Tuesday, June 23, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet June 28, 2015

     Sunday night, Turner Classic Movies will be running a Movie Camp Godzilla double feature, and the increasingly rare occasion that old Godzilla movies show up on television always puts me in a good mood. Whether you join #TCMParty's Godzilla festivities or #BNoirDetour, Gaping Head Wound Playhouse has a Toku Sunday Afternoon Matinee playlist that should strike your fancy beginning at 5:30PM EST.

     First up, for the #BNoirDetour crowd, I picked the only tokusatsu show I could remember seeing that came anywhere near being considered noir, a TNT English dubbed episode of Ultra Seven.

     Although known and referred to by his peers as Seven, Ultra Seven was the second hero to be introduced in the Ultra franchise. He debuted in the third self-titled Ultra series and has remained one of the most popular characters, so popular that he went on to sire a new generation of Ultra fans with the debut of his son, Ultraman Zero. The first Ultra series, Ultra Q, was more of a Twilight Zone black and white series that followed the Science Patrol's weekly encounters with eerie monsters, and Ultraman would not be introduced until his own series debuted the following year. Unfortunately, Ultra Q has no English dubbed or subtitled American release, but one English dubbed episode does exist.

Ultra Seven Episode 9 - Toys in Crisis (Japanese title - The Android Zero Directive)

     This episode stuck in my head because it had its own little version of a femme fatale in the form of a blonde Asian named "Barbie" (as if that's naturally-occurring).

Now I have to dig out my Aqua CDs...
     In this world, you'd think this would be an easy red flag to spot, but our heroes dismiss all common sense for the smile of a pretty girl. The TNT dubbing isn't even in the ballpark of subtle as it is revealed that Barbie is an oversized alien-controlled doll brought to life with only one mission: assassinate Dan Moroboshi, the alter-ego of Ultra Seven. In the original Japanese version, Barbie was called simply Android Zero-One, but the dubbed English version of the series created for TNT went in a more lighthearted direction.

Alien invaders were decades ahead of Real Doll.

     This also stuck in my head because life-sized living dolls/mannequins freak me out a little ever since I saw a short film on the USA Network called Living Dolls. To emphasize the effect it had on me, I have added it to the beginning of this playlist just to ramp up the creep factor.
     Barbie's alien overlord, the alien Chiburu, could be mistaken for a French Gepetto in his human form, and the mask fits well because he is, in fact, a toymaker from another planet. Chiburu might look familiar to fans of Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Cartoon Planet because both cartoons made liberal use of stock footage from Ultra Seven.

An evil Gepetto? What is this, a Bill Willingham story?

A picture is worth a thousand words but lacks a lot of justice.
     With a little inspiration from the Pied Piper, Chiburu intends to control the minds of Earth's children (and their toys) and turn them into killing machines against which the human race would hesitate to fight back. It's up to Ultra Seven and his human allies to stop the fiendish plot.

     Then, for the #TCMParty Godzilla fans out there, Spectreman takes on a three-headed dragon.
Spectreman Episode 32 - The Three-headed Dragon Rises Again
Spectreman Episode 33 - S.O.S. The Undersea Oil Field

I know I got at least one Godzilla fan's hopes up just a little. #sorrynotsorry
     The air force makes a rare (albeit useless, as every military intervention tends to be in monster movies) appearance when Dr. Gori resurrects an oil-consuming dragon from Earth's past. Funny, I don't recall hearing about any fossils of three-headed reptiles. After attacking an oil refinery, the beast makes its way to the city, forcing George to lure it away from civilization himself behind the wheel of a petroleum truck with a young girl in tow who just lost her mother in the attack (this is still a kids show, folks). Somehow, in between the military's attempts to destroy the monster, George and the little girl find time to frolic with a family on vacation before Spectreman "really" has to save the day. Overlord seems to be doing a lot of thumb-twiddling this time around... or whatever counts for Overlord thumbs.

     Tune in at 5:30PM EST Sunday afternoon for this special GHWP live tweet. Then stick around for #collinstweet, #TCMParty and #BNoirDetour.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Twitter Isn't a News Source. Ever.

This is what happens when journalism uses Twitter for its source material. It's no longer journalism.

Before you start gnashing teeth, know right away that the entire Boycott Jurassic World/"Pakisaurus" racism campaign was not real. I repeat, it was not real. It was not intended to be taken seriously. It was a joke. But here, from a "serious news" source (expect a lot of quotations around words in this post just to lay on the sarcasm with regard to how loosely definitions are followed in something as important as real and honest journalism), is how it was "reported."


Seeing this article before doing any other research on it, I have to admit my blood started boiling as well, and I initially took to Twitter to blast any news media outlet that was reporting on it, but now I'm laughing at just how easily the reaction crawled out of my woodwork when something like this comes along. I saw a few cross linked posts from a couple of Facebook friends commenting on it yesterday, and I would not have mentioned it at all if I had seen a single comment that revealed the truth. Instead, all I saw was outrage at the Independent's "reporting" and taking it just as seriously as the Independent "reported" it DESPITE THE FACT THAT FACEBOOK HAD A LINK BENEATH THIS ARTICLE THAT WENT DIRECTLY TO THE ORIGINAL BOYCOTT VIDEO AS AN ADDITIONAL MEDIA SOURCE, so it remained on my mind. You'll notice the name Guzzy Bear as one of the Twitter/YouTube video sources of this article, but the author apparently did not bother to research the boycott video's origin whatsoever. After seeing the video myself, I don't think it's even possible the Independent article's author looked at the video at all. Guzzy Bear is a comedian, and the only reason this "news article" exists at all is because Guzzy Bear made the whole dinosaur racism thing up himself (hilariously, in my opinion), and he and his cameraman couldn't even keep a straight face while they did it. Don't take my word for it. Look at the video yourself.


