experiences. Folks brought in artwork, alleged Bigfoot casts and photos. It was a festive atmosphere. Then we started to learn some of the trade secrets of "reality television."

This episode of FB was to be a "clip show," or a "best-of," so the cast would be introducing and commenting on footage from Season Two episodes, some of which had not yet aired. If you've seen the show, then you know that one element of FB's formula is the "town hall meeting," during which people share their opinions and encounters. However, to prompt the best responses from the cast, the production crew handed out index cards with questions already printed out, and asked members of the audience to ask them as if they were their own. Our excitement reached a new level when both Andy and I were invited to participate. My question was in reference to the "Baby Bigfoot" episode, and Andy's was about the "Canadian Rockies" expedition. We did our best, and could only wonder if we would make it into the final cut.

BFRO Founder and former Ohio resident Matt Moneymaker with Andy

All told, the recording took about five hours, which was whittled down to about 20 minutes of footage once the episode summaries/previews were added. So much interesting stuff was left on the cutting room floor, including Bobo's in-depth description of a controversial Bigfoot kill and the cast's candid opinions of Todd Standing, whose Slylvanic project purports to have clear footage of Bigfoot. (Matt made it pretty clear that he thinks Standing is a charlatan.) As someone who is a public speaker by vocation, I must say that I came away from this experience very impressed by the entire cast's ability to speak extemporaneously. Even Bobo, who some might consider the least polished of the foursome, is, in his own way, a master storyteller--someone to whom you can't help but listen, and his natural humor endears him to his fans. This series benefits tremendously from the cast's success at articulating their viewpoints, whether you agree with them or not.

Ranae Holland with Andy

Once the filming was done, the cast members stayed until every last hand had been shaken. Ranae Holland had special promo cards made up especially for young fans, and Andy got the signatures of the Big Four. We shared a really nice moment with her, as our father/son connection brought to mind memories of her father, who is repsonsible for her interest in the Bigfoot phenomenon. More than anyone, I think she understood what we were doing there.

Did I mention the catered meal? We were served pizza, hot Italian subs, salad, just for showing up!

And in case you were wondering, "Finding Bigfoot: Secrets of the Search" aired February 26th, and Andy and I both appeared on screen, asking our respective questions. Thank you, "Finding Bigfoot," for the legendary memory!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Crypto-Kaiju Connection

Alleged Sasquatch foot and handprint casts

photographed at Finding Bigfoot recording near Cambridge, Ohio

It's pretty interesting when two worlds collide.

I have been a fan and highly interested devotee of both Japanese sci-fi and cryptozoology since childhood, and they recently came together again in a fascinating way.

Preeminent cryptozoologist Loren Coleman posted on his Cryptomundo blog today, reminiscing about the Toho feature "Half Human," and how it inspired him to explore the legend of the Yeti, propelling him down a path that he is still traveling. A prolific author in a variety of disciplines, Coleman's "Mysterious America" remains one of my absolute favorite books.

In his post, Coleman also references the interview he gave Brett Homenick for G-FAN magazine with regard to "Half Human" and its influence on his life's trajectory. It is gratifying to see his kind words for both Mr. Homenick and G-FAN. Could the possibility of meeting the star of this seminal film (Akira Takarada) lure Loren Coleman to G-FEST XIX this year? We'll have to wait and see. What a photo opportunity that would be!

To read Loren's Coleman's post, go here.

To see Brett Homenick's reaction to the Cryptomundo post, click here.

And yes, there is more to the story of the photo and it's caption which you see above. All will be revealed soon!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

G-FAN # 98: Memory & Anticipation

These are great times to be a Godzilla fan.

Last week, G-FEST's special guests were revealed, and my expectations were exceeded yet again. Then over the weekend we received the latest G-FAN--issue # 98--and were taken right back to our experience with last year's guests, as we were given the opportunity to spend time with them in downtown Chicago.

The joys and challenges of everyday life can sometimes produce "tunnel vision." Re-reading the article I had submitted and seeing the pictures all together brought back the unique excitement of that day in vivid detail--not that I had forgotten the events, but I had shelved them for a time. Moreover, it gave our family another chance to ask the question, "Did that really happen to us?" Knowing the answer is "Yes, it did" is like a big, happy secret that the three of us will always share--and the remembrance of that secret can transform a humdrum day into something better.

There is lots of great stuff in G-FAN # 98, including another edition of "G-FAN Junior," a concept I heartily endorse and enjoy greatly. I can't wait for the chance to sit back and savor it. These are indeed great times to be a Godzilla fan, with unprecedented access to material and unparalleled opportunities to connect with those who have created the films themselves. That there is a community of like-minded fans to share it all with is the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Big G-FEST News

The news has just been released via Facebook that this year's Guests of Honor are Mr. Akira Takarada, who delighted the fans two years ago, and Mr. Bin Furuya, the man inside the original Ultraman suit. What a titanic twosome! No one who met Mr. Takarada could forget his warmth and enthusiasm, and word is that Mr. Furuya has a similar knack for connecting with Western fans. The countdown to G-FEST begins in earnest tonight!

With Mr. Takarada at the G-FEST Awards Luncheon

Re-live the fun with us by clicking here.

Godzilla @ WDW

Late last month, we packed up and headed south for Andy's first trip to Disney World. While I knew there was a chance of spotting some kaiju-related merch at EPCOT's Japan, my hopes were not high.

I was surprised, then, to discover both S. H. Monster Arts Godzilla and Mechagodzilla for sale, along with at least four varieties of T-shirt and sweatshirt designs. The items were Disney World priced--the going rate for T-shirts was $27.50. (Yet another reason to save your change for the G-FEST dealers room.)

There was also a wide variety of Studio Ghibli souvenirs, including the first Ponyo plush we've seen in person. Once again, cute, but pricey.

Whether or not this is the closest we'll ever get to the real Japan remains to be seen. The illusion was pretty cool--well done, Imagineers!