King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962)

Article #1195 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-22-2004
Posting Date: 11-19-2004
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yu Fujiki

A pharmaceutical company captures King Kong on Faro island at the same time that Godzilla breaks loose from an iceberg and returns to Japan.

Ten thoughts on KING KONG VS. GODZILLA

1) Like the original GODZILLA, this movie was heavily reedited for the American market and new footage was added. Unfortunately, the same care was not taken with this one as was taken with the original; most of the new footage consists of unconvincing newscasters sitting around and delivering stories, and the editing ot the Japanese footage is sloppy (they even use a scene of a newspaper photo of submarine fading into a shot of the real submarine in motion twice within a two minute period) and eccentric (repeated anomalous shots of a space satellite). They also replaced most of Akira Ifukube’s score with stock music, including an annoying encore of the shrill CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON music. I have yet to see the Japanese version, but I hope to do so someday.

2) ****SPOILER**** For many years, the legend existed that the Japanese version of the movie ended with Godzilla victorious whereas the American version ended with King Kong victorious. This story is merely a legend. In fact, the ending is somewhat ambiguous; though Kong is the only one we see walking away (or swimming away, as the case may be) from the fight, there is no clear winner designated; Godzilla is merely nowhere to be found.

3) This is probably the most light-hearted of the early Godzilla movies. In fact, the American version is a downright comedy most of the time. The Japanese version was more satirical, but some of the satire still shows through in the American version, particularly in the sequences having to do with the pharmaceutical company trying to get a monster to improve their ratings.

4) I’m amazed at the breadth of special effects in this movie; outside of the standard suitmation, they use puppets, real animals substituting for monsters, and even a bit of stop motion. Not all of it is done well, but I do admire the ambition behind it.

5) The story borrows heavily from the original KING KONG, with Kong once again discovered on an island of natives who worship him. He also gets loose in a big city, kidnaps a girl and scales a building with her. However, the sight of King Kong scaling a building that is no taller than himself is just a little bit ridiculous.

6) For me, the most disappointing thing in the movie is the Kong costume; sure, he’s not going to look as good as the stop-motion animated Kong of the original movie, but here he looks mangy and flea-bitten. I really think the costume could have been a lot better.

7) During the sequence where the submarine is suffering untold damage from the iceberg, we hear the admiral mutter the word “Great!” after hearing a particularly distressing bit of bad news. Feel free to mentally substitute any other one-syllable word that ends in a ‘t’ that you think might be appropriate for a man of the sea to mutter under those circumstances.

8) At the opening of the movie, we hear a news report about an earthquake in Chile. What this has to do with the rest of the movie is beyond me.

9) This may be one of the first of the Japanese monster movies to touch upon the love that children have for giant monsters. At one point, a little boy asks his mother if he can go see Godzilla. Gamera would milk this idea for all it was worth a few years later.

10) This was perhaps the first Godzilla movie I ever saw. To this day, it remains my favorite, even if I don’t consider it to be anywhere near the best of the series. Even now I thoroughly enjoy watching this one. So I’m going to throw in another list of ten items to end this one. Here are my ten favorite moments from the movie.

1) The explorers winning over the natives with a portable radio playing a peppy Japanese tune, followed by plying them with cigarettes. The chief than decides he will let them stay, but absolves himself of all responsibility if King Kong should eat them. Key line: “It’s okay! They’re all smoking!”

2) The UN reporter calls in a noted scientist to discuss Godzilla. The scientist uses a child’s book of dinosaurs as his main visual prop. The scientist also does a comparison of the relative brain power of King Kong and Godzilla. He uses a gorilla’s skull and a marble as his props. This guy is a hoot.

3) I love that the head of the pharmaceutical company throws a fit when Godzilla gets loose not because he fears for his life and property, but because he’s jealous of all the publicity Godzilla is getting.

4) The fight between King Kong and the octopus, though hardly convincing, is definitely a highlight of the picture.

5) I like the scene where we see the construction of a huge pit with which the military hopes to capture Godzilla. Quite frankly, I’ve always thought that was the neatest collection of construction toys I’ve ever seen in one place.

6) A man, upon hearing that King Kong is advancing on Tokyo, replies with conviction “We’d better leave….tonight!” Hey, why rush these things?

7) The native chant is one of the few pieces of music from the original soundtrack to remain on the American version; it’s also the best piece of music on the American version.

8) During the final fight, King Kong hits his head on a rock. You can practically see the birds flying around his head at this point.

9) Also during the fight, King Kong tries to shove a tree down Godzilla’s throat. Talk about making the best use of the landscape…

10)…and finally, the airlift sequence. There’s something about seeing King Kong strung up like a puppet (in a very uncomfortable-looking position, I might add) and carted around by balloons and helicopters that is almost sublimely ridiculous. It’s certainly one of the most memorable images in all of kaiju.

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