Last time I decided to write about a samurai film, it was Kinji Fukasaku’s SATOMI HAKKEN DEN. Now, I come to you with a much more forgotten film (here in America at least , a film which though forgotten has yet to loose it’s beauty and such. That film is TEN TO CHI TO, better known by it’s international title, HEAVEN AND EARTH (1990). This is another film which I love very much, both for the visuals and the feeling you get while watching the film.
HEAVEN AND EARTH is a film which is about something that is very popular subject matter in Japan (popular enough that it is also the subject matter of Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 venture, KAGEMUSHA), the Sengoku period of Japanese history with the battles of it’s two most popular rivals - Kagetora and Takeda. However, unlike KAGEMUSHA, the central plot isn’t about Takeda’s need for a double. It is rather Kagetora’s corruption and love life.
Distributed by Kadokawa, the film was written and directed by Haruki Kadokawa. With his direction, it is obvious that he is well versed in the Shinto ways (Haruki was known to have his own Shinto shrine where he would conduct his own ceremonies). With this, the art direction and look of the film is very beautiful. Many scenes seem to associate the feeling of the scene with the element most shown in the scene. Rain, fog, cherry blossom petals, and waterfalls are all keys to this. Even parts showing the seasons changing (for the purpose of acknowledging the change) help this. Not to mention photography of the actors against mountains. Great cinematography. The secret is in the establishing shots.
The film’s main plot revolves around Kagetora's corruption and love life. Many old expressive nuances are used in the film, like the use of the device known as the moustache that grows over the course of the film to comment on his acts of cruelty - some which get to the viewer. Such an act is when he (though he hesistates) kills a traitor's wife and son. Though it should be noted that a revelation of the difference between American and Japanese cinematic techniques comes out. During the scene, Kagetora shows restraint on his face with his college asking him why he hesitates. While an American director would close in on the respective character’s faces, Kadokawa decides to do things the Kurosawa way and keep the shot so that not only is the camera still, but we have both Kagetora and his college in the same frame. Really takes a keen eye to notice not only the difference in the filming techniques, but to also notice the respective actor’s performances in scenes shot such as this.
Like some of the Kadokawa company’s other films, Haruki decided to push the limits of his productions. So, at the time, HEAVEN AND EARTH became the most expensive Japanese film, budgeted at five billion yen ($50,000,000 in today’s US dollars). The film would be shot in two places: Japan for the drama scenes (filming in Hokkaido, Nara, and Tokyo) and Canada for the recreation of battle scenes. Originally, award winning actor Ken Watanabe (to later gain popularity with another landmark samurai film - THE LAST SAMURAI) was to play Kagetora, who would be ultimately played by Takaaki Enoki. The reason for this was because of Watanabe’s last minute acute myelocytic leukemia.
In Canada (more specifically, in and around Alberta), the full crew included 80 wranglers, 95 Assistant Directors, seven full camera crews (two Japanese; five American), 40 tons of wardrobe, 3000 extras, and 800 horses with riders. This was not without it’s setbacks. Canada’s Ministry of Transportation had rules regarding the use of the Trans Canada Highways. So, the total of 115 buses that would transport the cast and crew would time the buss’ departure from Calgary, Canada for every 90 seconds at different points to help avoid a crowing problem on the highway. The only real accident which would happen on set would be the loss of a thumb belonging to a Japanese wrangler who loss it due to rope attached to a horse. The thumb was saved though.
Once on the plains, it took on average 25-30 minutes to get the 3000 extras into their costume for the film. The costume for the film would be cause for many a complaint for historical accuracy enthusiasts. Such is the use of Mempo Masks - used to hide the faces of the large amount of Caucasian Canadian extras playing samurai and the use of armored sleeves on only the right arm which was done to help with the use of the Japanese long bow, which was asymmetrical. The horses that the riders would ride though were not professionally trained horses. Instead, they bought regular horses to train, which helped save money after the feed budget for the horses started going over the $1,000,000 mark. Rather, they were trained for four months. Afterwards, the horses were auctioned off, making back more money than what the horses were bought for originally.