The Independent clearly didn't get the joke and proved comedian Guzzy Bear's point quite nicely when they took the bait. Notice I don't mention the author's name. Why bother? He wrote it, but someone above him also had to approve it. As far as I am concerned, it goes right to the top, and I doubt they will retract it. It may deservedly fall under the radar compared to other pressing news, but it was nonetheless reported as news. A news organization shouldn't have to be told about putting credibility on shaky ground (again, perfect world, textbook definition), but I just have to point out that this "article" was posted on the same day that this same "serious news" site was reporting on the horrible events in Charleston. As I type this, Charleston remains their cover story, and that issue is a hell of a lot more important than this fat, baldheaded loser sitting here giving my unimportant opinion on how a "journalist" thinks there is a dinosaur racism conspiracy. But at least I know where I stand, and people that don't stand for anything will fall for everything.

The "no longer journalism" thing goes for every single news outlet I unwittingly glance at in my local area that thinks it's a service to the public to be reading Twitter posts for every news story, holding Twitter opinion polls and posting a Twitter crawl along the bottom of the screen during reports (I speak specifically of local network news shows, but of course the influence of 24-hour news channels is obvious). We're not reporters, we're not news-makers, and the local news is the last place any of us need our fifteen seconds of Twitter fame. We're the uninformed public waiting to be informed (and to any media conspiracy friends out there reading this, I'm speaking perfect world, textbook definition journalism here, the way it is supposed to be delivered, so please don't get the hair on the back of your neck standing on end). Do your job, report the news objectively, and stop defeating your objectivity by asking us our opinion about it on your show DURING your show or, even worse in the case of The Independent, having the temerity to think our opinions on Twitter alone were enough for a news story. Sometimes I feel like I'm going against a few of my beliefs to use Twitter at all, but the important thing is that I remind myself not to misuse it.

This "article" on The Independent and, yes, even my blog post here, are just pieces of proof that we, the people at large in social media, are usually either spouting reactionary emotional gibberish about a subject our brain has not had ample time or appropriate information to process yet... or we've had ample time and are trying to find humor in it (+/- 2% in the calculation for people with no sense of humor). But then why am I sitting here bothering with this at 3AM (already after 4AM as I finish) instead of being asleep in my bed? Maybe I just wanted to remind myself I still have a sense of humor and a brain, and that I can step back, look for a little more information on something, and not react to it like I just stubbed my toe. It probably wasn't even worth the full hour and change I spent writing this, but I went ahead anyway. But seriously, that using Twitter on the news thing really gets to me... Good night.

Friday, June 19, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet December 27, 2015: Message From Space (1978)

UPDATED for December 27, 2015:
     After six months of holding off, the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens serves as perhaps the best time to put Message from Space out there for the masses (i.e.: small handful of standard GHWP live tweeters). #GHWP will be featuring the 1978 Toei classic officially on December 27, 2015, beginning at 4:45PM EST and co-hosted by the tweeters who wanted it the most, @1oldlostsoul and @bunnyhero.

     There are several ways to watch this feature with us, but unfortunately YouTube is not one of them for the English language version:

YouTube (Hungarian dubbed ONLY)
DVD from Shout! Factory
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Dish Network on Demand

Also, if you have Comet TV, the film will be airing on Thursday, December 24, at 2AM and 4PM EST, so you can record it and set it aside for a few days if that works for you (note that some time difference may be present with regard to commercials, editing for time, and/or possible frame rate playback speed up for the sake of ad time).

     Message From Space is a lavish Toei production from 1978 starring Vic Morrow and Sonny Chiba. It was written and directed by Kinji Fukusaku (Battle Royale, Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese sequences, The Green Slime) and co-written by the father of Toei superheroes Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider, Kikaider, Robot Detective K). In the vast realm of films with obvious inspiration from the original Star Wars, this is perhaps the most colorful and entertaining of them all.

RSVP @QuandaryMan, @1oldlostsoul or @bunnyhero for any additional information, and if, for some reason, you can't participate in the live tweet from the sources above, then one of us may be able to help you out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet June 19, 2015


Tonight's shows:
Dynaman -  The Lizard of Oz (USA Network Parody Dub)

Spectreman Episode 27 - Titanic Battle Seven Giant Monsters

     Since Spectreman is taking a half-day with a single-episode story, I decided to fill in the time and expand on the new trend I started with Tuesday's live tweet: more than just Spectreman! Although I started with an episode of Battle Hawk, my first intended non-Spectreman show live tweet was the classic parody dub of Kagaku Sentai Dynaman.

     I was an 80s child, and there was something special about that if you were a fan of obscure foreign movies and television shows. It's easy for me to get into a "you young whippersnappers and your YouTube and your hundreds of cable channels and taking for granted all the material at your fingertips" speech, but it's probably something you're not going to get if you were born later than 1990. The fledgling years of basic cable and late night network television in the early 80s were struggling to meet the growing demand for televised material, and by more televised material, I mean less hours of this after 10PM:

The original (I hate I have to use the word "original" now in the description) Poltergeist genuinely scared me because that after-hours test pattern and static hit close to home.

