King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

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Overall Rating 57%
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Ranked #4,439
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Connections: Godzilla King Kong

A newspaper and television station funded by a pharmaceutical company want a sensation, which happens to be the discovery of King Kong on an island. He is captured and brought to Japan, where he escapes from captivity and battles Godzilla. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: September 15, 2007
In recent years, we've seen quite a few crossover fighting in movies. We've seen slasher masters Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger go at it, we've seen a battle twenty years in the making between two deadly alien races, we've even seen two sets of killer toys taking each other on. But these flicks are nothing new. Way back in 1963, Toho undertook it's own crossover battle by pitting its main star, Godzilla, against the heavyweight of the States, King Kong. The biggest difference between this movie and the recent crossovers is actually behind the scenes. In all the other cases, one company usually holds the rights to both sides, but here Toho actually rented the rights to use Kong in their movie. In other words, instead of combining the two universes, King Kong was introduced into Godzilla's world, allowing Toho to reinvent the creature as they saw fit. This had mixed results in my opinion. Obviously, Kong would need a few upgrades to be considered an actual contender against Godzilla, but the novelty of these movies are two icons going head to head, and you don't want to stray too far from the source.

King Kong's origin in Toho's universe was wisely kept almost identical to his original story. The head of advertising for Pacific Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Tako, needs a new way to boost ratings. His last effort fell flat on its face, and he jumps at any opportunity to bring something new to the table. This opportunity comes in the form of a scientist who tells him he has discovered the possibility of a giant monster living on an island far to the south. Tako wastes no time in sending two employees, Sakurai and Kinsaburo, to the island. After they've established good relations with the natives with gifts of cigarettes and a radio, they set out trying to find this monster, who incidentally the natives consider a god. Disappointed, the search party returns to the village just in time to witness it being attacked by a giant octopus. They fail in all their attempts to drive it back, but just when all seems lost the very monster they were hunting comes to their aid. King Kong rips apart the giant gates to the village and makes quick work of the octopus. Afterwards, he celebrates his victory the way most of us would: he gets completely wasted. The natives are constantly making a thick juice out of the local berries, which is an extremely potent sedative. Kong downs four large pots of the stuff and the natives do a ritualistic song and dance number to lull him to sleep. Seizing the opportunity, the two explorers build a huge raft to tow Kong back to Japan. As a precaution, the raft has been laid with several mines. Meanwhile, a U.S. nuclear submarine has crashed into an iceberg giving off a strange glow. As it turns out, this is the very iceberg Godzilla has spent the last seven years. Once escaping, he immediately sets his own course for Japan. Across the ocean, King Kong has woken up. Fearing for their lives, the crew quickly detonate the raft but the resulting explosion does absolutely no harm to the giant monkey. As both creatures rampage through Japan, the military realizes they cannot defend their country from both attacks. In an effort to rid themselves of the creatures, they pit the two against each other, in the hopes that the resulting fight will end with the death of both monsters.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is yet another step away from the original themes of Gojira. What's most surprising about this is that director Ishiro Honda is once again at the helm, so it's a bit of a wonder that he allowed his monster to be cheapened like this. I think one of the biggest things contributing to the lighter feel of this one is that this is both monsters' first appearance in color. There's something about black and white that can make a horror movie that much more effective. Even the Godzilla costume itself seemed a lot less imposing. As is always the case, things are a lot scarier when you can't quite make it out clearly. King Kong's appearance was pretty bad as well. Since this was a Toho picture, the stop motion animation used for the previous King Kong movies were replaced with a guy in a suit. And what an ugly suit it was too. It wouldn't have been so bad if they could have animated the face a little, but instead it's just a regular run-of-the-mill mask. The budget was in considerable damage from the get-go however, since Toho had to pay a pretty penny just to get permission to use Kong, so a few corners had to be cut. Still, this isn't one of those "so cheap it's pitiful" movies, since the battles between King Kong and Godzilla are a done quite well. Even the octopus attack was a nice sight to see.

