Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The official guide to Godzilla, King of the Monsters

 December 21, 2022 at 11:44 AM PST

EPISODE 226: The official Guide to Godzilla

 

Something big has arrived…

 

CLIP Godzilla stomp

 

Get ready for the Official Guide to the King of the monsters

 

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)

 

BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie, I'm Beth Accomando.

 

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)

 

BETH ACCOMANDO One of my favorite things in the world is Godzilla so I am thrilled to be speaking with author Graham Skipper about his gorgeous new coffee table book Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters. And what makes it doubly fun is that Graham is also the actor who brought Herbert West to life in Re-Animator The Musical, another one of my favorite things. So get ready to geek out with me about my beloved kaiju Godzilla and to uncover some fascinating facts about Toho’s iconic monster. (:38)

 

Music theme bump out.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO Ok slight detour before we start talking about Godzilla. I just want to give a little love to Re-Animator the Musical, Stuart Gordon’s stage adaptation of his 1985 horror gem, Re-Animator. I miss that show and the people who made it such a devilish delight. Here’s just a taste of Graham Skipper who brought mad med student Herbert West to life. Here he sings about the famously undead cat.

 

CLIP I give life, I give the gift of re-animation.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO That show was just brilliant! I wish there was some way I could bring Gordon and the show back to life as well. But now on to Godzilla.

 

MONTAGE Godzilla clips

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Before we discuss the new book Godzilla The Ultimate Guide to the King of the Monsters I wanted Graham to tell us how he got introduced to Godzilla and if it was love at first sight.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Before we discuss the new Godzilla, the Ultimate Guide to the King of the Monsters, I wanted Graham to tell us how he got introduced to Godzilla and if it was love at first sight.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

So when I was a kid, my grandparents lived out in the country and they had one of those gigantic satellite dishes in the backyard. Back in the day, we had these occasionally people would have these huge industrial size satellite dishes in their backyard that would pick up sort of everything. You would get HBO for free. You would get weird Japanese channels for free. And my grandparents had one of these and so they got HBO. So whenever I would go out and visit them, I was definitely an indoor kid. I loved movies love TV. So I would sit in their bedroom where they had their TV, and I would turn on HBO and watch movies all day. And I remember very specifically, I can't remember how old I was, eight or nine probably. And they were showing some movie on HBO. But the ad for the upcoming movie was king Kong versus Godzilla.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

King Kong versus Godzilla heading for their colossal collision, shattering every obstacle that stands between them in the most fantastic rampage of annihilation ever recorded on film. See King Kong stamp Tokyo into the ground holding a beautiful Gird in his grass. See Godzilla destroy an entire army. See King Kong attacked by the blazing barrier of a billion folks. Like nothing, nobody can stop the great showdown when King Kong and Godzilla meet to fight for survival of the fitness.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I had seen neither movie, but I knew, of course, who King Kong was. I knew who Godzilla was. I was definitely a monster kid. I was into monsters. And I thought, well, obviously I'm going to like this movie. So I stayed. I watched King Kong versus Godzilla. Totally fell in love. But pretty much every time I would go there, I mean, HBO was showing Godzilla movies all the time back then. And so I would watch all of them and I totally fell in love. But yeah. King Kong versus Godzilla. It was my Gateway. Still one of my favorites. I mean, objectively, maybe not one of the best of the movies, but it holds a very special place in my heart.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And what do you think it was about Godzilla that appealed to you?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

So monsters are an interesting thing for a child, right? Because a monster is inherently scary. It's supposed to be a horrific thing. These are part of horror movies, but they're also really alluring they're really fun. As a kid, I don't know, as a kid, being me, I liked gross stuff, I liked weird stuff. But the thing about Godzilla is that Godzilla is both a scary monster and a good guy. At least for a lot of the films. I guess it appealed to me in the same way as like Frankenstein appealed to me. Frankenstein's a scary monster, but Frankenstein's also sympathetic. You like Frankenstein. And same with Godzilla. Godzilla is scary. Godzilla destroys buildings. Godzilla is huge and frightening. But Godzilla is also defending humanity. I don't know, it's heartwarming. Godzilla is sort of like the proto Captain Planet in a way.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, I think for me, the thing that always appealed to me was Godzilla is a man in a suit. And there was something about that that made him feel different from a lot of other big monsters. Not human looking monsters, but the big, giant, scary monsters. And there was something about him that seemed so human and personal in the way he was played.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