     I was an insomniac 80s child with cable, and we had a unique introduction to cultural diversity as TV channels tried to fill the static gaps with anything they could get their hands on. Dialogue-free cartoons from all over Europe were a big thing as well as the Dot movies from Australia, and the young USA Network set its sights on action in the form of dubbed Hong Kong and Japanese martial arts movies while premium cable had its fair share of Italian zombie gore and Vietnam War movies from the Philippines. In my opinion, it was the USA Network that held the line in what was great about early basic cable for the longest. They took advantage of a great vault of movies and cartoons that may have fallen into obscurity without USA giving them some more exposure. I know that I probably would not have been exposed to black and white Mexican horror movies if not for Commander USA, but that is only one tiny example. Then there was the monumentally classic late night music video/movie show Night Flight. I don't think anything made the insomnia more manageable.

     Aside from being an infinitely better version of MTV despite not being 24-hour programming, Night Flight was a mixed bag of awesome with barrage edit clip montages, movies like Fantastic Planet, movie trailers, parodies, stand-up comedy, short films, cartoons, music videos, and musician profiles and interviews on bands like The Doors, Genesis and Lush. It also introduced the English-speaking public at large to what would come to be known over a decade later as the Power Rangers. What they served us, however, was something beyond a preachy kids show with costumed fighters and giant monsters. Instead, the fine folks at USA chucked the entire script and went full-on What's Up, Tiger Lily? with the dialogue. The result was Dynaman, a tongue in cheek poke at culture, martial arts, and the bad dubbing of the 80s that we know and love.

     I got to experience Dynaman twice in my childhood as I saw it first on Night Flight in the early 80s. My parents got rid of cable when I was seven, forcing me to endure local late night movies (which were nonetheless a profound influence on me in their own right) and only one premium cable channel I won't mention by name because we weren't paying for it (back then, getting that channel required a special little coaxial adapter that the cable company didn't want back with the rest of the equipment, and its late night programming was glorious). Aside from going to my grandmother's house after school to watch You Can't Do That on Television, I didn't have access to basic cable again until four years later, shortly after my family moved to Florida in 1987. I was hitting a major point in the budding of my personality that year, and my tastes were forever cementing themselves in Japanese giant monsters and classic sci-fi and horror movies, strengthened by the likes of horror hosts Elvira, Grandpa Munster on TBS, Commander USA, and Tampa, Florida's late great horror host Dr. Paul Bearer (to VHS tape traders out there, I'm still on the lookout for a circa-1988 TV broadcast of Dr. Paul Bearer hosting Legend of the Dinosaurs. It virtually changed my life). It was on a weekend afternoon somewhere around that time that Nickelodeon wiped the dust off of Dynaman and showed it again (I felt like they did it just for me) as part of their Special Delivery movie.

     Nickelodeon and I are the same age and grew up together, and I wish I could say either of us aged well. Dynaman was deliberately corny and enjoyable, and I speak of it here and add it to my live tweet schedule with the hope that I can blow some of the dust off of it. It deserves its place in history, and if YouTube can help it to avoid being lost to obscurity forever as generations pass, then I'm happy.

Oh, no! The villains are jamming the airwaves with a Chibi Sugoi marathon! (shameless Small Wonder joke, but that was the sort of wacky humor you could expect from Dynaman)

     I didn't forget about Spectreman! I know what you're really here to see. This time around, we see an atypical one-episode story unfold as Dr. Gori resurrects a handful of his past monsters from the dead. Gokinosaurus, Nezubirdon, Satan-King, Magnetudon, and a new cyborg monster with Spectreman's powers are among the roster as a landslide the monsters cause while fighting each other coincidentally forces George and friends off the road and traps them in a mountain cabin. Trapped in closed quarters and unable to reveal his identity, all George can do is watch the monsters fight until he can find an opportunity to escape and transform.

I shouldn't have bought these fight seat tickets from a scalper. I can see only every third bob and every fifth weave.
     Meanwhile, Gori is in a rare mood and coaches Karas on the powers of positive thinking.

I have had it with your attitude, mister.
     Also on the docket are toku previews and trailers for The X From Outer Space, Dai Sentai Goggle V, Panther Five (one of many series that combined live action toku machines with anime),  Daitetsujin 17, Majin Hunter Mitsurugi, Pro Wrestling Star Aztekaizer, and Space Ironmen Kyodain. Also stay tuned for promos and trailers for a forthcoming DVD live tweet event for Message from Space (details to come).

      The fun starts Friday night after #BMovieManiacs.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet June 16, 2015


     It's Toku Tuesday once again, and I'm running out of extra tokusatsu intros to pad in between my Spectreman episodes. It's not for the lack of their existence but rather a disappointing decrease in the intros that used to be on YouTube. It used to be a simple matter to type in a show name and see the intro pop up as the first result, but the best guess is that the owner companies are having them taken down. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me considering that these are truncated clip montages set to an edited theme song, and one would think that it serves as free advertising and promotion when the entire shows themselves in many cases are not uploaded to YouTube themselves. This is, of course, speculation, and it is the prerogative of Toei and the other companies to do as they wish. Any opinion I have on fair use is just what it is. In any case, this Tuesday's extras include a few more Japanese hero intros I could find as well as a couple of toku movie trailers. You'll see the opening for Battle Hawk, Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine (2nd version), Kamen Rider Black, Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan, and trailers for Message from Space (which spun off into a successful Star Wars-style TV series of its own) and Legend of the Dinosaurs (which Toei produced in 1977, the same year as Jaq-Q Dengekitai). Also included are the opening theme of Family Adventure on Planet Zero (a sort of Japanese toku take on Lost in Space) and the opening and ending theme of Soreyuke Mahougumi. I was very fortunate to find this rarity, and viewers may recognize the star witch of this series as the late Michiko Soga, whose visage was introduced to American audiences via stock footage as none other than Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Soga's long and fruitful toku acting history extended well beyond her appearance as the face of the first major Power Rangers villain, and I felt she deserved a little added recognition here.

