Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Franchises: Godzilla. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

The Japanese Version

File:King Kong vs Godzilla 1962.jpgBefore I discovered that Crestwood House monster book that focused on Godzilla, there was an instance in the library of my elementary school where I caught a couple of my classmates looking through another one of those books and I just happened to peek over their shoulders to see a picture of King Kong swinging Godzilla around by his tail. Of course, I had only needed to see that image of Godzilla to become so interested in that book that I actually tried to take it away from them because I thought that it was a book solely about him! After a little bit of arguing, the guys finally showed me that this book was about King Kong and that it featured Godzilla only on that one page. It wasn't too long after that when I found the Crestwood House book that was all about Godzilla but, nevertheless, my interest had been piqued simply by knowing that there was a movie where Godzilla fought King Kong. From what I read, I knew that Godzilla didn't win the fight but, even though that made me unsure about it, I was still interested in seeing the film, especially when I saw the American trailer for it on that Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies compilation. And sure enough, one time when I was at Wal-Mart with my Mom, I spotted the VHS for the movie and I immediately begged her to buy it for me. Mom was a little bit hesitant to do so, worried that I might get upset at the ending when Godzilla lost the fight but she relented and bought it. I watched it as soon as I got home that night but, since this was on a Sunday and I had to go to school the next day, I had to wait until the next morning to watch the big fight between Kong and Godzilla. When it was all over and done with, I thought that it was a fairly good movie. It never became one of my favorite Godzilla movies and it still isn't but I enjoyed it for what it was. However, that said, over time I started to become a little impatient with the film since, as I described back in my review of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, I would have to watch it immediately after that first film whenever I did a Godzilla marathon, since I didn't have Godzilla Raids Again at the time, and that would always annoy me because it wasn't one I went back to that often purely for enjoyment. As I said, I didn't hate it but there were other Godzilla movies that I would have rather been watching, which is an attitude I continued to feel towards it as I moved on into my late teens and early 20's.

As I was getting back into Godzilla hardcore during my college years, I began to wonder about the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla. Thanks to the Godzilla Compendium, I had long since learned that the dual-ending rumor about the film, which stated that each version had a different monster win the big climactic battle, was false but still, I had read that, like a lot of these films, what we got here in America was very different from what was shown in Japan. From what I had heard, the Japanese version had a lot more humor than its American counterpart and that it was written as a satire on advertising, an aspect that been virtually deleted during its Americanization process. While it sounded intriguing, I wasn't hopeful that I would ever get to see that Japanese version. Even though a fair amount of the entries in the "classic" series, such as the original Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, had recently been released on DVD in America with both versions thanks to Classic Media, as well as other, less altered entries courtesy of Sony, the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla was not among them. To this day, that original version has still not had an official American DVD release. Only Universal's American version of the film is available over here and even then, no special features have ever been released along with it, even when it was put on Blu-Ray. Since Universal is notoriously picky about what they'll give special treatment to and nothing concerning King Kong vs. Godzilla came about even when Classic Media was going full-steam ahead, releasing great DVDs of the ones they had the rights to, it didn't seem like I was ever going to see that original Japanese version. But, that all changed in the spring of 2009 when I discovered a way to get The Return of Godzilla, the original Japanese version of Godzilla 1985, which is one of my favorites, on a pristine DVD-R. After getting my hands on that and being blown away by how much it felt like an official DVD, I immediately went for any of the other Japanese versions that I didn't already have and, as you can guess, King Kong vs. Godzilla was among them.

Needless to say, I was really excited to get to see these movies the way they were originally meant to be viewed... however, after I finally watched it, the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla didn't impress me much more than the American version; in fact, I felt that the American version had been an improvement. I don't know why I felt that way. Maybe since just about all of the stuff involving the monsters had been left intact when the movie was Americanized, I was left with all of the scenes involving the satire on advertising and the more comedic moments that had been removed from the U.S. version. That wasn't a good thing because I wasn't impressed with that aspect of the film either. While there were some funny parts in my opinion, my biggest criticism towards it was why, of all the Godzilla films, would they choose this one to serve as a satire on advertising. I think I understand it more now but then, I felt that it was inappropriate to use the film that brought together the two greatest movie monsters of all time as such a vehicle. Even though I knew from everything I had read what it would be like going in, I just wished that the cinematic confrontation between King Kong and Godzilla had been treated in a more epic manner and wasn't as silly as it was. Having said that, though, upon watching the Japanese version again for this review, I can safely say that I do appreciate it more now than I did at first. I still wouldn't call it one of my absolute favorite Godzilla movies and I still think it has its fair share of flaws but, for what it is, it can be entertaining if you're in the right mindset.