I already mentioned King Kong was given a few new tricks to be considered a worth adversary of Godzilla. After all, it's made known more than once here that Godzilla is a super-monster created by radiation, where Kong is just a large animal. The first step they took was doubling Kong's size to match Godzilla's. Hell, he still stood a head shorter than the lizard. The original King Kong probably came to Godzilla's waist, I have no problem with this. Plus, instead of being a large gorilla, he's more of a gorilla-man here. Remember, it's a guy in a suit here, so it'd be a bit difficult for him to walk around on all fours. However, they made up for it by putting Shoichi Hirose in the monkey suit. Hirose's performance included running around with his arms up, or hunching over so his knuckles dragged the ground. Sure, it's a bit more reminiscent of a chimp than a gorilla, but hey, you do what you gotta do. No complaints from me about this either. However, the third major addition is the one I have a problem with. Kind of kicking their own story in the teeth, Kong becomes supercharged by electricity. I have never seen a natural animal that gets stronger when you put a million volts through it. And like I said before, if you want to advertise Godzilla against King Kong, you can't really go around recreating the monsters. Neither of the two Kong movies before this, nor any of the four after it (including Toho's own King Kong Escapes) make any mention of this power. Maybe I'm making too much out of nothing, but to me it'd be like if Ronny Yu gave Jason Voorhees laser vision.

The pacing was another gripe I had. There were a few scenes that could have easily been shaved down. The military setting up their traps and weapons were long processes, and we got to see every step of the way. A few cut scenes here and there could have quickened things up nicely. My final complaint is the shortage of actual fighting between Godzilla and Kong. They meet once about two thirds of the way through, which is a quick minute long affair, and then again at the finale, a battle which lasts about ten minutes. Still, that's not to say the rest of the movie is boring, I just would have liked to see the two going at it a bit longer, since when they did throw down for those final ten minutes it was damned good. But like Godzilla Raids Again, this is another step in the transition between "Godzilla's attacking, how do we stop him?" to "Godzilla is gonna fight another monster!" so its forgivable.

Watching this movie now, I liked it a lot better than I remember liking it as a kid. Granted, I just watched the Japanese version and grew up watching the U.S. version, which might have made the difference, but it's still similar enough to the movie I remember. I still have a few of the same complaints I had, but they don't hold nearly as much weight as they did. Incidentally, I just found out they tried to make a "Godzilla vs. King Kong" in 1991, but they couldn't afford the rights to use the King Kong name again. I would love to see these two go for round two, but it looks like I'll have to be content with this one on its own. That's more than fine with me. 7/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added September 15, 2007 at 11:03pm
This was the first Godzilla movie I ever watched. A little place down the road had like, 20 of the Godzilla Vs. ____ titles when I was like, 8. I haven't seen this since then, but now I'm really thinking about hunting it down.
Crispy #2: Crispy - added September 16, 2007 at 12:09am
If at all possible, get the Japanese version instead of the US version. In fact, ALWAYS go for the Japanese version.
QuietMan #3: QuietMan - added September 16, 2007 at 6:36pm
I don't remember much of this movie, i do remember ejoying it the least of all the godzilla vs. w/e movies but maybe i'll give it another shot
Bill Wolford #4: Bill Wolford - added June 3, 2014 at 7:31pm
385, why would you recommend the Japanese version over the U.S.? I always thought reading the subtitles would take a way from watching the action on the screen. Also, aren't the dubbed versions "funnier"? I have both versions of most of the movies, but was just curious about your opinion because I've only watched U.S. versions.
Crispy #5: Crispy - added June 3, 2014 at 8:57pm
I just feel like it's more "authentic;" you can really see what the actors are laying out there. A great example is Invasion of Astro-Monster, which cast American actor Nick Adams speaking in English. The Japanese version dubs him over, while the English version uses the straight recording. He was awesome, but the dubbing was flat. It killed the whole performance. Even if the dubbing is better than what the actor gives, I still can't shake the feeling that it's fake, and it takes away from things. Also, and admittedly it may just be because I'm used to them, but by movie's end reading the sub-titles becomes subconscious.

As for them being "funnier," well if that's your thing, you go Glen Coco lol. I know a lot of people enjoy MST3King the quick monotones that usually define the dub-jobs, but it doesn't do anything for me.
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