The late, great Michigo Soga as the witch Bellbara.

This live tweet's Spectreman selections:
Episode 25 - Grand Double Operation - Magulah and Satan-King
Episode 26 - Two Giant Monsters Battle in Tokyo

     Tonight, we gear up for a battle royal on Friday night's Midnight Spectreman. Before Friday's titanic seven-monster resurrection story, we have two colossal creatures to introduce first: Magulah and Satan-King... or King Satan if you're nasty.

Satan-King. "And he's made of bread rolls!" - @ThermalkatPt2
Magulah, Mommy Monster Dearest.
     Dr. Gori is particularly proud of King-Satan's power, and it seems like the red-headed beast from the heart of a meteor (who also, incidentally, has a roar that was created using screeching car brake sound effects) is on the verge of defeating Spectreman once and for all until their battle comes to close to the edge of a volcano. If the previous Spectreman live tweet taught us one thing, it's that giant monsters love making nests in volcanoes.

"Say what you will, Bakulah keep a very tidy, organized nest." - pic by @snail_rampant, quote by @Ghyxion
     Magulah erupts from the ground to protect her egg from Satan-King, giving a battered Spectreman an opportunity to escape, but Spectreman isn't going to get off so easily in this story. You'll have to tune in after #TrashTue to find out what happens, and the fun starts at 10:30PM EST.

Addendum: As an added treat, and since the Tuesday Spectreman live tweet runs at an earlier time, I am extending tonight's show with an episode of Battle Hawk.

Axes. I want to make a superhero show with a lot of axes. Did I mention I want axes? Write it down.

I hadn't heard of this one until a few days ago, and I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a random episode uploaded to YouTube. Unfortunately, it is not the first episode, but there is not much you need to know to catch up. Battle Hawk, unlike so many of the intros I have featured as extras, did not come from Toei or Shotaro Ishinomori. Battle Hawk was one of many creations of the other godfather of Japanese superheroes, Devilman/Cutie Honey/Mazinger Z creator Go Nagai. The plot centers around three young warriors that inherited three magical tomahawks from their sensei. Before his death at the hands of the Commandments of Insanity, a group of assassins bent on world terror, their sensei told them of his time training in America with a Native American tribe known as the Shasta. They imbued the three "God Hawks" with mystical power, allowing the three young warriors to transform when all three tomahawks are hurled into the air. Go Nagai certainly had a different style to his storytelling, but he is nevertheless as widely known as Ishinomori for his contributions to Japanese superhero manga/anime/live action history.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#GHWP Live Tweet June 12, 2015 - Midnight Spectreman


This live tweet's episodes:
Episode 19 - Blood Drinking Monster Bakulah Appears
Episode 20 - Find Bakulah's Nest

     We're getting into some Hausu and The House Where Evil Dwells territory tonight.

Or we're filming a new Lionel Richie video.

     Real estate in Japan is difficult. Arthur, one of George's coworkers, is looking for a new home for himself and his pregnant wife, and he lucks out when George finds him a place in New Town (hey, I didn't write the scripts). There's no sign of any virgin-eating witches, demonic white cats, battery-operated crabs or insane feudal ghosts trapped in an eternal murder/suicide love triangle, but we do have vampire cyclops ants. Did the landlord know about them? Of course he did. Did he disclose it to the new homeowners? What do you think?

Bakulah the Vampire Cyclops Ant: when even two sci-fi horror tropes aren't enough.
     Dr. Gori pulls his latest scheme right out of a horror movie with Bakulah, a giant ant creature that drinks the blood of its human victims to turn them into mindless zombie slaves with a penchant for telekinetic interpretive dance. Just when Spectreman thinks the day is saved, he discovers that Gori's plan involves a breeding pair of Bakulah, and the queen Bakulah already has a nest somewhere loaded with eggs.

Continuing our peek into the history of Japanese superheroes, also expect to see some intro themes from Kamen Rider V3, Jak-Q Dengekitai, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, Ultraman, Super Robot Red Baron, and Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine. On an editorial note, it saddens me to see that Toei apparently has had a lot of official intro themes removed from YouTube. There are some good ones I just can't show you as a result, and I am having to dig a little deeper to find some of them. You can see clips and song material from series like Choujin Barom-1 and Choujin Bibyun, but the opening credits won't be on any of my GHWP playlists unfortunately.

The weirdness starts at 1AM EST after #BMovieManiacs.

Coming Soon: One week from tonight, June 19, 2015, Dynaman joins The Midnight Spectreman for a special live tweet event. Spectreman will be taking part in a one-episode free-for-all, leaving a gap in the typical two-episode format that the pre-Power Rangers Super Sentai series will fill quite nicely. Stay tuned for details in a later post.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Toku Tuesday (#GHWP Live Tweet June 9, 2015)

10:30PM EST after #TrashTue
      It's Toku Tuesday! #TrashTue's first feature this week, Infra-Man, makes another Tuesday night perfect for some more Spectreman, and it's never difficult to pick a good pair of episodes.

This Tuesday's episodes:
Episode 7 - The Black Terror
Episode 8 - Duel Gokinosaurus

We're gonna get a big can of RAID, right? We're gonna get a really big can of RAID, right?! - Tom Servo, MST3K Exp517 Beginning of the End

Note: Anyone that sat in on one of the earlier #GHWP Spectreman showings may have seen episode 7 already. That night was wrought with link troubles and miscommunication thanks to the issue of episodes 5 and 6 being duplicates of the same show on YouTube (which I had to remedy from my own personal video collection) as well as the fact that I didn't know a thing about making YouTube playlists yet. Episode 7 was a last-second fill-in that night for the missing show, and we never got around to the second part of this story in episode 8. I still intend to go back and present episodes 5 and 6 again properly, but I want to give a little more time to justify another rerun.

