A Note from the Curator:
Ever since Ishiro Honda's 1954 Godzilla first rampaged across screens around the world, its title monster has become both Japan's best-known pop culture export and a universal symbol of mass destruction. But Godzilla has also cast a long, scaly shadow obscuring Japan's other live-action contributions to the sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Though Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya later teamed up for films about alien invasions and battles in outer space, similar to the sci-fi epics Hollywood was churning out in the 1950s and 1960s, the work for which they are best known (and will probably always be best known) inevitably features Godzilla and his fellow kaiju ("monsters"). Also, the export versions of sci-fi films by Honda, Tsuburaya and their Toho studio colleagues, Godzilla series entries included, typically trashed the originals with bad dubbing and drastic re-edits. Nonetheless foreign fans embraced these films and some, such Guillermo del Toro with Pacific Rim (2013), made their own versions of what the Japanese call tokusatsu eiga ("effects films").
For the 2016 Udine Far East Film Festival I curated a section of classic sci-fi and fantasy films sourced from Toho and elsewhere to show that the Japanese cinematic imagination extended beyond Godzilla in ways entertainingly rich and strange. Due to the vagaries of rights ownership, it has not been possible to bring that program intact to Japan Society. But for the same reason, it is possible to screen certain films in New York that could not be presented in Italy.
—Mark Schilling, Guest Curator
Mark Schilling is a reporter, critic and author specializing in Japanese films and popular culture. He has been reviewing Japanese films for The Japan Times since 1989, while covering the Japanese film industry for Screen International from 1990 to 2005 and for Variety from 2005 to the present. He has written and contributed to many books, including The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture (Weatherhill, 1997), Contemporary Japanese Film (Weatherhill, 1999), The Yakuza Movie Book (Stone Bridge Press, 2003), No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema (2007), Nudes! Guns! Ghosts! The Sensational Films of Shintoho (2010) and Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures and Fantasies in Japanese Cinema.