Mike Bogue is a long-time kaiju scholar who has written for G-Fan, Movie Milestones, Mad Scientist, Wonder, and other venues, including a ten-year-plus stint composing the Kaiju Korner column for Scary Monsters Magazine. He also wrote Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema:1951-1967 (which I reviewed, and for which we did an interview several years ago), a science-fiction short story collection, and a recent sci-fi novel. Following up his Apocalypse Then book, Bogue wrote the impressive Watching the World Die: Nuclear Threat Films of the 1980s, a non-fiction examination of worldwide films dealing with nuclear fears during a particularly hot period of the Cold War. In this interview, we will be discussing many of his works, with a focus on Watching the World Die, his work on the Kaiju Korner, and a few notes on his recent science fiction novel.

Nicholas Driscoll: Let me just start by saying thank you for being willing to do this interview! Since we did an interview before, let’s jump right in—tell me a little bit about this new book of yours, Watching the World Die: Nuclear Threat Films of the 1980s? Why should we read your book—especially, why should Toho and Godzilla fans read it?

Mike Bogue: Thanks for asking me to do this interview! I am honored to do so.

Coverage of atomic angst films isn’t new, but Watching the World Die is the first book to solely analyze 1980s nuclear threat movies as a group. Entries range from classics such as The Day After and WarGames to obscurities such as Desert Warrior and Massive Retaliation. Categories range from monster movies to post-apocalyptic adventures to realistic depictions of nuclear war and its immediate aftermath.

What’s in it for Godzilla and Japanese SFantasy fans specifically? For starters, as all good Toho fans know, after nine years in hiatus, The Big G returned in Toho’s 1984 Godzilla sequel/remake, a movie that morphed into the Western Godzilla 1985. I deal extensively with New World’s re-editing of the film and how it relates to the nuclear threat seen from both the Japanese (the original Japanese version) and American (New World’s Americanization) perspectives.

The book also covers 1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante, which emphasizes genetic engineering but gives a significant nod to nukes via its Anti-Nuclear Bacteria plot thread. The ANB concept was fascinating for a number of reasons, and I was sorry Toho dropped it after Godzilla vs. Biollante.

Other Japanese SFantasy films covered by Watching the World Die include:

  • the classic groundbreaking anime Akira (1988);
  • a spectacular depiction of World War III in the animated but little-seen Future War 198X (1982);
  • the sprawling post-apocalyptic, live-action drama Virus (1980);
  • and future pockets of humanity dealing with eco-damage in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), which includes the gigantic Ohms. In a quick scene from the past, we see these colossal larva (somewhat resembling Mothra in her caterpillar stage) trashing cities—as a daikaiju fan, I wished we’d seen more of this.
  • Also on hand is the strange In the Aftermath (1988), an American movie which incorporates footage from the Japanese animated fantasy Angel’s Egg (1985) into its revamped, live-action post-apocalyptic storyline.

Finally, kaiju fans might find 1985’s Spanish-made The Sea Serpent of interest—the movie’s homely giant monster (think Reptilicus for the eighties) trashes obvious but fun miniatures. An enjoyable little movie that calls to mind the days of cheerful low-budget fifties and sixties films.


Driscoll: In our previous chat, we ended with a question about future projects, and you said you were working on a book called The Days After: Fifty Years of Atomic Cinema, 1968-2018. Did that project become Watching the World Die? What can you tell us about the evolution of this project?

Watching the World Die: Nuclear Threat Films of the 1980s

Bogue: Yes, my original idea was that The Days After: Fifty Years of Atomic Cinema, 1968-2018 would be my follow-up to Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967. However, I realized so many films would qualify for such a book that it would almost have to be multi-part—at least two and possibly three volumes. I didn’t think McFarland (who published Apocalypse Then) would go for such a massive project.

However, I have always had an acute interest in the nuke films of the 1980s, and after doing some investigating, it appeared no book looked solely at the eighties nuclear threat movies. I did a search of 1980s nuke movies and discovered dozens of them were released during the MTV era. Thus, I decided to write a book focusing on that Cold War decade, one which was arguably as fraught with atomic angst as the 1950s and 1960s.


Driscoll: What did you learn from writing your first book that you brought into writing Watching the World Die that really made your second book better?

Bogue: I think perhaps the biggest weakness of Apocalypse Then is that I sometimes went too far in my humorous comments on certain movies. I recall your review of Apocalypse Then finding some of my comments snarky. Believe it or not, I hadn’t intended for anything in the book to be snarky. But after reading your review and looking back at the book, I understood how you (and perhaps other readers) could come to that conclusion. So, I decided for Watching the World Die, I would include humorous comments on some of the movies, but strive to keep them relatively restrained.