      The Pollution G-Men are still in their early stages in this story, and they want to run some tests on the harmful effects of smog on human beings. Their primary subject, a man named Nakaya, after a nasty exposure to smog, suffers from a case so severe that he is deathly afraid of the dark.


     The supposed urgency Nakaya's condition presents is so panicking that even Overlord, never one to bother gathering a lot of facts from his ivory tower before making a corporate decree, wants Spectreman to transport Nakaya to Nebula Star to be dissected. No, Overlord doesn't say outright that Spectreman's all-powerful rulers plan to cut Nakaya up into pieces, but it's certainly implied in the fact that he wouldn't have a say in the matter and wouldn't be coming back to Earth. Spectreman commits his cardinal sin of the day and disobeys orders, but of course Overlord never really does follow through with that threat of destruction for insubordination. Little does anyone know that Nakaya's exposure to the smog was part of another plot of the mad Dr. Gori. It was Karas, dressed to the nines as always, who planted a weapon in Nakaya's lab that led to his condition, and chances are the weapon contained much more than simple toxic smoke.

Such a snappy dresser.

     While Rita, who has feelings for Nakaya, argues with George and the Pollution G-Men about taking Nakaya to her village for some fresh air instead of letting him suffer for science, Gori puts the rest of his plan into motion, mutating an average cockroach into the towering Gokinosaurus.

If only Glenn Manning had a pair of house shoes in his size.
     The story turns soap-opera in a hurry when Rita absconds with Nakaya in the night. Spectreman has his orders to deliver Nakaya to Nebula Star, but Karas once again sets his sights on Rita.

Apparently, every gorilla suffers from a King Kong complex... or Karas wants to know who does Rita's hair.
     Will Spectreman obey Overlord and rescue Nakaya from Gokinosaurus, only to transport Nakaya to Nebula Star against his will? Will Spectreman disobey Overlord and rescue Rita from Karas' clutches? Or will Spectreman just tell them all to get off his back once and for all and fly down to Cancun for the weekend? Find out Tuesday night on #GHWP's Midnight Spectreman Early Edition.

In between episodes, expect some more tokusatsu goodness as I present some more intro themes from the golden age of Japanese superheroes. This Midnight Spectreman Early Edition showcases intros that focus mainly on the creative genius and influence of the late master Shotaro Ishinomori with Toei's very first entries in their two most popular franchises, Himitsu Sentai GoRanger and Kamen Rider, as well as intros for Inazuman Flash, Denjin Zaborger, Kikaider, Kikaider 01, the first magical girl anime Sarutobi Ecchan, the live action Sailor Moon, and the original Japanese openings for Maguma Taishi (AKA Space Giants) and Kagaku Sentai Dynaman.  

      The 1970s were a boom for Japanese superheroes. Tsuburaya's Ultraman may deserve a lot of the credit for inspiring a surge in giant monsters and robots, but most production companies only offered one or two entries in the genre such as P Productions with Space Giants and Spectreman. For a brief moment in the early 1970s, even Toho got into the act with its own superheroes to meet the growing popular demand, first introducing Jet Jaguar in what was intended to be his own feature film, but lack of faith in his star power led to what would be known as Godzilla vs. Megalon. A month after Megalon was released in Japanese theaters, Toho debuted its direct television sequel, Ryuseu Ningen Zone (AKA Meteor Man Zone or Zone Fighter). Zone Fighter would take on a number of alien-controlled giant monsters every week and even faced off against the mighty King Ghidorah and Gigan, and Godzilla himself, officially a heroic monster, made a few guest appearances as Zone Fighter's most powerful ally.

     It was Toei Company Limited that would go on to flood the market in the 1970s and well into the 1980s with their immense catalog of Sentai (task force) and Henshin (transforming) heroes. They still continued to produce anime and movies such as a personal favorite of mine, Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds, and they also were responsible for cult classics such as Invasion of the Neptune Men, The Green Slime, and The Magic Serpent. They would become known best, however, through the annual television franchises of Sentai and Kamen Rider, and it was only natural that they also take on the television adaptations of the heavily Sentai/Henshin-influenced Sailor Moon.

     Shotaro Ishinomori, a name every tokusatsu fan should know by heart as the creator of Japan's first superhero team, Cyborg 009, as well as Japan's first android superhero, 8Man, set the Toei Henshin/Sentai hero formula into motion with the creation of Kamen Rider, GoRanger and Jak-Q Dengekitai. The Sentai formula would undergo a henshin of its own after a collaboration with Marvel Comics in the late 1970s added giant transforming robots to its hero arsenal following Toei's 1978 live-action Spider-Man adaptation--in which Spider-Man controlled a giant spacecraft called The Marveler that transformed into the giant fighting robot Leopardon--officially labeling its primary task force franchise Super Sentai in 1979. Ishinomori's human-sized transforming hero formula would remain intact with Kamen Rider, and he would go on to create a slew of other Henshin and Sentai heroes down the line as well as the first magical girl anime and another undoubted inspiration for Sailor Moon, Sarutobi Ecchan.

     Dynaman just might look familiar to anyone that grew up in the early 1980s with cable. It stands as the very first Super Sentai series to be shown in the United States, a decade before Saban adapted the franchise into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Dynaman aired on the fledgling USA Network's Night Flight as well as Nickelodeon's Special Delivery weekend matinee movie slot, but, unlike Spectreman, the Japanese script for Dynaman was thrown out completely and dubbed in English with comedy in the vein of Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? Why do I bring up the history of Dynaman? Well, this series was my second in-depth exposure to Japanese superheroes and has almost as big a place in my heart as Spectreman, and I intend to add some Dynaman episodes to the #GHWP viewing slot in the near future. The stories were funny and unforgettable as well as the costuming. Although so many of their shows are formulaic, the fact that Toei manages to remain original and imaginative with its character designs and make-up year after year is a testament to their talent.

