The Late Night Horror Hotel... Don't Miss It!

The horror host tradition seems to be something quintessential to American television. Bob Wilkins of Creature Features, Evira, Ms. Monster, Broloff, and Mr. Lobo are some of the notable names of the business. What is this business? People who grew up with Hammer horror films and science fiction films especially of the daikaiju genre pretty much showed them on public access television, therefore only people who living within the approximate area could see these shows. The internet has helped bring more people to become aware of horror hosts across America. In Philly, there lies the "Late Night Horror Hotel", ran by Rob Dimension and John Cannon. The fallowing review of their show is based on my thus-far favorite episode of theirs - the "Gamera: The Invincible" episode.

Filmed in black and white, you can tell that the duo has a sweet side for kaiju. A US poster for "Godzilla, King Of the Monsters" is easily shown and for those who watch some of their videos on sites such as youtube, things such as a Bandai Creation 12" Kiryu is also shown. Kaiju otaku are in for a nice treat. Of course, each episode opens with a game show-esque opening for the show done with A Mr. Heisenburger. From then, we have (in the parts that are of the horror hotel’s) accouple of good bits of comedy. That’s normal for the horror host and though some of it may require a specific taste for it, the comedy is good from bomb jokes to bad jokes and such. However, there is also some more to it. Like a variety show. First, we get a film review of maybe my third favorite Gamera film, "Gamera: The Brave". Then, we see Rob playing with an X-Plus Gamera 1995 against a bunch of toy soldiers, and then even a feature on how to make Armadillo Eggs. Great fun. A good part of the shows though is that the film is included on the DVD. Nice to be able to see both versions of the original Gamera.

This, and three other episodes I have seen have proved to me that this is a great show. Why doesn’t Warner Robins not have a horror host show? Rob and John do other stuff in other episodes, such as mutilations of each other’s skin showing off their good SFX abilities and other crazy but fun things which make watching films like "Gamera The Invincible" more fun, even for those who are not too fond of the film to begin with. Other features include things like public service announcements (what do you do when a stranger comes and talks to you?). If you like in the Philly area, you would be sorry to miss the Late Night Horror Hotel. 5/5


National Geographic to showcase "Death Kappa"!

"Death Kappa" is the newest kaiju eiga to be made in Japan. Made by genre veteran Tomoo Hariguchi (who has worked on kaiju and yokai productions, from "Gamera 3" to "Kibakichi"), the film is centered around the legendary Japanese yokai - the Kappa - a terapin-looking water sprite which in the film grows to a gargantuan height to do battle with the antagonists. Released by Media Blasters, the film has been compared to the likes of "Guilala's Counterattack" but has developed somewhat of a cult fallowing like most kaiju eiga.

A special treat though is in store for fans of kaiju eiga ("Death Kappa" in general). National Geographic is producing a new television series called "Nat Geo Amazing!", showcasing things which they percieve that viewers would think is "amazing!". The first episode being showcased revolves aorund two things - ice climbing and the making of "Death Kappa"! For those who only saw the film at a screening and do not own a DVD or Blu-Ray copy of the film, this is a great chance to get a view of the making of the film which isn't the message from Tomoo Hariguchi which is on the official Media Blasters home page.

The fallowing link will take you to the official site which has some videos of the making of the film:

The first episode of "Nat Geo Amazing!" will be comming on the National Georgraphic Channel (Channel 109 for people in the Warner Robins, Georgia area) at 7PM Atlantic time. Don't miss it!


"Agon: The Atomic Dragon"

By Logan Bombard

In 1964, Nippon Television produced a kaiju TV miniseries titled "GIANT PHANTOM MONSTER AGON" (or "AGON, THE ATOMIC DRAGON" outside of Japan). The series premiered on Fuji TV January 2nd, 1968 with part 1 of a 2-parter called Agon Appears. On January 8th of the same year, the 4th and final episode was aired.

Now, you may be wondering, why did it take four years for "AGON" to make it to the big screen? Well, multiple things got in the way of airing. First and foremost being Toho holding it back, due to the similarities between Agon and their own star kaiju, Godzilla. Funny thing is that the two don’t appear all that similar. Agon has much smaller spines than Goji, and they are very differently shaped. The Atomic Dragon’s head is longer, has a larger snout, much larger fangs, and bulging eyes, compared to The King of the Monsters. I’m also pretty sure that Godzilla’s stomach isn’t coated with plates, further dividing the two.

