Today is December 8th, notable to me for three reasons. 1) It's traditionally celebrated as the day Buddha attained Enlightenment, 2) it's the day John Lennon died and 3) it's the day the Japanese think of as Pearl Harbor Day (because of the international dateline, the attack occurred on the 8th in Japanese time, not the 7th).
Unfortunately, instead of a happy post commemorating Buddha's Enlightenment Day -- and the final day of Rohatsu Sesshins all over the world, I have to post some important (to me) obituaries. I put a longer and more complete version of these up on Suicide Girls. But I want to mention them on this page too.
On December 4th Forrest J. Ackerman, founder and first publisher of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland passed away in his home in Horrorwood, Karloffornia. He was 92.
The following day, December 5th, the world lost Beverly Garland, the one person who stood up to the horrifying Venusian walking cucumber in Roger Corman's cult classic It Conquered the World -- and in a tight sweater (hubba-hubba), no less!
These two have been covered in a number of other news sources and I have complete obits for them up on Suicide Girls. Here I want to talk about another recent death.
On November 30th, Koichi Takano passed away in his home in Tokyo, Japan. Although Takano's name isn't nearly as well-known as either Ackerman's or Garland's, to me his loss is much more personal. He used to be my boss. Takano was a special effects director who was initially hired in the 1950's by Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects director of the classic Godzilla films. After Takano had worked in the background on a number of Godzilla pictures, Tsuburaya hand-picked him to direct the effects for his groundbreaking television series Ultraman. Takano continued to direct special effects for hundreds of science fiction and superhero television shows and theatrical films until complications from emphysema forced him to retire five years ago. Takano continued to appear in lots of documentaries and making-of TV shows and specials to talk about his legendary effects work. Some dopes in this country have derided his work as cheezy -- his preferred method for depicting a city-smashing monster was to put a stuntman into a fat rubber dinosaur costume and have him stomp on a miniature replica of Tokyo. But just try finding example of special effects work done in the US on a similar budget and time frame that is anywhere near as meticulous, detailed and just plain cool as what Takano accomplished!
The photo on the top of this entry is one I took of Koichi Takano along with actress Mariya Yamada at the wrap party for the TV series Ultraman Dyna at the Akasaka Prince Hotel on August 11, 1998. Mariya played Agent Mai of the Super GUTS team, the people who would try every week to destroy whatever monster attacked Tokyo and fail misreably until Ultraman Dyna came along and helped them out. Takano was the special effects supervisor on the series.
I have another photo of me and Takano on a bench at some hotel waiting for a bus. It was on a company trip. We'd both been up really late the night before and Takano had been drinking too (I hadn't). In the photo I'm the one who looks hung over and he's all bright and chipper and ready to go. Alas, I cannot find that picture.
All three of these legends will be missed.