100%. Yeah, I mean, it's definitely a different it's even a different sort of feeling than when you watch other men in suit monsters like the creature for the Black Lagoon, right? That's a different feeling than you get with something like that zillow where you're also suspending your disbelief that, you know, these are miniatures and, you know, this is just a regular guy in a suit crushing these miniatures. But still, there's fun in your brain expanding that. There's the fun idea of like it's almost like when you're a kid and you love splashing through puddles and you love sort of building your blocks in your room and, like, smashing those down. You're kind of reliving that through Godzilla in a way.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And just to remind people about the origins of Godzilla, the first film was in 1954, Gojira. And this was really a horror film and it dealt with kind of the aftermath of the atomic bomb and it looked to the horrors of that for the Japanese people. And Godzilla was kind of this manifestation of all that fear and anxiety. But then it was imported to the United States a couple of years later. As Godzilla, King of the Monsters. With Raymond Burr inserted in Godzilla King of the Monsters

 

MONTAGE

Alive, surging up from the depths of the sea on a tidal wave of terror to wreak vengeance on mankind. Godzilla, king of the Monsters it's alive. A gigantic beast docking the earth, crushing all before it in a cyclonic cavalcade of electrifying horror, raging through the streets on a rampage of total destruction. Godzilla, King of the monsters, incredible titan of terror wiping out a city of 6 million in a holocaust of flame. Jet flames cannot destroy it. Bombs cannot kill it. All modern weapons fail. Is this the end of our civilization?

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

But what do you think it is about Godzilla that allowed him to be this Japanese monster that became this American, you know, popular American monster and globally incredibly popular?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, I think that speaks to the talents not only of the original team that made the original Gujira, but also the team that made Godzilla King of the Monsters. I think that it's sort of fashionable nowadays now that we have the original Gujira so readily available in the States that wasn't available until I think it was 2004. It was a very long time before we actually got the original version here in the States that was kind of readily available for people. Godzilla, King of the Monsters is really, really interesting. And I don't want to disparage that movie because I think that it does a lot of things that are really that are really good. And I think that spoke to an American audience in a way that appealed to distributors and appealed to kind of the general Americans sensibility of like, the military is the best and we're going to kill the thing, while at the same time retaining that essential soul that the original goodyeara has and having us feel sympathy for the monster. The original film, it's very bleak. It's pretty nihilistic. It's a very sad film from start to finish. King of the Monsters is a lot more upbeat.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And for those who don't know, basically the American distributors went through and shot a whole bunch of new stuff involving the actor Ramen Burr, essentially as an American reporter who's kind of explaining things to us as they're happening.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

A prehistoric monster the Japanese call Godzilla has just walked out of Tokyo Bay. He's as tall as a 30 story building. Now he's making his way toward the city's main line of defense. 300,000 volts of electricity strung around the city as a barrier. A barrier against Godzilla.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

They do it in a really clever way where they're sort of inserting him into scenes from the original film. Pretty seamlessly, I might add. Like the film craft there is actually pretty good.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I can hardly believe what has just happened now. It seems Tokyo has no defense.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

But the whole thing is kind of emphasizing this is a very broad overview of it, but the whole thing is sort of emphasizing the idea of, like, how Greek the military is and we're going to fight the monster and well, at the same time, just sort of explaining to people like, what's happening with this, like, nuclear age monster. That's a danger. The original film is a lot more I don't know, I look at it as a little bit like, well, this is the inevitable outcome of what we've done and we're going to take it and suffer, and how sad for humanity and we're going to try to stop this thing, but it's an unstoppable force. The only way that we can stop it is through another atrocious act. The cycle of destruction sort of continues. I find it really interesting that King of the Monsters frames it in that kind of more weirdly, optimistic way, while at the same time ending it in kind of a King Kong way of saying, like, not beauty killed the beast, but, well, you know, humanity killed the beast. That's very sad, but we killed the beast.

