TEN QUESTIONS WITH STEVEN PEROS
(Editor and Contributor, GIANT BEAST CINEMA)
1. You are an established writer for film and TV, most notably writing Peter Bogdanovich’s THE CAT’S MEOW, starring Kirsten Dunst, A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS STORY with Dolly Parton, and one of the writers on Disney’s AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS starring Jackie Chan. How did writing and editing a book on giant monsters come about?
Monster movies are my first love. I grew up in New York where our syndicated stations consistently showed old horror and sci-fi movies. I had a steady diet of monsters, aliens, werewolves, and vampires. I was also the movie critic for the local shopper that gets hung on suburban doorknobs. The Editor did not know I was only 14. I would mail my reviews to them and they would publish it, no questions asked. So I have always loved writing movie reviews. My love of movies expanded over the years and while my professional path has been a storyteller in Film, TV, and Theater, I have always enjoyed a side job as a film historian, which is what led me to working on these books.
2. When the prior volume, GIANT BUG CINEMA, hit Number 1 on Amazon for Horror Movie Books, was it a forgone conclusion there’d be a follow up?
Absolutely! I was brought into that book late in the process, purely as a contributor, and wrote two chapters (FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT). When it did so well, and then was nominated for a Rondo Award, I reached out to its Editor, Mark Bailey, and suggested we partner to do a followup that touched on gigantic beasts that were NOT bugs. Together, we put a list of movies together, reached out to five writers, and then presented it to BearManor’s Ben Ohmart, who immediately gave us an enthusiastic greenlight.
3. You and Mark have put together a pretty outstanding roster of writers on this. How did you get them to come on board to write the 33 entries?
Mark had a very large staff of writers on the first book, some writing only one chapter, which makes it very difficult to coordinate. I suggested to Mark that if I take the reigns with him on this new book, it would go smoother with fewer writers and with writers whose work I was familiar. Over the years, I had become close with some very talented voices in film journalism and reviewing, not the least of which is my older brother, Mike Peros, who is the film critic for Noho Arts Weekly and wrote two highly regarded movie star biographies for University Press of Mississippi. From there, I worked my way through my list, targeting writers who I knew were Monster Kids at heart, giving myself eight chapters and the other five writers five chapters a piece. I made an effort to give each of them mostly movies they already had a unique fondness for. They were all thrilled to jump on board, with each one hitting all of their five chapters out of the park.
4. Can you explain to us the process with your writers and editorial team?
The book got the greenlight in February of 2023. We wanted it out in time for Halloween. I created a very specific but do-able calendar for the writers and editorial staff and gently nudged all involved when deadlines were approaching. Writers would submit to me. I would send them creative and historical feedback and suggestions. I would then send the revised chapter to Co-Editor Steve Orkin who always had excellent notes, corrections, and suggestions. And then on to Mark for his impeccable design and layout. The writers all got a look at the final product for approval. I’m happy to say we delivered the final manuscript to BearManor ahead of schedule.
5. Which was your favorite chapter to write?
That’s a tough one. I genuinely loved writing all the chapters. Trying to find an original spin on KING KONG was the most challenging of my chapters. But in terms of grinning from ear to ear as I wrote, I’d have to say I’m torn between THE DEVIL BAT and THE GIANT CLAW because both movies are long overdue for reevaluation. Writing about Bela Lugosi’s career and charismatic appeal was something I’ve always wanted to express. And being the lone voice in the cinematic darkness who finds THE GIANT CLAW a total joy was cathartic to commit to paper.
6. Where are all the dinosaur and Godzilla movies?
If we had included every dinosaur and Godzilla movie, the book would have become too unwieldy. We decided to limit the “giant beasts” to creatures who had grown larger than nature had intended. So that left dinosaurs out of the equation, which includes Godzilla. That said, we do have five movies from GODZILLA director Ishiro Honda and Toho Studios in the book, like KING KONG VS GODZILLA and KING KONG ESCAPES, because Kong is indeed within our definition. Brian R. Solomon, who wrote THE GODZILLA FAQ, did a masterful job on fan favorite, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, which also happens to be Brad Pitts’ favorite, too.
7. Why does the book stop at 1969?
Mark Bailey, who originated these books, decided that the earlier GIANT BUG CINEMA should only be titles from the “Monster Kid” era, meaning movies one could have discovered on free TV throughout the 1970’s. We kept that philosophy for this new book.
8. So will there be a “Book 2” for GIANT BEAST CINEMA or the earlier volume, GIANT BUG CINEMA?
The success of these books has guaranteed followups to both. Mark and I are already putting titles together that take us from 1970 to the present.
9. Wow! That’s great news! Could you give us a sneak peak at some of the titles that might appear in those books?
There are so many! For starters, there’s JAWS, FOOD OF THE GOODS, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, ALLIGATOR, the giant rabbits of NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, several MOTHRA titles, ANACONDA, EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, KING KONG — not only the 1976 and 2005 remakes, but also the 21st century films from Legendary Studios. It’s a movie list that is almost as giant as the beasts and bugs themselves.
10. What have we gained and what have we lost in the transition from the sort of practical special effects found in these movies to the CGI dominated special effects of today?
When Spielberg first brought us CGI giant beasts in JURASSIC PARK, he wisely did not solely rely on CGI. He married CGI dinosaurs with practical effects — actual physical dinosaur heads, taloned hands, and clawed feet. Peter Jackson did the same in his LORD OF THE RINGS saga, blending all forms of FX. This is why 1993’s JURASSIC PARK looks more convincing than the wall-to-wall CGI of the more recent JURASSIC movies. But that’s not even the real issue. Ray Harryhausen said that stop motion animation works because its meant to replicate a fantasy, a dream, not real life. It’s meant to feel magical, unreal. Those of us who grew up on practical special effects, miniature models, stop motion animation, etc., marvel at the hands-on craftsmanship, sheer imagination, and jaw-dropping resourcefulness. We don’t set the high water mark solely on something as insignificant and singular as “realism”.