Anyone that is familiar with the Godzilla franchise and Toho productions will instantly recognize the name Ishiro Honda, director of the GOJIRA and many other excellent fantasy, science fiction, and horror films. And yet, there has never been a single book written about this influential filmmaker in the United States. That is, until now. Peter H. Brothers has been a life-long Ishiro Honda fan, and has gone to great extents to put together Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda, the definitive filmography and biography on the famed director. I Like Horror Movies sat down with Brothers this weekend in our newest interview:
ILHM: First and foremost, why Ishiro Honda?
PB: Because Honda is a long-overlooked and underrated figure in international cinema who was arguably the most-prolific and influential fantasy film director in history, and a book on him was long-overdue.
ILHM: When were you first introduced to the works of Ishiro Honda and Toho?
PB: I first saw Godzilla, King of the Monsters! on TV when I was six-years old and it had a profound effect on me, and one of the things it made me do was to learn more about the monster movies of Ishiro Honda.
ILHM: What finally inspired you to write Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men?
PB: No one else was doing it.
ILHM: What is it about Honda's films that continues to draw in newer generations of film fans for over 50 years?
PB: I think it was the earnest integrity by which he made his films. Honda was that rare breed of directors who made movies for his audience and not for his ego. They are also wonderfully entertaining.
ILHM: We have read your objective reviews on Honda's many fantasy films, but which is your personal favorite, and why?
PB: Well first and foremost it is Gojira (the first Godzilla film); it is a superbly-realized film which continues to amaze, intrigue and move me with every screening (I have seen the American version over 350 times and the original Japanese about 60). Close-behind is The Human Vapor.
ILHM: You explore the music in Honda's films in great depth. Do you have a background in music, and how important is the musical score in the overall production of a film?
PB: I used to play an instrument (the trombone) years ago. My favorite film composer is Bernard Herrmann, and the importance in film music cannot be overstated and yet in many ways is still taken for granted. Music adds tremendous atmosphere to a film, and Ikira Ifukube - who scored the vast majority of Honda's fantasy films - was also a world-renown composer of classical music. Ifukube's music is generally best-remembered for his military-style marches (such as his battle music for The Mysterians), his bellicose monster themes (when Varan destroys the village in Varan the Unbelievable) and his sad, sensitive pieces (the confrontation at the lake between Makoto and her father in Atragon).
ILHM: Given Honda's rich background in special effects-driven cinema, do you feel he would embrace modern advances in computer animation, or stick to the classical forms of costuming and practical effects?
PB: Honda accepted special effects in his films because he had to, but for him it was always about the human story. He knew that without an interesting story his movies would not stand the test of time. He often interwove themes in his films (such as Love and Devotion in Rodan, Government Bureaucracy in Godzilla vs. the Thing and the Destruction of Native Habitat for Commercial Development in Yog) to give them a deeper subtext and make them more meaningful. He of course knew that it was the effects that brought his audiences in to see his films, but he would be the first to say that he was not a director of monster movies, but a director of movies that had monsters in them.
ILHM: Which of Honda's films do you consider to be his most commonly overlooked?
PB: Without question Half-Human, aka Monster Snowman (1955). His original version has never been commercially released on any video format although Toho came close in the early 1980's but pulled-back due to the treatment given to the ficticious aboriginal tribe in the film. It is very much a banned film (it was the one Honda did after Godzilla) and is a magnificent movie. Hopefully it will be released on DVD in the not-too-distant future.
ILHM: What are you most commonly asked during your speaking engagements on Godzilla and Ishiro Honda?
PB: Most are surprised to learn that Godzilla was originally intended as a metaphor for the atomic bomb. Due to the many sequels and the ending of the Cold War this meaning has been dimmed considerably, although the threat from nuclear war is still very much with us.
ILHM: Has the Japanese Kaiju-Eija passed its prime?
PB: The Glory Days have long since passed but it is still a very active genre; the fact that Warner Bros. is planning on doing a new Godzilla movie in 2012 is proof of that.
ILHM: Do you have any immediate writing plans?
PB: I have just recently completed my first fictional novel called "Devil Bat Diary" based on the famous Bela Lugosi movie The Devil Bat.
ILHM: Where can readers find out more about Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men?
PB: The book can be purchased directly from the publisher at AuthorHouse.com, Amazon, online bookstores and is also an e-book (the first on the genre in that format). I also have a two-part video on YouTube under the book's title where I talk a bit about Honda and the book.
Our review of the book can be found HERE!!
Thanks again to Peter for taking the time to speak with us this weekend, and for those giant monster and science fiction fans out there, be sure to check out Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda through one of the e-tailers above!