Alas, Toho still didn’t think that he deserved a shot on the small screen, that is, until they realized one of their own was working on it. Shinichi Sekizawa, the writer for such famous (and great) kaiju films as Mothra, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is also the writer for the first two episodes of AGON. Along with Sekizawa was Eiji Tsuburaya’s apprentice, Fuminori Ohashi, who did the special effects for the series, and even directed the final 2 episodes. Knowing this, Toho gave the series the go ahead, and it finally aired in 1968.

Ironically, the very same studio that kept the series off the air for 4 years condensed it into a single film, and released it in the 1990s, and if they didn’t Agon may not have even had the shred of fame it has in the genre, making Toho a mixed blessing to the series.

Nowadays, the series still has trouble being seen by the average Tokusatsu fan, for plenty of reasons; especially it’s rather minor release. A minor Japan-only VHS release in the 90’s doesn’t usually equal mass popularity on the Western Hemisphere. It also doesn’t help that the series was (rather uniquely) filmed in a sepia tone, making it less attractive to an average passerby.

Personally, I think the series deserves a lot more publicity than it gets. It does a lot of new things for the genre, especially the suit itself. The Agon suit has a built in breathing apparatus in the throat area, actually making it appear as though The Atomic Dragon is drawing breath. Also, you can clearly see that Agon influenced Gomess, a creature from the sci-fi TV show Ultra Q made out of an old Godzilla suit, with the plates running down the front of his torso. It is by no means a perfect suit, but it’s main drawback is that the limbs are a little too form-fitting for my taste. Another aspect of the suit that could be considered negative would be the eyes, which bulge out pretty far, and are obviously painted on (although, so were Mosu Goji’s, proving that it doesn’t have to be considered a bad thing).

Agon has a relatively small array of powers, but he uses them to great effect during the series. First and most apparent is his fire breath. Usually considered a dreadfully generic feature, it found its place in the series. There is no visible pipe here, and it is fairly destructive, nothing revolutionary, but more than serviceable. Another attribute that could easily fly over one’s head is Agon’s immense strength (yes, even for a daikaiju). In fact, with one stop of his foot, Agon made a small ravine in the ground in the first episode of the series. Finally, Agon can breathe underwater, therefore making him amphibious, even though he subsists in a cave before being awoken. All around, he’s no Heisei Mechagodzilla, but he has an arsenal adequate to terrorize Tokyo.

The miniatures themselves aren’t too impressive, but they look good enough, and the power plant is definitely the highlight of the set. Agon’s underwater lair is a good set, along with most of the normal-scaled sets. One problem the series suffers from is the use of stock footage from earlier episodes, for instance, in episode 3, we see a crowd running away from Agon, and the very same group sprinting in episode 4.

One thing to be appreciated about the series is its rather unique camera work. Usually refraining from wide shots, and the use of the camera when Agon is carrying a child in a boat inside his maw gives the daikaiju a great impression of size.

The series itself is pretty well written, and has a decent cast with our hero, a news reporter named Goro, being the standout. He delivers his lines with pronounced body language, and a powerful presence. Everybody else carries the show along, with varying degrees of talent. There is a Kenny, named Monta (played by Yoshihiro Kobayashi) to be seen here (that is, a young child who is familiar with the monster.), although he isn’t very annoying, doesn’t know too much, and serves as a major plot point without being too distracting.

Basically, Agon is yet another creature created by the atomic bomb, which comes to destroy Tokyo, after being awakened from is deep slumber in a cave. He makes landfall, wreaks some havoc, then goes back to sea, while the main characters, even including two rather strange bandits. Finally, Agon breaks surface again, and takes a boat containing a child (the plot point the Kenny presents.). Eventually Agon puts the Kenny down, and swats the two robbers out of a helicopter, leading to their death. After a rather impressive destruction scene where Agon annihilates a power plant, he finally returns to sea, and the end kanji appears on screen.

Now, it sounds like your plain old kaiju movie, but it’s pretty great, brings a lot to the table, and keeps you entertained for 96 minutes. The suit is unique, the actors do their job, and all around, everything does what it’s supposed to. My only true problem is with the score. A rather strange string instrument that I can not pinpoint makes a very "bouncy" sound during many scenes, and just doesn’t let up. It can get very irritating, but aside from that, the score is fine and dramatic when it needs to be.

