Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda
By: Peter H. Brothers
Peter H. Brothers takes on the daunting task of introducing American readers to the entire scope of Ishiro Honda's Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror films for the first time ever. Brothers provides coverage on all 25 entries in Honda's canon of genre work, spanning the two decades following the release of Honda's (and Japan's) most successful film of all-time: GODZILLA. While the giant lizard would leave a lasting impression on Honda's career, Brothers proves to the uninitiated that this amazing director was capable of much greater feats in a wide variety of different themes.
Mushroom Clouds opens with a insider's look at the life of Ishiro Honda, from his early aspirations to become a filmmaker, through the marriage to his wife and his time spent in the Japanese military during World War II, to his distinguished career in film (through its highs and its lows). The book then groups together collections of Honda's Fantasy films based on the significant eras in his career, dedicating entire chapters to reviews and critical analysis of each individual picture. This is a much more academic approach to the films than the average photo mag would provide, so prospective readers should be aware that it is comprised solely of text with no pictures of any kind.
As a reviewer, Brothers beautifully articulates his thoughts on each of the films, praising them for their strengths without any fear or restraint in pointing out their weaknesses. His opinions and arguments are all well-informed, citing key moments from each film and drawing from years of critical responses that have been left in the wake of Honda's career. Brothers' loving devotion for Honda's work is rarely clouded but always objective.
The endless amount of time and effort spent in research are clearly demonstrated in Brothers' impressive list of resources and rare interviews that have been carefully selected from over thirty years of source material. Insights and candid behind-the-scenes commentary are taken from the director, himself, as well as a wealth of individuals that worked closely with him. These key selections serve to humanize the man behind the camera, reflecting moments of self-doubt as well as uplifting anecdotes from close friends and family members.
There are only a few minor distractions that seem to have been overlooked, neither of which detract from the overall enjoyability of the read. The book is riddled with typographical errors that could easily be remedied by a professional edit job. Arguably, Brothers might also consider reeling back the extensive amount of content dedicated strictly to the music in Honda's films, which can often consume over a fourth of each chapter and review. He possesses an education and knowledge on the subject that easily surpasses the reader's own understanding, but readers that are uninterested in those particular aspects of the films will find themselves skipping ahead.
Peter Brothers proves to be an authority on the man and his work, and provides what many will consider to be the complete and definitive US publication of Ishiro Honda's career. Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is required reading for any film fan with even a remote interest in Japanese cinema, classic Fantasy and SciFi cinema, or giant monster movies. Readers will walk away from the book with a wealth of new found knowledge and a desire to seek out a catalog of films that they may never have considered watching previously.
Number of reads: 1.