Thursday, August 14, 2008

Upcoming and recent DVD work (part 1)

So here's the long-overdue update on our other job, in the DVD producing department. Actually, it's turned into part 1 of 2 updates on this subject, since there's a lot to talk about. We've been really busy with a bunch of projects, ranging from basic interviews to full-on DVD production. On the streets now is a disc we worked on over a year ago: Media Blasters' special edition DVD of Sion Sono's Exte / Hair Extensions. We screened this fun black comedy / horror film, starring Kill Bill's Chiaki Kuriyama in 2007 at the New York Asian Film Festival, and during the festival, I did an interview with Sono at NY's Japan Society, which Media Blasters shot for the DVD. They also shot my onstage Q&A with Sono after the screenings, but since I haven't seen the finished disc yet, I have no idea how much of either they used, or how it turned out. If somebody out there has watched the featurette(s), please post a comment. More recently, I did some interviews for other upcoming MB titles. Up in Montreal at the essential Fantasia Film Festival, we had a full slate of interviews for their to-be-released discs of Be a Man! Samurai School and the amazing Tokyo Gore Police, another title we screened at NYAFF 2008. For Samurai School, we shot a fun interview with director / fight choreographer / star Tak Sakaguchi, a bit of a cult hero in the U.S. from his appearances in Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus, Azumi, and other films, plus the big-budget CGI ninja-fest Shinobi. He also sings a mean karaoke ("Stand by Me," to be exact) and has great taste in other films, as we found out in Montreal (he loves Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Horrors of Malformed Men, for example). Also from Samurai School was action director Isao Karasawa, who's taken hits in many of the major action films out of Japan from the last 6-8 years. In the shot below, he's getting the octopus treatment from Sakaguchi.
For the madcap Tokyo Gore Police, the Media Blasters team and I did a whole handful of interviews. First up was co-writer / director Yoshihiro Nishimura (on the right in the photo above), making his directorial debut with TGP but a long veteran of genre cinema, having been a major collaborator with Sion Sono and one of the most respected makeup and gore f/x artists working in Japan. Nishimura spoke about his inspirations for the film, his experience working in the industry, and his favorite genre cinema (he also likes Cannibal Holocaust, as it turns out). Next up was TGP star and genre icon Eihi Shiina (above), most famous for her role as the psycho new girlfriend in Takashi Miike's Audition. I'd wanted to meet Shiina for many years, and she was a pleasure to interview and to get to know during the remainder of the festival. Very quiet and reserved when off-camera, she really opened up during the interview, talking about her career, her experiences with Miike, how her life changed after
Audition, and her love of the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa! We also shot a short discussion with Sakaguchi about his contributions to the film (he did some action choreography and plays the serial killer in the memorable opening scene of the film), as well as a dual interview with producers Yoko Hayama and Yoshinori Chiba, together responsible for other films like Death Trance and Machine Girl, and Chiba a veteran producer of everything from Keita Amemiya's Zeiram to Miike's upcoming Yatterman. We're not sure when MB is planning the release of either of these titles, but TGP has already been announced for a fall debut in a bare-bones edition, with the full special edition to follow at some point in 2009. I'm personally hoping that they're able to acquire Nishimura's short film Anatomnia Extinction, a bizarre-sounding piece of provocation that served as a direct inspiration for TGP, though Nishimura told us that it's more serious in tone, and has none of the black humor added to the latter film (added mainly by co-screenwriter and Machine Girl director Noboru Iguchi). Fingers crossed.
When it comes to madcap Japanese cinema, few can compete with writer/director Minoru Kawasaki, who's been described variously as the Ed Wood, Roger Corman or Lloyd Kaufman of Japan. His films, like Calamari Wrestler and
