Re: Shambling Towards Hiroshima

Appropriately enough, I read James Morrow’s “Shambling Towards Hiroshima” all in one go while  Gamera The Invincible played on Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In.

It’s 1984, and Syms J. Thorley has just won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Baltimore Imagi-Movie Society. Known as the Monogram Shambler, his real name is Isaac Margolis. His most famous roles include “Kha-Ton-Ra the living mummy, Corpuscula the alchemical creature, and Gorgantis, King of the Lizards.” And he played both roles in Corpuscula meets the Doppelganger.

As the Pacific war is getting dire during World War II, Syms is hired by the Navy to perform as Gorgantis, a giant lizard, for reasons that are so convoluted and full of logic loops they would only make sense in a monster movie. And the story gets even more ridiculous. For one thing, everyone Syms meets likes and admires him. And no way would his recruiting commander refer to Project Manhattan, even in a slighting “Astounding Stories” reference.  But it’s all part of the absurdity of watching this wise-ass work stomp around in his monster suit in all his glory.

While the story is hilarious, it seems to take Gojira/Godzilla away from the Japanese by creating a scenario in which Americans invented him. Syms says he goes into an anti-nuke rant at his convention appearances, which always go over like a lead balloon. He says his monster has nothing to do with nukes.

In this world Gojira is the nuclear bomb personified. In the early movies (or at lest the ones I’ve seen) Godzilla is usually roused by an atomic test, he rampages indiscriminately, and conventional weapons cannot stop him. And yet, in later movies, he is tamed and becomes a force against worse monsters.  In a way, it’s a message of hope. But that’s our Godzilla. Without knowing what happens in Syms’ Gorgantis movies, you don’t know what his monster is really about.

Leaving aside whether any of this makes sense, there’s plenty of fun to be had romping through the history of cheesy monster movies. Near as I can tell, everything Syms is not directly connected to is real. The many movies mentioned would make a great monster-movie festival.

The perfect read late at night with a monster movie playing in the background.

And now I’m shambling towards Readercon.

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