King Kong Vs Godzilla (1962)

King Kong Vs Godzilla (1962)

The motion picture screen beckons you to adventure that thrills the emotions with shock and terror!

The glacier in which Godzilla was imprisoned in 1955 is involved in a collision with a submarine, freeing the giant monster to to wreak havoc on Japan again. At the same time, an expedition on a remote island searching for huge berries, said to have miracle cure properties, comes across the giant ape named King Kong. He is captured and transported to Japan where he is to be used as an advertisement for the health effects of the berries. But with Godzilla destroying everything in his path, Kong escapes captivity and it is only a matter of time before the two giant monsters would meet in a fight to the death.

 

Cinema’s two biggest monsters going head-to-head in a fight to the death is a mouth-watering prospect but it was inevitable that somewhere along the line, King Kong Vs Godzilla was going to end up disappointing everyone involved. Godzilla had already attacked Japan in two previous films and it was obvious that the studio was short on ideas as to what the big monster could do. So for his third outing, Toho had acquired the rights to use King Kong (I have no idea how they managed to do that) and decided to pit the most iconic monsters of their age against each other. It was a trend which would dominate the remainder of the Godzilla series for the rest of its original run as Toho continually thrust new enemies into the path of the Big G. So judging by the title you’d expect this to be a classic. But like many of today’s top billed boxing fights, the end result is a letdown.

Arguably the most painful sight of the proceedings is that of King Kong himself. Far from the mighty, ferocious stop motion creature he was back in 1933, Kong is now simply a man in a moth-ridden monkey suit. It’s really sad to see how badly Toho messed up on the design, with his constant cheesy smile and static facial features being a far cry from the superb animation of Willis O’Brien. Toho were never going to go down the same route of special effects but the difference in quality is staggering. Godzilla looks exactly the same as he has always done and the suit is hardly the worst of the bunch – he still retains plenty of aggression in his face. But I bet even Godzilla would be laughing at how far Kong had fallen. It’s the first time that both monsters appeared in colour too which would make Kong’s appearance all the more ridiculous.

Having said this, when the two monsters finally start duking it out, the fight is pretty decent. There’s plenty of up-close-and-personal bashing and Kong even tries to ram a tree down Godzilla’s throat during one moment (in a homage to Kong fighting the T-Rex back in 1933). Godzilla keeps trying to use his tail as a weapon too (a practice he’d later perfect for the 70s tag-team monster fests). The distinctive roars of the two monsters are also put to good use during the battle so we know who is in pain and who is taunting at any given moment. Contrary to some reviews, the Japanese version didn’t have Godzilla winning, nor did the American version have Kong win. Both versions feature Kong swimming off into the distance which can be interpreted as him being victorious or him running away from Godzilla, therefore forfeiting the fight.

Like many of the early Toho films, there’s not a great deal of monster action during the first half. Both Godzilla and Kong do appear but in a film called King Kong Vs Godzilla, I’d expect a few more fights and less of both monsters pratting around doing their own thing. Kong does what he usually does and that is lurk around remote tropical islands playing hide and seek with the local tribe and occasionally battling other giant monsters (he fights a giant octopus which looks like he’s grappling with a wet plastic bag). And Godzilla does what he always does and that’s smash Japan to pieces whilst the army feebly attempt to stop him. It’s the same stuff they do in their individual films so why they’re doing the same thing here is beyond me. It’s just padding to avoid the two meeting until the very end.

There’s also a lot of human story hanging around and most of the early action is done by the human cast. They take up the biggest chunk of the film’s running time as they either try and stop Godzilla or barter with the natives on Kong Island. And by action, I mean talking. Apparently a lot of the dialogue was cut from the film and characterisation was ruined but let’s face it, who cares about characters in a film like this – I want to see giant monsters smashing each other to pieces. King Kong Vs Godzilla is almost finished before it finally delivers these goods and you’ll either feel cheated that you’ve had to wait so long for such a short fight or you’ll be over the moon that you’ve seen two of cinema’s iconic monsters rolling around on the floor like kids fighting in a playground. This change in tone also marked a swift change in the direction that the Godzilla films were to take. Originally very melodramatic with serious messages about atomic weapons, King Kong Vs Godzilla comes off more like a comic book come to life. Out with the realism and in with the humour, which would begin to dwarf the series right until the end of the 70s.

 

Stick with the terrible first half and you’ll be treated to a titanic tussle between the two biggest monsters in film history. King Kong Vs Godzilla does have lots wrong with it but in the end we’re only watching this for the fight and it don’t disappoint….well for 1962 it doesn’t disappoint. I’d be calling the fraud squad if this was passed off in today’s market place.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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