King Kong vs Godzilla 1962
The next movie in the franchise is King Kong vs Godzilla and it is also the first Godzilla movie presented in full color. Godzilla Raids Again came out in 1955 and we wouldn’t see another Godzilla film for seven years until King Kong vs Godzilla hit the silver screen in 1962. In between the time Toho began exploring other creature features such as Mothra and Rodan. King Kong vs Godzilla was directed by Ishirō Honda with visual effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, and Mie Hama.
John Beck had acquired the rights to the film when it was in its concept stage. At first Kong was going to fight a giant Frankenstein like monster in San Francisco and the movie was tentatively titled King Kong vs Prometheus. Beck was going to use traditional stop motion animation for the creatures. This soon became cost prohibitive and the project was shelved. Toho studios eventually showed interest in the project and decided to make the movie and substituted the Frankenstein creature with their very own Godzilla. Toho eventually did make a two movies featuring a Frankenstein like creature, Frankenstein Conquers the World and my perennial favorite War of the Gargantuas.
There is a difference between the American and Japanese release. This movie is where the franchise begins its step toward a more family, or shall I say, child friendly tone. The Japanese cut of the movie features more comedic action scenes between the two protagonists. Much of this was edited out of the American version trying to make the movie more sophisticated for the American audience. The new footage was directed by Thomas Montgomery and it depicted Eric Carter, a UN reporter who narrates much of the action from a UN communication satellite broadcast. The movie also had scenes of Arnold Johnson, the head of the Museum of Natural History in New York who explains Godzilla’s origin and why Kong behaves as he does.
The previous movie, Godzilla Raids Again, has the big guy entombed in a mountain of ice at the end of that movie. Both the Japanese and American versions have Godzilla escaping from his icy grave at the start of this new movie. However, the difference is that in the Japanese version this is treated as a sequel to the previous movie and his escape from the ice is treated as a reappearance. In the American version Johnson’s explanations into Godzilla’s origins treats this movie as if it is Godzilla’s initial appearance to the world. My guess to the reasons why this approach was taken was due to the wider distribution of the film and that for many Americans this would be their first Godzilla movie.
The plot is pretty simple. The head of a large pharmaceutical company wants to find if the legends of King Kong are true and if they are, they want to use the giant creature in their add campaigns. They send out a search crew to bring the big beast back to Japan from the mysterious Faro Island. Meanwhile a US nuclear submarine gets caught in an iceberg freeing Godzilla who begins to go on a rampage. On Faro Island the native village is attacked by a giant octopus. Kong comes and defeats the giant octopus and drinks some berry juice and is intoxicated and falls asleep. The Japanese team captures him and tows him back to Japan on a giant raft.
By this time Godzilla is attacking Japan and when the government realizes that Kong is on his way and since they do not want two giant monster in Japan, they order Kong to be destroyed. After a failed attempt to blow him up an angry Kong swims to shore and faces Godzilla for the first time. The first round between the two behemoths is short with Godzilla blasting Kong’s chest hairs with his atomic halitosis.
The Japanese armed forces tries in vain to stop Godzilla from entering Tokyo. They are finally successful in averting Godzilla from Tokyo when they erect a barrier of power lines around the city filled with a 1,000,000 volts of electricity. Overpowered by the electricity Godzilla heads for the Mt. Fuji area. That night when Kong approaches Tokyo he comes up against the power lines and the contact with the electricity actually makes him stronger. Kong now attacks Tokyo but his new found strength gives the Japanese armed forces an idea. They explode capsules full of the berry juice from Faro Island and knock out Kong and transport him strapped to a bunch of giant balloons to the Mt. Fuji area where Godzilla is, with the hope that they will fight each other to their deaths. Sounds a little silly doesn’t it? But it is fun!
The two do meet up and they begin to battle one another. This is actually the meat and potatoes of the movie and depicts some classic fun and destructive monster battles. The question always asked is who won? The debate rages to this day. The American movie depicts that Kong was triumphant as we see him swimming back to Faro Island after a brief underwater battle with Godzilla. In the Japanese version it is speculated by the human characters that Godzilla survived and it is certain that he will return again. In truth the ending in both versions is rather anticlimactic. After an epic battle the two monsters fall into the ocean when an earthquake strikes Japan. This earthquake is much more enhanced with stock footage from other films in the American version. We do not see the underwater battle. We just see bubbles in the water and then Kong swimming away. I would have liked a more visual and decisive end.
The suit for Godzilla was designed differently for this move. Godzilla suits were often redesigned for different purposes. The main reason was to create a suit that would be easier and safer for the actor to wear. Those suits were heavy and hot and could be lethal! So anytime they could improve on the suit it was a good idea. The second reason the suits are changed is to give Godzilla a different look for the tone of the movie. Since this was the first color film we see that Godzilla is not green as he is often thought, he is more of a charcoal gray. His tiny ears were removed and wouldn’t be seen again for decades. He went from 4 toes on his feet to 3 toes. His tail was shortened and his face elongated to give him a more reptilian look. The suit for Kong is just bloody awful!! He looks like a moth eaten teddy bear that was lost underneath someone’s couch for months on end. The face is the worse. It barely resembles a gorilla. The other point about Kong is that he isn’t the same version from the original 1933 movie. That King Kong was only 25 feet tall (7.6 meters). In this movie Kong is 148ft tall (45meters) to match Godzilla’s 180ft (55meters) height.
All in all this is a fun movie and I enjoy it. If you’re a Godzilla fan I am sure it is on your list of favorites. In all honesty I would love for this movie to be remade. With the special effects as they are now this could be a depicted as a great monster battle.
I give the film a solid B.