 

MONTAGE

The menace was gone, so it was a great man, but the whole world could wake up and live again.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And I think that they were very clever to end it that way because I think it allowed Americans kind of this Western ideal to really latch on to it. Particularly kids don't like the first Godzilla, like the original Japanese Godzilla that much. Kids find it kind of boring and kind of sad and kind of dreary. I think that the greatest thing that King of the Monsters did was it introduced kids to this where it gave them the serious subject matter, but it made them excited about it. And I think that speaks a lot to the longevity, at least over here in the States, of why it kicked in and then why it evolved into the Saturday morning cartoon situation than it did, which obviously added to the longevity.

 

CARTOON OPEN

30 stories high, breathing fire... Godzilla...

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

That's my very long wooded answer to your question. I really do love King of the Monsters a lot. And I recommend to people, when they're saying, what should I watch? I say, well, watch the original gojira, I think that's a better film. I think it's one of the best films ever made. But then watch King of the Monsters because it's a really fascinating look at, one, how editing can totally change a movie and two, just this sort of cultural different viewpoint that I think is pretty profound.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, and I think it's interesting, too, that you can take that film and sort of remove Godzilla's teeth in a sort of way in terms of taking out how the atomic bomb impacted Japan and yet the film still plays and Godzilla is still this amazing, iconic character, even in that revamped version.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, it just kind of removes the cultural undertone that the original is trying to do. I don't know. It removes his teeth in one way, but kind of adds his teeth in another. It just makes him like this kind of unexplainable, like, horrible monster, which is also fun.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

So tell me how the book came about and how you came to write all about Godzilla.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, through pure luck, essentially. So I have been friends with Chris Mallory at toho North America for quite a long time. And a few years ago, actually, right before the pandemic, he reached out to me because Toho was going to be doing a series of comedic shorts that were going to be sort of remixed edits of old Godzilla films that were going to be funny. And he contacted me to help produce and write some of these. And so I was working on that. And as part of that process, I had to watch all the films again, which, I mean, I have always been a fan, but I hadn't watched a lot of them in a very long time. And I think just through that process, he saw my love for the franchise and all of that. And so when it came time to write the book, he reached out to me and he said, hey, look, we need somebody to write this book. I know that you're a fan. It's a franchise. I'd written some short stories and some other compilations. I've done some narrative writing work. I've written some screenplays. And yeah, so he just reached out and asked me if I would be interested and I said, absolutely.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

This is a franchise that I'm always really interested in. Franchises like movie franchises that last a really long time because it just makes you wonder, like, what is it about this franchise that, for whatever reason, keeps people coming back? And I mean, examples of this that I'm always sort of fascinated by, of course, is like Doctor Who have been running since the 60s. You've got the Friday the 13th franchise, which I'm a huge fan of, look like the hellraiser franchise, which I find just to be like the most ridiculous franchise in history, but I love it very much. And Godzilla, I mean, it's the longest running film franchise in history. This franchise has been going since 1954. And there's something to be said for what is it about this monster and about this world that keeps people coming back. And so I was just really excited to dive into really exploring the history of that and really trying to pull apart some of these elements of why Godzilla has remained so important to humanity for so long.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And in taking that deep dive, what did you find is part of his appeal or what has contributed to his longevity?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I mean, I think that a part of it is kind of what we've already talked about. He appeals both to the adults that like the scary monster stuff and the cultural criticism, as well as to the kids that like seeing buildings smashed and monsters fighting into the general mayhem that a lot of these movies offer. I think that one thing about Godzilla is that as much as Godzilla evolves throughout the different eras and throughout the different years, godzilla still stays. And this is a testament to toho still stays a force of nature. Godzilla, how do I put this? Godzilla is never too much of a character in the sense that like, oh, this is the I don't know, this is the mean Godzilla. This is the funny Godzilla. Yes, those movies are funny, those movies are mean, those movies are scary, those movies are different movies. But Godzilla as a character, even in the goofiest of all these entries, is still he's a force of nature. He's like a hurricane. I keep saying he it's really they you know, Godzilla is genderless, godzilla is immortal, godzilla is all of these things and sort of indescribable.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And I think it's that consistency. We're not seeing the Michael Keaton Batman versus the Val Kilmer Batman. It's always Godzilla. And I think there's something comforting to that. I think that there's something about when you turn on the TV and a Godzilla movie is playing on a Sunday afternoon, no matter what the film is, and the films may differ greatly, it's still going to be Godzilla. And I think that that becomes something that we I don't know, for me, at least, it becomes a comfort blanket. And I think for a lot of people that's the same way. And you can either choose to just pick out of it the fun silliness of what you're seeing and kind of relax and watch it, or you can find some really deep, interesting cultural commentary and criticism that's also very valid and important and very smart.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