Overall, I like the series very much, and recommend it, if you can track it down. Once you can get past the sepia tone film stock, and awkward score, you can appreciate the series for what it is, a low budget installment that really delivers in the kaiju department. If you hunt long enough, you’ll find it, and its well worth your time. I give it a 4/5.


Time of my Life - S.S.S.S.'s Showing of Godzilla vs. Gigan

"Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them."
-Bud Fox, "Wall Street" (1987)

Where should this begin? Ok, let’s start with what’s happened in between this film and GMK. The Plaza Theatre has shown two kaiju films since GMK in January of 2009. These include DAM and the original Rodan. While my failure to attend these events have lead people to say rather negative things about moi, I always kept positive when a new kaiju film was being shown. Thankfully, I attended this Spook Show. Albeit, it is ironically the last Spook Show till October due to the Silver Scream Spook Show cast being subject to a new TV series with Adult Swim helping (defiantly going to be better than "Children’s Hospital" - which I saw one of the wall paintings which AS ads ask you to "find this", Atlanta kicks ass). I would also like to mention that we also went by "The Vortex", a burger joint I once saw on "Man vs. Food". I wanted to go there, but once I left the theater only one thing was on my mind: Godzilla. Anyway, let’s go into the event.

I got there about 30 minutes before the show started. With there being the lack of a dealer, the first place of interest I went to was (aside from the box office) the Silver Scream Spook Show table. Not as elaborate as it previously was. However, it was still cool. Evidently thanks to some tricky stuff, in the end I got a Fang Club card, a button, an XL shirt, the Plaza Atlanta Godzilla vs. Gigan poster, and a bunch of the programs. While waiting, I talked a little to Daniel Wickwire of Kaiju Movie Review before having to take more photos and such for this very report.

The Scream Show itself rocked. As normal, it began with the birthday serenade. After wards, the actual program. I lucky caught all of it on camera and captured it better then what I did with the GMK Spook Show (especially considering I was sitting closer to the back of this showing). Alas, after a 10 minute wait to see the film on behalf of people who were parked in a Publix parking lot needing to get their cars moved to a different location, the film began (thank god for the 10 minute wait, I got some stuff done). It was cool to the old Cinema Shares print of "Godzilla vs. Gigan", only entitled "Godzilla on Monster Island".

However, I did not sit through out the whole film to watch. My mother, god bless her soul and her slick talking ways, got a deal in which allowed me to go inside for a short time the Godzilla suit used for the Spook Show. I like the dang thing. The head reminds me of the Banpresto 12" figure that was sculpted by Yuji Sakai. So, while not being allowed to put my whole body in (they have to put boxes in the suit so it will stand while no one is in/around the suit), I did get to feel from the waste up what it feels like - to an extent - to be Nakajima or Satsuma, or Kitagawa. It’s stuff like that which helps you gain appreciation for the art. I felt this feeling once before - in engineering class making wooden bridges. Gives you a deeper appreciation. Now, from what I heard, the only reserve the guy who owned the suit had about me even feeling the inside is the fact that a lot of people get nicked because of the metal skeleton that is inside of the suit, which is basically just memory foam (like in beds).

I got back into the film when we see the corncob scene. The film was just very fun and even though sitting farther back then I did at the GMK screening, the print was still something to be amazed about, especially that though the print had a lot of damage, the increased definition compared to my Anchor Bay VHS copy of the film is pretty awesome. Looking at each little detail in the models and suits and such. Very cool, despite a layer of purple coloring on the print (which in the end isn’t that bad and actually makes the viewing more interesting).

Afterwards, I talked to some people, my mother took some more photos of me, and Dan started filming material for his coverage of this film (which I forgot to do out of the sheer excitement of my attendance). One thing I need to thank Dan for though is giving me his Gamera 3 poster. He offered it to me some time ago and I accepted it. He knows it is in good hands. The poster is actually a limited piece which went along the Sega Gamera 3 figures. To add on to it’s value, it was autographed by Tiffany Grant - who played Nagamine in the US dubs of "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" and "Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle".

In the end, it was a fun time and really, this report doesn’t do justice to what happened. It was awesome. In the meantime, be watching KMR for an interview of me done by good friend Dan Wickwire!