Crossovers are some of the most fun things to read/watch. Who wouldn’t want to read a story with the Justice League and the Avengers? Or watch Freddy battle Jason? One of the original and best crossovers ever produced is the 1962 film, King Kong vs.Godzilla. This is the third installment in the Godzilla series, coming out seven years after Raids Again. Before this movie, it seemed G might have been in permanent retirement until the idea was hatched to have the American monster King Kong battle Japan’s main monster. This film has remained one of the most popular of the movies, and it’s easy to see why. King Kong battles Godzilla. It doesn’t really get any better than that.
However, while many have seen the dubbed version of the film, not many in America have seen the original Japanese version. Personally, I feel the dub is a complete and utter joke. Other than the monster fights, there’s not many redeeming factors about the dub. I finally managed to watch the Japanese version, and I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the film. King Kong vs. Godzilla is a classic, Director Ishiro Honda perfectly balances seriousness, comedy, and excellent monster action. It’s a shame the Japanese version is not available commercially in North America.
The story follows a group of people who explore Faro Island, where supposedly a giant monster calls home. This creature turns out to be King Kong, and the group manages to bring him to Japan where they can use him for advertisement. Everything goes out the window however when Godzilla breaks out of an iceberg, now they’ll have to get Kong to fight the atomic menace. Ishiro Honda is a masterful director, this would be his second Godzilla film after the original. He manages to incorporate enough of Godzilla and King Kong to make it feel like a genuine crossover where neither get the shaft.
The cast is pretty diverse and strong. Perhaps the strangest and most interesting of them is Mr. Taco, the boss. The Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla is known as a satire, but personally I didn’t really get that vibe. The boss is used primarily for comic relief, and he succeeds in that regard in giving a good chuckle to the viewer. Beyond that, while the film is considerably lighter in tone than the original, it still feels like a serious monster movie.
Eiji Tsuburaya is responsible for handling how the monsters would look and act. It’s no surprise that his work here is utterly fantastic. Godzilla has a very unique design, probably the most unique of the franchise. It perfectly matches the tone of the film and makes him look like an an arrogant bully. In fact, this is the first time Godzilla is given personality traits. In the previous two films he didn’t have much in the way of character as the later films would develop for him. Here he’s clapping his hands, jumping around, seems to enjoy a fight and watching his opponent lose. This is what TOHO monsters are all about, personality, separating them form the usual American monster. King Kong is technically the hero, and he’s definitely a highlight. The suit used is very good, and is full of character. Leave it to TOHO to grab an American monster and actually improve upon the original.
There are two major fights in the film, the short scuffle near the middle and the big climax. The short one is basically a tease for the climax and establishes the hate the two monsters have for each other. Tsuburaya gives some great personality into these battles. These aren’t just two mindless animals fighting, they have reactions and make plans. (Who didn’t laugh when King Kong walks way from the short scuffle while scratching his head like he’s not sure what he’s up against?) The climax is easily one of the most exciting of the Godzilla franchise. This is what the Showa series is all about, fun and engaging battles. From the infamous scene when King Kong tries to shove a tree down Godzilla’s throat to the part where they go at it at Osaka Castle, it’s one of the greatest battles to be recorded in movie history. It’s a shame the Heisei series failed to emulate this kind of fun with the fights.
This would be composer Akira Ifukube’s second Godzilla film, and easily shows why he was brought back to compose many more. This is the first film to have the famous ‘Godzilla March’ theme, and it would become one of the most recognizable themes of all time. The opening Main Title theme with the choir was a pretty fantastic way to start. While not quite as good as some of his work on the sequels, Ifukube’s music is still great and it’s a shame the dubbed version put in its own soundtrack and cut out his score.
Overall, King Kong vs. Godzilla is another Showa great, the Japanese version anyway. Perhaps someday it will see release in the States. The battles don’t disappoint and delivers everything you’d expect from the title. (Not only that, but they also managed to squeeze in a short fight between Kong and a giant octopus!) TOHO would go on to use Kong once more in a solo feature known as King Kong Escapes. (Recommend watch by the way.) With Legendary now partners with Universal, who knows…a remake of this movie is actually more possible than it sounds.
Daniel is the guy for everything Godzilla related at Unleash the Fanboy. Besides the Big G himself, his favorite monster is Rodan and you can follow him on Twitter:@Destroyer_199