What can people expect from this book?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

So, you know, when I was growing up, the thing that got me into monsters in general is my parents had bought me a picture book that had all the different monsters in it, all the movie monsters. So it had all the universal monsters, had Jason, Freddie, Leatherface, Pinhead, all those. What it did was it basically went through and it told, like, a brief history of every character and then had a bunch of really beautiful pictures of them. And so when offered the opportunity to write this book, I said, I want to write the Godzilla book for that kid. I want to write a Godzilla book where a kid who's 8910 gets this book and opens it up and this whole world is just presented before them and that maybe they're not old enough to see some of these movies yet. Maybe they haven't seen the movies, maybe they haven't even heard of them. But here's something where they can read about them. They can look at the pictures. They can get excited about it when they're done watching the movies. They can go back, they can read the book. They can learn more about how the movie was made.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And that, to me, I just found so inspiring. Personally, as a kid, growing up with a book like that, that the thought of having a book like that for others was really exciting. And of course, it's not just for kids. I mean, this is something that there's a lot of interesting information that I found through my research. It's all out there. But this is the first time that everything has really been contained into one single, really beautiful sort of collectible edition. Whether you're a fan of Godzilla, whether you just think that monsters are cool and want to have something fun on your coffee table, or whether you're a kid that, like me, was into monsters and had heard of Godzilla but didn't really know a lot about them, this is why you why I wrote this book. And I've already gotten some incredible feedback from people who have, like, shots of their kids sitting in their bunk bed, like, reading the book totally engrossed. And that just fills me with so much of joy, because Godzilla, I think, brings joy to the world. And I know Godzilla has brought joy to me through my life.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And so if this book can bring a similar kind of joy to people, especially to kids, as they're just beginning to form their cinematic love, then I couldn't be happier. I'm really, really happy. Welbeck Publishing did an incredible job of the book. I think it's beautiful. I hope that's what sticks with folks is that it's just sort of a joyful celebration and deep dive into a thing that we all into a thing that we all love.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, as a longtime fan of Godzilla and someone who's collected far too much stuff, I just loved the book. And the photos are so amazing, and you pulled out some stuff that I've never seen before. So what was it like going through the Toho archives and trying to select what you wanted to put in the book.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I mean, it was incredible. So Toho offered us the rare opportunity to just have total free access to their photo archives. So this included behind the scenes stills. It included stills from the films that were really high quality, really beautiful. It included publicity stuff, some really cool. Some of my favorite stuff are some of the lobby cards that are in there that are these sort of amalgams of different shots from the films in sort of an artistic way. Yeah, I mean, basically I would just go through and my day was I would get up, I would watch a movie, and then I would write a draft of a chapter about it while doing research and all of that. And then I would go through that film's folder in the photo archive and I would just pick out the shots that spoke to me. And at a certain point, I mean, I had way too many pictures picked. And I'm sending to the publisher and they're like, we don't have this many pages, we can't include all of these. So it was a matter of trying to go, okay, well, what have I not seen before?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

What are some of the most iconic shots? Again, keeping that kid and me in mind, like, what's the picture that's going to really send me through the roof here? What's that shot of Kingdora that I'm going to be super stoked about and just trying to pick those out? I mean, it was almost impossible. There was a ton more in there that we just couldn't include in a space. But I think that we picked some really cool stuff. And I especially love even just the poster images at the beginning of every chapter. We have the Japanese poster for the film and even just those I love. They're so expressive and dynamic, very different from what American posters are. So I'm really glad that we got to include all those. Yeah, the pictures are just astonishing and they're so high quality. I mean, you've seen in the book, some of these are huge, two full page spreads and the quality is just pristine. So we were really, really lucky to have that opportunity to go through those archives and just sort of take whatever we wanted.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Were you like a kid in a candy shop?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Oh, yeah. And I may or may not have downloaded some of those pictures. How could you not? Yeah, it was amazing. Every folder, some of them would have thousands of pictures in them. And I'm just sitting there clicking through and just going through them and just like at a certain point even remembering, oh, I've got to pick some of these for a book. I'm not just looking at pictures. It was amazing.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