Crab Goalkeeper (due next year from Discotek Media), are low-budget, crazy comedies that range in tone from dark to full-on spoof. Say what you like about his abilities, but his films are full of energy and love of the medium, and he's a true fan of genre cinema—we even interviewed him for Synapse Films' DVD special edition of Horrors of Malformed Men, mainly because he begged us to ask him about the movie, one of his favorites of all time! All things Kawasaki seem to have come full circle at Synapse, since three of the director's best films will be coming out from the label this November. Due out on 11/18 are the comedy crime thriller Executive Koala, the disaster movie spoof The World Sinks Except Japan (based on a 70s novella that was itself a spoof of the popular novel that inspired the 1973 and 2006 movie versions of Japan Sinks...confused yet?), and finally the classic TV detective show spoof The Rug Cop, about a toupee-throwing police officer. We didn't produce any new content for the discs, but they will include the supplements originally created for the Japanese DVDs, all with new English subtitles. The best of the supplements is a feature-length audio commentary on World Sinks with Kawasaki and actor Takenori Murano, who plays the Prime Minster in the film, but also appeared as the hero in a previous TV version of the original Japan Sinks—a stunt casting job that's one of Kawasaki's trademarks. It's nice to see these films finally out in the U.S.—we brokered the deal between Synapse and the Japanese licensor, and the turnaround from sending the screeners to the Synapse HQ and the discs coming out is a very short six or seven months, which is lightspeed in this industry.
And in even better Synapse news, at least for fans of classic Japanese genre cinema, the company will finally be releasing the two remaining titles in their deal with Toei and the late, lamented U.S. label Panik House. Female Convict Scorpion series star Meiko Kaji's first two films for Toei will finally be coming to DVD in the first part of 2009, a pair of titles that feature her as a classical, Junko Fuji-type wandering gambler who gets into difficulties with local mob bosses. The 1971 film Gincho wataridori / Wandering Ginza Butterfly stars Kaji as a billiards-playing yakuza gal who teams up with mob movie vets Tsukehiko Watase and Tatsuya Umemiya to defend her uncle's pool parlor. Its 1972 sequel, Gincho nagaremono / Wandering Ginza She-Cat Gambler (we might have to change that English title), pairs Kaji up with Sonny Chiba in a similar plot that features better action and is thankfully missing the billiards contrivance (a poor substitute for dice playing or hanafuda card matches).
Extras are still being worked on, and unfortunately won't feature the participation of Ms. Kaji—she refuses to contribute to any work that will benefit her former studio home of Toei, whom she feels exploited her without due compensation—so watch this space for more news in coming months.
We've written before about our work with Discotek Media on the recently-released DVD of Teruo Ishii's essential Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight, and we encourage anyone who hasn't seen the film yet to get out there and pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed. Back when we did the supplement work for Bohachi, though, we also did a video interview and commentary with legendary filmmaker Norifumi Suzuki (above, looking happy) about his sole foray into Nikkatsu Roman Porno, the mind-blowing Star of David: Beauty Hunting. This disc has been a bit MIA, originally announced by Discotek almost a year ago but never given an actual release date. The good news is that, on July 9th, the disc was re-listed as "coming soon" on the Discotek web site. The not-so-good news is that there's still no definite date and my contact person at Discotek hasn't answered emails for a while. I do know that they were considering branching off another label (potentially called Eastern Star) to handle some of the more extreme titles, but I never heard whether that was going to actually happen or not. We'll post more news as we get it.
And finally, we get to the big project that's going to occupy us for a year or more, but to spare readers' eyes, I'm going to devote a separate post on the blog to it all. Come back in a couple of days for part 2, where we'll tell you all about our work for BCI / Eclipse, on titles from filmmakers like Sabu! Okamoto! Teshigahara! Kitano! And more!

5 Comments:

OpenID adgy said...

Seriously cannot wait for those Meiko Kaji movies!!!!!

Will there be commentary??

9:03 PM  
Blogger 追放マーク said...

Yes, but not by Meiko!

9:26 PM  
OpenID nipperdan8 said...

> Extras are still being worked on, and unfortunately won't feature the participation of Ms. Kaji—she refuses to contribute to any work that will benefit her former studio home of Toei, whom she feels exploited her without due compensation

False. She has given interviews in Japan that have directly benefitted Toei. She probably doesn’t want to be interviewed by a foreigner about movies (Gincho Wataridori) she considers to be shit. Honestly, is any one really surprised Panik House went out of business after licensing some of Toei’s worst movies?

8:25 AM  
Blogger 追放マーク said...

"She has given interviews in Japan that have directly benefitted Toei."

For example?

9:40 AM  
Blogger SPM said...

i was wondering whatever happened to Kaji/Chiba "she-cat" flick (the name is GOLD!). I have the first film, been waiting patiently for part deux. looks like you're a busy man, which is good news for everyone. I'm actually pretty psyched about the BCI/Kitano flicks as well. a couple of his films i still need to pick up (getting any, scene by..). good luck!

4:33 PM  

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