Three by Ishiro Honda

mothra twins

Sony’s reinvigorated classics division has been on quite a run lately, coming up with some beautifully engineered and smartly curated box sets. The newest, reviewed here in the New York Times, the newest of which is the three-disc “Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection” featuring both the original Japanese and American cut-and-dubbed versions of Ishiro Honda’s “H-Man” (1958), “Battle in Outer Space” (1959) and “Mothra” (1961). Only “Mothra” — one of Honda’s most baroque, dreamlike films — finds him working in strict kaiju mode; “H-Man” is a noirish science-fiction thriller and “Battle” is a space opera with some evocative Cold War overtones. All three, of course, show off the inventive, aggressively analog special effects of Eiji Tsuburaya — the apocalypse as staged in a sandbox.

185 comments to Three by Ishiro Honda

  • Tony Wiliams

    I think you really have to see these films within the context of the Cold War in which McCarthyism regulated people’s behavior on all levels, not just sexual. In both film and novel versions of SOME CAME RUNNING, Dave is ostracized by his family for many reasons (a) he wants to be a writer, something feared by conservative forces in the Cold War (b) he rejects the bourgeois lifestyle of conformity by not becoming a businessman or Parkman’s version of a “man in a grey flannel suit” (c) he associates with other outcasts such as the gambling man Bama (d) his association with Ginnie represents a bad relationship with a single working-class woman (e) he is a veteran and has seen the dark side of human existence that post-war society denied wanting to “out it all behind us” (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) (f) his attempt at a sexual relationship with an upper class woman is frustrated because of that woman’s sexual frigidity. As a novel SOME CAME RUNNING is a damning indictment of a conformist, conservative, post-war American society and perhaps Jones’s greatest achievement as a writer. After the success of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, the critics were gunning for him, admittedly, but his revelation of the ugly side of America gave them ammunition.

    As I said in an earlier post, it is taking me time to return to the film after being overwhelmed by the richness of the original text, but I find little to justify this hidden context. A very strong friendship exists between Dave and Bama as in the book. Both are outsiders and bond in friendship as a result. However, does every male friendship have to have gay overtones? What about close friendships existing between women? I think Minelli’s films are far too complex to be reduced to one single interpretation.

    American society was VERY repressive in the 1950s. You have to read social histories to find this out and the repression did not just affect gays.

  • Barry Putterman

    Blake, I don’t imagine that Kanin and Gordon asked themselves whether Cukor would understand the characters because they were heterosexual and his was homosexual any more than they asked themselves whether he would understand the characters in ADAM’S RIB because they were Christian and he was Jewish. A rock is a rock, a tree is a tree, a human being is a human being. You either get it or you don’t.

    ROMEO AND JULIET is about as good as a film starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard playing teenagers can be. And there IS Andy Devine in it!

  • Peter Henne

    “Sinatra’s Dave Hirsh, for example, is an outsider in his own hometown, ostracized by his own family, who seems caught in terms of loyalty and affection between Dean Martin’s Bama Dillert and Shirley MacLaine’s Ginnie Moorhead who, as played by MacLaine, always came across more as a lovelorn, flamboyant cross-dresser than as an actual woman.”

    There is a part of me that wants to turn fair play on these wild, undemonstrated, and now standard speculations and read THEM symptomatically! What kind of hysteria fuels people to make every last interpretation of peoples’ social interaction heavily sexual, instinctual, and out of a person’s control? When is a friend a friend? When is a cigar just a cigar? Sweeping statements about “compulsion” don’t allow any friends and cigars-the proponents certainly don’t discuss them-it’s as though there is no room made for the obvious to ever obtain, as though what’s on face value isn’t CLEVER enough and doesn’t entertain us like insinuation does. I’m not a Jon Stewart fan, but I happened to catch one of his shows that chronicled Bill Clinton and the first George Bush teaming up to raise funds for tsunami victims in Indonesia. Stewart showed a picture of Clinton putting his arm around Bush’s back; the talk show host said NOTHING, just waited for the laughter from his audience to rise, which it did. In context, Stewart was clearly needling popular culture’s anxious expectations that EVERYTHING is hidden, sexual, and involuntary, which also seems to be a base assumption coming from academia. What gives about that? Why do people rush to that assumption? In short, Stewart without having to say a word was skeptically challenging, “Really, everything?” and his audience got it. It made me laugh very hard.