One of the things that I really liked is there are these illustrations. I don't know if they were storyboards or what, but there's these hand drawn images that are just great.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, a lot of those. It's funny because there wasn't a lot of explanation to a lot of the pictures. They're just sort of like a file name and then you see what it is. Some of those we had to kind of dig apart. Yeah, I mean, there's some concept art in there that's really cool. There was some art that I think they had done for promotional purposes for different re releases of the films or whatever it was. And it was all in there. There's some really beautiful sort of Japanese style I don't know what you call it. Full color, sort of I don't know. I would say almost animation style art that we use for the chapter breaks. And I really loved those. I thought those were very cool. Yeah, I mean, all that stuff was just stuff that they had, and they just said, have at it. It was incredible.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And as you know, hedera is my favorite Godzilla opponent. And you dug up a really bizarre piece of trivia about that film involving suit actor Ken Pachiro Satsuma.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah. So when they were filming so the Hetero suit is, I believe, at the time, was the heaviest suit that they'd constructed, no pun intended. This monstrous contraption that it took him, like, 2 hours to get into and 2 hours to get out of. It was this huge thing. And while they were filming, while he was in the heterose suit, his appendix burst and they had to call a doctor to the set. They did not have time to get him out of the suit. So while he was in the heterose suit, the doctor had to cut into it and perform without anesthesia an appendectomy while he was in the suit.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Oh, my God.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I mean, just incredible stuff, right? Like, incredible. And you always hear about how brutal the shooting conditions were for these actors that played these monsters, hero. And Nakajima, we gave countless interviews about how just horrendous it was, especially on the original Gujira in this huge suit. But, I mean, when you think of something like that, these guys were they were quite literally pushing their bodies to the bursting point. That must have been such a surreal moment. To witness as a medic is, like, sitting there cutting into Hetero, who I'm sure is screaming and biting down on letter or something. I don't know. But, yeah, I loved that story. I think that was probably my favorite bit of info that I came across while I was working on the book.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

Were there any other stories you want to share that you found?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Oh, wow. I'm trying to think of anything else. There are lots of stories of Nakajima, like, nearly drowning when he's doing a lot of these underwater scenes because that suit would just fill with water. So all of a sudden, you're already wearing, like, a 200 pound suit, but then you get in water and it just fills with water and soaks everything up and suddenly you're in the 400 pound suit. You are a weight at the bottom of this gigantic indoor pool. I think there was one story about where he did have to be saved by people. It might have been during beer. Horror of the deep. I might be wrong about that. But yeah, there's lots of stories like that of just how brutal some of these conditions were when people were filming, especially back in the show era, because people forget these movies were not made with a lot of money. And these were effectively I mean, yes, it was a studio backing them and it was a major studio, but essentially they would just kind of say, all right, you kids, go do your thing. Here's a paltry amount of money. Do what you can, you know, and then they would have like three months to make a movie.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And so these were effectively kind of like indie films in a way. I mean, they were essentially left alone, as evidenced by Godzilla versus Henera. Toho was not happy with the finished product there, but I think it speaks to the fact that that product got made and got released. And Toho is like, all right, well, we're going to change course now. But at least they weren't like, sitting there fiddling with them as they were making it. I mean, they left them alone.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And do you have a personal favorite? Godzilla. I know that's like choosing which of your children do you like?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, that's so hard. I'm going to separate the original Gujira aside because it's kind of like I don't know, you have to put that aside because that's definitely objectively, by far the best of them and one of the best movies ever made. I have a deep affection for Godzilla versus Destroyer. I have a deep affection for Godzilla versus Biolante, which is a weird little outlier that is criminally underseen. It's very good. And Godzilla versus Destroyer is just a very emotional film for me. I know it is for you, too. I have to say that I really love Son of Godzilla, the mightiest monster.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

