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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Mushroom Men & Other Monsters


I received both these books in the mail a few days ago. One is about the fantasy films of Ishiro Honda and the other is a monster kid dream book. Reviews are below....



MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN: THE FANTASTIC CINEMA OF ISHIRO HONDA

By Peter H. Brothers

Softcover; 282 pages; (there are no pictures)

Brothers, a writer for the fanzine, Japanese Giants as well as a lecturer on the original Godzilla production, turns in a loving tribute to the single most recognizable filmmaker of Japanese science fiction and monster movies, Ishiro Honda. Not just about the man's movies, but his life as well, the books main focus is on his 25 fantasy pictures.

Also included are anecdotes from the revered director. Honda's relationships with key Japanese monster movie associates such as the indispensable talents of Eiji Tsuburaya, the bombastic musical motifs of Akira Ifukube and the guidance of stoic producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka are also discussed. The information is well worth the purchase, most especially on the lesser known Toho science fiction films which seldom get a mention from fans who only care about the Kaiju pictures.

That these more obscure entries get an insightful analysis is reason enough to buy the book even with its lack of photos. Toho's protective nature over their radioactive money cow likely has a lot to do with this. One of the most interesting essays is on the still banned Toho monster movie, HALF HUMAN (aka ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN; 1955). Honda's second film after GODZILLA (1954), it has proven to be a controversial title because of its depiction of aboriginal people. While the long unreleased LATITUDE ZERO (1969) finally hit DVD in Japan after a long debacle, hopefully the same will happen for ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN.

The author is quite critical at times, but fair and it seems he is hard pressed to say anything truly bad about any of the movies discussed herein. I've only read the book sporadically these last few days, but this is what I have gotten from what I have read thus far. I must say that I am one of the few fans of GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969) a movie that is widely dismissed by G fans everywhere. Aside from ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, this was one of the first entries I read. Brothers notes both its good and bad points, but I personally think very highly of the film. I guess because I was a lonely latchkey kid around this age as well. Honda and G fans will most likely want this, but lack of pics may make it or break it for some even with its relatively inexpensive price tag. Still, for fans, it's one for your shelves.


Next, it's a book that should be embraced by any fan of monster movies and especially monster comics and the celebrated Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. This one is for Skeme and Max, the Drunken Severed Head whom I think will find it of particular interest...



TRASHFIEND: DISPOSABLE HORROR FARE OF THE 1960's & 1970's

By Scott Stine

Softcover; 321 pages; color & B/W

This book is a true joy to behold. If you are partial to not only the movies, but the whole monster spectrum including trading cards, toys, comics and other trash memorabilia, than this book from UK publisher, Headpress is definitely one for your shelves. The only real negative I can levy at it is that it leaves you wanting more. Even at a hefty 321 pages, it covers so much ground, you wish there'd be more, or at least another volume in future.

This excerpt from the back cover sums it up perfectly...

"From trashy horror films to grisly comic art...from lurid movie magazines to late night creature features...from monster toys to exploitative poster art... TRASHFIEND looks at the whole of "disposable" horror culture from the 1960's and 1970's.

Packed with reviews, trivia, rare illustrations, exhaustive technical information, and written with a humorous flair that is sure to engage hardcore fans and the merely curious alike, TRASHFIEND is a fun albeit insightful tour of an oft overlooked genre.

Includes: Black horror films, Wally Wood's Mars Attacks! trading cards, comic artist and filmmaker Pat Boyette, Rankin & Bass' animated creature features, Marvel's short lived horror magazines, the golden age of weird fiction digests, collecting 8mm films, the Pacific NW's horror host The Count and much more!"

Among the many highlights are an interview with Creature Features John Stanley, articles on blaxploitation horror including one I'd not heard of called BLACK THE RIPPER (which apparently never got made), animated features such as the classic MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) and MAD, MAD, MAD MONSTERS (1972), an interview with the star of THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977), all kinds of poster and comic artwork and everything in between.

Like I said above, Stine packs so much in this book, there's simply not enough space to do it justice; or better yet, he does such a good job, one wants for so much more. His writing style is very casual and occasionally hilarious especially his "letter" to Larry Hagman for helming BEWARE! THE BLOB (1972) aka SON OF BLOB. For its relatively cheap price, readers are advised to give this one a go, especially for those with an affection for Forry Ackerman's FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND MAGAZINE. Definitely one for your shelves.


6 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

Im all in, added to the wishlists, thanks for the great reviews V! Having just learned that Honda made more than just Godzilla films, im sure this will be a great place to begin expanding my Tohorizon

venoms5 said...

GORATH, BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE and THE MYSTERIANS are three of his best non Godzilla movies in my opinion.

Will Errickson said...

Wow, this sounds truly astounding. And not too expensive either. This goes on the wishlist.

venoms5 said...

Yes, both books are inexpensive and worth the purchase in my opinion. Especially if you're a monster fan.

Max the drunken severed head said...

Just read this! GREAT stuff! Thanks for the tip!

venoms5 said...

You're welcome, Max!

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