  • Steve Elworth

    Barry wrote about the Kanins being Christian to Cukor’s Jewishness. I did not learn that cukor was Jewish until his death but had heard the rumors about his sexuality for years before it. Sometimes ethnicity or religion is more closeted than sexuality. Ruth Gordon was of course a WASP, but wasn’t Gar Kanin a Jew from Rochester?

  • Peter Henne

    “American society was VERY repressive in the 1950s.”

    You’ve made so many insightful comments in this thread, Tony, but I think this one is vacuous. As a matter of fact, a friend of mind did her PhD work on American women’s work opportunities and social roles in the 1950s, and I know something about the subject from years of discussion with her. Some things were repressive, some things weren’t, there were millions of individuals living their lives in a way much harder to summarize than by a catch phrase. I also stop and wonder if some facets of American society are now more repressive now than they were then?

  • Barry Putterman

    Steve, I meant that the characters Adam and Amanda in ADAM’S RIB were Christian. In the same way that Jack Benny was a Jew from Rochester. I guess we will never know how Garson Kanin managed to write characters who were Christian. Unless somebody out there has the key to their subtextual Jewishness.

    Peter, I’ve heard that everybody wasn’t always Depressed during the 1930s either.

  • Some thoughts:
    I DO use the term “compulsory heterosexuality”. Why? Because what happens to gay people is fundamentally different from what happens to straight people. From an early age, millions of gay people of the past two centuries were tortured by their parents, teachers, clergymen, employers, the police and the government, all trying to force them to be straight. It’s systematic.
    Films like TEA AND SYMPATHY recognize this.

    The bottom line: what has happened to minorities over the past centuries, such as blacks, Jews and gays, is fundamentally different from anything that has occurred to straight white people.
    We need to recognize this, as film critics – and human beings.

    When gay men were exposed in the 1950’s, they were fired, and frequently arrested.
    Black people never got decent jobs in the first place – their situation was much worse. And when they protested, they faced police dogs, fire hoses, the KKK and bombed churches.
    No straight white men ever faced anything like this – even if they were writers, had gambler friends or dated working class women. 1950’s conformity is not the same thing as the fate of blacks and gays.
    *
    Do people read the non-fiction books of William J. Mann? They are in the local public library.
    KATE is his biography of Katherine Hepburn. It depicts Garson Kanin as a gay man. It depicts his marriage to Ruth Gordon was warm, affectionate – but mainly a lavender cover for a gay man in a time of homophobia.

    Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood (2001) is a survey of queer studio era Hollywood.
    It quotes Mr. Blackwell, the fashion expert, as saying he was a houseguest at Cary Grant and Randolph Scott’s home in the 1930’s. Blackwell says he witnessed first hand the loving gay relationship between Grant and Scott.
    It also quotes Jerome Zerbe, the pioneering “celebrity photographer”. Zerbe claims to have slept with both Grant and Scott in the 1930’s.

    How true is any of this? Was Vincente Minnelli gay? Was Garson Kanin? Were Grant and Scott?
    How can I possibly evaluate such claims? I’m a film critic – basically a man with a DVD player and a web site. I don’t have a research staff, or a team of private investigators. I don’t own an archive, or live near one. I’m not a trained historian or biographer. In practical terms, how can I tell if such claims are true or false or simply unproven?
    For that matter, how can any of you?
    If you have any practical suggestions, please share them.

    In practice, this is why I strongly advocate a policy of clear separation between film criticism and biography. Film criticism should concentrate on what we can see on screen. This is our subject matter. When we try to base criticism on off-screen concepts – such as the frequently startling claims of biographers – we start making statements based on ideas we cannot verify – or tell if they are true.

  • Brad Stevens

    Mike – That’s fine as far as it goes. But it seems to me that you’re on a slippery slope. How much sense would it make for us to discuss Fassbinder’s films as if their creator’s sexuality were not of fundamental importance, as if these films could just as easily have been made by a heterosexual? And if we can discuss Fassbinder in these terms, then why not George Cukor, who was generally known to be gay, even if his films do not reflect this as overtly as Fassbinder’s? And if Cukor, then why not Minnelli? Minnelli appears to have been neither precisely gay, nor precisely bisexual, but rather a gay man who at some point made a decision (or had the decision made for him) that he was going to ‘learn’ heterosexuality, in the way that an actor learns a role. Should the fact that I cannot verify this prevent me from discussing it? Perhaps it should. But my proposition – that Minnelli’s emphasis on individuals obliged to play roles (usually masculine roles) they were uncomfortable with suggests the working out of dilemmas that were highly personal – is surely at least plausible. One only need watch the films attentively to see that Minnelli had a strong emotional investment in characters who were in this position, which is perhaps what distinguishes him from Sirk, who often dealt with similar themes in a more detached way – sympathetic towards his characters unquestionably, but at the same time observing them from a contemplative distance. Is it really so wrong to speculate on the sources of this emotional investment?

  • Brad,
    Please, I’m not trying to go after you personally. I admire your work as a critic.
    I’m trying to establish general policies for critics that work.

    We are all in the same boat, faced with a barrage of biographical commentary on Hollywood figures, that none of us can evaluate for accuracy.

    I’m arguing that it is prudent not to base criticism on biography.
    If we can’t tell whether something we are saying is true – shouldn’t we not write it?

    On Cukor: I bet most of think we know “Cukor is gay”.
    But: Did Cukor ever have sexual attraction to a woman? Maybe when he was 17?
    What sort of sexual feelings did Cukor actually have? Did he like red heads more than blonds? Men with beards?
    I bet nobody can answer even such simple questions about Cukor the man.
    So why not write instead about what is going on in Cukor’s films?
    You can see all the “well-dressed, sexy businessman” characters in the films. Why not write about this – instead of pretending we know all about Cukor the man’s sexuality.

    I value your insights into Minnelli’s films.
    Why not just write about them?
    We are all interested in your ideas.

  • That should be:
    I bet most of us think we know “Cukor is gay”.

  • Say, boys, leave me outta this, I’m neutral. But c’mon… Jack Benny? A “Jew from Rochester”?!?? What would Eddie Anderson have said about this, were he here to read it? Well, okay, he’d say, “Th’ only interestin’ part was the part about the big moth, boss! I’m gonna go make some Jello, smoke a Lucky Strike, and play cribbage with Don Wilson!” Mr. Anderson is no longer with us, but the fine people of Waukeegan are, and my guess is Mr. Putterman had better never oughta stroll through THAT town.

  • Barry Putterman

    Cliff, Ahem, I was playing off of Steve saying that Garson Kanin was a Jew from Rochester. In other words, as Senator Claghorn would say, “It’s a joke, son!”

  • Well, I caught the reference, and was hoping you could tell the difference between Kanin and Benny. As I previously confessed, I once confused Rodan and Mothra, a sin for which many of my film-buff friends still have not forgiven me and for which I was kicked out of the Robert Benchley Society (still unclear on that; I think maybe the Benchleyites were just looking for an excuse to get rid of me).

  • P.S. Were I you, amongst other things I’d do is to still steer clear of Waukeegan for awhile. You know what malevolent people THEY are.

  • Barry Putterman

    Yes of course Cliff, Garson Kanin was MUCH older than 39. If it makes yo feel any better, I saw RODAN onNew York’s “Million Dollar Movie” when I was a kid, carried the image of the monster hatching from it’s egg with me for years, and never could remember whether the film was RODAN or MOTHRA. In fact, to this day, I have to check the release date to make certain which film it is. It seems to me that Robert Benchley himself would have understood our befuddlement completely. Exactly who these posers are that claim to be his “society” is really what is in question here.

  • Patrick Henry

    Mike, I skimmed Wm. J. Mann’s bio of Hepburn. What he says about Garson Kanin’s “being gay” is simply: “What normal, healthy 28-year-year old man would marry a woman 15 years older, especially one who looks like Ruth Gordon?” (Not exact quote, but close.)

    I don’t think this represents even the flimsiest “evidence” for him being a closeted gay. Many heterosexual men have relationships with or marry women distinctly older than they are. And Gordon was by no means unattractive at the time. (She has a rather mousy character role in “Two-Faced Woman” but you can see she definitely had a certain appeal.)