My first version of Watching the World Die was rife with humorous asides. But I felt that clashed too much with my stark entries on the 1980s many sober-minded films. So I took out many of my original jokey remarks.

Also, G-FAN editor J.D. Lees acted as a beta reader for my tome. He helped me clarify the purpose of my book, and I realized I needed to keep the humor in balance, primarily emphasizing the serious movies and giving them the lion’s share of the book’s coverage.


Driscoll: One of the aspects of Watching the World Die that I really liked was simply that it was so broad—121 movies from all over the world! What surprised you as you were watching all these 80s atomic fright films? What movies would you especially recommend?

Bogue: Yes, I was stunned at the number of 1980s nuke movies! When I began the project, I estimated there would be about 50-60 such films. Boy, was I ever wrong! I became fascinated with both “little” nuke movies and various international nuke films. Many of these are lost and/or never made it to DVD or Blu-ray, some never even to VHS, so I had to do some real snooping to hunt them down.

My fondest discovery was 1986’s Soviet-made Dead Man’s Letters, a movie reportedly the Russian answer to America’s 1983 The Day After. It’s a wonderful film, and I was surprised but delighted to find it completely eschewed politics and focused instead on the horrendous nuke aftermath in Russia.

For the 1980s, the three films I would especially recommend are 1983’s The Day After, 1983’s Testament, and 1984’s Threads. Each is harrowing in its own way.

The low-key Testament is in many ways perhaps the most powerful eighties nuke film. It features no explosions, no spectacular special effects, no military generals or such. Instead, it centers on a rural town far removed from the initial blast that slowly finds its way of life dying as World War III’s aftermath takes its toll. Jane Alexander turns in a powerhouse performance as a Mom trying to keep her family going. At the time of its release, movie critic Roger Ebert said the film made him cry.

In addition, I would recommend 1982’s The Road Warrior (a.k.a. 1981’s Mad Max 2) and 1983’s WarGames. Road Warrior is the best of the post-apocalyptic action-adventure movie subgenre, and WarGames is the most commercially successful eighties nuke film. WarGames straddles the line between entertainment and Cold War chills, but mostly opts for the former and thus became a 1983 crowd-pleaser. Also, it launched Matthew Broderick’s movie career, and is filled with wonderful performances.


Driscoll: So, Godzilla, Toho—that’s kind of our jam here. You have entries on Virus (1981), Return of Godzilla (1984), Akira (1988), and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). Can you give us some details on things you learned about some of these Toho favorites that readers can anticipate?

Bogue: Sure. Virus was an earnest attempt by Toho to be accepted into the worldwide marketplace with a disaster movie on a par with any the West had produced. I learned its $16 million budget was the largest for any Japanese film up to its production, but it was also a major commercial disappointment.

Ironically, despite the film’s many well-known Western movie stars, the movie didn’t even get an American theatrical release. It appeared to be another attempt by Toho to use an American actor (in this case several) to make the film more palatable to Western audiences. (As you know, previous attempts included Nick Adams in Frankenstein vs. Baragon and Invasion of Astro-Monster, and Russ Tamblyn in The War of the Gargantuas).

Return of Godzilla was an ambitious effort for Toho, but I learned their Japanese promotion of the film exaggerated the actual role of the 18-foot Godzilla cybot, claiming it would appear in 70% of the effects shots. The latter simply isn’t the case (this claim was similar to the claim of 1976’s King Kong that its mechanical ape appeared in “most” of the movie’s effects scenes).

On a nuke movie level, it’s fascinating how New World “Reaganized” The Return of Godzilla for American audiences. The newly re-edited film was intended to appeal to presumed U.S. sensibilities that the Soviet Union was all bad-guy and the U.S. all good-guy. From a Cold War history perspective, it’s interesting that New World found these changes necessary.

The anime masterpiece Akira admittedly only glances on the nuclear threat. Yet its doomsday spirit is completely in keeping with the nuke war jitters Japan experienced during the 1980s.

I’ve already mentioned the ANB subplot of Godzilla vs. Biollante, but it was a fascinating concept that didn’t receive the full attention it deserved. Also, it was intriguing (and gratifying) to learn that Western special effects ace Richard Edlund praised Koichi Kawakita’s effects for Godzilla vs. Biollante.


Driscoll: For me, I liked that you included comedies in your previous book, Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967—but you made an explicit point of excluding them from Watching the World Die. What was your reasoning there?