When it came to the distribution of the film, Kadokawa had again returned to one of the most common (at the time) methods for assured profit for a film: the use of advanced tickets. Due to a previous film that Kadokawa had part in, THE INUGAMI FAIMLY, he was by contract obligated to Toho to sell the large amount of 50,000 advanced tickets. Some people have noted their shock at the audacity at this move. This is because some of what Kadokawa was doing came fairly close from breaking fair trade laws. A member of Kadokawa published has gone on record mentioning, "workers were simply given books of tickets and the cost deducted from their pay - all without their consent." The film would go on to be (as of 2009) Japan’s 31st highest grossing film of all time, grossing 9.1 billion yen. The film was even more popular once future Japanese pop music legend Tetsuya Komuro composed the soundtrack and theme song for the film (aptly titled "Heaven and Earth", some of the music from the single would be used in Takeda and Kagetora’s final battle, minus the lyrics or main chorus section). Since then, it has been released on DVD in two forms: theatrical and a director’s cut which restores over 20 minutes of footage.
In America, the film was released in the usual art house circuit. The American version would have subtitles printed into the film itself with a little intro. To give the film an English speaking voice, character actor Stuart Whitman narrated the film. The film would go on to make $307,775 at the box office. A VHS costing $80 initially would be released by Live Video, who would also retain the television rights, showing the film on the Shotime channels on a regular basis some time ago. It would be host to some high quality boot leg variations that could be found over ebay.
HEAVEN AND EARTH has become one of the legends of Nippon Eiga history. Being somewhat of a success story when it comes to the film as a product, the film as a film is though simplistic is beautifully shot with a nice love story sub-plot and the exhibiting of Kagetora’s downfall into darkness to achieve his goal of protecting Echigo during the warring states period. A beautiful film indeed. Recommended, and it is also recommended to watch the version that occasionally comes on Shotime rather than buy the VHS tape for sake of picture quality.
COMPARISON TO KAGEMUSHA
There is a need to compare this film with Akira Kurosawa’s KAGEMUSHA - just for the study of the activity in which both films are based on. The biggest difference when approaching the films as large scale recreations of the event, we notice that unlike Kadokawa - who kept his armies color coded to blacks and reds - Kurosawa decidedly used more color variety with his soldiers, to make what one author referred to as, "oil paints running together". However, the battles themselves in their content are also different. Kurosawa does allow bloodshed in his film making some to claim that his film is more honest when it comes to depicting war, Kadokawa’s film is almost gore-less.
echoing across a thousand days in the ear
you are far away fog closed spring
it is my dream from this River ritai
you belive in love, beloved
surely meet daily over past
the evening even belive in love
vanishes life over to meet someday
heaven and earth forever
there will be always
heaven and earth forever
until then surely meet reborn
you belive in love, beloved
surely meet daily over past
Composer: Ko Otani
Record Label: Toho Music
Running time: 75:48Discs: 1
Reviewed By: Matti K.
The second disc in the sixth Godzilla soundtrack box contains the soundtrack of GMK, composed by Ko Otani, who previously worked with Shusuke Kaneko on the Heisei Gamera trilogy. This score is not quite as good as his work on the aforementioned trilogy, but it is really entertaining nonetheless.
The fact that Otani utilizes a lot of synthesizer effects in his music may turn some people off. However, a lot of fans have shown appreciation for this score. Otani has created a number of memorable themes for the movie, and that does lead to some repetition, although not to an irritating amount of it. The new theme for Godzilla is really foreboding. The tracks "Main Title", "The God of Destruction Appear", and "A Desperate Crisis" are among the ones where the theme gets the most effective use. The second primary theme is the one of King Ghidorah, which is usually accompanied by an eerie male chorus, especially in "The Sleeping Three Headed Dragon". Mothra also gets her own short theme motif, which is actually a new variation of her original song, as you often hear, "Mosura ya, Mosura ya" being sung. Otani has composed a new military march too, which seems to be a tradition for him as he created a different military march for each of the Heisei Gamera movies. The final new theme is usually referred to as the track it’s used the most in: "Determined to Protect the Future". This theme is really beautiful, and the track itself is one of the highlights of the score. Other brilliant cues are "Confrontation of the Two Giant Monsters", "God of Sky: King Ghidorah" and "Godzilla’s Rage", which are among my favorites. Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla theme and "Great Monster War March" are used in the "End Roll".