The head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, Tako, is very dissatisfied with the boring science show that his company sponsors, which barely gets any ratings. Wanting desperately to boost ratings, he becomes intrigued by the claims of a scientist that he acquired some unusual berries from a small island that is supposedly the home of an enormous creature the natives there worship as a god. Feeling that a monster would be just the thing to boost the ratings, Tako orders two of his employees to journey to the island, find out if the monster is real, and bring it back to Japan if it is. Meanwhile, an American nuclear submarine, the Seahawk, is investigating a strange temperature phenomena in the Arctic Ocean when it rams into a strange, glowing iceberg. The submarine is soon destroyed in a fiery blaze and when a rescue helicopter is dispatched to assist, the pilots see Godzilla break out of the iceberg, finally free from having been buried in there for seven years. After attacking an arctic base, Godzilla begins heading back for Japan. At the same time, Sakurai and Furue, the two men whom Tako sent to Faro Island, discover that the supposed monster god is quite real: an enormous gorilla that the natives call King Kong. After dispatching a giant octopus that's attacking the main village, Kong drinks some of the berry juice that the natives had ground and the narcotic effect of the berries causes him to fall asleep. The party manages to tie Kong on a large raft and drag him back to Japan, which is currently being attacked by Godzilla. It isn't long before Kong awakens and escapes, making his way to the mainland where he first encounters Godzilla. Although their first brief battle ends with Godzilla having the upper hand, the two monsters soon pose a threat to Tokyo and while the Japanese Self-Defense Forces manage to keep Godzilla out of the city with an electrical blockade that even he can't pass, it's no match for Kong, who seems to draw strength from electricity. After doing some damage to the city, as well as carrying around Sakurai's sister, Fumiko, in his hand, Kong is once again rendered unconscious by the berries from Faro Island. Realizing that, with the electrical blockade destroyed that Tokyo is once again vulnerable to Godzilla, the defense force decides that their only course of action is to bring the two titans together at Mt. Fuji, Godzilla's current location, and hope that they will fight each other to the death.

While it's not one of my favorites, I do understand that King Kong vs. Godzilla is the most significant entry in the series outside of the original. While the original film, naturally, introduced Godzilla to the world, this is the movie that firmly established him as a lucrative franchise character because to this day, it's the highest grossing film in the series. If this film had never been made, it's possible that the Godzilla series would have only consisted of the first two films and no more. In addition, this was a very important film for Toho, seeing as how they had always wanted to make a film featuring King Kong and furthermore, saw it as a perfect way to celebrate their 30th anniversary, which is why they gave it a very hefty budget that allowed it to be filmed in both color and widescreen (as a result, this would be the first time both King Kong and Godzilla had ever been featured in a movie with those aspects). It's interesting to note that, despite the end result being a very Japanese film, the idea for it initially came from Willis O'Brien, the special effects legend of the original 1933 King Kong. O'Brien had, for a while, wanted to bring Kong back to the big screen and in 1960, he came up with an idea to pit the great ape against an enormous version of the Frankenstein monster. After getting permission from RKO to use the character of Kong, O'Brien met with producer John Beck, who promised to help him find a studio to make the film, which went through several title changes since they weren't sure whether or not Universal would allow them to use the character of the Frankenstein monster (Universal only had rights to the iconic makeup design by Jack Pierce). Since studio after studio turned down the film due to the enormous costs of stop-motion, Beck eventually took the project overseas, where it was bought by Toho on the stipulation that they could throw out the Frankenstein idea and replace it with Godzilla, whom they had been wanting to bring back to the silver screen since even Godzilla Raids Again had done good business in 1955. Beck agreed and the rest is history, although O'Brien was quite unhappy when he found out what Beck had done behind his back. O'Brien died in November of 1962 at the age of 76.

