Recently I had the chance to read a great book on the most influential man in the Kaiju genre: Ishiro Honda. Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda written by Peter H. Brothers its half biography half in depth analysis of each of his fantasy films. As a big fan of these kinds of movies this book is a really interesting look at the man behind them. In stark contrast to his most notable films he wasn’t a chaotic man but a humble and considerate thinker. This surprisingly entertaining and well-written book is much more than that, though. It is a history of the genre, but it’s also a history of the people involved and worked with Ishiro Honda to shape how the fantasy through the years.
The biography portion of the book begins with the very early life of Ishiro Honda. We get to see a bit of his early years and we are given insight into his personality and how his early years shaped the man he would become. The book is very well-written and Brothers seamlessly transitions between the account of his journey and more meandering explorations of the world of Japanese film. He takes a humble approach expressing honest in depth information gathered from the people closest to Honda. Fascinatingly there is a great deal of information on Honda’s involvement in World War Two and there is plenty of information on his non- Kaiju films. These are not aspects I thought would be interesting but as I read I found myself very attached to Honda growing more involved with everything that shaped him.
If you have read my reviews of the Godzilla series. I have usually and maybe wrongly laid the success of the series mostly on Eiji Tsuburaya and his wonderful special effects. I after reading I think the relationship may be the most profound relationship in Japanese film. I loved hearing the account of their friendship and I grew to appreciate them both equally. The book is at its most powerful when we get to see his relationship with the actors, his crew, the screen writers and others involved with his movies. The most powerful quote from his loving wife closes the biography section a very fitting conclusion that transitions perfectly from his final days into the in-depth analysis of each of his Kaiju films.
The meat of the book I found of most interest was these focused well informed and extremely well documented analyses. starting with of course Godzilla and ending with the final film in the original Godzilla series MechaGodzilla’s Counter attack. Each of the reviews have the entire staff and cast lists, a detailed overview of the production, a detailed review and analysis of common themes present in Honda’s work and each is filled with interesting minute details from the production. Interestingly each film is credited with the original Japanese title but there is a full list of the alternate titles so we don’t get too lost. Each of his fantasy movies are hit and the writing is focused and flows easily from idea to idea. My favorite was the look at King Kong Escapes. I genuinely recommend taking a look at Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda, for it boasts a huge variety of source material to back itself up in a compelling look at not only a great director but an all-around gentleman.
About the Author: Peter H. Brothers has written numerous articles about fantasy films for over 30 years for such pulications as Cineaste, Cult Movies, Filmfax, Japanese Giants, G-Fan and Mad Scientist. He has lectured at numerous libraries in L.A. and Ventura County as well as the California Writers Association, G-Fest, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Monsterpalooza and the Comic-Con. He is a three-time “Rondo” Award nominee and is the author of the first book ever written in English on Japan’s famed Godzilla director, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men – The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda.
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