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Giant Japanese Monsters invade Hollywood!

… Well, actually just the Egyptian Theater. And only June 24th through July 2nd. But — even so — it’ll be worth making the trek to Tinsel Town to see Godzilla & pals tear up Tokyo on the big screen. Check this schedule out.

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For more than half a century, audiences around the world have been thrilled and amused by kaiju-Japan’s monster stars of the theater and television screen. The huge international success of the original GODZILLA (Gojira, 1954) spawned a neverending wave of beasts and aliens of all shapes and sizes. Last year, the American Cinematheque celebrated the King of the Monsters’ longevity with “The Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute”, a Toho-themed festival featuring 14 films and shorts (including the U.S. premiere of GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS) at the Egyptian Theatre. The festival was a big hit, so we’re doing it again this year… and this time the festivities have expanded to include more classic and rare films, additional screenings at the newly-renovated Aero Theatre, and special events for two of the most talked about genre films in recent memory-the US premiere of ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT, and a multi-day theatrical run for GODZILLA FINAL WARS!

ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT will be part of an entire day of Ultraman programming, including rare episodes, short features, and a live stage show. Tsuburaya Productions is also looking into exclusive collectibles and prizes. The Egyptian’s entire 4th of July holiday weekend is devoted to an exclusive theatrical engagement of GODZILLA FINAL WARS… six screenings over three days. At the same time, the Aero will screen a handful of kaiju favorites, including some of the top films from last year’s festival as well as some new titles. Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of the newest and best Japanese giant monster movies on the big screen with state-of-the-art projection and sound.

EGYPTIAN THEATRE, HOLLYWOOD, CA

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2005
7:30 PM-Double Feature-plus a Bonus TV Short!
GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1974) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Starring Masaaki Daimon, Kazuya Aoyama, Akihiko Hirata, Hiroshi Koizumi, Shin Kishida, and Goro Mutsu. Alien invaders attack the earth with Mechagodzilla, a cyborg monster based upon the original Godzilla. After the robotic doppelganger defeats Angilas and the real Godzilla, an architect, a reporter, and an INTERPOL agent race against time to reawaken the legendary guardian monster King Caesar. But, even if they succeed, will Caesar be strong enough to defeat the mechanical monster?

Godzilla’s 20th Anniversary movie introduced one of the King of the Monster’s greatest foes… the silver robot Mechagodzilla. Inspired by Mechani-Kong from KING KONG ESCAPES, Mechagodzilla quickly became one of Toho’s most popular creations; returning to bedevil Godzilla four more times (mostly recently in 2003’s GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS). King Caesar was based on the shisa, the legendary lion-dog guardians of Okinawa. One of the few mammalian kaiju in the Godzilla series, Caesar’s fast-moving fighting style was taken to new heights when the monster returned thirty years later in GODZILLA FINAL WARS. Director Jun Fukuda handles his final Godzilla movie in a more serious and fast pace then his previous two entries, GODZILLA VS GIGAN and GODZILLA VS MEGALON. The film also sports more violence, both human and monster, than is usually the case in the Godzilla serious… blood spurts from wounds in a fashion reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah. The vast array of weapons in Mechagodzilla’s arsenal gave Teruyoshi Nakano the chance to fill the screen with a myriad of colorful rays and explosions, and the fx director makes the most of the opportunity. (Toho, 80 min, English Dub)

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA

(Mekagojira-no Gyakushu, 1975) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Starring Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata, Katsumasa Uchida, Goro Mutsu, and Kenji Sahara. The finale of the original cycle of Godzilla films is a direct sequel to GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA. The Aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole salvage and repair Mechagodzilla and partner it with Titanosaurus, an aquatic dinosaur controlled by a disgraced scientist. Only Godzilla stands between the two monsters and the conquest of earth.

