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Monster Zero

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Released in 1965, the Japanese film, "Monster Zero", is a B-movie classic monster film that features an array of Japanese stars that were widely celebrated in Japan. The talented Ishiro Honda directed the 93 minute colored film.

Ishiro Honda was born in 1911 in Yamagata as part of a Monk's family. Honda spent his childhood years dreaming of utilizing his talents in drawing by becoming an artist. Though he maintained the ability to draw well, Honda's interests gradually shifted towards film, and by junior high, he was determined to become a filmmaker. Honda later attended Nippon University where he studied in the Arts Department. Following his graduation from college, Honda went to work for the filmmaking company, Photography Chemistry Laboratory in 1933.There, Honda often worked as assistant director, many times for Kajiro Yamamoto. Honda went on to serve in the military for eight years after being drafted three times. During his second stint in the military, Honda was captured and spent a year as a prisoner in mainland China. Following his time spent in the military, Honda turned back to film. Honda became acquainted with the famous Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, and maintained a deep friendship with him for the rest of his life. Honda, who was the creator of "Godzilla", spent much of his career working on monster films. Though he was more drawn to science fiction, Honda was proud of his monster productions and happy to continue making them. Honda is known for frequently showing scenes of people being overwhelmed by an ambush of crowds, human or inhuman. His tendency to repeatedly show this scene is based on a fear that he had while stationed in China during World War II.

For "Monster Zero", Honda featured two lead roles, Astronaut Fuji, played by Akira Takarada, and Astronaut Glenn, played by Nick Adams. As the film takes place in Japan.

Having grown up in Garfield, New Jersey, Nick Adams was raised by loving parents in a very poor environment. Vowing to become a celebrity so that he could buy a house for his parents, Adams hitchhiked to Hollywood at the age of eighteen to become an actor. After struggling through starvation and minimal employment, Adams landed a role as an extra in a Coca Cola commercial. On the set of the commercial he met and befriended James Dean, who at the time was a struggling actor himself. Adams got his big break after being drafted into the United States Coast Guard. He learned that Warner Brothers Studios was holding a casting call for sailors and put on his Coast Guard uniform and lied his way into the studio. He was able to audition and landed a part in the 1955 film, "Mister Roberts". Adams went on to play lead and supporting roles in many films in the 50s, but is perhaps best known to audiences as Johnny Yuma of the 1959 TV series, "The Rebel". Adams later became friends with Elvis Presley and even studied martial arts with Presley and other celebrities under the direction of Ed Parker. Adams was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in "Twilight of Honor" in 1963. In 1968, he died of an overdose on drugs that he was taking for a nervous disorder.

Akira Takarada plays Astronaut Fuji, the more intelligent astronaut who is constantly keeping a close eye on his sister and the man whom she is dating. Takarada began acting in 1949 with a small role in "When the Liberty Bell Rang". He then went on to act in various roles until 1954 when he made his big break as navy diver, Hideto Ogata in the original "Gojira". Takarada became recognizable for his persona as the cocky, slightly cynical urban male, and that made him very successful. Takarada went on to become one of the most recognized men associated with the original "Godzilla", even though he only appeared in four installments and played a different character in every "Godzilla" movie that he was in. Takarada is still a celebrity in Japan through his appearances in TV dramas, quiz shows, and commercials.

Akira Kubo plays the role of Tesuo Teri, the awkward inventor who is dating the sister of Astronaut Fuji and constantly trying to gain the approval of Fuji. Kubo made his acting debut in 1952 for director, Seiji Maruyama in a contemporary youth film. Kubo became a very popular figure within Japan's youth culture after appearing in a youth drama for director/writer/producer, Senkichi Taniguchi, in 1954. Kubo appeared in many dramas throughout his career. His specialty was in portraying a restless and determined young hero, which is contradicted by his nervous character in "Monster Zero". In addition, Kubo served as the star of a number of Japanese science fiction films. The malicious controller of Planet X is play by Yoshio Tsuchiya, who is perhaps one of the most widely celebrated actors in the film. Tsuchiya grew up in his ancestral home in the countryside of Japan. He went on to study to be a doctor, and graduated from medical school, but felt drawn to acting. After completing medical school, Tsuchiya joined the highly regarded Hayuza theatre group. As he began his career in acting, Tsuchiya intended to only do stage acting. However, he was persuaded by director Akira Kurosawa to audition for the director's 1952 film, "Seven Samurai". Tsuchiya landed the role and because of his performance, went on to become an actor that was wanted in a variety of films. An avid UFO buff, Tsuchiya played the role of the Mysterian commander in the Science Fiction film, "Earth Defense Force", which was released in 1957. Tsuchiya retired from film in 1970 to return to his first love, the stage. He has since become a noted essayist on subjects ranging from his work with Akira Kurosawa to his interest in UFOs. Though busy with writing and working for an occasional film, Tsuchiya makes time to do at least one stage tour every year.

"Monster Zero" was released in America five years later in 1970. It was the first time that Toho united their themes of outer space invasions with giant monster invasions. The film was a huge success in Japan and fell right into place with the other "monster" films that were so popular within Japan's society at that time.

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John Armstrong

John ArmstrongJohn Armstrong, Professor of Physics at Weber State University, discusses the facts and fiction of outer space.

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