Book Review: ‘Terror of the Lost Tokusatsu Films!’ by John LeMay

by Nathan Marchand

You may remember John LeMay from our interview with him several weeks ago. He’s the author of multiple books, most notably The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies (Vol. 1 and 2) and The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films. His newest book, Terror of the Lost Tokusatsu Films! (props for the Terror of Mechagodzilla-style title), is a sequel to The Lost Films. This one details the many unmade, mostly non-kaiju films from Toho, Daiei, and Toei, among others.

The book is comprised of two parts—“unmade films” and “rare films”—and multiple appendices. The films in each section are listed in chronological order, making it easy to see where they fit into Japanese film history and how they often fed into each other. In part one, readers will learn about the strange crossover film Frankenstein vs. the Human Vapor that probably led to Frankenstein Conquers the World and a pseudo-sequel to Atragon called The Flying Battleship. Heck, there was even a planned sequel to Toho’s 1973 mega-hit Submersion of Japan called After Japan Sinks. (The author of the novel that inspired the film wrote two sequels, by the way).

As fascinating as it is to see what could’ve been, part two is a treasure trove of rare gems that will make tokusatsu film hunters say, “Challenge accepted!” You’ll learn about Kaijuvision Radio favorite screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa’s 1956 passion project Fearful Attack of the Flying Saucers, a film not unlike The Day the Earth Stood Still that Sekizawa wrote and directed(!). There’s also entries on the various Invisible Man films produced by Toho and other Japanese studios. I’d no idea that book (and film) was that popular in Japan.

Starting with part two, the book includes guest essays by several other authors. They’re connected in some way to whatever film LeMay just detailed. The best one, in my opinion, is Peter H. Brothers’ piece, “The Horror Films of Ishiro Honda,” where he analyzes The H-Man, The Human Vapor, and Matango. This is followed by a pair of essays pertaining to “A Voice in the Night,” the short story by William Hope Hodgson that inspired Matango.

Finally, the appendices are packed with even more information and great supplements. My favorite was the one that included synopses of several of the unmade films, including translations of the original story treatments. It was great reading text penned by Sekizawa and others.

The book is well-organized. Each entry flows into the next, making for quick and easy reading. There’s a bibliography and index for speedy referencing.

The biggest improvement over LeMay’s previous books is actually the presentation. In the forward by Colin McMahon, he talks about going to local video stores and discovering new Godzilla and kaiju movies and how that same sort of thrill now comes from learning about these lost films. To that end, the book is designed to resemble a video tape—complete with “VHS” printed on the spine and the sentence, “Superior Quality Video Tape Recorded in LP Mode” on the back cover. Each film entry is designed like the title of a VHS cassette, often sporting the FBI copyright warning or hyperbolic taglines. It adds some great nostalgic flavoring. I rarely see such a creatively designed book.

If you’re looking to continue a journey into lost film, read this. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, read this. Heck, if you’re a tokusatsu fan, you owe it to yourself to read this!