After several years working in television, original Godzilla director Ishiro Honda returned to the series, as did acclaimed composer Akira Ifukube. Working from a screenplay by Yukiko Takayama (the sole female screenwriter of the Godzilla series), Honda crafted a dark and somber tale centered on Katsura (Tomoko Ai), the beautiful daughter of the deranged Dr. Mafune (Akihiko Hirata). After being injured in a lab accident, Katsura is kept alive by mechanical parts created by the aliens, who then use her as a control unit for both Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla. Keeping with tone of the story, Nakano’s visual effects are much less colorful than in the previous film. While they vary widely in quality, the effects are quite good considering the limited budget-particularly in the design and execution of Titanosaurus, whose dinosaurian appearance was a welcome return to classic form after the recent number of more outlandish kaiju like Gigan, Hedorah, and Megalon.

For more than twenty years, the only version of TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA available on U.S. television and video is a horribly edited, pan & scan print that completely muddles the story, confusing viewers about the fates of several key characters. The print playing during the “Japanese Giant Monsters Festival” is the rarely seen uncut English language version of the film. (Toho, 83 min, English Dub)

SPECTREMAN (Supekutoraman, 1971) Banished from their homeworld, the simian spacemen Dr Gori and Karis set their sights on earth, using the planet’s pollution to create a legion of monsters to destroy mankind. Gori’s activities draw the attention of the mysterious Overlords from Nebula 71, who send their cyber-hero Spectreman to save the day.

In the early 1970s, environmental pollution had reached epidemic proportions in Japan and inspired genre efforts like GODZILLA VS HEDORAH, GAMERA VS ZIGRA, and P Productions’ television series SPECTREMAN. While produced on a miniscule budget, the series was an entertaining mix of action, comedy, social commentary, and some of the weirdest monsters ever to grace a TV screen. (25 min, English Dub)

SATURDAY, JUNE 25
5:00 PM
ULTRAMAN AND MORE: RARITIES FROM TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS! -In 1963, Toho’s renowned special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya (the genius behind such hits as GODZILLA, RODAN, and MOTHRA) established his own special effects shop, Tsuburaya Productions. Initially created to supply visual effects to Toho and other Japanese studios, Tsuburaya Pro was soon making its own original productions. The first of these was the classic television series ULTRA Q, a massive hit which led into the even more successful ULTRAMAN. ULTRAMAN launched a franchise that is still going strong to this day – the latest series, ULTRAMAN MAXX, premieres in Japan in July-and inspired a legion of similar shows like SPECTREMAN, ZONE FIGHTER, and Tsuburaya’s own MIRROR MAN and FIREMAN. The original ULTRAMAN was also quickly snapped up by United Artists, who syndicated the English dubbed version to America for nearly two decades.

2005 marks the 40th Anniversary of the first Ultra show. In celebration, Tsuburaya Productions presents, for the first time ever in the US, two hours of Ultraman-related short features and programs on the big screen. The schedule includes:

ULTRA Q (1965) Starring Kenji Sahara, Hiroko Sakura, and Yasuhiko Saijo. Reporter Yuriko Edogawa investigates strange phenomena-many of which involve aliens and giant monsters-with the aid of pilot Jun Manjome and his assistant Ippei Togawa. The Cinematheque is pleased to present the first public screening of an extremely rare English dubbed 16mm print of an episode from the show that started it all. (Tsuburaya Productions, 25 min, English Dub)

ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966) Starring Akiji Kobayashi, Susumu Kurobe, Masanari Nihei, Sandayu Dokumamushi, and Hiroko Sakurai. In times of great crisis the Science Patrol, a team sworn to protect Earth from alien invaders and giant monsters, are aided by Ultraman, a 120 foot-tall alien superhero who had merged his life force with Patrol member Hayata. Here’s a rare opportunity to see an English dubbed episode of the show that introduced Japan’s greatest hero on the big screen! In 16mm (Tsuburaya Productions, 25 min, English Dub)

MIRROR MAN (Miraman, 1971) Starring Noboyuki Ishida and Junya Usami. When alien invaders strike, Science Guard Member Kotaro Kagami switches places with his mirror dimension alter-ego, Mirror Man, to defend the earth. Early episodes of this show were directed by the legendary Ishiro Honda. (Tsuburaya Productions, 25 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

FIREMAN (Fuaiyaman, 1973) Starring Naoya Makoto, Goro Mutsu, and Shin Kishida. Scientific Attack Force officer Daisuke Misaki uses the Fire Stick to transform into a being composed of magma energy. Tsuburaya Productions started off their 10th Anniversary celebration with this series, which featured two of the stars of GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA. (Tsuburaya Productions, 25 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

EIJI TSUBURAYA DOCUMENTARY (Tsuburaya Productions, 15 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

8:00 PM- US Premiere of the Newest Ultraman Film-plus a Live Performance!
LIVE ULTRAMAN STAGE SHOW– For decades, Japanese audiences has been entertained by stage performances by stuntmen in authentic Ultraman costumes… now American fans will have a chance to see one of these shows.

US Premiere! ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT (Urutoraman, 2004) Directed by Kazuya Konaka, Special Effects by Yuichi Kikuchi. Starring Tetsuya Bessho, Ken Osumi, and Kyoko Toyami.
A UFO crashes into the Pacific Ocean, destroying a Japanese naval vessel. A week later, a Japan Self Defense Forces pilot named Maki (Tetsuya Bessho from GODZILLA AND MOTHRA: THE BATTLE FOR EARTH) has a strange encounter with another UFO. As his jet nears the mysterious object, Maki blacks out and the two collide. Incredibly, he survives unhurt but with no memory of the crash. Maki is taken into custody by the JSDF, and officials explain that the only survivor of the first UFO incident has mutated into an ever-growing reptilian monster code-named “The One”. The beast has escaped from a containment facility, so the government takes no chances with Maki, who has designated “The Next”. When The One attacks the JSDF base, Maki undergoes a startling mutation. Instead of becoming a second reptilian beast, he is transformed in a silver giant with insect-like eyes and a glowing red V-shaped mark on his chest. Is this new being friend or foe?

After a trilogy of juvenile oriented films starring ULTRAMAN COSMOS (2001-2003), Tsuburaya Pro decided to take a grittier, more mature look at Ultraman. Aided by the cooperation of the Japanese Self Defense Forces-who gave unprecedented support to the production-and an array of quality miniature, suit, and CGI visuals by effects director Yuichi Kikuchi (GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA), ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT is a fresh take on the character, bringing him out of the world of fantasy and into the real world. The film provides a great starting point for newcomers unfamiliar with the franchise, and should particularly appeal to fans of GAMERA 3 and GMK. (Tsuburaya Productions, 97 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

SUNDAY, JUNE 26
3:30 PM- FilmMingler
American Cinematheque members who purchase tickets to tonight’s program are invited to attend this free reception. Mix and mingle with fellow members, enjoy some soda, and dessert and chat about Japanese Giant Monsters with Keith Aiken (Henshin! Online, GODZILLA: THE SERIES), Steve Ryfle (Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star), Oki Miyano (Henshin! Online, Japanese Giants), and Brad Warner of Tsuburaya Productions (ULTRAMAN).

5:00 PM- Double Feature-plus a Bonus TV Short!
The two films will be preceded by another thrilling, monster-packed episode of SPECTREMAN (1971, 25 min, English Dub).

KING KONG ESCAPES (Kingu Kongu-no Gyakushu, 1967) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Rhodes Reason, Akira Takarada, Linda Miller, Mie Hama, and Hideo Amamato. The criminal mastermind Dr Who is hired by a villainous nation looking for the Element X needed to build their nuclear arsenal. Who constructs the massive Mechani-Kong to mine the rare mineral, but radiation from Element X shorts out the robot. After the real Kong is discovered on Mondo Island by a UN research team led by Carl Nelson, Dr Who kidnaps Kong and Nelson’s team. Will the evil scientist force the strongest creature on earth to dig up Element X, or will King Kong escape?

