KING KONG VS. GODZILLA

(1962)
(Japanese Title: Kingu Kongu tai Gojira)
With Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yû Fujika,  Ichirô Arishima, Jun Tazaki, Mie Hama, Akihiko Hirata, Akiko Wakabayashi
With Shôichie Hirose as King Kong and Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla!

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the dubbed American version of the film.  

"Hey, Godzilla, don't touch that - that's Ape Pagoda!"      You could ask for a better movie to bring back Godzilla for the first time in 8 years and King Kong for the first time after nearly 30, but you couldn't ask for a sillier one.  KING KONG VS. GODZILLA may be one of the dumbest monster movies of all time, but surprisingly it's one of the most fun.  Dumb can be fun if done right.

     When Godzilla is awakened from his iceberg by a submarine crashing into it, he immediately heads for Tokyo (probably remembering all the good times he had there) and begins destroying it.  At the same time, a pharmaceutical CEO who looks like Groucho Marx sends a pair of Abbott and Costello wannabes to fetch a legendary monster from a remote island in order to boost the ratings of his company's television show (I guess there have been less plausible movie plots).  Naturally, that monster turns out to be King Kong, and naturally, King Kong is just what Japan could use right now to take care of their pesky Godzilla problem.  They never get around to mentioning what they would then do about their pesky King Kong problem, but no matter.  One character hopes that they both die in the fight.  Oh, that's nice.

    The newly designed Godzilla is passable, although he seems to have a very large body and kind of a small head at times, like a giant lazy cat or something, and he needs to seriously look into purchasing a monster-sized Thighmaster.  King Kong, however, is not the beloved Kong of old.  For once thing, he's much larger now (he has to be to fight Godzilla) and for another, he's a guy in an ape costume so badly designed it wouldn't fool Shemp Howard in one of those Three Stooges films where they all think the real gorilla is the guy in the ape costume, but it's actually the real gorilla (played by a guy in an ape costume).  Oh, and this Kong gets high and sleepy on red berry juice and gains strength from biting electrical wires.  Basically, he a guy in an ape costume who is also a substance abuser.  Eight Wonder of the World, my Aunt Ethyl!

"Hooray for Captain Spalding!"    Things happen fast in this movie!  At one point, the army needs to get Kong down from the top of a building, so Groucho and Abbott and Costello come up with the idea of filling rockets with the red berry juice that makes Kong sleepy and - voila - five seconds later, they're shooting rockets filled with red berry juice at Kong.  A few moments later, The Army General Who Desperately Wants to Be Toshiro Mifune needs a plan to transport Kong to Godzilla so they can finish their fight, and somebody mentions carrying him by helium balloons using the special magical "strong as steel" thread cleverly introduced at the beginning of the film.  Before you can say "Jack Robinson!" (or "Robert Armstrong!" or"How Did You Get All That Stuff So Fast?"), they've tracked down the magical thread, the balloons and several helium trucks and within seconds, Kong is up in the air and on his way!  Contrivances are go!

    The early scenes on the island are kind of like a big budget version of Abbott and Costello's AFRICA SCREAMS, with a less believable gorilla.  However, there is a really nifty Giant Octopus sequence that uses a real octopus plus some beautifully done stop-motion animation that brings back memories of great Ray Harryhausen monsters. The battles between Kong and Godzilla later in the film are also well-done.  Godzilla, showing the kind of human emotions that would become much more part of his character later in the series, delights in every pain he inflicts on Kong, and even begins "burying" an unconscious Kong using rocks swatted by his tail.  Kong, for his part, acquits himself nicely with some moves of his own, incuding a flying headbut that knocks both of them over.

    It is an urban legend that the Japanese version of this film has Godzilla winning, while the American version has Kong as the victor.  This is not true.  It should be remembered that in 1962, Godzilla was still portrayed as a bad thing to happen to Japan, and Kong was imported from Whatever Island to be the hero in both versions.  The one difference is that at the very end, just before the fadeout, Kong roars in the American version, while in the original Japanese cut, there is an offscreen road from Godzilla too, hinting that the big guy has not gone away for good.  We can be thankful for that, unless we live in Tokyo.

    The U.S. version has a lot of extraneous footage of newscasters from around the world telling us about the whereabouts of King Kong and/or Godzilla at any given moment, as if we weren't watching the movie ourselves. Early in the film, an American newscaster brings in a dinosaur expert to talk about Godzilla.  We know he's a dinosaur expert because he carries around a slim, colorful volume that looks like it should be titled The Little Kids Book of Big Dinosaurs! 3½ - JB


IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES

"We are pleased.  My notes confirm this."


SOMETIMES TV NEWS CAN ACTUALLY BE HELPFUL

GIRL TO HER FRIEND: "Maybe you should go to Hokkaidô."
(quick cut to newscaster on television)
"Do not go to Hokkaidô!"


YOU HAVE TO LIVE ONCE TO LIVE TWICE

The two female leads in this film, Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi, would also play the two beautiful female leads in the 1967 "James Bond in Japan" film YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

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