Behind the Scenes: Wind Velocity 75 Meters 「風速七十五米」

WV75M
Ginza is swept up in a massive storm surge in the finale of Daiei’s Wind Velocity 75 Meters.

We Western tokusatsu fanatics are blessed in that, with some rare exceptions, the majority of Japan’s golden-age science fiction and fantasy output has been available to us in some format or other from the get go. Godzilla and Gamera graced both cinemas and the small screen the world over, along with their horde of contemporaries. With the advent of home video more has become available still, and the number of classic Japanese special effects genre films that can’t be found somewhere is dwindling.

This is all well and good for science fiction, fantasy and the like, but they were far from the only special effects cinema produced in Japan during its golden age. Others like the film covered today have never been released outside of Japan, excepting perhaps a brief run in a regional Japanese theater here or there. To the best of my knowledge Daiei’s 1963 effects drama Wind Velocity 75 Meters / 「風速七十五米」 has never seen a major theatrical, television, or even video release beyond its native shores, where it was recently re-issued by Kadokawa at bargain price. It doesn’t even appear to have an IMDB listing, which means it may as well not exist at all in so far as the English-speaking world is concerned. It’s a shame, really. Wind Velocity 75 Meters may not be the most exciting stuff around, but for the effects hound it’s still plenty neat.

Penned by TAGUCHI Kozo and TAKAIWA Hajime and directed by TANAKA Shigeo, Wind Velocity 75 Meters is a drama of romance, corporate intrigue and tragic crime set around Ginza’s neon billboard boom. The story concerns the young heir (TAMIYA Jiro) to a Nagoya contracting firm who’s looking to hit it big in Tokyo’s bustling construction scene and weed out the competition. Unfortunately for his ambition, he falls for the competition’s daughter (KANO Junko) instead. Meanwhile his father (SUGAI Ichiro), unbeknownst to the son, is gunning for his rival’s top-dog position through less than reputable means – espionage, sabotage, and even murder, all perpetrated by a sociopathic asthmatic henchman (TAKAMATSU Hideo). A reporter (UTSUI Ken) investigates the incidents, but has other things on his mind – a super typhoon is brewing in the Pacific, and Ginza is square in its sights!

BehindtheScenes-002
Effects director TSUKIJI Yonesaburo posing with a work in-progress – a replica of Toho’s iconic Nichigeki Theater.

Wind Velocity 75 Meters is one of several big-budget typhoon melodramas produced by Daiei at the turn of the decade, and a direct reference to the 1959 Ise-wan Typhoon, a mega-storm that swept from one end of Japan to the other with maximum wind-speed of 75 meters per second. As a plot device the typhoon here isn’t especially well integrated. It just sort of happens once the drama has reached its zenith, dispensing a bit of cosmic justice but serving mostly as a showcase for the Daiei effects department, here under the guidance of TSUKIJI Yonesaburo (Warning From Space / 「宇宙人東京に現わる」 ). Despite representing only a few minutes of the film’s 88 minute running time Daiai’s publicity team relied heavily on Wind Velocity 75 Meters‘ effects production to turn admissions. Indeed, the film’s trailer devotes nearly as much time to scenes of destruction as the film itself!

Though in all ways subservient to the drama (I suppose this is how it should be, whether I came to the show for construction world intrigue or not) Tsukiji’s effects direction is superb, and stands toe to toe with anything produced by the Hollywood majors at the time. The centerpiece is the depiction of a devastating storm surge, which courses through Tsukiji’s miniature Ginza with brutal force. As the water rises even KINOSHITA Chuji’s ace score gives way, letting the power of the effects (with an assist from sound designer NISHII Kinichi) speak for themselves. It’s a hell of a thing, and shared for the benefit of my readers at the end of this article.

A note on the behind-the-scenes stills provided here – all are sourced from Kadokawa’s reissue DVD, which offers quite a few more besides. Those interested in the film are heartily encouraged to pick the disc up. For a Japanese import it’s very reasonably priced, and the quality of the presentation is lovely. There’s a catch, of course. Audio is Japanese only, and there are no subtitles.

BehindtheScenes-001
Overhead view of the miniature Ginza.
BehindtheScenes-003
ABOVE: Stars Utsui, Tamiya, and Kano tour the effects stage for the publicity department. BELOW: Super-Giant Utsui rests an arm of steel on the Ginza skyline.

BehindtheScenes-004

Gallery Fantascienza: Gamera vs. Barugon

GvBS_typography

Meet yet another of my peculiar, and oddly specific, preoccupations, a love for the often bizarre photo-based sci-fi and fantasy cinema advertising that blossomed in Italy from the mid-’60s through the ’70s. It’s an obsession that I can rarely afford – prices on fotubustas and soggettones from domestic dealers tend to be downright ridiculous, and those of the Italian auction market have been creeping steadily upward as well. Still, I buy what I can, and while the two latest additions to my collection only hint at the sort of absurdity that helps make these posters so appealing to me, I’m still damned happy to have them.

Gamera vs. Barugon (大怪獣決闘 ガメラ対バルゴン / Giant Monster Duel: Gamera against Barugon) was a big deal production for Japan’s Daiei Motion Picture Co., their first color and ‘Scope science fiction feature and the only A-budget entry in the classic Gamera series. As such Daiei tried their damnedest to sell the picture far and wide, with what appears to have been substantial success. While Gamera vs. Barugon went straight to television in America, where it played as War of the Monsters, it saw a heap of well-advertised theatrical releases in mainland Europe. In Spain it was even advertised as being a 70mm Super Technirama presentation, leaving me to wonder whether this was yet another of the studio’s ill-advised ventures into large format photography…

In Italy it was plain old Eastmancolor and Cinemascope, but what a title, and what typography! Attenzione! Arrivano i Mostri, or Look Out! Here Come the Monsters, made its way to Italian cinema screens in 1969, well after the Gamera series (and Daiei itself) had entered its ultimately fatal financial decline. You’d never guess that from the art, however – even with nearly half a century of age on them these posters are lookers.

We’ll get to the least interesting, but hardest to find, of the pair first. Measuring in at 26 x 36″, this soggettone is just a whopping color print of one of Daiei’s fantastic key art pieces for the film with the Italian title typography tacked in at the bottom. It’s difficult to really capture the color of this one with a photo due to the way its glossy printing plays with the light – Gamera and Barugon are surrounded by deep blues and rich, slimy green, with a bold yellow-orange sky above. It’s a simple, striking image, reproduced on a scale you just don’t find outside of Italy.

S2_001 S2_002 S2_003 S2_004

Print house Vecchione & Guadagno (credited at the bottom of each of these) put a little more design oomph into the other soggettone produced for the film, blending Daiei’s key art with an unusually grim image from something entirely unknown to me (normally these are easy for me to figure out, but I’m stumped with this one). Photographs relate this one a bit better – despite a wealth of pinholes, minor tears, some paper separation along the folds and even a gaggle of disgusting tape marks, this is an impressive beast to behold. The size is again 26 x 36 inches, slightly smaller than the typically advertised soggettone size of 27 by 39 inches (there appears to have been no real standard beyond “make it about that big”).

S1_001 S1_002 S1_003 S1_004 S1_005 S1_006 S1_007

I wish I had more of these to share, but for now, alas, this is all. This pair was difficult enough to obtain as it is, and while I know for a fact that they exist I’ve still never seen their smaller fotobusta cousins for sale anywhere. Heaven help my savings if I ever do…