Toho’s second Kong feature had it’s origins in the American animated series KING KONG, which premiered on the ABC television network on September 10, 1966. Based on the classic film, the cartoon show was created by Rankin/Bass Productions, the studio behind such classic holiday specials as SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, and RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER. The show followed the adventures of Professor Bond and his children Susan and Bobby, who meet and befriend the legendary giant ape on tropical Mondo Island. Over the course of 26 episodes, King Kong and the Bond family encountered a variety of threats–dinosaurs, aliens, monsters, and men-including the recurring villains Dr Who and his robot Mechani-Kong.

Producers Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass approached Toho Studios, who had made the hit KING KONG VS GODZILLA, about making a live-action film of the show. Toho executive producer Tomoyuki Tanaka assigned screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa (MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS THE THING, GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER) to write the screenplay. After Rankin rejected the proposed “King Kong vs Ebirah: Operation Robinson Crusoe” because it did not contain enough elements from the KING KONG series, Tanaka brought in writer Takeshi Kimura (RODAN, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS). Working under the pen name “Kaoru Mabuchi”, Kimura’s KING KONG ESCAPES featured the cartoon show’s Mondo Island, Dr Who, Mechani-Kong, and even a lead female character named Susan. One popular addition to the story was the giant dinosaur Gorosaurus who battles Kong on Mondo Island, then returned the following year for the Godzilla classic DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. The film was released in the U.S. by Universal, who is providing a rare original I.B. Technicolor print for this screening. (Universal, 96 min, English Dub)

GODZILLA VS MEGALON (Gojira tai Megaro, 1973) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, and Robert Dunham. Following the devastation of the homeland by undersea nuclear tests, the oceanic kingdom of Seatopia declares war on the surface world. Seatopian spies steal the robot Jet Jaguar from his inventor Goro Ibuki and use it to guide their guardian monster Megalon to Japan’s cities. When Goro regains control of Jet Jaguar he orders it fly to Monster Island and retrieve Godzilla while the Seatopians call in the cyborg monster Gigan. The stage is set for a massive tag-team battle for the fate of the earth!

Released as part of Toho’s “Champion Festival” series – children’s films packaged with cartoons and short features – GODZILLA VS MEGALON has long held a mixed reputation. Many Godzilla fans loathe the silly plot, obvious low budget, and extensive use of stock footage while others look past those flaws and enjoy it as the fun kids’ movie that it is. MEGALON is a long way from the scope and grandeur of the early Toho classics, but it is very entertaining in its own way. Child actor Hiroyuki Kawase had previously starred in GODZILLA VS HEDORAH and Akira Kurosawa’s DODES’KADEN, but the real star of the picture is the grinning, size changing robot Jet Jaguar. The character (originally named Red Arone) was the winning entry in a Toho-sponsored contest for elementary school students, and was briefly considered for a spin-off television series. While Godzilla and Gigan had both appeared onscreen the year before, the monster suits were too damaged to reuse so new costumes were constructed for each, as was the case with Godzilla’s titular opponent (which was based on the Rhinoceros Beetle).

U.S. distributor Cinema Shares gave GODZILLA VS MEGALON and well-publicized theatrical release in 1976, followed by a prime-time television premiere on NBC (hosted by the late John Belushi in a Godzilla suit). After Cinema Shares folded, cropped and faded prints of the film were released on video by a plethora of p.d. labels and even lampooned on Comedy Central’s cult classic MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 before Toho reacquired the U.S. rights and made quality widescreen prints available again for television and theaters. (Toho, 80 min, English Dub)

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29
7:30 PM- Double Feature
New 35mm Print! MATANGO: ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE (Matango, 1963) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Miki Yashiro, and Hideo Amamoto. A wealthy businessman brings a group of friends– a famous singer, a writer, a professor and his student/girlfriend, plus a skipper and first mate -to take a pleasure cruise on his new yacht, but the boat is damaged a storm and washes up on an uncharted island. Exploring the deserted island, the group finds a long-abandoned ship that is covered in a strange fungus, which the ship’s journal describes as a dangerous type of mushroom called Matango. As their food supply runs out the group members begin to turn on one another and give into their desires… including their hunger for the mysterious fungi.

Based on the short story “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson, MATANGO ranks as one of Toho’s best horror tales and a personal favorite of stars Hiroshi Koizumi and Akira Kubo. The movie’s strength comes not from quick jolts or graphic violence, but in the psychological breakdown of the various characters and the slowly growing temptation that Matango represents. MATANGO was picked up for U.S. distribution by AIP, who released the film directly to television in 1965 under the exploitative-and derided-title ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE. Forty years later, this screening marks the U.S. theatrical debut of the Toho classic. (Media Blasters, 89 min, English Dub)

THE H-MAN (Bijo to Ekitai Ningen, 1958) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, and Akihiko Hirata. After her gangster boyfriend mysteriously disappears, a beautiful nightclub singer draws the attention of police, mobsters, a young scientist, and the Liquid People-strange, radioactive creatures dwelling in Tokyo’s sewer system.

Director Ishiro Honda, working from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura (RODAN, THE HUMAN VAPOR, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS), creates a more adult (by 1950s standards) film than the usual Toho monster movie. A great combination of the popular sci-fi, horror and crime genres, THE H-MAN features a bit of everything sure to please moviegoers– monsters, cops, gangsters, the stars of RODAN, a haunted ship, and musical numbers-topped off by an amazing score by composer Masaru Sato (Akira Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW and YOKIMBO). (Columbia, 79 minutes, English Dub)

FRIDAY, JULY 1- SUNDAY, JULY 3
Exclusive Los Angeles Theatrical Engagement! Six Screenings!
Friday, July 1- 7:00 PM and 9:30 PM
Saturday, July 2- 6:00 PM and 8:45 PM
Sunday, July 3- 4:00 PM and 6:45 PM
GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004) Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, Special Effects by Eiichi Asada. Starring Masahito Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Don Frye, Maki Mizuno, Kazuki Kitamura, Kane Kosugi, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Masami Nagasawa, Chihiro Otsuka, Shigeru Izumiya, Masakatsu Funaki, Masatou Ibu, Jun Kunimura, and Akira Takarada. After half a century of Godzilla films, Toho decided the time had come to give the monster an extended vacation… but he would be sent off with a bang. To craft a Godzilla film unlike any seen before, executive producer Shogo Tomiyama recruited 35 year-old director Ryuhei Kitamura, who was known for his kinetic action films and had drawn international attention for his cult hit VERSUS. Working with writers Wataru Mimura and Isao Kiriyama, Tomiyama and Kitamura crafted an “everything but the kitchen sink” tale combining elements of many of Toho’s most popular classic monster movies, Hong Kong martial arts, and American blockbusters to create GODZILLA FINAL WARS.

Years of war and nuclear tests have awakened a number of giant monsters from hibernation. To combat this threat, mankind stops their infighting and forms the Earth-Defense Force, an international military organization using mutant super soldier. Through a combination of skill and luck, the EDF is able to trap Godzilla, the most dangerous monster of all, deep in the ice of Antarctica. Decades later, the hard-fought peace is disrupted when aliens from Planet X unleash an army of monsters in attacks on cities around the world. The EDF leaps into action, but soon find themselves overwhelmed. Realizing that Xilians are unaware of Godzilla, a small band of survivors take the last remaining EDF battleship, the flying submarine Gotengo, on a desperate journey to awaken the King of the Monsters and unleash him against the kaiju army.

A longer production time and the highest budget in the series’ history allowed Kitamura’s crew to film on location in New York, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney, and Tokyo. The director also brought in musician Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) to compose the film’s soundtrack, and title designer Kyle Cooper (SEVEN, SPIDER-MAN) to create the opening credit sequence. The cast features series veterans Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, and Kenji Sahara supporting lead actors Masahito Matsuoka and Rei Kikukawa… however the standout performances come from mixed martial arts champion Don “the Predator” Frye as the Gotengo Captain Douglas Gordon, and Kazuki Kitamura as the scenery-chewing leader of the Xilians. As for the real stars of GODZILLA FINAL WARS; the film features a stunning fifteen giant monsters. In addition to Godzilla, the lineup includes Rodan, Mothra, Gigan, Angilas, Minya, Manda, King Caesar, Ebirah, Kamakiras, Kumonga, a cameo by Hedorah, the American Godzilla (rechristened Zilla), a new version of King Ghidorah called Keizer Ghidorah, and the new mysterious alien called Monster X. GODZILLA FINAL WARS had its world premiere at an invitation-only event in Hollywood on November 29, 2004. (Toho, 124 minutes, Japanese and English with English subtitles)

