By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The 40th anniversary of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” which is being celebrated with the release of a new Blu-ray of the film by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, has special meaning for Cory Shiozaki of Gardena — he’s in it.
The cameraman and filmmaker doesn’t have any dialogue in the black-and-white comedy classic, but you can’t miss him. In the scene where Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) — grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein — is speaking to a group of medical students in a lecture hall, Shiozaki, with long hair and a moustache, is sitting in the front row.
(Fans may remember that this is where Wilder’s character gets upset when asked about his infamous grandfather and ends up stabbing himself in the leg with a scalpel.)
This small role marked the beginning of a long career in the entertainment industry.
“After I had learned about the forced removal of the Japanese Americans during 1942, this shaped my career goal to attend film school,” recalled Shiozaki, whose parents were interned. “While attending Cal State University Long Beach, an opportunity opened up for me to find work as a bit actor and background artist for TV and films.
“During this time, I was being cast in 20th Century Fox TV shows such as ‘MASH’ and ‘Room 222.’ I had also appeared in ‘Towering Inferno’ and to my unexpected surprise, Mel Brooks’ 1974 film ‘Young Frankenstein.’
“While on set at USC’s business school, Mel Brooks approached me to be prominently photographed in the scene. His extremely humorous nature made it a pleasure to work with while filming this movie. I remember getting a lot of recognition at my high school reunion for this scene.”
Shiozaki, who was accepted into the International Cinematographers Guild in 1979, went on to work on other major films — this time behind the camera — including “Dances with Wolves,” “Back to the Future,” “Escape from New York,” and “The Terminator.” His credits also include such TV shows as “The A-Team,” “Knight Rider,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Baywatch.”
Since 1997, he has focused mostly on sitcoms, most recently “Partners” on FX, “Undateable” on NBC, “Ground Floor” on TBS, “Mighty Med” and “Good Luck Charlie” on Disney, “The Millers” and “How I Met Your Mother” on CBS, and “Last Man Standing” and the upcoming “Cristela” (premieres Oct. 10) on ABC.
Outside of work, he participated in the Manzanar Pilgrimage and was involved in the successful campaign to obtain redress and an official apology for former incarcerees.
“But my ultimate dream was to be a filmmaker sharing the stories of Japanese American history,” said Shiozaki, who directed a feature-length documentary about internees who slipped out of the Manzanar internment camp to fish in the High Sierras.
“The creation of ‘The Manzanar Fishing Club’ is part of my dream come true with other projects in development. I am currently a docent for the Manzanar National Historic Site, a volunteer for the Go For Broke Oral History Program, and a docent in training at JANM [Japanese American National Museum].”
For more information on “Manzanar Fishing Club,” visit www.fearnotrout.com.