A Book Review by Vennie Anderson

The first words of Steve Ryfle’s comprehensive work are “I am a Godzilla Fan. Hear me roar.”

And roar he does. Ryfle, who is acknowledged on various Google sites as a “Godzilla expert,” has produced a comprehensive history/biography of not only Japan’s but pretty much everybody’s favorite Mon-star–the Big Guy, the Big G, the King of the Monsters, our reason for being on this site–Godzilla!

Frankly I can’t find much of anything wrong with this book, so I suppose I could just say, “It’s a great book. Go out and buy it!” but that wouldn’t do it justice. If you are a Godzilla fan, there are certain individuals, processes, and phenomena that interest you. You are interested in the movies, of course, and their evolution from Gojira to the American Godzilla. (Bear in mind this 1998 publication date obviously omits any references to the G-movies of the new millennium.) You are interested in the writers, actors, directors, and special effects creators. You love “inside info,” special little tidbits of information that bring spice to the discussion of scripts, special effects, and music. You may even be interested in some of the more obscure “Godzilliana,” including Godzilla projects that never made it to either the big screen or TV. You enjoy seeing interesting photos, something different from the routine movie still of Godzilla-chewing-on-a-train and on-set photo of Haruo Nakajima having tea while in the Godzilla suit. Mr. Ryfle obliges with all of this and more.

The only way I can think he could have made this book better was to add an index (you know I love an index), but he partially makes up for this by using bold face type for many of the more important names and sub-headings in the text. I especially enjoyed the two-page article on composer Masaru Sato, who often takes a back seat to the inimitable Akira Ifukube, so famous and well-loved for his many Godzilla movie scores. Sato’s style is pretty much the other side of the coin from Ifukube’s, with more upbeat, jazz-oriented scores. Those of us who have branched out from Godzilla films to more mainstream classical Japanese film, such as those directed by Akira Kurasawa , recognize Sato as a versatile composer of over 300 movies scores.

Ryfle’s writing style is light, witty, and very informative without being wordy or ponderous. As he discusses each of the G-films, he rates them on a one to five star basis. I was tickled to see that we agree on the merit of nearly every film.

I don’t have a lot more to say about this book, other than to note that it has become, along with David Kalat’s A CRTICAL HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY OF TOHO’S GODZILLA SERIES (also reviewed on this site), my prime resource for information on all things Godzilla.

Bottom line: Excellent book, worth the money, a must for your Godzilla bookshelf.

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