AERO THEATRE, SANTA MONICA, CA

FRIDAY, JULY 1
7:30 PM- Double Feature
New 35 mm. Print! EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (Gojira, Ebirah, Mosura: Nankai-no Daiketto, aka GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, 1966) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Toru Watanabe, and Akihiko Hirata. A bank robber and several young men wash ashore on tropical Letchi Island and find the secret base of a terrorist organization called the Red Bamboo that uses natives kidnapped from Mothra’s island home as slave labor. With Mothra in hibernation on Infant Island and the giant crustacean Ebirah prowling the nearby ocean depths, escape seems impossible-until the castaways discover Godzilla asleep in one of Letchi’s caves.

Originally written as OPERATION ROBINSON CRUSOE: KING KONG VS EBIRAH, a live-action adaptation of the 1966 Rankin-Bass KING KONG cartoon show, the story was reworked and Godzilla became a last-minute substitute for the famous ape. As with INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS, the human cast (led by INVASION co-stars Akira Takarada and Kumi Mizuno) carry the story, and once again deliver an entertaining adventure that would have been enjoyable even without the presence of giant monsters. EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP was released directly to television in the US as the English dubbed GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, so this is a rare opportunity to see the original Japanese version on the big screen. (Columbia, 83 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles)

New 35 mm. Print! KING KONG VS GODZILLA (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, 1962/63) Directed by Ishiro Honda, Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Starring Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Ichiro Arashima, Mie Hama, and Yu Fujiki. In 1960, legendary stop-motion artist Willis O’Brien approached producer John Beck about doing a sequel to the original KING KONG entitled “King Kong vs Frankenstein”. Beck promptly removed O’Brien from the project and pitched the idea to studios in the US and Italy before approaching Toho Studios in Japan. Recognizing that a battle with the Eighth Wonder of the World would be the perfect comeback vehicle for Godzilla, Toho replaced Kong’s opponent with their own King of the Monsters. Released as part of Toho’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, KING KONG VS GODZILLA was a massive hit, selling more than 11 million tickets in Japan and establishing Godzilla as a franchise character. Honda and screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa crafted a light-hearted satiric romp that poked fun at the commercialism running rampant in the wake of television. The cast includes an eclectic mix of genre stars, comedy actors and Toho starlets-including actress Mie Hama, who holds the unique honor of playing love interests for both King Kong and James Bond (she costarred with Sean Connery in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE).

Before selling US rights to Universal-International, Beck jettisoned most of the comedy, characterization, and Akira Ifukube’s incredible score in favor of newly-shot scenes featuring Michael Keith, James Yagi, and Harry Halcombe explaining the onscreen events and music lifted from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Despite constant rumors to the contrary, one thing not changed for the US release was the film’s ending– it is the same as in the Japanese version. (Universal, 91 minutes, English Dub)

SATURDAY, JULY 2
6:30 PM
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, 2003) Directed by Masaaki Tezuka, Special Effects by Eiichi Asada, Starring Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Katsuya Inozuka, and Hiroshi Koizumi. Professor Shinichi Chujo is visited by some old friends; Mothra’s twin priestesses, the Shobijin. They pair announce that Mechagodzilla is an affront to nature and the remains of the 1954 Godzilla must be returned to the sea. If this is done Mothra will protect Japan from Godzilla; if not, she will become an enemy of mankind. The Japanese government is reluctant to put their trust in a creature that attacked them 40 years ago-but before a decision can be reached, Godzilla returns to take matters into his own hands.

