Book Review: Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda



Book Review: Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda

Reviewed by Armand Vaquer

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda
Author: Peter H. Brothers
Publisher: AuthorHouse
ISBN 978-1-4490-2771-1

Since I’ve had four days off from work for the Thanksgiving holiday, when I wasn’t working on The Monster Movie Fan’s Guide To Japan, I read Peter H. Brothers’s new biography/filmography on Japanese director Ishiro Honda. It is titled, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda.

Ishiro Honda was the director of the 1954 movie that ushered in the golden age of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy films: Godzilla. He went on to direct other science-fiction classics such as Rodan: The Flying Monster, The Mysterians, Battle In Outer Space, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra and many others.

As in the case of the book Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters by August Ragone, this book was written by a fan. Although a fan, Brothers does not mince words on things he likes about a given movie or the things he doesn’t like about said movie. This is good as he does not come off like a fawning fanboy. For example, he described the farewell scene at the airport in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) as “a boring and stagnant affair.” So, if you’re looking for a critical analysis of Honda’s movies, both good and bad, you’ve come to the right book. He also discusses each of Honda's movies with quite a bit of wry humor.

Originally, the book was going to be published by Midnight Marquee, but due to time delays in getting a contract out and the publishing schedule, Brothers decided that he wanted his book out sooner rather than later.

So he checked out AuthorHouse, a self-publishing publisher, and decided to go through them.

In my initial perusal of the book at a gathering at Brothers’s home in Agoura Hills, I came away impressed at their professionalism in their set-up of the book, including the cover. While they are a self-publisher, they do have arrangements with retailers and have a marketing staff to market the book. This does not leave the author “alone in the woods” to fend for himself.

Within days of publication, Amazon.com offered the book on their website. This is far better than having to, as some may get the impression when dealing in self-publishing, market and promote a self-published book on one’s own time and dime. AuthorHouse also provided review copies of the book.

A few things would have improved the book. One, is having an index. There are two schools of thought on having an index: first, it makes it easier for the reader to locate items of interest. Second, by not having an index, it forces the reader to actually read the book. You decide which school you belong to.

Having photographs also would have improved it. Brothers originally planned to include photographs (at least one for each movie covered), but due to rights issues and costs, it was decided to forego photographs. He discusses his book at length in an interview in an upcoming issue of G-FAN. Although it would have been an improvement, most people who would be buying the book are already familiar enough with the movies that photographs aren’t critical.

Overall, I think the buyer will find this book useful and interesting. My grade: A.

Comments

  1. I guess the question remains, what if you ARE looking for a book that reads like it's written by a fan? Or, better still, what if you're looking for a book written by someone who doesn't feel the need to inject their own opinions into every discussion of each and every film covered? With no disrespect to Mr. Brothers, Mr. Ragone, Mr. Galbraith, etc., this is what I've always found annoying about books written (or, for that matter, websites created) by fans - none of them are ever able to just stick to the facts and resist the temptation to include their own subjective views. These guys are obviously very knowledgeable about Japanese fantasy cinema and should be able to provide other fans with the definitive reference guide to kaiju eiga and other tokusatsu films. Unfortunately, they have such strong opinions (and such a strong need to be heard and recognized as "experts") that their books often come off more as collections of reviews than objective overviews. It's quite possible to discuss, at length, Toho's monster and sci-fi films without interjecting one's own opinions (and thus allowing the reader to form their own). Sadly, very few writers choose that approach to the material.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Opinions are like navels, everyone's got one. As long as the book, or even movie commentaries, are factual, I've no problem with them. But I generally don't listen to fanboy commentaries, I prefer the actors or movie-makers themselves.

    I agree with you about keeping opinions to a minimum. Case in point, the commentary on the "Mothra" cigarette lighter scene was so totally wrong that it was laughable.

    But one knows that a book will be filled with analysis and opinion before you even crack it open. - A.

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