     But hey, August Ragone is the guy to ask about the full story. My background and the little introduction I have detailed here aren't even a drop in the bucket compared to the man's knowledge of the genres. No one deserves more respect for knowing the material, so much so that I'm tempted to ask him to proofread and sign off on what I've written here. We're just having fun here with the live tweeting, but there are plenty of serious places to go for additional information if one is inspired to look for it.

     Overlord commands you tune in to #GHWP Tuesday night after #TrashTue for this tour of the grand history of Japanese superheroes. The fun starts at 10:30PM EST and will be over with a little time to spare for the east coast feed of @midnight featuring the RiffTrax crew.


Friday, June 5, 2015

The GHWP Motto

     If I can convince just one person out there that Peter Graves went to the University of Minnesota, then I've done my job.   -  Crow T. Robot, Mystery Science Theater 3000 Exp#517 Beginning of the End

     That quote, from one of my top 5 favorite MST3K episodes, pretty much sums up my mindset with regard to #GHWP and The Midnight Spectreman. I don't expect it to take off into a big sensation, and I don't think more than maybe 10 people out of every-human-being-on-the-planet-using-Twitter is joining the #GHWP hashtag. It also doesn't help that I picked a time slot at the same time as the massive sensation @midnight on Comedy Central, which dominates the top spot of the hashtagscape virtually every weeknight (Is hashtagscape a word? It is now). That's okay. People have lives, other interests, and bedtimes. If I can convince those 10 people that the greatness of Spectreman existed, then I've done my job because too many good things slip into obscurity. Sure, it's a lark and something inevitably wide open for ribbing and ridicule, but this is a revival for me. It's not just a revival of Spectreman in the eyes of a tiny corner of the public, but it's also a revival of a love I thought I had cast off a few years ago.

     Life was getting me down for a good while, and I didn't find myself with the time, the attention span, or the willingness to feed myself with any amount of joy I used to get from watching these old Japanese superhero and giant monster shows and movies. They used to be a deep obsession. I wouldn't have become a fan of MST3K if not for Godzilla and Gamera, and, somewhat ironically, my obsession for daikaiju and tokusatsu almost made me hate MST3K when I first saw it at age 12. I was a bullied child with a blanket negative view of making jokes at someone else's expense, and when I saw my first MST3K episode, Gamera, I couldn't see the good-natured ribbing at first. It took me quite a few years to realize some of the children in my life were trying to do the same thing with me and weren't bullying me at all. With my first glimpse of MST3K, I only saw someone making fun of something I loved, and it bothered me. I was a kid that had grown up watching VHS tapes of Legend of the Dinosaurs, Godzilla vs. Megalon, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Gamera to death, and I watched them in stone silence over and over again in awe of the childhood experience. In 1985, when Godzilla was dropped into a volcano, I wandered my yard for three hours crying as I clutched my little Imperial Godzilla figure in my hand. Even though Tom Servo's love theme to Tibby gave me a giggle, I was hesitant, but I was also observant. I started to notice references to things outside of the movie, other movies that they had to have seen within the same genres I enjoyed the most, and I started to notice that many of the jokes they made conveyed a lot more dignity and respect than I thought. Around that same time, I had occasion to see a couple of episodes of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. A light bulb turned on in my head. MST3K was doing the same thing. They had a love for these movies that shined through some very detailed references they made, and I couldn't have been happier to discover I was right when I saw the cast of Cinematic Titanic in Dallas, TX, in 2008 for the 20th Anniversary MST3K gathering. It was there that creator Joel Hodgson told us all that it was Gamera and the daikaiju genre in general that were chief inspirations for MST3K. Joel had enjoyed these movies the same way I did: network and syndicated horror hosts like Elvira, Svengoolie, Commander USA, Dr. Paul Bearer, Zacherley and Chilly Billy. Joel wanted to do the same thing. He wanted to make a horror host show, a show that would keep the legacy of these movies alive for new generations, and he had an added spin to put on the medium that would change it forever. So I pulled the stick out and gave MST3K another chance, and I have remained a devout fan to this day. I also think it helped that the show had puppets. I love puppets. I can understand how at least one respected author in the genre of tokusatsu criticism has a tainted and violently dismissive viewpoint of MST3K, but, with all due respect, I think he focused too much on a few disrespectful young people around him that were trying to emulate Joel and the bots, simply didn't get how it was done, and wouldn't shut the hell up in a movie theater. Anyone can make fun of a movie. Anyone can disrupt the flow of a movie with a barrage of commentary, but riffing takes style and atmosphere. Depending on the style and setting, talking during a movie or waiting until it's over to write an essay is just splitting hairs.

     In a way, this is my own little personal way of fulfilling the same dream. I always wanted to be a horror host myself, and I still have a lot of ideas and blueprints I need to make happen down the line. This makes for some good practice, but my real goal is just to get some of these golden oldies back out there in the atmosphere where they belong. It's therapeutic. My favorite hobby just isn't any fun unless I am sharing it, so here I am building up just enough confidence to throw myself out there and watch some Japanese men in suits flop around with anyone willing to join me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet - Friday Night, June 4, 2015 - Midnight Spectreman

Feel the flash
Like a flame!
Than a Plane!
A mystery
With the name
From space!
He'll save
The Human Race!
Yet they'll never know the face
Of Spectreman!
 We will never know the source
Of his power and his force
As he guides this planet's course!
Friday night at 1AM EST/12PM CST/10PM PST, after #BMovieManiacs, join @QuandaryMan on Twitter for #GHWP and another installment of The Midnight Spectreman.