Bogue: This was a matter of both choice and practicality.

I wanted Watching the World Die to by and large be more sober than Apocalypse Then. To me, eighties nuke comedies such as Hell Comes to Frogtown just seemed too out there.

Also, McFarland’s contract stated my manuscript could be 120,000 words. In the middle of working on the book, I asked if I could have 20,000 more words. McFarland politely requested that I keep the book at 120,000 words for economic reasons. Costs (for example, of paper) had gone up for McFarland, and I understood why they wanted me to keep the word length at 120,000 words.

So, even if I had decided to include the many nuke comedies of the eighties, my book would by necessity have easily exceeded 120,000 words. And it was more important to cover the serious eighties nuke movies than the comedies.

The word length criteria also caused me to trim my first draft reviews of the book’s movies so that I could fit them all into 120,000 words. Even the minor films in almost all cases received longer treatments in my first draft, but I again had to decide which movies needed to appear in the book basically in full critique mode, and which didn’t. Thus, the reason for most of the shorter entries, and the reason more serious entries have greater length. In addition, the 120,000 word limit caused me to cut back on the credit listings for every movie.

I also had to leave out an idea for a nuke music appendix. I had originally planned to include a list with comments of nuke pop and rock songs of the 1980s, such as Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” and Jackson Browne’s “Lawyers in Love.” But alas, there wasn’t room for this appendix.

None of this is meant to disparage McFarland. I understand publishers are experiencing many economic difficulties, such as production costs and such, and I appreciate they have to make money. Whitney Wallace, the McFarland editor assigned to me, was been unfailingly supportive.


Driscoll: For both of your non-fiction book covers, you have art from kaiju artist Todd Tennant—and the covers look pretty nice! How did you get to know Todd Tennant, and how did you decide on the cover designs for your books?

Bogue: Todd is a fantastic artist and a good friend. We got to know each other online in 2002 when he sent an email to Scary Monsters editor Dennis Druktenis and asked that it be sent to me. We discovered we were both major Godzilla and fifties sci-fi fans, and the friendship just took off from there.

Mike Bogue Interview

I love the way Todd can capture kaiju movie sensibilities in his dynamic art—for example, his online graphic novel of Godzilla ‘94 is amazing (which, sadly, has been taken down from the Internet).

I actually gave him little instruction for Apocalypse Then—I knew he was going to do a montage cover. The only thing I specifically asked he include was an illustration of Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner from 1959’s On the Beach.  You know the result. The cover is one of the best genre movie covers out there. It wonderfully captures the sensibilities of the book, given its extensive coverage of 1950s B movies, as well as the handful of more expensive nuke films.

For Watching the World Die, I asked Todd to depict two characters who looked like Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy from WarGames running from a mushroom cloud. He did the rest. I think the book’s stark and even ominous cover perfectly captures the serious tone of most of the book’s movie entries.


Driscoll: You have also been writing the Kaiju Korner under the name Kount Kaiju for Scary Monsters Magazine for over ten years. Those columns are often much more informal and light-hearted than your books, and even include kaiju jokes and some unique scoring—something about “hey Fab, we’re glad”? Is that a laundry detergent reference? How did you start writing this column, and how has it changed over the years? (Note: The humorous rating system included categories such as “hey Fab, we’re glad,” “hey Fab, we’re not so glad,” and “hey Fab, we’re sad” for kaiju films!)

Scary Monsters 96

Bogue: The column started in Scary Monsters in April 2011. I knew the magazine often printed kaiju articles, some of them mine, and I thought it might be helpful if a regular kaiju column was included. Then editor Dennis Druktenis okayed my idea, and I was off and running!

Over the years, the column has developed a personality. At first, it was quite matter of fact, with no references to Kount Kaiju. But I thought it might be interesting if the column had a faux persona in the form of Kount Kaiju, and thus I went in that direction. I also decided to add humor.

My goal is for the column to be both informative and entertaining. I try to strike a balance between realizing some readers simply won’t be familiar with older (50s, 60s, 70s) kaiju movies, while others have been lifelong daikaiju enthusiasts. One thing I routinely do is spotlight a specific classic kaiju actor or filmmaker, usually a writer.

Yes, Fab is a laundry detergent. In the olden days, their commercials had a jingle that went “Oh, Fab/We’re glad/There’s lemon-freshened Borax in you.” Guess in this case I dug too far into the past to connect with some readers! That’s part of the balance I mentioned, to relate both to boomers and young’uns (old guy speak for fledgling adults).


Driscoll: I was impressed that, in your Kaiju Korner work, you frequently include when you first viewed the movies you discuss. How do you remember something so specific?