The world has ever known. The mightiest egg the world has ever known. Introducing the son of Godzilla. Son of Godzilla, a rollicking monster. Spectacular. See how a baby monster becomes a monstrous monster?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Just the other night I was talking to somebody about about Godzilla. They were asking about the book and and this guy said, oh, I love all of them except Son of Godzilla. That's just so ridiculous. And I think it's sweet. And I mean, guess the Manila outfit is like, pretty awful and it's such a silly little fun movie, but man, there's something about it that just fills me with joy whenever I watch it. I love the scene where he's teaching him how to blow the atomic breath. And little Manila's like breath is just a little circle. I just think it's adorable. I will say the one. I would want to champion the most is All Monsters Attack. Hi all Monsters Attack is often derided as maybe the worst of this franchise, which might be partly why I'm drawn to it. It was one of Ishiro Honda's favorites. It was one of the ones where he was given essentially no time to make the movie and essentially no money. And so he made this very personal little film about a little boy who's bullied relentlessly. And this boy has an imaginary land that he goes to, which is Monster Island, where he hangs out with Manila computer.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And that's kind of where he goes not just to escape, but also to kind of learn, you know, things about himself and how he can stand up for himself more and how he can you know, how do you how do you fight bad guys? How do you get brave enough to fight them? And Manila teaches him these lessons, and eventually he gets caught up in this sort of weird bank heist that's fun in and of itself. And by the end, he uses all the things that he's learned from Manila to fight the bad guys and to fight the bullies. And he gains respect from everybody. A lot of the movie is especially the monster stuff, is all clips from old movies. I think it's like 95%, like, clips from old movies, which is why people knock it down. But I know Honda considered it one of his favorites. I think that despite the fact that they're reusing old footage, that movie really speaks to me just from a character standpoint. I think it's maybe the most character centric of all the movies. And it's the one that I don't know, whenever I watch it, it brings me a lot of joy.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And I love how much it focuses on the human element. So I would recommend people. It's kind of like when I walked into my local video store when I was a kid and I said, I want to learn about the Halloween franchise. And he said, well, you can skip Halloween three. Nobody likes that. Let me be the video store guy that tells you when you're watching the Godzilla franchise. Other people will tell you don't watch all monsters attack. I am telling you, watch all monsters attack. It is Shiro Honda approved. And Graham Skipper approved. So there you go.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

I don't know, how can anybody hate one of the films where you get all the monsters in and it's like a WWE wrestling match.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

I mean, it's great. It's beautiful. It's a really special little movie. Again, I have to say, like in my chapter on it in this book, I speak very highly of it. And you can certainly tell kind of which of the ones maybe are my personal favorites, although I give love to every one of them. I mean, even the Roland Emerick film, I give love to. There's stuff to love about all of them. But, yeah, all monsters attack. It's a special little film.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And the book does go all the way up into the present day. So you include the most recent films as well?

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, we do everything. We do all the American films. We do all the most recent rainbow era films. Shin Godzilla, the three Netflix films. We also talk about Godzilla's singular point, which is the most recent Netflix animated TV project that they did. I'm sad. I don't know. Maybe we'll have to do a special edition that includes the new Godzilla film that was announced for next year, which I'm very excited to see, as well as, like, the Kurt Russell Godzilla TV show and stuff. I just love that at a certain point. I remember in 1998, I was in high school and they were announcing the Roland Demerit Godzilla. And I remember as a kid thinking, oh, how great. Like, Godzilla, this is like a dead franchise and they're bringing something back. And then even in 2014, like, oh, okay, that's cool. I'm glad that Godzilla is coming back. That's nice. And right now, it just seems like we're getting Godzilla from every corner. And I love that so much. I love seeing how popular it is. Again, I think Shin Godzilla has a lot to do with that. Shin Godzilla is one of the best Godzilla films of the entire franchise, in my opinion.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

But I think that that really kind of reestablished for the world. Like, hey, the American films are cool, which they are. I love the American films. Godzilla versus Kong. I think it's great. King of the monsters, wonderful. But when Shin Godzilla came out, it was like, okay, but toho toho really knows what they're doing. I'm excited to see what they do next, and I'm excited to see what the future of the franchise holds.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

On a certain level, Shin Godzilla was kind of like Casino Royale was for bond. It was going back after you kind of think like, they've gone through everything. There's so many tropes. How can they revitalize it and refresh it? And then they come with that. That just was like, wow, that's right. It's a DOE's code name.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Godzilla. Godzilla, yeah.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

And it does everything that the original did in such a clever way. It again recontextualizes on its surface just a big monster movie, but through the lens of current events and what's happening and how to process stuff about the world, it just did it so beautifully. And it's funny. I don't know, the one criticism that people have of the 2014 Godzilla is sort of how dour it is. It takes itself very seriously, which I don't think is a bad thing. But Shin Godzilla has this snarky black comediness to it that without ever sacrificing the depth of what it's saying. It's a really remarkable movie. Again, man if you haven't watched Shin Godzilla, what are you doing?

