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The Official Godzilla Compendium
J.D. Lees and Marc Cerasini
Random House, 144 pages

The Official Godzilla Compendium
J.D. Lees
J.D. Lees, a teacher of high school biology and math, has visited Japan four times. He lived in Tokyo for a year, teaching English by day and attending monthly all-night Godzilla movie marathons at the Asakusa Toho theater. Lees started a small photocopied fanzine called G-FAN which quickly grew into a bimonthly 68-page glossy-cover periodical with international subscribers and retail distribution throughout North America. He currently resides in Canada.

Marc Cerasini
Marc Cerasini's first book was a literary study of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan. He worked for filmmaker George Romero, appearing in the horror classic, Dawn of the Dead, as a zombie. His other books include The Tom Clancy Companion with Tom Clancy, Larry Bond and Martin H. Greenburg; the New York Times bestseller, O.J. Simpson: American Hero, American Tragedy; novelizations of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Baywatch adventures. A native of Pennsylvania, he now makes his home in New York City.

ISFDB Bibliography
Random House: Godzilla 2000
Marc Cerasini's Godzilla column

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Marc Goldstein

I confess, I caught my first Godzilla movie at age five and have been a fan of the big guy ever since. I cheered when the MTV Movie Awards gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award a couple years back, and I'm eagerly anticipating Independence Day creators Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's blockbuster Hollywood remake, set to stomp box office records this summer. In the marketing wake of Godzilla, comes The Official Godzilla Compendium, the complete guide to all 22 of Godzilla's Japanese Toho Studio-produced features.

The authors start things off on the right foot by acknowledging the cheesiness of the special effects and the scientific implausibility of the monsters, then rightly shift the focus to the campy fun and exciting action Godzilla's movies offer.

Filling the book with trivia that will appeal to both serious scholars and neophytes alike, the authors take particular glee in busting a few pet-peeve misconceptions about the big guy. His skin is gray, not green, they assert with comic exasperation. They also expose the long-standing myth that Toho filmed two different endings for 1962's Godzilla v. King Kong, one where Godzilla wins for the Japanese audience and one where Kong wins for the Americans. It turns out the film has the same ending no matter which side of the Pacific you see it on.

The compendium's largest chapter compiles a list of all 22 of Godzilla's films, each complete with a plot synopsis and production notes. Given the comparative slenderness of the volume -- just 144 pages -- the production notes are brief but still full of interesting detail. The film critiques are often limited to just a sentence or two and err on the side of towing the company line. With 22 films under the big guy's belt, it's only natural that a few of them are stinkers. Uninitiated fans may have found something as simple as a top-ten list of the best films a useful primer. Fortunately, it only takes a little reading between the lines to tell which films are being damned with faint praise.

The chapter cataloging all the monsters that populate Godzilla's universe is another good one. Each monster's entry contains its statistical measurements and portrait, as well as its film appearances, win-loss record, special powers, and a capsule biography describing its origin and accomplishments.

The Compendium is especially useful for making sense out of the tangled briar that multiple directors, screenwriters, and translations have made out of Godzilla's mythology. Here, the authors do good work pointing out the intentional connections and accidental contradictions with equal relish. They also touch on Godzilla's other incarnations in Dark Horse's comic book series and Random House's line of children's and young-adult books.

The book has an appealing, professional layout and is chock full of artwork, including a few glossy pages with full-color photos of original movie posters and some choice production stills. As an introduction to Godzilla's universe and an overview of his forty-plus years as a movie star and cultural icon, The Official Godzilla Compendium is well worth the investment.

Copyright © 1998 by Marc Goldstein

Marc edits the SF Site's Role-Playing Game Department. He lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina, and their cat, Onion.

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