Now, the disc is quite a big improvement over the previous release of this soundtrack. The entire score is finally available for the first time on CD. All the cues that weren’t previously included are here. The bonus tracks are also brand new. Most of them are edits of certain cues as they’re usually heard in the final movie. The first edited version of "God of Sky" King Ghidorah" (track 46) is perhaps the most significant of these, as the middle section uses the Godzilla theme instead of the Ghidorah theme, like the original version does. Unfortunately, the quality of these tracks isn’t the best, as the volume level goes up and down constantly in most of them, when is most likely because the tracks were pulled from a 5.1 channel film source according to the booklet. The last three bonus tracks are demos from Otani. They’re all interesting to listen to. Two of them contain early versions of Otani’s themes for Godzilla and Ghidorah, and he even uses a bit of Ifukube’s Godzilla march in the third demo.
The booklet as a pretty "frightening" picture of Godzilla’s face on the front cover, if I may say so myself, and pictures of Chiharyu Niyama, Kaho Minami, and Ai and Aki Maeda. Aside from the usual track notes and other stuff, there’s also a profile of Ko Otani and an interview with him.
In the end, the GMK disc is one of the primary reasons to get the sixth box. It doesn’t contain the separate Ifukube tracks and the sound effects that were included on the previous CD release, those can be found on other discs. The complete score and new bonus tracks really make this one a winner.
Further pictures of the GMK CD can be viewed by:
The basis for the television series would be the MM9 stories by science fiction writer Hiroshi Yamamoto. The stories were originally published like manga in separate issues of Tokyo Sogensha’s magazine "Mysteries!", published in a circuit of 2005-2006. A year later, the stories were compiled into one complete book. The story that the book series tells is one of Ultraman-like style - kaiju are part of everyday Japanese life, usually shrugged off as a usual natural disaster. To combat the kaiju are the Science Patrol-like Kitokutai section of the Japan Meteorological Agency use their smarts to do battle with the daikaiju threat.
Clues of this television series’ production were hinted at back on April first when a picture which was said to be part of a production called XX9, which was later said to be a joke. However, it was a hint at this series. Now, the series has been officially said to be premiering on July 7, 2010 on MBS and will start releasing episodes on a weekly basis.
Writing for the show is Kazunori Ito, who at 56 is not only a veteran science fiction writer himself, but also was one of Higuchi’s colleges on the Heisei Gamera series. Doing directorial duties is Kiyotaka Taguchi, another past college of Higuchi on GEHARHA and also directed the popular independent film G. Another director will be Tomoyuki Furumaya, a 3 time award winning director who’s most current work was writing and directing the 2010 film BUSHIDO 16. Another director mentioned was Ataru Oikawa, known for works such as "Tomie" which was given a nod to in the two recent Ju-On films, showing his status in Japanese cinematic culture.
The cast will consist of 17 year old award winning actress Anna Ishibashi and 28 year old Machiko Ono, playing the characters Sakura Fujisawa (the rookie) and Mochizuki (person responsible for Sakura’s training) respectively. Also in with the cast is Issei Takahashi (KILL BILL VOL. 1, ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY, DETROIT METAL CITY), Yasuhi Nakamura (JU-ON 2, ONE MISSED CALL), Satoru Matsuo, Sarutoki Minagawa (KAMEN RIDER 555, OTAKUS IN LOVE), Takako Kato, and Yutaka Matsushige (GODZILLA 2000: MILLENIUM, RINGU, RASEN, PRINCESS BLADE, ONE MISSED CALL, K20: FIEND WITH 20 FACES).
Seems to be a good production with some good talent. Can’t wait!
Title: Akira Ifukube Recording Archives
Length: 62 Minutes
Company: Toho Music
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Audio: Japanese 2.0
This is the bonus DVD that was given as a free extra with the sixth and final 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection box to all the lucky ones who had bought all five boxes before. The DVD contains four features, each a different recording of Akira Ifukube’s music.
