Friday, August 5, 2011

Godzillapalooza #3: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Monster Profile:


-HEIGHT: 148 feet (the original 1930's King Kong was only about 25 feet tall, so his size was increased for the sake of this movie)
-MASS: 27,500 tons
-SPECIAL POWERS: This version of Kong is slightly more athletic than his diminutive 30's predecessor. He also has the special power of gaining strength from lightning or electricity and coursing it through his fingers, like a giant, hairy Emperor Palpatine. Many believe Kong has this power in this movie because he replaced Frankenstein's monster as Godzilla's opponent at the last minute.
-BACKGROUND: Toho's version of King Kong resides on the remote Pacific locale of Faro Island. On Faro, he is the native Deity and somewhat of a protector for the people there. He is also a berry juice junkie, so rather than offer sacrifices, the native people make him narcotic berry juice all day. Whenever he drinks it, he promptly falls asleep.
-BATTLE RECORD (G-Series only): 1-1-1

This is about as good as monster mashes get on paper: the American created 8th Wonder of the World vs. the Japanese created King of the Monsters! It would have been stunningly disappointing if this didn't turn out to be a good G-movie. The Pacific Pharmaceuticals company sends an expedition to Faro Island to obtain samples of a narcotic, but medicinal native red berry. The head of the company, Mr. Tako, also wants to capture the legendary King Kong, who resides on Faro, and use him to boost the company's visibility. Mr. Tako is very high strung and eccentric, so he provides a great deal of comic relief for the film. After a short time with the native tribe, the expedition sees King Kong for the first time when he defeats a giant octopus attacking the village. Kong drinks the red berry juice, ground up by the natives, and promptly falls asleep, allowing the expedition to strap him to a raft and take him back to Tokyo. Meanwhile, Godzilla is awoken by a nuclear submarine where we last left him, frozen in the Bering Sea. Godzilla promptly heads for Japan, where he meets up with King Kong, who has recently escaped from his captors. Godzilla beats Kong decisively, and the overgrown ape heads toward Tokyo while Godzilla turns to Mount Fuji. In classic King Kong fashion, he finds a woman and climbs with her to the top of the Japanese capital building. Once again, Kong is knocked unconscious using a red berry mist, and is then airlifted to Mt. Fuji for a final battle with Godzilla. With the help of some lightning, Kong makes this a much more even fight. At the battle's end, both monsters tumble into the ocean. There is no clear victor, but Kong is seen at the film's end swimming back home to his beloved Faro.

For the first time in color, both King Kong and Godzilla appeared in arguably the most profitable Japanese film of all time. After a lack luster second Godzilla movie, King Kong picks up the slack thanks to the reunification of the Japanese all star team of monster movies: Director Ishiro Honda, Composer Akira Ifukube, and Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The Godzilla suit was also slightly altered for this movie to give him a more reptilian look, and it works really well. The American release added "news breaks" from the UN newsroom or something that basically breaks down everything that happens. It's funny how the American reporter characters are completely oblivious to all things concerning Godzilla, and the movie could probably do without these scenes. Other than that, the movie is great, and exactly what you'd expect from a solid, old Godzilla movie.

I also can't do a review of this movie without talking about the final battle scene. It's awesome; easily one of the best monster battles of the Showa Series. King Kong is a big time underdog, but he never quits. I don't know how else to describe it in writing, but it's a great fight, and the movie is worth a look for the ending if for no other reason.

Best Part: 
Like I said, the final battle between King Kong and Godzilla is awesome and very entertaining. But, when picking my absolute favorite scene in the movie, I have to go with when the expedition reaches Faro and comes into contact with the natives. It's such a goofy and hilarious part, from the intimidating and superstitious chief, to the frightened translator and overconfident expedition leader. I'm not sure how comical this scene was intended to be, but it definitely makes me laugh. The best part is when the Japanese leader shows the chief his "magic" radio and gives everyone cigarettes, thus winning the tribes affections. Check it out!

I'll leave you with this 1962 trailer for the film, and a strong encouragement/recommendation to see this movie if you haven't already and are a G-fan on any level.

My Ranking: #9

Up next, probably the very best of the Showa series... "Godzilla vs. Mothra"

1 comment:

  1. Very nice writeup, looking forward to more!
    -Peter H. Brothers, author of "Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men - The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda."