Keizo Murase

Chris Mirjahangir: How did you get started in Special Effects?

Keizo Murase: My brother worked for Shin Toho (no relation to Toho Studios), at the time the Yagi brothers from Toho studios were looking for assistants and I got introduced, after our initial meeting I began my journey into the industry of special effects.

Mirjahangir: What was it like working for Eiji Tsuburaya?

Murase: Mr. Tsuburaya was a very cheerful person, rather than give orders to others, when working on a project, he would ask effects artists questions during consultations that would guide them towards developing their work in line with his vision. His impact could always be felt on set be it his trademark hat and suit, or the smell of tobacco which often accompanied him. He was very involved on set with the shooting of all scenes. It was not the cameramen on set that composed the shots, but Mr. Tsuburaya himself that determined what went on in the view finder. All the editing for scenes involving special effects were done by himself. To keep with the movies schedule, he meticulously planned everything so that no retake or additional shooting was needed. Many of us viewed him as a calm fatherly figure. He was very kind to all of us on the modeling staff, but he often had very critical words for those involved with shooting scenes. He trusted Mr. Yagi so there were not many cases of him having to check the models.

Mirjahangir: King Kong vs. Godzilla is still to this day, the most popular film in the Godzilla series. What was it like working on Kong’s suit? Were you trying to emulate the original design or were you given permission for your own interpretation?

Murase: We could get the rights to use the name King Kong but unfortunately, we were unable to get the rights for the likeness. I believe the overall design was done by Akira Watanabe. The sculpting of face was done by Mr. Toshimitsu. We used Japanese monkey’s as a reference, and used sheep belly hair to reproduce the look of monkey hair. With the chief modlers being the Yagi brothers accompanied by me, and Mr. Kaimai, we made both Godzilla and King Kong’s suit, developed the animatronics, and created 1:1 scale hand of King Kong.

Mirjahangir: Did you ever work directly with Tsuburaya?

Murase: While I was working on whatever needed to be modeled I would often have conversations with Mr. Tsuburaya, between takes though we would talk about things related to work. Although he was quite the smoker, he was not one to drink.

Mirjahangir: How many designs did King Ghidora go through? In August Ragone’s book on Eiji Tsuburaya, it is mentioned that the creature was originally to be a crimson design before it went to a blue scaled/ rainbow winged design before it was finally settled on gold. Is there any background that you can share?

Murase: When the design reached the modeling stage, everything was decided. First Mr. Toshimitsu created a prototype of the head, next the Yagi brothers created a rough shape of Ghidora out of wire mesh and I followed up finished the final touches. I also did the coloring, but I do not have any recollection of the design being red or blue at first. The latex used had a black pigment mixed into it, which made the prime color of the model grey. During production, the surface was painted in baby powder, before the actual paint color was applied depending on the lighting the model had bluish look. The scales were molded with a yellow material which would work well with the gold color scheme that was determined from the start. Even though I focused on painting I have no recollection of the wings having rainbow coloring. I think that the gradation in the wings were a product for the posters designed for the film before shooting began. Mr. Tsuburaya might have been testing colors at the scene during a period while I was not there.

Mirjahangir: Of all the monsters you have worked on, what was the most challenging?

Murase: Dogora. At the time when I was making this there were very few options if any at all for materials with transparency and flexibility. Mr. Tsuburaya asked me to create a model using the same material of a snake toy. I went to the factory which produced the toy, and found out that the material was called soft vinyl. I asked Mr. Yagi to create a plaster model of Dogora and I proceeded to successfully mold a sample out of the soft vinyl. Mr. Tsuburaya liked it if you showed a clear representation of his requests, with the model he could secure funding from Toho and produce Dogora for shooting. Also, a little-known fact is the actual size of the model of Dogora used for shooting is only 19-31 inches tall.

Mirjahangir: Titanosaurus has a very interesting design, how was the monster to work on?

Murase: Titanosaurus was one of the first works began in the first year of Twenty’s establishment. It was a special monster in that it is colored with newly hues that had not existed until the creation of Titanosaurus, also the material from which it is made is primarily transparent. Of course, I also painted it myself. The neck is long but can be controlled by the head motion of the suit actor. The production time took about 3 weeks.

Mirjahangir: What was it like working on Gamera?

Murase: A turtle flying is quite an interesting concept. Like in other projects the Yagi brothers made a mesh wire frame, and I worked on the exterior. I developed the fire breathing mechanism. I modified a burner designed to blacken tofu to fit in Gamera’s mouth, and designed it so that gasoline could be injected into the burner. In order to keep Gamera’s mouth from burning I adjusted it so that the fire would shoot straight out the mouth like a Jetstream. It could shoot out about 5 meters.

Mirjahangir: What are your memories of working on Daimajin?

Murase: Mr. Ryosaku Takayama oversaw modeling for the first movie. I oversaw the modeling for the second movie. Since the Daimajin barely moved in the first movie, we had to rebuild the suit to have better mobility. There is a scene in the third movie where the Daimajin disappears and becomes snow. We could make the scene using a mosquito net and a car antenna. Utilizing these simple tools, we were able to make a very memorable scene without having to resort to compositing. I also made a 1:1 model of the Daimajin’s feet.

Keizo Murase Keizo Murase
Keizo Murase

Interview: Keizo Murase (2017)


Keizo Murase (村瀬継蔵) is the President of Twenty Ltd. and one of the leaders in field of Japanese Kaiju model making. He joined Toho Studies a Japanese film company most notably responsible for making the iconic Godzilla series, in 1958. He started his career with “Varan the Unbelievable” and continued to work on movies during the golden era of Toho’s Tokusatsu films, including such works as “Mothra” (1961) and “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (1962). In 1965 he worked on Daiei studios “Gamera” of which he was responsible for making the monster suits for the movie. He built the foundation for techniques used today in Kaiju model design, many of which can be seen in the Hong Kong film “The Mighty Peking Man” (1977), he demonstrated his skill not only by developing distinctive models, but also directing, and stunt coordination.

Date: 12/22/2017
Interviewer: Chris Mirjahangir


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