This week's episodes:
Episode 21 - The Mysterious Alien Zunou vs. Gilagind
Episode 22 - Violent Charge of the Dual-Bladed Monster Gilagind

This week, life from another world crashes down on Earth, not that this is anywhere near commonplace in this show (sarcasm), and, in this case, the planet Zunou's inhabitants all appear to be cyclopean, body-possessing California Raisins with intelligence to rival that of Dr. Gori himself.

I heard it through the grapevine.
 The Zunouman finds himself trapped on Earth and wants to return home, but he stumbles into the middle of Dr. Gori's latest plot. This time around, Dr. Gori has created the wide-eyed monster Gilagind, ordering it to use its drill-like elbow blades to provoke a volcanic eruption.

Jeepers creepers. Where'd you get those peepers?

Seeing Dr. Gori's ship as his only viable means of returning to Zunou, the Zunouman possesses Karas to infiltrate the ship and take command, laying the smackdown on Dr. Gori and giving him some lip service that probably makes Karas giggle like a schoolgirl deep down inside. Dr. Gori, unable to contest with another alien intellect in the body of Gori's very own musclebound ape henchman, offers the Zunouman an alternative proposition...

And just where is Spectreman during all of this? George has his hands full trying to investigate the Zunouman's spacecraft, following a trail of lifeless bodies in the woods with the Pollution G-Men. As always, when a giant monster appears, George disappears to a phone booth-- er, to contact Overlord and request permission to transform into Spectreman to save the day.

This pair of episodes serves as a transition in Japan. Although the title theme of the English dubbed version remains constant throughout the series, using the background melody from the Mystic Moods song "First Day of Forever," the series in Japan was split into three separately titled sets of episodes and gave Dr. Gori most of the attention in the beginning. The first 21 episodes in Japan were titled simply "Space Apeman Gori," and episode 22 would debut with the new title "Space Apeman Gori vs. Spectreman." The title would not change to "Spectreman" until episode 41. It remains unique that a Japanese superhero series would give its title role largely to the villain.

Don't miss the fun on #GHWP Friday night, and expect other fun tokusatsu video extras in between episodes including the opening title for the fourth entry in the Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Amazon, as well as peeks at opening titles for Denji Sentai Denziman (the fourth entry in Toei's Super Sentai franchise, long before the franchise would come to be known in America as the Power Rangers), Iron Man Tiger 7, Kaiketsu Zubat, Ninja Captor, and Japan's very different incarnation of Spider-Man.

Join us.

Playlist link (static link, material updated prior to showtime):

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Origin of Gaping Head Wound Playhouse

     What is "Gaping Head Wound Playhouse?" The brainchild (heh-heh) of @QuandaryMan on Twitter, Gaping Head Wound Playhouse or #GHWP came about one night when I stumbled upon a longstanding community of movie riffers after a several-year absence from Twitter. I had a few life upheavals in the past couple of years, and the same goes for a few of the people with whom I typically associated through chat rooms (for the young people, chat rooms were a Twitter prototype where people went to have online conversations, but they were limited to separate domains rather than the huge party line atmosphere Twitter provides). Shortly before I discovered the #TCMParty and #LiveTweetAlert groups such as #TrashTue, #DriveInMob, and #BMovieManiacs, I tried to exercise my muscles simply live tweeting random material all by myself. I didn't really expect to get anything off the ground. I just needed an outlet that wasn't being provided anywhere else. I didn't care if nothing I tweeted made sense outside the context of whatever movie I was watching alone, but therein lies the rub: it's nowhere near as much fun watching movies and television alone when there are others out there to share the enjoyment. For nearly 15 years, in an old MST3K fan chat room, I have been part of a small but dedicated fan riffing group that began as a Saturday night get-together to watch MST3K episodes. That Saturday night get-together shifted into riffing other movies and television and even to the formation of a meager commercial fan riff group called Cinemasochism (coined by me). I discovered that Saturday movie nights were a form of training. It exercised my wit and personality to a point where it became difficult to watch a movie alone and in silence. There were too many observations to be made and too many opportunities to make the experience even more fun than the filmmakers intended. It became almost impossible for me to watch anything without performing a good-natured roasting of the production just like the MST3K and RiffTrax crew do. I have no ego here. I'm told I'm funny, so I just take others' word for it and keep doing it. I'm just an amateur observational film riffer, and I'm no stand-up comedian. I haven't been on a stage since I played a snowman in my 2nd grade choir Christmas pageant.

     All of those life upheavals and the fact that an online community of 30+ people had dwindled to maybe 10 with only 3 or 4 ever getting in on movie nights led to the chat room being largely quiet most of the time. I'll never leave the chat room, but it's too quiet for me. We still get together to riff maybe a movie a week, but, and I'm being honest here, chatting online is pretty much the only social life I have had for almost 20 years. I only go out to movies and to eat on rare occasions, and I don't date (not for lack of wanting). It's not that I like to hear myself talk; it's that I need to be able to talk somewhere. If I don't, then I start to sink into a hole out of which it can be difficult to climb. Being alone inside my own head is not a lot of fun, and it has become significantly less fun since the death of my mother and confidant a little over a year ago. In fact, this blog used to be a personal one, and I used to share some intimate details of my past and my many attempts to process where my life was going before deciding to overhaul the blog into something a little more practical.

     On May 7, 2015, I participated in my first group movie live tweet of the Tennessee Williams-adapted film "BOOM!" It felt good if a little exhausting due to the difference between keeping up with a much larger group of people's comments (and photo uploads) on a movie instead of a small handful of people in a chat room only doing running commentary with no fancy apps involved. Multi-tab movie viewing was a sharp learning curve, but I felt destined to get with the times considering how much I love watching and riffing movies with others. It's the only real extroverted activity in which this potentially-terminal introvert engages. The following night, I went back off Twitter to have a movie night in my chat room, but I was left wanting more when it was over and went right back to Twitter to begin what would end up a one-sided conversation doomed to amount to nothing good. I ended up tweeting about my new cricket farm, the uncut Russian version of Humanoid Woman and other assorted nonsense, all the while stating over and over again a self-fulfilling prophecy that nothing good happens after 2AM. I was sleepy and punchy, but I needed to get the last of it out of my system. After a few @midnight hashtag war tweets, I got up to go to my kitchen and stopped briefly to play hide and seek with my dog behind a table. At one point, I bent over and WHAM! I hit my head on the sharp metal corner of a breaker box hard enough to make my face feel crooked for an hour. I soaked up an entire paper towel before the bleeding finally stopped, and I looked at the clock on my wall and laughed. It was 2:02AM. Nothing good happens after 2AM. Nailed it. Shortly before ending my tweets for the night, I tweeted, "Always be aware of your surroundings, a public service announcement from Gaping Head Wound Playhouse." It was a little on-the-spot tweet of silly humor and never intended to go anywhere as images of Saturday morning cartoon PSAs floated through my concussed mind, but it stuck with me as I had to go through Mother's Day and beyond with a noticeable lump and cut on my forehead that looked like I was about to turn into a lopsided unicorn.

     Cut to May 12, 2015, and my first sit-in with #TrashTue and a showing of the movie Alien. As I mentioned, I sat alone watching a few random movies on Twitter but never really considered my own hashtag. At 10PM EST on May 12, 2015, the first Gaping Head Wound Playhouse feature went forward as a fill-in for the typical second feature of #TrashTue with Screamers, a Roger Corman treatment of Island of the Fishmen, and #GHWP took off as an easy hashtag to leave room for a joke within the 140-character limit. For me, it was just an attempt not to have to watch a movie alone, and I was glad I built up the nerve to live tweet it with those good and funny people instead of just watching it myself or waiting for a potential future movie night in my chat room that may never come. It wasn't planned in advance, but it was something I feel I should have been doing on Twitter years ago. There is, however, a large group of funny people on Twitter that have been doing this for a long time, and the last thing I wanted to do was to pull people away from their dedicated efforts, especially when I found some kindred spirits watching the types of movies I love most. I also had watched too many movies alone to keep them to myself and follow a schedule, so I just did the next best thing: I shoehorned myself into starting an after party to pick some movies I wanted to see or had seen and couldn't keep to myself. "Who is this nobody with no followers trying to start up his own lame movie watching hashtag right under our noses?" some of you may say. Well, that's me. I'm just one lonesome loser doing something I love: spreading some of my good childhood movie and TV memories while trying as hard as I can to avoid watching them alone.

     After Screamers, #GHWP kept going with Cruel Jaws, Black Moon Rising, and an old 1980s Commander USA's Groovie Movies broadcast of Mako: Jaws of Death. The 80s commercials in that last one were the real hit of the night, and they featured trailers for two movies I still plan to showcase on #GHWP in the near future. The road the Playhouse travels, however, took a sharp detour when #DriveInMob added episodes of Space Giants to their live tweet viewing on May 21, 2015. This put me in a rare mood. Tokusatsu was the primary force that pulled me into MST3K through Godzilla and Gamera movies, and it has been several years since I really sat down and watched any sort of tokusatsu material. My last tokusatu viewings were Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, the final episode of Daimajin Kanon and the finale movies of Kaizoku Sentai GoKaiger and Kamen Rider Fourze. Circumstances in my life left me feeling short of time and attention span for subtitled Japanese superheroes/monsters for the past few years, but one of my first childhood loves was an obscure Ultraman-style 1970s superhero, from the makers of Space Giants, known as Spectreman. I was delighted to see Spectreman episodes in abundant supply on YouTube, so I just had to go forward with a live tweet and revive it.  

     Spectreman began its run in the United States in 1978, a production whose English dub was written, directed, produced, and largely voiced by Roger Corman staple character actor Mel Welles (perhaps best known as Mushnik in the original Little Shop of Horrors as well as Digger Smolkin in The Undead). At the age of 4 in 1982, I'd had my first limited introduction to Roger Corman and giant monsters through the comedic clip showcase feature It Came from Hollywood, but aside from a couple of Godzilla movies I'd seen at that age, my first in-depth exposure to tokusatsu came from Spectreman, which, to my good fortune, was still on the air on a local network until 1983. I still remember the heartache of coming home from Kindergarten one day to find that Spectreman was off the air for good, and it would be many years before I ever saw it again through old VHS tapes and bootlegs I bought off eBay. Now I had the opportunity to feed my riffing habit and to soothe my 5-year-old inner child at the same time, and eventually #GHWP's The Midnight Spectreman live tweet was born, cheesy graphic logo and everything.

     So there you have it: the origin of Gaping Head Wound Playhouse. As of this writing, #GHWP is 10 episodes into this 63-episode series, and I intend to live tweet them all as well as showcasing some fun movies in the wee hours of the night, schedule permitting. I hope to be able to go back and make some blog chronicles of past shows, and we'll see how this little venture goes as time progresses.