Written by Danny Toth
I’ll get some trivia out of the way first…
This is the first time both King Kong and Godzilla were seen in color and in the wide-screen format. This was also the first recorded motion picture to use the word “shit”. In any case, I’m now prepared to review my favorite kaiju film of all time…
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA!!!
Abandoning the dark overtone of GODZILLA (1954) and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955), Toho decided to take a satirical approach with the ultimate franchise vs. franchise movie. For those of you familiar with my writing, you’ve noticed I don’t give much of a synopsis, and prefer to only review the film as a whole. This way, I take up less space, so there’s more room for me to write what I think about KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.
This was the first Godzilla film I ever saw. I was already a fan of Kong, and watched the 1933 masterpiece quite frequently. Hearing of this other monster named Godzilla sparked my interest right away. So, with that, I’m only going to comment on the Japanese version of the film, which is superior to the Universal release from 1963.
kkvsg KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was the first of the series to give the monsters sort of a human side. They mock each other, make gestures, and they both look pretty goofy. Godzilla design is great…perfect for the tone of the movie. However, some changes over the previous two designs were made without any clear explanation. He is down to three toes instead of four. His fangs are gone, allowing all of his teeth to be the same size. His little ears were removed. And, his two side rows of fins were reduced in size, while the center row was more prominent. Still, the Kingoji design is one of my favorites, second only to the magnificent Biogoji from 1989.
Kong is a whole other story. I wasn’t used to seeing him in this light, and my first impression was that he was just another giant ape that happened to also be named King Kong. He looks less like a gorilla and more like an orangutan. Many fans just down right hate the design, disregarding the fact that both Kong and Godzilla were made to appeal to children in a film that was made to be a comedy. Eiji Tsuburaya desire to entertain children is perhaps the most legitimate reason for Kong’s stuffed-toy appearance.
Kong’s fur is an off brown. His long, swinging upper arms are an effect that doesn’t pull off too well. His grunts and roars indicate that he hasn’t had a cold beer in quite a while. His eyes are little, and it’s difficult to tell if he’s looking at his foe when he charges. Even so, Kong looks how he should for the movie…funny. Whatever other fans say, my opinion is that he looks perfect for such a comical film. It definitely adds to the fun.
The story is obviously making fun of advertising, marketing, and the media in general. Crazy company chairmen and chain smoking natives make up but a few of the lovable characters seen in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. A couple of renowned Japanese actresses also show up, but sadly, I forgot how to spell their names (they both also show up in the Bond classic YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, a Toho/United Artist co-production).
The monster fights are enjoyable. Kong’s intro when he battles a giant octopus (?) is a throwback to the 1933 simian, as he breaks through his big wall, fights, is knocked out and then carries away to Tokyo.
Godzilla evokes the terror in the film. He is an unstoppable, rampaging beast wreaks havoc throughout the movie. He gets a lot of screen time, and we like that. I’ll also note that his roar was given an update that made it sound more sped up and higher pitched than it did in the 1950s. This would be Godzilla’s trademark roar that would be used for the rest of the series with only minor alternations (in all but three films).
Akira Ifukube’s score for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA isn’t quite as good as what’s to come in MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA (1964), but set the standards for the monster by introducing his theme music that would be heard in a majority of the later films. In any case, the great composer doesn’t let anyone down.
The two fights between Kong and Godzilla are chocked full of humor. It’s like watching a cage match, only not in a cage. The two are pretty evenly matched, and use what weapons and power they have against each other. One thing about the final battle is this weird little shot of a stop motion Godzilla kicking a stop motion Kong. Whether this is a nod to the original KING KONG or not is unknown, but there’s no word on why it’s there and why they used stop motion animation for it. Other than that, both Godzilla and Kong jump around. In one sequence, Kong manages to flip Godzilla over his head (2003′s TOKYO: S.O.S. pays ode to this).
The shots of the two in the distance is obviously of toys. Now, I’ve made nearly two dozen kaiju fan films with that technique, and I can tell you that animating monsters that way is so much fun. I can only imagine how much the special effects crew enjoyed making this movie. Besides the little toys, all the models and suitmation work looks like it was just a lot of fun to do. It was now doubt tough of the guys in the monster costumes, but still a worthwhile and rewardable experience.
When I watch KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, I’m five years old all over again. In my opinion, it’s Godzilla at his prime, and is simply a fun movie to enjoy as a comedy and as a giant monster flick. It’s a step above FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN and beats the hell out of FREDDY VS. JASON. As far as screen legend vs. screen legend goes, it doesn’t get any better than this.