By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Very few magazines are considered collectible. To have magazines like Cinefex helped define my love for films. Sadly, those early issues are well-read and falling apart. There’s no denying I wish anthology collections exist so I can keep the originals safely stored and another to read to death.
Thankfully Fantastic Monsters of Filmland’s Ack-Ives is a from-the-archive series which has me smiling broader than Showa era Gojira on America’s love affair with the King of Monsters! The first volume is on all things Godzilla from both sides of the Pacific. It is worth picking up when I do not want to put any further wear to my early magazines. I am not surprised the super early issues are highly sought after by collectors. They tracked what was popular for the time when it was still in publication (1958 to 1983) and later revived ’93. They are some of Forrest J. Ackerman‘s finest work.
When considering this publication is older than I am, I’m not likely to own those early issues. The first article, “Godzilla, King of the Creatures” summarizes Raymond Burr’s version of the film (published October 1965). Destroy All Monsters, my favourite of this era, continues to recount all that’s terrific about this film. If the slight burn in the font from the article, “He was Godzilla, The Man in the Grave Flannel Suit” is any indication, these articles were probably reprinted/digitized from microfiche. The only thing new is the pop-up fun fact balloons recounting each article’s place in Famous Monster’s history with the mighty one.
A third of the articles are summaries of the films and another are behind-the-scenes material (interviews). There are 23 articles to enjoy. One reproduction image brings fond memories of those books on movie-making, namely special effects, I read from decades ago. They detailed how kaiju films were made. Back then, Ray Harryhausen‘s stop-motion work dominated the silver screen in America, and in Japan, movie-makers had actors wearing huge rubber costumes! Ackerman’s “Monsters from Japan” (March 1975) lists every Japanese monster film (imagi-movies, as he called it) made to date and I now realize I have holes in my video collection!
This compilation includes everything we need to specifically know before going to see Legendary Film’s Godzilla: King of Monsters. Knowledge of the previous films are not required, but it helps those new to the genre know where this radioactive beast has come from. Even Shin Godzilla is remembered. Even a eulogy to Haruo Nakajima is published. He was the man who brought life to the monster of the early era. The final article is a teaser to Michael Dougherty’s affair with the beast and how he got the job to direct King of Monsters. It’s a good general read so fans can get to know this filmmaker.
Anyone wanting to know what Godzilla represents in a deeper cultural level is best advised to take Japanese film studies. For fans just wanting a primer, this special covers the essentials. Failing that, the Internet has a lot more to offer about this beast’s legacy.