Thursday, December 18, 2008

Whither BCI Eclipse?

Upsetting news online this morning about the demise of trailblazing genre DVD label BCI Eclipse. According to Video Business - and to an associate who emailed me from BCI last night - parent company Navarre has pulled the plug on the genre division, citing continued unprofitability from the label, as well as general economic conditions during the recession. This is especially shocking given the fact that BCI's titles were generally priced at a bargain level, and that home entertainment is usually considered to be one of the few businesses that prospers during tough economic times. If people don't have money, it's cheaper for them to stay home and watch a video, right?

What this news means for upcoming BCI titles like Takeshis, East Meets West, their Shaw Brothers titles (both on DVD and Blu-Ray), and their announced acquisition of the old Miramax library of Golden Harvest and Cinema City films, nobody knows. Suspicions are that Navarre will try to sell the films back to their original licensors. This would be tragic, as no other U.S. companies are likely to pick them up again anytime fact, what companies remain in the marketplace who could even consider doing so?

For the time being, any fans out there who may have put off purchasing some BCI titles they've had their eyes on might want to visit Amazon pretty soon. I imagine most of these discs will be going out of print in the future. (This would include Battle Heater and Unlucky Monkey, of course.)

Personal condolences go out to BCI marketing and acquisitions manager Cliff MacMillan, who just received a pretty shitty Christmas present. Whether anybody will ever get to see all the supplemental materials I've been working on for the past year, including the interviews with Mineko Okamoto, Genji Nakamura, Yurei Yanagi and Makoto Ashikawa, Masayuki Mori, Hisao Maki, Hiroaki Fujii, Rentaro Mikuni, and others, time will tell.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rikyu, part 2

Our final interview during the most recent trip to Tokyo was, like our previous one with actor Rentaro Mikuni, done for BCI Eclipse's upcoming DVD of Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1989 historical epic Rikyu. We were privileged enough to spend a couple of hours with prolific Daiei producer Hiroaki Fujii, who not only produced many of the works by legendary (and sadly unappreciated in the West) director Yasuzo Masumura, but also chanbara by Kenji Misumi, Kimiyoshi Yasuda, Kazuo Ikehiro, and Kazuo Mori, as well as many films by Kon Ichikawa, including Fires on the Plain. His IMDB listing counts nearly 80 films to his credit, but in actuality, he's produced more than 200. Fujii was also close with many members of Japan's 1960s literary scene, including authors Kobo Abe and Yukio Mishima, and produced Mishima's self-made short film Patriotism (Yukoku). In short, he's a man who was seemingly at the center of the Japanese filmmaking world for many years, and it was a great honor to be able to hear him tell stories about many of the things he'd done.

Most of our interview was devoted to Rikyu, a project he was called upon to specially produce by director Teshigahara, whom he'd gotten to know through Abe, writer of Teshigahara's earlier films like A Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another. But we also managed to touch upon everything from Mishima to Masumura to one of my favorite Japanese films, the Rampo Edogawa-source tale of sex and madness, Blind Beast (aka Moju).

Watch for the Rikyu DVD some time mid-next year, packed with its semi-sequel Basara: The Princess Goh, also directed by Teshigahara, but not produced by Fujii. And watch for more updates soon about other projects and diversions.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Erostika visit

For our Japanese readers, here's a link to a post at the blog for cool Harajuku-based clothing store Erostika, which features clothing designed by Rockin' Jelly Bean. It's a place I frequently visit while in Tokyo, and I've bought a bunch of their items. The usual clerk is a cool guy named Jun, who used to work in LA and bears all the hallmarks of having spent some time in the States: good, slang-filled English, lots of tattoos, and a grungy aesthetic that's equally at home in Tokyo or NYC.

Definitely a recommended visit for fans of Sukeban cinema, wrestling, motorcycles, rockabilly and other related diversions.