Monday, August 17, 2009

Kaiju Book Review: "Classic Movie Monsters"

It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive overview of the silver screen's most iconic monsters than this masterwork by Donald Glut. Featuring chapters on the Wolf Man, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Quasimodo, the Phantom of the Opera, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong and Godzilla, Glut effortlessly relates his encyclopedic knowledge with the passion of a true fan.
"Classic Movie Monsters" distinguishes itself from more standard treatments of the topic in a number of ways, beginning with the introduction by Curt Siodmak. Mr. Siodmak wrote The Wolf Man for Universal Pictures in 1941, and he reveals the origin of the famous four-liner that is emblematic of the film (the one that mentions "wolfbane").
Each chapter offers not only a synopsis of every film related to the given creature (some extremely obscure) but also connects the dots with pop culture tie-ins and photographs that I have seen nowhere else. For example, the chapter on King Kong boasts fifteen pages alone devoted to Kong-inspired stories, television programs, comic books, and music, and includes excellent stills from Mighty Joe Young, King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes.
Of greatest interest to readers of this blog would likely be the chapter on Godzilla. What makes this chapter all the more remarkable is that Mr. Glut was reporting this information in 1978--decades before the advent of instantaneous communication. Mr. Glut writes with a contagious enthusiasm about each entry in the Godzilla series to that point, consistently offering fresh perspectives on each. I was pleasantly surprised byMr. Glut's appraisal of Godzilla's Revenge, which he calls "one of the finest children's monster fantasies ever made" (an assessment with which--for what it's worth--I happen to agree).
In addition to all the Godzilla information, this section also includes what certainly must have been one of the first English language guides to Daiei's Gamera series (keep in mind this appeared in print thirty-one years ago). I kept wondering as I read this, "How did he do it--before the era of home video?"
"Classic Movie Monsters" is a tour de force, written with affection, good humor, and a profound understanding of the genre. It belongs on every monster fan's bookshelf.

No comments:

Post a Comment