King Kong Vs. Godzilla is the first of three major crossovers in which Godzilla battles with another monster not created solely for the Godzilla franchise. What better monster for Godzilla to fight after his 7 years of being on ice (literally, he’s been trapped in ice ever since the ending of Godzilla Raids Again) than the one that was a major inspiration for him, King Kong. The American creation and the Japanese creation duke it out this entertaining and iconic entry in the series.
Ishiro Honda is back at the helm, but gone is any attempt to take this material seriously. It’s the 60’s now, and things have taken a turn for the nutty. There’s plenty of silly humor, but also a fair amount of satire as well. The plot revolves around Mr. Tako the head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, and his desire to raise the ratings for the television studio they own. How does he plan to accomplish this? By finding a monster of course. There’s subtle commentary on television sensationalism, and the idea of a pharmaceutical company owning a TV station is even more appropriate commentary for today. Still, a scene in which a child voices his desire to see Godzilla exemplifies the transition of the series into being primarily for children.
Then of course there’s Kong. This is obviously not the the same Kong from the 1933 film, this is Toho’s version, a he’s Godzilla sized this time. He’s reestablished here, and all of the major boxes are checked. There’s the obligatory scenes in which he busts through the big door albeit on Pharaoh rather than Skull Island, and a scene in which Kong climbs on top of the Diet building holding a young women for little reason other than to honor the King Kong iconography. One aspect of Kong not taken from the original source is Kong’s ability to harness electricity. This was originally going to be movie in which Kong battled Frankenstein’s monster. They nixed the movie but kept the script, added Godzilla and Kong having and this was a hold from Frankenstein’s role in the film that never was. Even so, despite some weirdness and Kong’s admittedly ridiculous looking face, it’s still King Kong my second favorite monster fighting Godzilla my favorite monster, and this time they have figured out the monster battles. Stuff like this makes life worth living.
This film also sees the return of Godzilla after his hiatus and he is introduced, in color, with his more iconic sounding roar, the blue atomic fire breath, as well as composer Akira Ikufube’s “Godzilla March” which would come to become synonymous with the character going forward. This is also one of my favorite Godzilla suits, and the most reptilian he has ever looked if we are not counting the 1998 American abomination. All around this is probably the movie that established what Godzilla would be in the Showa series even more so than the two preceding films.
The characters are entertaining. Mr. Tako is our ostensible villain, even though he’s also a source of most of the humor with his complete lack of care for human lives. Ratings are all that matters to him, and he doesn’t care how he gets them. Even our “heroes” are assholes. They’re just as guilty, they work for him after all, and they even bribe the Pharaoh Islanders (which are all Japanese actors in some some unfortunate blackface) with cigarettes, including the children. One thing you’ll know from my review of Only Live Twice is that actresses Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi are featured in the a couple Godzilla films and they share several scenes together in this one.
This is definitely one of the best in the series, and unfortunately one of the most edited. Toho Studios had already hired English speaking actors (or rather white actors badly dubbed in English and then subtitled in Japanese) to pre-Americanize the film, but that wasn’t enough for Universal which owns the rights to this movie outside of Japan. Just like the Raymond Burr version of Godzilla, there are several superfluous scenes added with American newscasters reporting on everything that happens. It actually does support the television sensationalism theme of the film, it’s just unfortunate that this is the only version legally allowed to be distributed in the states. I however own both, and the Japanese version is what I watched for the review. If you are wondering who wins, well all I’ll say is that the rumors you’ve heard are untrue. The ending is the same in both versions. Remember, Godzilla was still supposed to be the bad guy, although that would change a few films down the line.