Kaiju Korner

Bogue: Kaiju movies have always made a powerful impression on me, especially during the 1960s. That’s why I can remember the first time I saw many kaiju favorites on TV – Rodan, Gigantis, the Fire Monster, Varan the Unbelievable, etc. Also, seeing a kaiju feature at a movie theater was a treat, and again, the times I saw such movies as Godzilla vs. the Thing, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, Frankenstein Conquers the World, and King Kong Escapes became branded in my memory.


Driscoll: One of the things I like about Kaiju Korner was that you write original kaiju-themed riddles for the column. Could you write one for this interview, perchance?

Bogue: Sure! I’ve always enjoyed puns and various plays on words, so here’s a Kount Kaiju exclusive for Toho Kingdom:

Why did Green Gargantua choke after devouring Kipp Hamilton?

Because the wads got stuck in his throat.


Driscoll: In addition to writing Kaiju Korner, you also write a lot of essays on films for Scary Monsters and other publications, such as a recent one on The Beast With a Million Eyes (1955). What are some of your other recent essays?

Bogue: For Wonder Magazine, I recently wrote articles on 1960s Saturday morning TV superhero shows (such as Space Ghost and The Herculoids) and the Rankin-Bass Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Also, I recently submitted an article to Scary Monsters for 1957’s The Monolith Monsters. It’ll appear in issue #135, whose theme is inanimate menaces. Editor Don Smeraldi even plans to feature it on the cover!

And I will soon be writing an article for Scary Monsters dealing with the 3 “Giant Guy” movies of the 1950s—The Amazing Colossal Man, The Cyclops, and War of the Colossal Beast. Speaking of those, in Jason Barr’s recent book The Kaiju Connection, he has an excellent chapter on giant human movies that features a novel approach.


Driscoll: Last time I asked about your short story collection—but this time you have a new novel, A Perfect Flock, from Winged Publishing. Can you tell us something about this novel, the genesis of the story, and who you think might like to read it?

Bogue: Here’s the plot in two sentences:

Tuck Jameson vows to keep his younger brother Clay from joining The Body, a religious cult that uses nanotechnology to turn its members into Christian automatons. Tuck must battle the far-reaching cult as well as his personal demons to save his brother, or lose him forever.

I got the idea for the novel when I considered reversing the theme of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As you probably know, in Body Snatchers, humans become Pod People who lose all emotion and possess only the instinct to survive. But I thought, what would it be like if instead, people’s compassion was amplified and their instinct to survive vanished? Hence, the seed of my tale of seemingly perfect Christians who are actually anything but.

The novel contains many Christian characters, because I think I understand Christians and because the main character struggles (not unlike myself) to hold on to his faith in God. Yes, I consider myself a Christian, and I know that’s a term that means different things to different people. As a Christ follower, I try (and often fail) to live out Jesus’ ethic of love.

Importantly, A Perfect Flock is not a political book. I think both Christians and non-Christians could enjoy the novel. For example, I know both conservatives and liberals who have read it, several of them writing positive reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

One example is John LeMay, well-known for his books on kaiju movies, who in a Facebook post comment said this about A Perfect Flock: “It’s a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers type story!”


Driscoll: What projects do you have percolating these days? What can we look forward to next?

Bogue: I’m working on a post-apocalyptic novel tentatively titled Eden Colony.

Yes, I know there have been tons of post-apoc novels over the last few years. Mine concerns the aftermath of a major nuclear war (nothing new there), but it contains a twist I don’t think anyone has mined before. And I am fairly familiar with the post-apoc genre. (One of my favorite novels is Pat Frank’s post-nuke classic Alas, Babylon.)

Non-fiction wise, I am considering writing a book called Kaiju Kulture. It would trace the rise of Western kaiju fandom from the 1980s to the present day. I’ve made some tentative notes and done a smattering of research.


Driscoll: Any final messages for our readers?

Bogue: Never be ashamed of being a kaiju fan!

Yes, in the past ten years or so, giant monster movies have become more “respectable,” somewhat because of Legendary’s big-budget films. But daikaiju enthusiasts have always known the virtues of impossibly giant monsters trashing cities while being zapped with humankind’s latest whiz-kid weapons.

Perhaps the greatest mainstream acceptance ever is Godzilla Minus One winning Best Visual Effects at this year’s Oscars. To many, this indicates how far Toho has come. But to fans, it’s simply a confirmation of how grand Toho Big G movies have always been.

Thank you for inviting me to do this interview. I appreciate it.