The first feature, which runs approximately 19 minutes, is a recording of the very first performance of Ifukube’s Symphonic Fantasia, which consists of three suites made from his kaiju/tokusatsu music. The feature starts out quite interestingly. We see the late Akihito Hirata, who acts like the host of the show, reenacting some of his famous lines as Dr. Serizawa from the original GODZILLA. He even wears a lab coat and an eye patch. After taking them off, Hirata basically introduced the event. Then Tomoyuki Tanaka, who produced all the Godzilla films till GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH, shows up and gives a speech, apparently talking about his experiences of working with Ifukube. Then Ifukube himself comes up to the stage briefly to get flowers from Tanaka. Next, Ishiro Honda, the director of many of the classic Toho kaiju and tokusatsu films, appears and gives a speech about Ifukube as well. After that we finally get the orchestra playing. Unfortunately, since the speeches already fun for over half of the feature’s runtime, we only get to hear the beginning of the first suite (Godzilla’s theme and the Faro Island prayer). Since this recording is the oldest of the bunch, dating back to 1983, the video and audio quality are, not too surprisingly, poor. The transfer looks very soft and the audio sounds quite muffled, so this recording was probably taken from an old generation VHS or something.
The second feature is the recording of the Ostinato album, and it runs for about 25 minutes. Durring this feature we get to seer (or hear) the performances of many of the tracks from the album, including the "Main Title" from the original GODZILLA, the "Get Rodan" theme from RODAN, "Earth Defense Conference" from THE MYSTERIANS, the military march from DOGORA, the "Main Title" from LATITUDE ZERO, and the battle march from BATTLE IF OUTER SPACE. For the most if the time we are shown the studio with the conductor and the orchestra, but sometimes we get to see the recording booth where Ifukube oversees the process. Now about the condition of this feature: it’s actually the sharpest looking and sounding of the bunch, even though it’s the second oldest (1986).
Next we have a 16-minute recording of the score of GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992). During this one we see the orchestra playing the cues while the movie scenes are played on a screen for the conductor to see. A couple of the cues we get to hear weren’t actually used in the final movie, especially the organ heavy track composed for the discussion between Mothra and Battra. The movie scenes are obviously not in their final editing stage, as things like Godzilla’s heat ray haven’t been added in yet. At the end of the feature, Ifukube is shown briefly. While the audio in this feature isn’t bad, the video keeps going out of focus, becoming blurry quite often.
All in all, while this DVD is a nice bonus to get with the sixth soundtrack box set, I’m still a bit disappointed with it. Like I said, the quality on some of the recordings is a bit lacking. But the biggest problem is the lack of footage on some occasions. It would’ve been nice to se more footage from the Symphonic Fantasia performance and the GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH score recording. Also, I know that footage from the recording of the GODZILLA VS. MEMCHAGODZILLA (1993) does exist, because it was included as an extra on the old German DVD of the movie. So I wonder why it wasn’t included here. Apart from these issues, most fans of Godzilla and Akira Ifukube should be pleased enough with this DVD.
Do not forget that the first installment, "Mothra and Godzilla: Future Destiny" is up and published on Kaiju Galaxy forums. Join and read the epic!
As I listen to August Ragone’s audio commentary for the DVD, I am writing this review for the first legal, legit DVD release of DAIKAIJU GAMERA in the US. I was lucky enough to have the DVD come out right when my family’s pay check arrived, therefore I was most lucky to be treated to a day of going to different stores and while almost getting the first volume of the manga AKIRA (which I should have been a bastard to get), I did go to Best Buy to get this DVD (conveniently taken out of the scifi section and put into horror). Of all the good decisions I have made, waiting to see the first Gamera film as such is one of the best.
Watching Gamera for the first time, I got to give the film more credit than what I originally considered. The direction by Yuasa is pretty impressive. With a nice black and white format, he really brings some fresh (for the time anyway, and some more me personally) photography choices to the genre. Such as the beginning credits with close ups on Gamera and his body. These are some very good shots, and a good third of the special effects shots are pretty good, maybe enough to say that it is maybe a notch or two below Tsuburaya. The most impressive special effects sequence in the film though is Gamera’s attack at the geothermal plant and everything else leading up to our first experience seeing the process which Gamera goes through to get that flying saucer flying ability he is so well known for.
