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The Call of Reviews: Reviews by Matt Sanborn

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Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda,
Peter Brothers

Few of us are big enough fans of one director to not only see all of his movies, but to collect and research every scrap of information we can on the person. And almost none of us are fanatical enough to compile it all and write a comprehensive book.

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is penned by the man who could be arguably Japanese film director Ishiro Honda's number one American expert. Peter H. Brothers has collected almost every single known article written in English, and some not in English, about Honda and turned them into a 282-page homage to the man most well known in the States for directing Godzilla movies.

But don't let Mr. Brothers hear you say that. Throughout the book he shows the reader how Honda was an underrated director of many types of genres, from documentary style pics about woman diving for pearls to comedies to straight-up drama to childlike Kaiju films; Ishiro was a busy and prolific filmmaker throughout his career.

The first 62 pages gives a brief overview of the life and works of Honda, with the rest of the book consisting of in-depth description, analysis and deconstruction of his films. It is clear the author has closely these movies closely with an objective, critical eye, and is quite capable of bringing that to the reader. His fandom is not so great that he overlooks some dreadful films that Ishiro directed over his career.

It is hard to fault someone who is so passionate about a subject, but this is a book with some serious flaws. Mr. Brothers used to put his work out to the public, which is a site that prints the book, but does not edit, and it shows. Right on the back cover we see in the teaser: “Called to enlist in the Japanese Army druing World War II…” There are other errors in the text such as American International Pictures, which is properly abbreviated AIP, is occasionally Aip, and the odd superfluous (, floating in the text.

The writing, though capable, desperately needs a strong editor. Throughout the first part chapter one, the name Honda is either the lead word, or appears in the first sentence of almost every paragraph. Some of the writing becomes clunky, and word choices are odd, or just incorrect; such as on page when he writes "a human sacrifice so noble as to define definition." I believe he is trying for "defy definition," but it is hard to pick these things up in one's own works.

Because the book is self-published the cover is a bit pedestrian and there are no internal photos more than likely due to the lack of property rights. This takes away from the work as a whole, as the reader never gets a good visual of what anyone looks like or see the glorious Toho monsters in action.

The book is obviously written by someone completely passionate about Honda's works and life, but there are no new interviews or information here. Almost everything has been garnered off of previously published material, albeit some by the writer himself. To his credit, Mr. Brother's used every available source, and certainly has left no stone unturned when it came to mining for nuggets of information. However, in the end we have what is a well done college thesis, rather than a ground breaking work on a rather well known director.

The best part here is the analysis and critiques on the film. The author has a keen understanding about many film genres and how these films fit into the Japanese culture. So taken as a film commentary work, this book is a fair success. However, if you are looking for new information or insight into the very interesting life of Ishiro Honda, there are stronger sources to check.

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men retails online for $16.50. As I said, if you are looking for insightful and intensive pieces on one expert's opinions on these films, the book is worth a look. However, if you are looking for anything new about Toho Studios, the director, or Japanese film, this is certainly something you can overlook. Overall, it could serve as a good primer for Honda and his films.

I hope if new editions are released Mr. Brothers will clean up some of the embarrassing, glaring grammatical and spelling errors which haunt this work.

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