King Kong VS Godzilla (1962) [REVIEW] | Kaiju Klassics

Finally, after years of rumors, delays, a new Godzilla VS Kong movie will hit theathers, and hopefully VOD because i can’t recommend getting the Coronavirus for the sake of seeing this one on the biggest screen possible. At the time of writing, i don’t know if i will able to see this is theathers or not, personally i would love to, but it appears this time we won’t have to wait much more for Godzilla to fight King Kong, as part of Legendary’s Monsterverse.

Like most monster movie fans known, this isn’t the first time the two titans clashed on the big screen, but it has been a while (almost 60 years), so it’s the perfect occasion for the youngins to hear if for the first time and for the old fans to have a refresher on the original King Kong VS Godzilla.

First, let’s go over the plot, before getting sidetracked with the plethora of production history facts you most likely have heard every time this movie is brought up.

Since it’s made by Toho, the movie does keep countinuity with the Godzilla franchise, so thanks to an american submarine, the Big G unthaws from the icy prison he and Anguirus were trapped at the end of Godzilla Raids Again (the second Godzilla film)… and since Kong didn’t, here is found at Faro Island instead of Skull Island, were he’s revered as god by the local tribesmen, and he loves getting wasted on berry juice. He gets captured by a couple men sent there by the head of a pharmaceutical company, as they want something that would boost sales. Yeah, he wants his own monster just for publicity, as Godzilla’s awakening is – allegedly – stealing all the media attention.

King Kong of course escapes, eventually meets Godzilla on its own rampage run, and they fight each other, ultimately falling into the sea and basically both walk away, i mean, it’s not like they had a grudge against each other to begin with.

Yeah, for decades existed a myth of the double ending, with Kong winning in the american version of the movie, and Godzilla coming out on top in the japanese one. It’s bullshit, but due to a lack of internet and difficulty to import or just access the various versions of the movie (and stuff like Ishiro Honda basically losing a lot of footage by cutting the original negative, making its restorations hell), it was treated as fact, widely accepted by fans of the genre to the point of being published in books, and leading to stuff like the movie’s italian title being “Kong’s Triumph”.

Yeah, i don’t miss that confusing titulation bullshit we had here in Italy with kaiju films, thank god for the recent Criterion Collection release of the Showa Era films on Blu-Ray.

Once again, if you have been into monster movies for a while, you already know the behind-the-scenes anectodes i’m about to say, i kinda have to, so feel free to skip 4 paragraphs ahead.

The short version: Willis O’Brien wanted to make a movie where King Kong fought the Frankenstein’s monster, made giant for the sake of confrontation. His producer, John Beck, secretly went to Toho and “sealed the deal” with Ishiro Honda, whom decided to swap out the Frankenstein’s monster with Godzilla for marketing value, uncerimoniously throwing O’ Brien’s idea in the bin.

Mostly anyway, as the pitch of “Frankenstein’s monster VS Godzilla did come up after the huge success of King Kong VS Godzilla, but Toho first made Mothra VS Godzilla in 1964, then the following year reworked the concept into Frankenstein VS Baragon, better known as Frankenstein Conquers The World, which itself had a sequel with “Frankenstein’s Monster: Sanda VS Gaira”, AKA War Of The Gargantuas.

This matters because there are still some elements unchanged from that idea in this movie as well, as King Kong here is powered up by lightning, something you’d expect more in theme with the Frankenstein’s monster (as electricity is what brought it to life), so they basically swapped in Godzilla instead of the Creature but gave the “elemental power up” aspect to Kong instead.

Even weirder, it would happen again 4 years later, with Ebirah, Monster Of The Deep (a.k.a. Godzilla VS The Sea Monster), where the script was written with King Kong in mind but ultimately they replaced him with Godzilla, and you could tell.

With ALL that out of the way, the film itself it’s a classic monster mash in the japanese tokusatsu style, and it’s pretty entertaining all the way through, even if – of course – it isn’t 90 minutes of King Kong and Godzilla slapping each other with frozen mackerels, it will never be just fighting, o’ young entusiastic monster fans that often think/want these movie to be….. nor they should, because otherwise you’ll get bored of it pretty quickly EXACTLY because it’s just all fighting, all the time.

They fight a couple of times, with the big melee the end after a warm-up brawl in early film, but as you expect a good chunk of the movie is about the human characters, and you don’t mind because there is a lot going on and it all moves at a good pace.

Honestly, i re-watched it recently, and almost laughed myself to asphyxiation, all thanks to the aged effects that of course today look ridiculous… and especially King Kong, i just burst out laughing when i see his face in this movie. XD That’s because he’s of course a guy in a rubber suit, that’s the way Toho always did it, it’s traditional and i wouldn’t have it any other way.. but he looks like he got run over by a truck thrice, and suffered brain damage because of it. XD

the effects are quite good for the time, what you expect from Toho and especially by Eiji Tsuburaya, but the Kong suit is just so goofy looking, it’s downrigh hilarious today. Still better crafted than the stuff you would later see in Kong rip-offs, but we’ll get to some later this month. If anything, this is why Toho mostly designed its giant monsters after reptiles or dinosaurs instead of apes or humanoids.

Plenty of classic moments, from the hilarious shot of the Kong suit being lifted by balloons in the air, Kong showing a tree in Godzilla’s mouth, the monster action is both good and incredibly goofy, so it’s hilarious and entertaining, actually a bit more today due to the aged effects. Watch out for the Kong VS giant octopus fight at the beginning, where they used stopmotion, a rubber prop but also real octopi, it’s obvious when it’s a real live one, and apparently Tsuburaya ate one of them.

Aside from “roadkill Kong”, what it’s more surprising to me is the shit the human do.

I’m not even talking about the obvious satire at showbiz, with how petty is the head of the pharmaceutical that he decides to basically antagonize a giant monster because it just happens to get his company less exposure, and that he’s gonna get his own monster, with black jack and hookers.

Like, i was shocked how these two bumbling idiots interact with the “japanese in tribal tan/body/facepaint” natives of Faro Island in order to gain their trust. Yeah, sure, whatever, just gift them 4 packs of sigarettes each, give the kids the whole Lucky Strike carton, i’m sure they won’t get addicted to it or anything, no long-term side effect to worry about whatsover. But then again, this is a movie where they have to basically drum-solo Kong asleep, so who cares. XD

To summarize, it’s an essential kaiju film, still lots of fun, seeing giant monsters beat the shit of each other is timeless dumb ol’ fun, regardless if it’s rubber suits or CG, but of course it’s even better when it’s a monster mash between the western monster and the eastern one, the classic giant monster rubber mash.

Can’t wait for Godzilla Vs King Kong, honestly i’m really, genuinely excited about it.

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