Monday, December 10, 2007

Tanjobi Jo

We're back from Tokyo, tired and attempting to readjust to U.S. time. There are many stories to tell from the trip, however, and watch for updates to this page over the next week or so, including photos. Suffice to say that we managed to cram a lot of activities into less than three weeks, including a good deal of DVD work. More of that on the horizon, too, I'm happy to say.

But in the meantime, you'd do yourself a favor to surf on over to Bay Area blogger Kimberly Lindberg's terrific site, Cinebeats, for a look at her birthday wishes to Nikkatsu veteran Shishido Jo.

I was lucky enough to actually have lunch with Ace no Jo last Tuesday, just before heading to the airport to come back to NYC. I met him previously two years ago at the Udine Far East Film Festival, and he still appears to be in excellent health, even insisting that I join him in a beer at 11:30 in the morning. (Of course, I complied - you don't say no to Jo!) We're currently in talks with Jo about involving him more closely in the ongoing Nikkatsu screening series in the U.S., and things are looking promising about that. Let's just say that some American fans might get an opportunity to meet him sometime next year.

But lunch itself was a real treat, with Jo sharing drinking stories about Zatoichi star Katsu Shintaro, tales of his visit to Mexico to film the 1962 Nikkatsu action pic Mexico mushuku (he managed to bring two pistols back to Japan, bypassing all the customs and airline guards!), and updating us on his latest activities. He recently wrapped a new film in Shanghai with director Hayashi Kaizo, the man behind the "Maiku Hama" series, several films of which Jo co-stars in as a character not unlike himself. It's in post production now, and due out sometime in 2008. Jo even showed off some amazing 1960s Japanese fan magazines produced by Nikkatsu at the height of his career. One was devoted to him and late Nikkatsu icon Akagi Keiichiro, and another was old enough to features photos of Jo in his pre-cheek surgery days! All were immaculately maintained, and it was all I could do not to slip them into my flight bag and take them home with me.

So let me join Kimberly and others in wishing Jo-san a happy 74th, and many more to come.