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THE OFFICIAL GODZILLA COMPENDIUM
by J.D. Lees and Marc Cerasini, Random House, 1998.
A Book Review By Vennie Anderson


This book may not be perfect, but it’s the perfect book for a young or new fan to get started delving into the world of Godzilla. Lees is well known to G-fans as the publisher of G-FAN, the premiere Godzilla fanzine that has graduated to full-fledged periodical status. In addition, Lees started up the Chicago-based Godzilla convention now known as “G-Fest,” and continues to organize this well known annual gathering of kaiju eiga fans. Cerasini is the author of a series of five Godzilla novels, based on the film characters, plus a plethora of other books for adults and children. Both these guys know their subject inside and out.

For a relatively short book (144 pages) this one packs more basic information on Godzilla and his pals, from Gojira (1954) through the Showa Series and the Heisei Series films, than any other book I have run across. After a brief introduction the authors start right in with synopses of the movies that include basic production and limited cast info, U.S. and Japanese titles and release dates, running times, basic plots, and a critique of each film. The first film and its U.S. edited version (Godzilla, King of the Monsters, 1956) get the lion’s share of space with 7 pages of text and black and white pictures. The remaining films get from two to four pages each, following the same format .

Sometimes the plot info is a little fuzzy, with what seem to me to be major plot points occasionally left out. However, the essence of each film is covered. The critique part of each entry is more informational than critical, and one can only presume that Lees and Cerasini both adored each and every film. For example, their comments on Godzilla vs. Megalon describe the film as “colorful, action packed, and amusing,” adjectives which many fans would hotly dispute. Nevertheless, how can you fault these guys for loving Godzilla films too much?

Following the film treatments are informative and amusing articles under the general title of “Monster Mania.” These include a timeline of the various Godzilla suits, with pictures; a page of info about the suitmation process and actors; a brief article on the robotics, puppets, and other “spare parts” that served as props in various films; a tongue-in-cheek article by a paleontologist, speculating on what type of critter Godzilla may have been; a unique article entitled “Godzilla As A Parenting Tool,” written by a social psychologist; and two brief articles with information about Godzilla in Dark Horse Comics and children’s books on Godzilla available from Random House.

Next comes my favorite part of the book, “Profiles of the Monsters.” Curious about the height of Anguirus or Destoroyah? Wondering in which movie Battra first appears? Puzzled about the various incarnations of Godzilla as to height and weight? Can’t remember in which movie King Seesar appears? Can’t recall what a “Kamacuras” looks like? Here you go with an alphabetized monster gallery, complete with pictures, vital statistics, and other interesting tidbits of info. Last but not least is a “Godzilla Filmography Table ,” with English and Japanese titles, release dates, and major monster co-stars.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention the outstanding section in the middle of the book with the original Japanese Godzilla posters in brilliant color, a monster height chart, the colorful Godzilla covers from Dark Horse Comics, the covers from Random House’s series of Godzilla books for kids, and three pages of color photo stills from various G-films. I should also mention the info-rich sidebars scattered throughout the book. It’s amazing what an abundance of knowledge Lees and Cerasini have packed into these pages!

Since it was published in 1998, The Official Godzilla Compendium does not include any information on the six films of the Millennium Series. Every time I pick up this book I find myself wishing Lees and Cerasini would see their way clear to publishing an updated version or a supplement with the same kind of info on those films, plus the 1998 U.S. version, which while hardly deserving to bear the name Godzilla, is still part of the saga and needs to be dealt with as such.

Bottom Line: Terrific book for kids and adults, especially new fans or those who want a quick reference.

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