However, something which I have to give the film credit for is that it is obvious that this film has had more of an influence in kaiju eiga other than just turning Godzilla for a time into his pop-culture securing role as a hero. DAIKAIJU GAMERA seems to share many parallels with Godzilla’s 1984 film, "The Return of Godzilla". Such is the coming together of the Americans and Soviets in Japan (though the two films have the endings of this triumvirate show very different outcomes - with GAMERA showing Russia and America successfully come together to defeat a common menace while the 1984 Godzilla film shows the two super powers unwilling to work together due to nuclear weapons use disagreements and the Soviet’s mess up with the nuclear weapon which they had prepared before the popular cabinet meeting scene in the 1984 film, as if they were assuming the Japanese would accept the weapon). Also, it is interesting that both films end or almost end with the monster’s being (temporarily) rid of on/in Oshima Island with both films exhibiting a volcanic explosion. More parallels are apparent (such as parallels with "GAMERA: THE BRAVE", but I will go into them later in time.
The DVD itself is quite a piece of work. Starting with the cover, it is pretty good looking, maybe better looking than the digital image which I have seen on the forums. When opening up the DVD case, it gave me a feeling of no longer disliking translucent DVD cases, with the anatomical pic of Gamera being something as interesting as the booklet given. The booklet, containing an essay also present on the Toshiba/Daiei Video DVD release of the film in 2002, gives in Yuasa’s own words some of his thoughts regarding Gamera. They are good notes, and while I would like to go into detail in one of the things mentioned, I am going to restrain. It is a good booklet and has a smaller, more tangible version of the anatomical pic of Gamera. And we also have a credits list, and it is nice to see Brett mentioned (who is also working on a DVD release of DESTROY ALL PLANETS, the AIP version of GAMERA VS. VIRAS).
The DVD, once popped in is pretty good. Watching the special features first, the documentary, which is from the rare GAMERA PRESERVATION LASERDISC BOX SET from 1991, is some what of an interesting choice for the sole video special feature. It is a good feature to have, since it clearly makes notice of the other Showa Gamera films (to remind non fans who may buy this disc) and has a lot of good making of anecdotes from a lot of people involved with the production. The best thing about this thirty minute documentary is the "GAMERA VS. GARASHARP" feature, something which I have sparingly watched from SHRINE OF GAMERA and Youtube, is now on DVD in a great looking form which really gets your imagination going (got mine going anyway). I do not know how many special features are on the PRESERVATION yet, but if there is more I hope that they will be spread out through the release. Note, this special feature is not anamorphic, therefore some may want to adjust your TV with the aspect button on your remote to watch it in it’s original format.
The picture galleries are pretty good, with the press book and international sales brochures getting their own galleries with film stills and some making of stills. All of these are good, and gives a nice behind the scenes look with the film. Same thing happens when you listen to August Ragone’s audio commentary. It's a very informative audio commentary. And August does have some fun with the commentary it seems, such as what he says when the assumed Commie plane crashes, thus releasing Gamera or the mentioning of a Col. Sanders beard, making August claim he is hungry for chicken. While it may stick out at first, these comments keep the audio commentary fun. A big part of the commentary though is the continuous mini-biographies and resumes for the numerous cast and crew of the film. Not a negative, but I can see some of the more casual viewers thinking "Wow… that’s a lot". But defiantly cool, showing August’s amount of research (August went on to tell me that there was one main helper, "there weren't five people assisting me with translation/research for the commentary script, there was only one: Jason Varney. He and I split the work to reduce production time. The other people, whom I listed in the booklet, contributed to other aspects of this release (some of it major, some of it, minor), including locating materials and information.").
In the end, DAIKAIJU GAMERA is a DVD which deserves to be recognized. It towers over the Sony DVDs and is in the league of the Classic Media and Media Blasters DVDs (more on the side of Media Blasters). This DVD though represents many things. First, it carries on the tradition it seems that all legal Gamera DVD releases usually get better releases the first time around compared to the Godzilla films. Second, it marks the DVD release of probably the last major kaiju eiga benchmark. Last, it finaly gives August the DVD he deserves. While working on some of the more Henshin-oriented tokusatsu DVD releases, August has been awaited by fans to do a commentary for the Classic Media DVDs - with did not come to pass - and to have a part with the ICONS OF SCI-FI set (none of the affairs I will go into on this review). August seems to have outdone himself with the "Friend of Children" (though he will always be for me the "Guardian of the Universe" personally) and I hope that the future releases will be just as good, if not, better.