A direct sequel to both MOTHRA (1961) and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002), GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS brings an action-packed conclusion to the “Kiryu Saga”. Godzilla is animalistic and violent in this film as it attacks naval forces and battles Mechagodzilla, Mothra, and twin Mothra larvae– the giant turtle Kamoebas (from the 1970 Toho film YOG: MONSTER FROM SPACE) also makes a brief appearance as an early victim of the monster. After more than four decades, actor Hiroshi Koizumi reprises his role of Professor Chujo from in the original MOTHRA, while Yumiko Shaku has a cameo as Akane from GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA. (Toho, 91 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles)

9:00 PM
ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT (Urutoraman, 2004) Directed by Kazuya Konaka, Special Effects by Yuichi Kikuchi. Starring Tetsuya Bessho, Ken Osumi, and Kyoko Toyami. A UFO crashes into the Pacific Ocean, destroying a Japanese naval vessel. A week later, a Japan Self Defense Forces pilot named Maki (Tetsuya Bessho from GODZILLA AND MOTHRA: THE BATTLE FOR EARTH) has a strange encounter with another UFO. As his jet nears the mysterious object, Maki blacks out and the two collide. Incredibly, he survives unhurt but with no memory of the crash. Maki is taken into custody by the JSDF, and officials explain that the only survivor of the first UFO incident has mutated into an ever-growing reptilian monster code-named “The One”. The beast has escaped from a containment facility, so the government takes no chances with Maki, who has designated “The Next”. When The One attacks the JSDF base, Maki undergoes a startling mutation. Instead of becoming a second reptilian beast, he is transformed in a silver giant with insect-like eyes and a glowing red V-shaped mark on his chest. Is this new being friend or foe?

After a trilogy of juvenile oriented films starring ULTRAMAN COSMOS (2001-2003), Tsuburaya Pro decided to take a grittier, more mature look at Ultraman. Aided by the cooperation of the the Japanese Self Defense Forces-who gave unprecedented support to the production-and an array of quality miniature, suit, and CGI visuals by effects director Yuichi Kikuchi (GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA), ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT is a fresh take on the character, bringing him out of the world of fantasy and into the real world. The film provides a great starting point for newcomers unfamiliar with the franchise, and should particularly appeal to fans of GAMERA 3 and GMK. (Tsuburaya Productions, 97 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

SUNDAY, JULY 3
5:00 PM
New 35 mm. Print –LA Premiere! SON OF GODZILLA (Kaijuto-no Kessen Gojira-no Mosuko, 1967) Directed by Jun Fukuda, Special Effects by Sadamasa Arikawa. Starring Tadeo Takashima, Akira Kubo, Beverly Maeda, Akihiko Hirata, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Kenji Sahara. An accident during a UN science experiment on Solgell Island unleashes a massive radioactive storm that mutates praying mantises in giant monsters called Kamakiras (Gimantis in English). Three hungry Kamakiras uncover a long-buried Godzilla egg and attempt to get at the baby inside, but the infant’s cries for help bring Godzilla to the rescue.

The idea for SON OF GODZILLA came from producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who wanted to take the series in a new direction. The film was the second of two consecutive “Godzilla jungle island adventures” by director Jun Fukuda. Detractors often complain about the cutesy title character Minya (known as Minira in Japan) and the rather poor design of the Godzilla suit, but SON OF GODZILLA is an entertaining popcorn flick with a solid story, a strong cast, and quality visual effects by Sadamasa Arikawa under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya. The matte paintings and optical photography by Hiroshi Mukoyama, Sadao Iizuka, and Yoshiyuki Tokumasa look absolutely gorgeous on the big screen, and are matched by the incredible wire-operated marionettes manipulated by Fumio Nakadai’s team. The massive spider Kumonga (also known as Spiga) was the most complicated marionette the Toho staff had attempted up to that time. The beautiful cinematography by Akira Kurosawa’s regular camera Kazuo Yamada was filmed primarily on location in Guam. Rounding out the production is a marvelous score by Akira Kurosawa’s regular composer Masaru Sato (GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA, YOJIMBO). (Sony, 86 min, Japanese with English subtitles)

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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