  • Well, having been chucked out of the Benchley Society, and having been banned from Sons of the Desert meetings for admitting that I couldn’t tell the difference between Charlie Hall and Charley Rogers (if there IS any difference, which I still doubt), and having taken a wrong turn and arriving late at the last meeting of the Grady Sutton Fans of America, which REALLY pissed both the members off, I find myself currently at liberty when it comes to hobnobbing with film aficionados. I have a tendency to wear thin my welcome everywhere I go; for the love of pete, I have been banned from the Tom Kennedy Web Ring and my family is laying sidebets on how long before Mr. Kehr blocks my posts, with the over/under set at 1:07 p.m. today.

  • I’ve never understood why the 50s are considered to be some kind of golden age of social repression, when in fact the decade saw a steady stream of explicitly non-conformist films from everyone from Frank Tashlin to John Ford, including of course “Some Came Running” and Nunnally Johnson’s dismal adaptation of Sloan Wilson’s bestseller “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” In our supposedly much more enlightened era, Hollywood only challenges social conformity when it’s cast in the safely distanced form of 1950s period pieces: “Mad Men,” “Revolutionary Road,” etc. Give me “All that Heaven Allows” anytime.

    Cliff, I have no intention of blocking your posts, and thanks for the tip on “Mushroom People”!

  • Tony Wiliams

    Peter, As to my supposedly “vacuous” comment about life in the 1950s, I would advise you to read relevant social histories such as THE LONELY CROWD and THE ORGANIZATION MAN, key texts I believe influential on MAD MEN (four episodes I’ve just viewed), turn your attention away from privileged individuals and admittedly subversive movies made by privileged directors in the Hollywood system and focus on the world as lived in the “Main Street” (I use Sinclair Lewis’s term deliberately) of the mid-west and the Deep South where life was repressive. Admittedly, the 50s contained tensions that would erupt the next decade but let us not confuse Hollywood with the wider social world outside which had its own repressive ideologies still encouraged by Cold War philosophy.

    Some examples (apart from the suppression of gays) need to be brought to your attention.

    1. Segregation and the activities of the Ku-Klux Klan given open support by the Dixiecrats and covert support by the FBI. In the mid-1960s, Dick Gregory was instrumental in ending segregation at a local cinema and he is being honored for this act in a few months time.
    2. The prohibition of interracial marriage.
    3. Social taboos against single parent families. Notice this in the “Marriage of Figaro” episode of MAD MEN where the divorced working woman is immediately regarded as a threat by the housewives present in the birthday party.
    4. The instant firing of any teacher who taught any type of “radical” literature in class (let alone Communists who were still taboo anyway) and who violated conformist patterns of behavior and thought.
    5. The blacklist, though shaken, still existed in Hollywood and was ruthlessly pursued outside.
    6. A neighobur who taught school in the 5os and 60s had to wear both dresses and stockings that filled up with sweat at the end of a hot summer day in this area. If she did not she would be fired.
    7. FBI surveillance, both local and national, especially on women’s organizations and civil rights groups all believed to be communist inspired at that time.
    8. Lynchings in the Deep South and the blocking of anti-lynching bills in C
    ongress during the late 40s and 1950s.
    9. Removal of passports of suspected individuals. Please read memoirs of blacklis victims such as Norman Barzman’s THE RED AND THE BLACKLIST, as well as others such as Bernard Gordon.
    10. Laws prohibiting contraceptives to both married and unmarried women in several States.

    As well as key texts such as Belfrage’s THE INQUISITION IN HOLLYWOOD and others documenting the conformist pattern of mainstream American life there were others that I don’t have time and space to mention and I have little patience with revisionist histories that document the success stories of those who “played the game” to their own advantage while remaining silent when others payed the price for their alternative lifestyles and philosophies.

    Let us remember that Sirk got away with things because his films were regarded as harmless “women’s weepies”

    Both you and Dave should realize that there existed a very different world outside Hollywood and should acquaint yourselves with relevant histories and talk to people who were “losers” rather than privileged individuals living in Hollywood at that time.

  • I have long been categorized as a “loser.” Feel free to ask me anything.

    Mr. K, why is it that your statement that you have no intention of banning me reminds me so much of George Steinbrenner’s constant assurances that Billy Martin’s job was safe?