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

On a certain level, it's a political satire and one of my favorite things about it is how they turn the bureaucracy of the government officials into these, like, crazy funny action sequences where moving Xerox machines get the military music.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, yeah, exactly. The score is like BA BA BA BA BA BA. They're just like moving a box from one room to the other. It's so silly. Yeah, it's it's really I keep saying silly. It's not silly, it's fun. It's fun. And it's acknowledging the fact that we're talking about very serious things through the lens of a monster movie. But then they come at you with stuff like that sequence towards the end where they're trying to freeze him and they've got all the tubes going in his mouth and it looks like he's getting like a dental procedure and it's just so sad. It's so sad. Yet again, Godzilla is a sympathetic creature. I mean, he's destroying stuff and I mean, Lord knows how many millions of people he's killed over the years. But Godzilla is sympathetic. Godzilla is just being Godzilla. We're the ones that are screwing everything up.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

And the other thing about Shin Godzilla, which I think explains partially why I also love films like Hetera and Biolante, is you get Godzilla in this evolution of what he looks like, so he starts instead of getting him as this fully formed creature, we get to see how he progresses.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Yeah, that's definitely when you talk about Hetera especially, I think Hetera was the first of the monsters that we really saw evolve in that way. And yeah, I liked that too. When I first saw in Godzilla, I didn't even recognize that Godzilla was Godzilla. With that first monster that came out of the sort of like amphibious fish creature that just sort of flopped out into the city, it never occurred to me that that was going to evolve into Godzilla. So I really liked that. It was really unique and really fun.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

All right, well, I want to thank you very much for not just talking about the book, but talking about the king of the monsters.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Thank you. Yeah, thank you so much. I always love talking about Godzilla with you. And again, I'm just honored that I got to be a part of Godzilla's legacy in some small way, and to be able to have written this book and to have it in people's hands that are seemingly enjoying it so far, it's just such an incredible honor and really one of the highlights of my career thus far. So I'm thankful to Toho for entrusting me. Thankful to Chris Mallory for putting my name in the hat, and I'm just thankful to everybody that's bought the book and has been so kind about it online. And I hope that this Christmas season, a lot of people get a Godzilla book for Christmas. That would be really fun.

 

BETH ACCOMANDO

It's a perfect stocking stuffer, although it's way too big for a stocking, I think.

 

GRAHAM SKIPPER

Well, unless it's Godzilla stocking, I mean, then you could definitely fit it in there.

BETH ACCOMANDO

That was author Graham Skipper talking about Godzilla: The Ultimate Guide to the King of the Monsters. You still have time to order it for a last minute gift. If you want to hear Graham and I discuss Godzilla even more then check out the podcast he invited me on a Godzilla Mini Mega Screen Drafts with Drew and Toshi McWeeny and co-hosts Clay Keller and Ryan Marker. We engage in a lively discussion to pick the 13 best Godzilla movies.

 

That wraps up not just another edition of Cinema Junkie but another year. If you enjoy the podcast then please share it with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build an addicted audience. You can also help by leaving a review.

 

Till next year and our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.

 

Music Lounge Lizard by Ramie Tateishi

 

 

 

godzilla1.jpeg
Toho
Poster for Toho's "Shin Godzilla" in 2016. It is also the image on the cover of Graham Skipper's new book, "Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters."
Author Graham Skipper talks about his new Toho authorized book on Godzilla.

At 68, Japan's Godzilla is nowhere near ready for retirement. Toho's iconic monster was born out of an atomic blast in 1954 and now is poised for a live action series called "Godzilla and the Titans" as well as a cinematic rematch with Kong set for 2024 . Plus the famous kaiju is the topic of a new coffee table book that makes a perfect gift. Cinema Junkie talks with author Graham Skipper about "Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters."

But first...

