A Book That Looks At The History and Cultures Surrounding Godzilla

first edition no dust jacket
first edition no dust jacket
Ok well I’m sure that plenty of people have written papers about Godzilla. It’s fairly well known that Godzilla was Japan’s answer to the Nuclear Bomb. As the only country to ever go through a nuclear holocaust Japan has a unique perspective and used that perspective to show the horrors of nuclear war through the vehicle of the Godzilla series. Godzilla, himself, is an avatar for the nuclear bomb.

Knowing the story of the Lucky Dragon 5, a fishing trawler that was fishing near the Bikini Atoll when the Nuclear Bomb testing was going on adds a greater poignancy to the 1954 Gojira. The fate of the fishing boat is referenced in the beginning of the movie and it adds a gravitas to the scene that nothing else could.

In their attempt to find Godzilla goodies that Godzilla Momma does not already have, my loved ones discovered what amounts to a text book about Toho’s Godzilla film series. At least so far as it went at the time of publishing. In point of fact the book it titled A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, by David Kalat. It was published by McFarland & Company Inc. in 1997. So it just missed the Not Godzilla movie in 1998 that starred Matthew Broderick.

This tome has no pictures. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or with pictures either. It’s just a fact that there are no photographs or illustrations in this book. It looks like a text book.

I’ve only just begun reading it and I’m loving it already. I fully agree with the author when he points out that a lot of the reviews of Godzilla movies are unfair for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons being that the reviewers didn’t even watch the movies! Other reasons the reviewers gave bad reviews, the author speculates, has to do with the dubbing–basing the acting on how the voice actors who did the dubbing acted rather than the actual actors. The author also points out, rightly, that the very same techniques that were lauded as ground breaking and high art in American films, were treated as less than desirable in Godzilla films. There was, and is, a blatant double standard when it comes to critiquing Godzilla movies.

This is not to say that there aren’t some real stinkers in the Godzilla franchise, but some of them are actually very good. Also to review Godzilla without understanding the culture that he comes from does a disservice to the films, the fans and everyone involved in creating the films. Author David Kalat outlines his arguments very well and I actually agree with him. And not just because I’m a huge fan, but because he’s got some very valid points. And this is in the first couple of chapters.

The format of the book is a chapter per movie, which is awesome. I’ve only read the introduction, a note on the text, and the first chapter which was about King Kong. It is well known that the Japanese were captivated by the idea of an island where monsters lived, hidden away from the modern world. King Kong is credited with this fascination in the common lore.

So while this looks like a text book, it reads very well. I’ve found it to be exceptionally interesting. The book is well researched, which is something I appreciate a great deal. I will do a full review when I finish the book, or if it continues to be chock full of such great analysis, I may to partial reviews. We shall have to see.

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