Surprise! It’s GAMERA!

Posted by: Monster Island News on June 25th, 2010

Written By: Ken Hulsey
Sources: Fred Olen Ray / Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker /Carl Craig / Avery Guerra

Sometimes good things come to those who wait, and if you have been waiting for the deluxe DVD release of “Destroy All Planets” (Gamera vs. Viras), you have been waiting for a few years.

In preparation for this article I had to look back, way back, into my archives to try and remember just when I first learned of Retromedia’s plans to release a special edition DVD of “Destroy All Planets”. Much to my surprise, I had to go back to the days before Monster Island News was a blog, back when the site was (remember that), which was pre 2007, probably something like 2005 or 2006. When you get older your memory isn’t as crisp my friends.

I do recall talking to Carl Craig, who played Jim Morgan in the film, about him recording the commentary tracks for the release and I did write an article about that, but alas, since is gone, so is that article, so I couldn’t pin down the exact date all of this started.

Anyway, since I hadn’t heard a peep about it in a few years, I figured that the project had been scrapped.

Well, imagine my surprise when I was forwarded an email from Fred Olen Ray of Retromedia to announce that this long-forgotten DVD had been released and was now for sale on through their “on demand” program.

That means that the DVD is not produced until someone orders it, which also means that it will take about 48 hours for the product to ship out.

It seems with all the talk about Shout! Factory’s release of both “Gamera, The Giant Monster” and “Gamera Vs. Barugon”, “Destroy All Planets” was able to fly onto the online retailers listings under the radar. Well, as under the radar as a giant turtle with fire shooting out of it can get.

In fact, the release was done in such a covert manner that there isn’t even any mention of it on the Retromedia website. Honestly, none whatsoever.

According to Ray,

“We’ve transferred an original 16mm AIP-TV print and color corrected it two times to produce the best version of this film available”

“But the real reason to catch this Special Edition is the commentary track by American star, Carl Craig,”

He adds,

“His recollections of the film making process is fascinating. Hosted by Brett Homenick and Damon Foster, recorded in Chicago by our own Randy Carter.”

While I was doing all of my research, I did manage to dig up my 2005 interview with Carl Craig. I thought it would be cool to give everyone a preview of what will undoubtedly be on the commentary track for “Destroy All Planets” by posting a few excerpts here:

MIN: Destroy all Planets was your only acting job and it has been noted that you never really wanted to become an actor. For those fans who may have never heard the story, how did you end up being cast as Jim Morgan in the film?

CC: I was an American serviceman’s kid in Japan from 1965-1969. My mother is Japanese and her older brother (my uncle) lived next to a Daiei producer. The producer was telling my uncle that Kenji Yuasa had finally gotten approval from Daiei management to have an American in the upcoming Gamera film but they were having a problem finding someone for the part. My uncle explained that he had a nephew that was blond and blue-eyed that spoke Japanese fluently. Numbers were exchanged and when I came home from school one day, my father explained I was going down to audition for a movie part. The rest is history.

MIN: Some of the Gamera films that were produced later also had story lines that featured young people. Were you ever considered for parts in those films? Was Jim Morgan ever considered as a character in those films?

CC: I was never approached or asked to do another Gamera feature. I left Japan in 1969 (the year after Destroy all Planets was done) and was not available anyway.

MIN: What is you fondest memory of working on the film?

CC: Getting out of school for almost 3 months. I had a limo driver and a tutor go to and from the set everyday.

MIN: I read on your website (gone now) about the passing of Gamera director Noriaki (Kenji) Yuasa. Was he a great influence on your life? How did his influences help mold that young man into the man you are today?

CC: Yuasasan was a gentle man. He was great with children and specifically me, a rookie on the set. He was calming, yet very forceful and made his point to me very clearly. He expected me to act when I had no acting experience. He was very fair and expected nothing less than 100% attention to detail. I sorta have that quality but feel I am very fair in my interpersonal relationships.

MIN: Are you surprised at how many fans there are worldwide of the Gamera films? Did you ever think that some 30+ years later people would still remember your role as Jim Morgan?

CC: I was rather freaked out actually. I attended my first convention in 2000 (shortly after it was discovered that I was Carl Craig aka Jim Morgan) I was amazed at all the stories told to me about fans who indicated their sentiments about the film. They called it their favorite Gamera movie. I am still amazed at the fanfare and the following. That is why I make every effort to share my experiences, the memorabilia and my experiences that I have from the film.

MIN: Have you remained a big Kaiju fan throughout the years? If so what are some of your favorites?

CC: I always liked Godzilla and Bob Eggleton made me a believer again. I liked the new Gamera from Kanekosan but feel loyalty to the Yuasa era Gamera. I have seen all the modern Gamera films. I own them all.

MIN: Many fans may not know that after Destroy All Planets you went on to become an Air Force Pilot and an advisor to former U.S. President George Bush. What are you most proudest moments from your post Gamera career?

CC: I retired from the Air Force as a Field Grade officer and senior pilot. I flew the venerable F-4 Phantom and the sleek T-38 Talon. I can say that I lived a dream by accomplishing those feats. I am a 18+ year Federal Law Enforcement officer in the Department of Homeland Security. The duty tour at the White House was an interesting one. I took two oaths to defend the constitution and have worked with some great people, doing an important and sometimes thankless job. I am proud of my Japanese heritage but I am most proud to be an American in a country with no boundaries for those that wish to push the envelope!

Sometimes you are afforded an opportunity of a lifetime. What you do with those opportunities says a lot about yourself. In my case a chance to act in a Kaiju film as a young kid. The other, a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a jet pilot. Lastly, to serve my country in a capacity where dedication to duty, difficult times in leadership and horrific events (Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11, etc) compel us all to act in a way we feel fit to express ourselves. Some may never have the opportunities that I had, some may never have something that significant in life just presented to you. I had to work to accomplish my goals in life. I have been successful in some and a failure in others but those failures were not because I didn’t try hard enough. One must remember that no one owes us anything. If we expect to succeed in life, we must make the effort, time and time again, until we reach the level we desire to achieve. Failures can be expected, how we deal with failure also makes us better people. My favorite saying is; “Loyalty above all, except honor.” Be sure you understand that loyalty has a price and that price cannot exceed the statute of honor. Doing the right thing all the time will get you far in life, selling yourself short of doing the right thing because your loyalty is misplaced, is a sad way to travel the roads of life. The first time you sell yourself short, you’ll never be able to look yourself in the mirror ever again. I am proud of the fact that I can still look myself in the mirror, every day!

See Also: Shout! Factory To Release Gamera Vs. Barugon DVD July 6th! / A Classic Movie Monster Comic Strip – The Monsters That Devoured Canarsie / Monster Uber Geekdome- Ultraman Collages, Playing Cards & Alien vs Pooh / Shout! Factory To Release Gamera DVD / Scientists Ready To Unleash “Gamera” And Giant Cows Upon Mankind / Showa Gamera Movies To Be Released By Shout Factory / ADV Films: Rest In Peace / Ayako Fujitani Returns To The Spotlight In Michel Gondry‚Äôs Interior Design / “Gamera The Brave” Box Art / Gamera The Brave Comes To DVD December 30th!

About Monster Island News
Founder of the popular monster and sci-fi blogs Monster Island News and Godzilla 3D News and Information. Ken Hulsey began his writing career in 2000 when he founded a popular site with fans of Japanese sci fi/monster movies (Godzilla, Gamera and the like) and other B movies. In 2008, he closed down his original site and created the blog "Monster Island News" a showcase for classic horror/monster films and independent/alternative cinema.

One Response to “Surprise! It’s GAMERA!”

  1. korollocke responds:

    There quite a debate going on right as to if Fred Olan Ray has the rights to produce this DVD legally. So far Ray has been evasive and filibusters on the topic but flat out hasn’t given any solid proof he has the legal US rights.

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