Graham Skipper plays Herbert West and Jesse Merlin is the decapitated Dr. Hill in Stuart Gordon's stage adaptation of his 80s cult classic, "Re-Animator The Musical."
Thomas Hargis
Graham Skipper plays Herbert West and Jesse Merlin is the decapitated Dr. Hill in Stuart Gordon's stage adaptation of his 80s cult classic, "Re-Animator The Musical."

First of all let me note that Skipper is not just an author. He is also an actor that I met during his run in the brilliant "Re-Animator The Musical," in which he brought the H.P. Lovecraft character of Herbert West to life in Stuart Gordon's stage adaptation of his 1985 film, "Re-Animator." I miss that show and Gordon (who died in 2020). So I always appreciate any opportunity to reunite with anyone from that show.

RELATED Tribute to 'Re-Animator The Musical'

Onto the king of the monsters

Skipper is also a fan of and expert on Godzilla. The 1963 "King Kong Vs. Godzilla" was his gateway drug to Toho's kaiju creation. But Godzilla has a long and complex history that Skipper would grow to appreciate.

RELATED What is kaiju?

The charm of many kaiju films is that the monsters are played by men in suits, as in "Godzilla" films.
Toho
The charm of many kaiju films is that the monsters are played by men in suits, as in Toho's "Godzilla" films.

Ishiro Honda's 1954 film "Gojira" introduced the monster that was born out of an atomic blast and offered a metaphor for the horrors Japan suffered after the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on the country. The film was then imported by U.S. distributors in 1956 and repackaged with Raymond Burr as a reporter in the newly titled, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters." Not surprisingly, the criticism of the atomic bomb and deep sense of tragedy and horror were mostly removed.

But Skipper points out that the revamped American film did help Godzilla find a bigger, more global audience. He also thinks it may have appealed more to kids than the more tragically toned "Gojira" did not. Now Godzilla is one of the longest running and most successful film franchise of all time. There are many things that have contributed to that success including the inventive special effects and the stunning work by a host of suit actors beginning with Harou Nakajima who brought the kaiju to life.

All Monsters attack japanese poster.jpg
Toho
Japanese poster art for "All Monsters Attack," the film author Graham Skipper said he wants to champion.

Skipper added, "Monsters are an interesting thing for a child because a monster is inherently scary but they're also really alluring, they're really fun. But the thing about Godzilla is that Godzilla is both a scary monster and a good guy. At least for a lot of the films. I guess it appealed to me in the same way as like Frankenstein's monster is scary but also sympathetic. And same with Godzilla. Godzilla is scary. Godzilla destroys buildings. Godzilla is huge and frightening. But Godzilla is also defending humanity. It's heartwarming."

The Official Guide

For "Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters," Skipper gathers amazing images from Toho's archives, some never seen before, as well as outlines all the films from "Gojira" to the Legendary's 2021 "Godzilla Vs. Kong." Plus there is information on Godzilla in other media such as video games, TV, animation, manga and comics.

As someone who is a longtime Godzilla fan, I loved the book. It is absolutely a beautiful coffee table book filled with original posters, behind the scenes photos, iconic images from the films and art. But it also provides a wonderful and informative guide to all the films, and is peppered with great trivia.

There is still time to get a copy of "Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters" as a holiday gift for yourself or a friend. It is great for either the Godzilla fan who wants all this information gathered into a collector's edition book or as a great introduction for anyone just beginning to discover the complex and appealing kaiju.

VIDEO: Comic-Con 50: Godzilla Is Coming!

If you want to hear Graham Skipper and I talk even more about Godzilla then check out the podcast he invited me on, Godzilla Mini-Mega Screen Drafts with Drew and Toshi McWeeny and co-hosts Clay Keller and Ryan Marker where we pick — with much debate — the 13 best Godzilla movies.

And thanks to another Godzilla fan and scholar, Ramie Tateishi, for the fun end music on the podcast.

Comic-Con 50: A Look At Toho’s Godzilla Booth

More on Godzilla:

Rants and Raves: Godzilla
Godzilla: The Monster is the Message
'Shin Godzilla' review
'Godzilla 2014' review
'Godzilla, King of the Monsters' review
Comic-Con 50: Godzilla is Coming
At 67, Godzilla is nowhere near ready to retire
'Godzilla Vs. Kong' review

Beth and Godzilla.JPG
Chris Mowry
KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando meeting Godzilla before the Toho icon made an appearance at Comic-Con in 2019.