    Oh, yeah, and just to further curry favor with you, note that Tokyo Shock has a boxed set available these days for about $20 American, with not only MATANGO but also VARAN THE UNBELIEVEABLE and THE MYSTERIANS. It is called the “Toho Pack”.

    And for no other reason than I can, I will mention some upcoming short subject releases here: Sony has the next Three Stooges collection coming Nov. 10; this is volume 7, covers the calendar years 1952-1954, and has 22 shorts, all with Moe, Larry, and Shemp. Warner Archives has announced an Our Gang 5-disc set for release next month, with all 52 of the MGM produced shorts (1938-1944), to be followed shortly thereafter by boxed sets of 10 Dogville shorts and 63 Joe McDoakes 1-reelers; and rumor has it that Genius, the folks who gave us that massive chronological collection of Little Rascals (1929-1938) shorts last year, has acquired the rights to the restored, remastered Laurel & Hardy shorts that have caused so many of us to purchase all-region players.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, I don’t think that your overview of the fifties is in any way vacuous, but I do think that it tends to be a bit sweeping in its overgeneralization.

    Most of the ten things that you list are not historically specific to the 1950s (if you feel that women’s clothing was stifling in the fifties, compare it to the 19th century), and it has been theorized by David Halberstam and others that the social underground of the 50s (including writers like Reisman and Mills) laid the foundation for the social changes of the 60s. Indeed, I believe you could list ten similar things regarding the 60s or the 70s and make those decades appear repressive in comparison to current social mores.

    I have read both “The Lonely Crowd” and “The Organizational Man” and find much that is true in them. But why is the work of priviledged (I just can’t spell that word correctly) academic sociologists any more accurate regarding the day to day experiences of average Americans than Hollywood filmmakers are?

    I was a relatively average American child in the 1950s. And, while I’m glad that today’s children don’t have to wear a white shirt and a red tie for Monday assemblies at school, I never really felt oppressed by having to do it. What were your first-hand experiences during the 1950s?

  • Gregg Rickman

    I was a toddler in the part of the 1950s I saw first hand, and can’t speak directly as to the era’s conformity. Those who were should speak up. As a boy I did sense a distinct loosening up as the 1960s progressed, and I know there are those today who insist that the fabled “Sixties” were all there already in the 1950s, what with the Beats, Rosa Parks, Elvis, free jazz, Ernie Kovacs and Mad magazine. (And let’s not forget all of 1960s cinema “always already” being there in SHADOWS and A BOUT DE SOUFFLE.) From a 21st century perspective all of these can be seen in their different ways as “sites of resistance” but as someone who grew up in a blue collar working class community all that liberation was still percolating downwards a decade later. (See Frederick Wiseman’s 1968 HIGH SCHOOL for a look at how conformist mainstream America was in that fabled year. I attended a very similar school a few years later.)

    Dave, I don’t get the impression that Matt Weiner is preening himself as a social critic with his series MAD MEN. I think he sincerely means to explore that lost era. The third season premiere, “Out of Town” (directed by Phil Abraham) which screened last Sunday, does provide a useful counterpoint to the debate we’ve been having about homosexuality in the late 1950s.

    In a way this discussion reflects our overall debate: are the characters in SOME CAME RUNNING, HOME FROM THE HILL et al to be considered victims, rebels, gay, straight, closeted… ? The richness and ambiguity of the films reflect the artistry of Vincente Minnelli. I’m probably in a minority here but I have always regarded his work as much richer than that of the equivalent melodramas of Douglas Sirk, who flaunts his social messages as unsubtly as Stanley Kramer (the tv set in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS – my favorite of his color Rock Hudson films – would fit right into NOT AS A STRANGER). Sirk does get points for the delirious mise-en-scene of these films, but if you want to make a case for him as a major artist I would look at SUMMER STORM, THE FIRST LEGION, TAKE ME TO TOWN, ALL I DESIRE, THE TARNISHED ANGELS and A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE. (I think that’s a very strong case, actually.)

  • Beck

    Peter Henne writes:

    “There is a part of me that wants to turn fair play on these wild, undemonstrated, and now standard speculations and read THEM symptomatically! What kind of hysteria fuels people to make every last interpretation of peoples’ social interaction heavily sexual, instinctual, and out of a person’s control? When is a friend a friend? When is a cigar just a cigar? Sweeping statements about ‘compulsion’ don’t allow any friends and cigars – the proponents certainly don’t discuss them – it’s as though there is no room made for the obvious to ever obtain, as though what’s on face value isn’t CLEVER enough and doesn’t entertain us like insinuation does.”

    Peter, relax! Haven’t you ever heard “it’s all in the eye of the beholder”? I’m just a reader of Dave’s site but, hey, these are just opinions here. Everyone has them. A dime a dozen. Some of them are educated, some aren’t. A lot of them are wild generalizations. And just about all of them are subjective. You talk about “sweeping statements.” You seem to make some yourself. Critic, heal thyself!

  • Tony Wiliams

    I think Gregg’s examples of how “all that liberation was percolating downwards a decade later” represents the key to the problem. Both Hollywood directors and sociologists were privileged in different ways in terms of having the institutional safety to explore social problems. Also, there was an underground movement percolating below the surface in sophisticated and urban areas that would erupt in the 1960s. But apart from your one counter-example concerning female clothing, you do not answer my argument that on the whole 50s America was a repressive country.

    Granted that it was not Soviet Russia but at the same time, the mainstream was conformist in nature and it was based upon a forced consensus that was ideological in nature and part of Cold War repression.

    For the vast majority, things were entirely different and we must remember that Hollywood nor any urban area that had pockets of resistance were not typical of a mainstream America at this time, a culture based upon open repression of minorities and lack of freedom of thought.

    This was an America then under the sway of a dominant mode of ideological conformity. Naturally, things were different for those lucky enough to find their communities in sophisticated urban centers but for those outside life was a living hell until things began to change a decade later.

  • Vivian

    A living hell??!! Yikes.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘the mainstream was conformist in nature and it was based upon a forced consensus that was ideological in nature and part of Cold War repression.’

    Tony, I have read two histories of 1950s America, different view to each other. One is called “The Dark Ages” and one is called “American High”. For one layer of American society is was American high, but for minorites it was dark ages. These was by American authors, not Japanese. One author is descibing anti-intellectual tendency, conformism, political discrimination, other author is describing prosperity for working class (only white, not black workers), better health, better standard of living, harmonious society without disturbance. Both author had chapter on movies, one author saying that American movies can be seen that something is wrong underneath, other is saying it was period of escapist fantasy in movies that was showing American satisfaction. To me, I am believing that both is true picture if it is fitted together with each other.

  • Barry Putterman

    Vivian, good to see you back. Yikes indeed. It seems that Tony felt that INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was a documentary.

    Again, let me say that I’m not saying that the list you bring up doesn’t have some basis in fact, but that it is not historically specific to the 50s. Much of what you are saying can be boiled down to there was racial and religious bigotry and social conformity in the 50s. Well, there was racial and religious bigotry fifty years previous to that decade (you know, slavery, Jim Crow laws, stuff like that there). And guess what, there still is racial and religious bigotry fifty years later. The same with social conformity. And my experience has been that you get just as much conformity on college faculty staffs as you would in any small town or suburban community. Such things seem to come part and parcel with human society unfortunately regardless of nation or era.

    Now, you might want to make the case that conditions were more extreme in the 50s. But I think you would have a hard time proving that lynchings were more common than in previous decades or that government surveillance was more sophisticated than it is today.

    As for “a living hell,” well, I guess life is what you make of it.

  • Tony Wiliams

    These are two very interesting posts by Junko and Barry that are complementary.

    No, I don’t think INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS “was a documentary” but for women who later reacted against 50s domesticity and minorities, life was a “living hell” as the works of Kate Millett and others amply document.

    The fact that the 1950s problems existed in other decades does not disavow the fact that they were still present in that decade and reinforced by the conservative Cold War status quo. Also, I don’t go along with the idea that “Such things seem to come part and parcel with human society unfortunately regardless of nation or era.” This is the old “It’s just human nature” ideology and “there is nothing we can do about it”. There are many nations and eras that just don’t tolerate these old reactionary ideas . College faculty staffs can be “conformist” but try running any old movie minstrel show or THE ETERNAL JEW without any framing context and see how far you will get!Even then, you will encounter trouble as anybody who tries showing BIRTH OF A NATION today might.

    The fact is that today these old 50s attitudes are now illegal and taboo – and rightfully so.

    Finally, I think Junko has supplied another of her interesting insights again. For the white middle and working classes, it was a golden age of affluence (no longer, now!). But, for minorities, it was a Dark Age. I guess all this comes down to which group you identify yourself with and I don’t identify myself with either Barry, Peter, or Vivian on this issue.

  • Barry Putterman

    Oooo, Tony! So now if we are not in agreement with your characterization of the 50s, Peter, Vivian and myself are in complicity with THE MAN?

    I would like to hear more about the nations and eras that have managed to conduct themselves without any racial or religious bigotry. Maybe they used the same methods that college campuses use to make those bad old 50s attitudes taboo, that wonderful modern innovation, the speech code—speaking of enforced conformity.

    But seriously, I don’t think anybody would argue that there wasn’t a particular dynamic to American culture in the 1950s. We are simply looking for a little more of the light that comes with historical context and a little less of the heat that comes with “a living hell.” Literally.

  • Peter Henne

    Tony, I agree with Barry’s 8-23, 7:35pm post. I also believe I have read and learned enough on the subject to make an intelligent observation, and at any rate it is presumptuous of you to think otherwise. I’m well aware of just about all of the social ills in your list, and I’d be surprised if there are very many people in this thread who aren’t. Pardon me if I didn’t do all of YOUR assigned homework, Tony. It seems close to an empty statement to say “such-and-such a time was VERY repressive.” The nature of that claim is temporally comparative, and that was the weakness I was keying into, which I made clear in my first response to you. Frankly, anyone can quickly compile a list of complaints resembling yours, for the 1950s or for any time-don’t you think including our own? It’s the kind of exercise liberals in the U.S. habitually make that has no impact beyond their own circles, just because it is overly general as Barry pointed out. Please note that this skepticism need not lead to an “eternal human nature, so why bother” conclusion, nor do I endorse giving up improving social justice. I notice by your 8-23, 10:15pm that you have now stepped back from your claim that the ills you listed are particular to the 1950s; thus it appears you have withdrawn the time-specific part of your initial claim, “American society in the 1950s was VERY repressive.” Instead, it looks like you are now saying, “American society in (period x) was VERY repressive,” with x to be filled in by you, an explanation for why it was “VERY repressive” compared to other periods, and some definition of these periods of repression would be helpful too.

  • Big balls. Mothra, I mean, not any of the posters in THIS thread. See, I’m thinking, why didn’t the Japanese Army get some BIG moth balls? (I know what you wags are thinking, but I’m pretty certain Mothra is a girl. Now, this statement naturally has no impact beyond our own circle, so we’ll just keep that to ourselves.) In any case, some great big moth balls, spread judiciously around Japan, along with the mandatory turning-off of porch lights after sundown, would no doubt have rid the Land of the Rising Sun of this colossal pest.

    I’ve done some reading up on the subject in an attempt to broaden my knowledge of cinema history. Moths belong to the Order Lepidoptera (same as butterflies, actually) and there are about 165,000 described species of moths in the world.

    The wingspan of North American moths can run from 2-3mm to more than 150mm; some tropical species have wingspans of more than 250mm. And of course at least one identified species has a wing span of 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000mm.

    So big balls, I’m thinkin’.

  • jbryant

    Cliff: I believe scientists determined that the fumes from mothballs of the requisite size might be as toxic to humans as to Mothra. A possible alternative, cedar tree shavings, was deemed impractical because the Japanese cedar tree is not a true cedar, and importing sufficient quantities of the correct type would have been cost-prohibitive. Do your research, man.

  • jbryant, thanks for your input and your advice. However, have you ever tried to google “really, really big balls” and see what you get? Very little Lepidoptera information, to my surprise.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Peter, I’ve already supplied an explanation as to why the 50s were so repressive in terms of the specific context of the Cold War and the continuing role of McCarthyism. There are plenty of historical studies on that period and I’m not going to recommend any more since there are many around.

  • Kelly Vance

    Thanks for remembering Ishiro Honda, Dave. I’ve been waiting to see The H-Men again ever since catching it in its American first run @ the Strand Theatre in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I much preferred it to The Blob then, and do now.