King Kong Vs. Godzilla

1962, Movie, NR, 91 mins


Godzilla graduated into a full-fledged franchise with this monster epic, reputedly one of Japan's biggest ever home-grown hits. Of course, what the Japanese saw wasn't the same as what was shown in the United States, where large chunks of the story were cut and replaced by inane "United Nations TV" reports explaining the story to us. These cuts and a really cheesy ape suit make KING KONG VS. GODZILLA one of the lesser entries in the series.

Investigating abnormally high water temperatures in the seas near Japan, the US submarine Sea Hawk is damaged in a collision with an iceberg. A rescue helicopter arrives in time to witness Godzilla breaking out of the glacier in which he has been entombed. The giant monster heads toward Japan. Meanwhile, a Japanese drug company has discovered that berries from Faro Island contain a narcotic that may be commercially valuable. Rather than be deterred by reports of a giant monster living there, the head of the company sends a team to the island to bring the monster back as a publicity stunt. After making peace with the Faro natives, the team sets up camp. That night, the island is attacked by a giant octopus in search of the vats of berry juice the natives have collected. It is fought off by a giant gorilla that the natives call King Kong. After vanquishing his competition, Kong drinks the juice and falls into a deep sleep. The Japanese tie him to a raft and set sail for home.

Already worried about the approach of Godzilla, Japanese officials refuse to allow the raft into their waters. Kong awakens, breaks free, and arrives in Japan just in time to fight with Godzilla, who drives the giant ape away with his radioactive breath. Kong goes on a rampage through Tokyo, where he is finally subdued with the berry juice. When all military efforts to stop Godzilla fail, they decide to airlift Kong into his path in the hope that the two monsters will destroy each other. The two giants battle on Mount Fuji, with Kong gaining the upper hand after a bolt of lightning from an electrical storm gives him increased strength. An earthquake sends both plunging into the ocean; only Kong surfaces, to swim back to home island.

Apparently operating under the theory that only children would want to see this film (and dull-minded children at that), the American version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA cuts the plot to ribbons. Some characters have been so reduced that it's impossible to figure out what their part in the plot is. Reputedly, a great deal of the comic scenes involving the Japanese characters on Faro island were cut; the ones that remain are quite odd. (The island natives are played by Asian actors in blackface!) The American version compounds that crime by haphazardly filling in the necessary information via TV interviews with one "Dr. Johnson," a dinosaur expert who uses a children's book to back up his idiotic babblings. And the typically majestic Akira Ifukube score was largely replaced by bland stock music (including Henry Mancini's score from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1955). Oddly, one thing that wasn't changed was the ending; despite the long-standing rumor that the Japanese version ends with Godzilla triumphant, both cuts conclude with Kong swimming away.

On the plus side, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA had a higher budget than most films, and it shows. The giant octopus is a particular highlight, as is the climactic battle for monster supremacy. Godzilla returned two years later in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964), while the Japanese Kong was seen once more in KING KONG ESCAPES (1968). (Violence.) leave a comment

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King Kong Vs. Godzilla
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