LEGENDARY GIANT BEAST WOLFMAN VS GODZILLA — Interview With Director Shizuo Nakajima
Author: Benjamin Chaffins
Shizuo Nakajima is a filmmaker who worked as a production assistant for Toho on movies such as GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (ゴジラ対メカゴジラ, Gojira Tai Mekagojira, 1974) and TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (メカゴジラの逆襲, Mekagojira no Gyakushū, 1975). In the early 1980s, he and some of his colleagues thought it would be fun to make their own kaiju fan films, and produced a handful of shorts featuring Godzilla and other monsters. Nakajima and his team created the monster suits, props and miniature sets themselves, using materials they had purchased from Toho.
These shorts laid the groundwork for LEGENDARY GIANT BEAST WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA (伝説の巨獣狼男対ゴジラ, Densetsu no Kyojū Okami Otoko Tai Gojira), a feature length independent production directed by Nakajima. The film would be a tribute to two of Nakajima’s inspirations — the 1960s Toho classics co-directed by FX legend Eiji Tsuburaya, and the horror movies made by Britain’s Hammer Studios, in particular 1961’s CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF. WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA would play almost as an “Eiji Tsuburaya highlight reel” with many scenes recreating key moments from the likes of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (キングコング対ゴジラ, Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira, 1962) and MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (モスラ対ゴジラ, Mosura Tai Gojira, 1964).
Production started in 1983, with principal photography wrapping in the mid-1980s. Nakajima then began the arduous task of post production and completing the visual effects… a process that continues to this day.
While WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA did receive some minor coverage in Japanese publications, the film was basically a mystery to Godzilla fans in the west. That finally changed when American fan Mark Jaramillo, with the assistance of Tetsu Shiota of Anime Jungle, tracked down Shizuo Nakajima. Nakajima was pleasantly surprised that foreigners knew of, and were interested in, his movie, and graciously shared information, photos and video which Jaramillo presented at American events like G-Fest and Godzilla Night. In recent years the director has posted WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA news and picture updates on his Facebook page.
SciFi Japan’s Benjamin Chaffins recently reached out to Shizuo Nakajima to discuss the origins of LEGENDARY GIANT BEAST WOLFMAN VS GODZILLA, and to find out where work currently stands on the director’s passion project…
Benjamin Chaffins: Thank you for this interview. What made you decide to to make LEGENDARY GIANT BEAST WOLFMAN VS GODZILLA?
Shizuo Nakajima: I love werewolf movies. So I wanted to make a huge werewolf to fight against Godzilla. Although werewolf movies aren’t so popular in Japan, I love them.
Ben: What werewolf movies inspired you the most?
Shizuo Nakajima: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING. I used those as references for the transformation scene.
Ben: Interesting. What can you tell me about the half-werewolf prop used for the transformation scene?
Shizuo Nakajima: A special make-up effect was used on the face of the werewolf actor, and the transformation suit used wire and air. There are two types of faces. There is also the huge white werewolf suit that battles Godzilla.
Ben: Very cool. Who are the Godzilla and Wolfman suit actors?
Shizuo Nakajima: Godzilla has always been portrayed by a local Godzilla fan. The Wolfman is Fuyuki Shinada, a member of the crew who made it.
Ben: Fuyuki Shinada produced the werewolf costume?
Shizuo Nakajima: That’s right. He also made Toho’s GMK Godzilla and Biollante. He was the best modeler in Japan.
Ben: How did KING KONG VS. GODZILLA influence this movie?
Shizuo Nakajima: KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA both influenced my project. The reason is that Godzilla’s molding is excellent and I admire both films.
Ben: Can you briefly describe the film?
Shizuo Nakajima: It is an “Eiji Tsuburaya scene collection” coupling of Toho special effects and Hammer horror movies.
Ben: What has been the most difficult task making WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA?
Shizuo Nakajima: The Godzilla molding. And the special effects using explosive powder.
Ben: How did the head portion of Godzilla from MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA get attached to the body of the Godzilla suit from KING KONG VS. GODZILLA?
Shizuo Nakajima: The body was modified to MosuGoji’s figure and the neck and head were exchanged.
Ben: Could you explain a little about the miniature work?
Shizuo Nakajima: Several members of the staff went to locations to take many pictures. Based on that, the staff make the miniatures.
The appeal of special effects movies lie in the splendor of miniature sets. The world of miniature sets is wonderful. It is more beautiful to shoot a miniature car than to shoot a real car as it runs. What is important for miniatures is the back of a large sky. And the sunlight will not produce a beautiful scene. Even in the night scenes, the blue sky is beautiful. We continue the work of the late Eiji Tsuburaya.
Ben: You have been working on this movie for a very long time now. How is progress going on filming? Still in development?
Shizuo Nakajima: Yes. I still have drawings to make for additional sequences that are still being filmed.
Ben: I see. Well, on behalf of every Godzilla fan, we wish you the best and we all look forward to when you complete your project. Thank you for all of your time.
For more information on LEGENDARY GIANT BEAST WOLFMAN VS GODZILLA, please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan: