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What is a Bucket Movie? Overlooked, weird and rare films, that for one reason or another fell through the cracks and failed to get a mainstream audience. Cult classics, unknown oddities and the extremely hard to find, finally get the press they deserve here!

Bucket Hall of Fame: The Toho Big Pool

May 3rd 2010 18:29
Monster or “Kaiju” films have been a staple of Japanese cinema since the 1940's. Gigantic city crushing monsters were as popular and numerous as westerns were in American cinema. While these were somewhat expensive to make, they made cash hand over fist and every Japanese studios worked to top one another, with larger and more impressive monstrosities. The nearly undisputed king of the pack was Toho studios, creators of such kaiju legends as Mothra, Varan, and international Sensation Godzilla (So popular he's apparently in my spell check). Perhaps one of Toho's most unappreciated Stars, was it's most massive set piece, a legend that would appear in hundreds of films and TV shows. It was the Toho “Big Water Tank” one of the largest movie pools ever constructed.
I certainly hope that suit's waterproof

Originally built in 1960 for the war film “I Bombed Pearl Harbor” the Big tank was enormous, 288 feet wide and 236 feet long. While it was built for a naval battle, it would become famous as the ocean set from where Godzilla would emerge in many of the big lizard's most memorable films. It was deep enough for the man in the Godzilla costume to start totally underwater, meaning the pool's deepest point was over seven feet deep. Almost every time a Japanese film needed a miniature shot that involved water, Toho was nice enough to rent out their gigantic tank, even to rival studios. It's 2-D sky backdrops has been seen in countless films, that I won't even attempt to list. When Ultraman battled giant Monsters in the water, he battled them in this tank. When Richard Chamberlain stood proudly on the bow of his ship and shouted “Turn, You whore from hell!” as wind and rain battered him in the popular American mini-series “Shogun” he did it in the Toho Tank. When Dragonzord emerged from the waves in popular children's show “Mighty Morphin' Power rangers” the footage used (from an unrelated Japanese TV series) was a shot shot in the Toho tank. When Shuya and Noriko escaped the island in “Battle Royale” the miniature shot of the tugboat? You guessed it: the Toho tank.

As with all good things, the Tank couldn't last forever. As computer generated effects got better and better, the need for a gigantic miniatures dwindled. The Tank was very expensive to maintain, and around the beginning of 2002 it sat mostly unused, a monument to an era that was quickly passing into history. The last time the Toho Big Water tank was used, was for the 2004 film “Godzilla Final Wars”. The last scene ever filmed in the tank was, appropriately enough, Godzilla and his son Minilla, descending into the waves in the final shot of the film. In October 2003, due to the enormous expense of maintaining the tank combined with the diminishing need for such a set, it was demolished. Many considered this the end of an age. An age of brave stuntmen in rubber costumes, massive miniature sets blown up with primacord, and epic naval battles filmed with tiny ships built with the loving care of model makers, who are now sadly out of work. Since it's appeared in more movies than Samuel L Jackson, I believe the Toho tank deserves a spot here on the Bucket Movies hall of fame.

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3 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Mountain Fog

May 4th 2010 08:53

I grew up on late night movies of the Japanese monster and sci-fi variety, and loved them all.

The tank is certainly deserving of such praise and this post a fitting epitaph!

The incursion of CGI seemed great at first, but now I regret its appearance, as we have all but lost the careful and accomplished arts of the stuntmen, model makers and real life special effects.



Comment by Matt Shea

May 5th 2010 03:02
Nice Josh - I didn't know the story behind the Toho tank, but a fine addition to your hall of fame, no doubt.

Comment by Joshua the Samurai

May 5th 2010 03:54
I appreciate the comments folks, it's surprising so little praise is given to common setpeices.

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