Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda by Peter H. Brothers (a J!-ENT Book Review)

April 7, 2010 by  

Peter H. Brothers’ “Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda” does a wonderful service for Japanese monster cinema fans but also a fantastic job in his research of the filmmaker.  Enjoyable, informative and overall, a recommended book for fans of Ishiro Honda, his filmwork and those wanting to learn more about the genre.

TITLE: Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda

BY: Peter H. Brothers

PUBLISHER: AuthorHouse


Here, for the first time in English print, is the inspiring story of a humble and soft-spoken man who became one of the most-prolific directors in the history of fantasy films.  Raised in a primitive Japanese village by a Buddhist monk, Ishiro Honda fell in love with films at a young age and soon enrolled in film school with the intent of one day becoming a director.  Called to enlist in the Imperial Japanese Army druing World War II, he returned with a knowledge of the futility of war and a dread of the atomic age.  A dedicated craftsman who directed over 80 films during a remarkable 60-plus year career, Honda is undeservedly remembered mostly as the “greatest director” of the famous Japanese monster film series; however, he was in fact much more.  Utelizing a wide-variety of source material never before assembled into one volume, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is an objective critical analysis and definitve study of a man whose fantasy films — when seen in their original versions — are “beautiful nightmares” of quality and subtext which transcend the visceral thrill of watching monsters destroying cities.  Honda’s admirers include George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg and his films are masterpieces of entertainment that have enthralled audiences for generations . . . and will for generations to come.

Ishiro Honda.  The Japanese filmmaker known for his “tokusatsu” films, his work alongside world renown director Akira Kurosawa but for many, he is primarily known for directing the first “Godzilla” film along with other popular Japanese monster cinematic hits such as “Mothra” and “Rodan”.

Suffice to say, there is not too much known about Ishihiro Honda but what best than to have Peter H. Brothers, known for his work on the legendary fanzine, “Japanese Giants” and has covered the Honda’s work for over 30 years in a variety of other publication, his book “Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda” is a wonderful primer to the director and also learning about the films that he was part of.

Anything and everything you can possibly know about Honda and his work, Peter H. Brothers does a fantastic job in researching the material and also giving us information about Honda early in his career and those who have worked with him or are very close to him.

The first section of the book  introduces us to Honda and his technical work.  From camera techniques, his using of a script, the use of special effects and the staff and talent he worked with.  We get a few quotes from various interviews from different publications, but these serve as great insight to Honda and how he was passionate about his work, even when he had a small budget and a short schedule to work with, he worked with what he had and tried to make the best of it.  But one of the things, I have always wondered was if Honda was ever disturbed by the films he was given to direct and if he had dreams to go even bigger and Brothers does a good job of featuring that in this section.  The section also discusses the latter years of his life and how surprised his wife was, about the international recognition he had received.  She was unaware of how he inspired many people around the world.

The next sections featured in the book focus on the films that Honda has worked with.  For “Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda”, Brothers writes about 25 of his films.  From “Godzilla”, “Abominable Snowman”, “Radon, The Monsters from the Sky”, “Mothra”, “Dogora” and many more.  I can easily say that these chapters is where fans of Honda’s films or those curious about his film will definitely enjoy.

Brothers does a great job of giving us details of what happened behind-the-scenes during the creation of these films, giving us a synopsis of the film, going into detail of the camerwork, the acting, the musical score, the special effects, Honda’s part in the film and more.  He lists the films by year, listing the staff and cast, and information on Honda and his approach to the film but also some information of Honda’s mindset at the time, especially after the film’s release.

It’s a shame that Ishiro Honda was not given the opportunity to work on his own film the way he would like to.  One can wonder what kind of film he would have done nearly 60 years since he had directed “Godzilla”, if he was given the large budget and the time to properly make the film.

But with “Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda”, Peter H. Brothers has written a book with so much information on the director and his works that if you are a fan of his films.  Well-written, well-researched and for the most part, an enjoyable and entertaining book that benefits due to Brothers’ own passion towards Honda’s films and thus, he was able to create a book with a good amount of  information on the Honda’s career, detail on each film presented and for the most part…not straying into fanboy-ism and all out praising.

Overall, this is definitely a well-written book on Honda’s career and if you are a fan of the genre or the filmmaker,  this is definitely a book you will want to own!   Definitely recommended!

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