Because of how importantly this film was viewed by Toho, they made sure to get Ishiro Honda back in the director's chair for it. Although the first couple of films he made after Godzilla had been romantic dramas, Honda had, over the years, slowly but surely become Toho's go-to director for their science fiction films, starting with Half-Human in 1955 and continuing onwards with Rodan, The Mysterians, and The H-Man. After The H-Man, Honda's career would be made up entirely of science fiction, with flicks like Varan the Unbelievable, Battle in Outer Space, The Human Vapor, Mothra, and Gorath leading up to his direction of King Kong vs. Godzilla. But, even though it would undoubtedly be the most successful film he ever directed, Honda wasn't too fond of the lighter, more kid-friendly change in direction that it would bring to the series, later stating that, "I don't think a monster should ever be a comical character," and, "The public is more entertained when the great King Kong strikes fear into the hearts of the little characters." But, despite his misgivings about where the franchise was going, after this film, Honda would be at the helm of the next three Godzilla movies and his association with the series wouldn't end there either.

Besides the return of Ishiro Honda, King Kong vs. Godzilla would also see the introduction of someone who would not only shape the way the series would evolve but would also help Japanese monster movies become their own, unique subgenre rather than just Japanese interpretations of American monster flicks: screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa. A former animator who had studied alongside the legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka, Sekizawa began his screenwriting career at small studios such as Beehive (yes, that was the name of an actual studio) and Shintoho, where he actually wrote and directed a film that has never been released outside of Japan, before he was hired by Toho to write the film Varan the Unbelievable and would go on to write the screenplays for Battle in Outer Space and Gorath before working on King Kong vs. Godzilla. An individual who was very passionate about what he was doing and enjoyed it to the full, Sekizawa was a guy who loved monster movies but admitted that he had gotten bored with the typical "monster-on-the-loose" formulas, so his goal was to make the monsters in the films have as much character to them as the human leads, to have the monsters' actions react to those of the humans, as well as the other way around. Another trademark of Sekizawa's was how his screenplays were typically written to be more light-hearted, humorous, and fun rather than dark and serious like other Japanese monster movies such as the original Godzilla and Rodan. You can thank him for the more absurd and silly movies that Toho produced during this time, most notably the later Godzilla movies. Some people might not care for those films and feel that they are kind of a slap in the face to the dignity of the original movies but, if you're a fan of the Japanese monster genre as a whole, like me, you have to give Sekizawa credit because, like I said, he helped it evolve into Japan's own unique type of cinematic expression.

When I was a kid, I thought that Tadao Takashima, who plays the lead here, was Akira Takarada since the two of them look very similar. It actually wasn't until I read the Godzilla Compendium and looked at the cast that I realized it was another actor altogether. In any case, Takashima plays his role of Sakurai, whose job for Pacific Pharmaceuticals is as a cameraman, purely for comedic effect. He's a decent guy but he's pretty cynical and cranky as well, not at all enthusiastic about being sent to an island in the South Seas to look for a monster that he doesn't even believe exists. I find it odd that he doesn't believe the story about an island monster and yet he does know about Godzilla, since he panics when Furue tells him that he heard that he escaped from the iceberg. If my home country had been ravaged by two Godzillas, and, by extension, Anguirus, Rodan, and Mothra, since the latter two become part of the series, I don't think I'd be so quick to doubt the existence of another monster. In any case, Sakurai, as I said, isn't too eager about going on this expedition since he not only doesn't believe in this supposed monster but he's not enthusiastic with Tako's intention to try to use such a thing as a way to boost their television ratings. You kind of get the feeling that he's not too happy about working for Pacific Pharmaceuticals in the first place, since, before the expedition is proposed to him, he was pressed into playing the drums for another one of the company's advertisements, something that he quite clearly doesn't like since it about wears him out. But, all that said, once he and Furue depart for and arrive at Faro Island, he becomes determined to do anything he can to find out if the island's monster god really exists and, once he's sure that it does, do what he can to bring it back since he knows that Tako would kill them if they blew this opportunity. Once King Kong makes himself known and knocks himself out by drinking the strong berry juice, Sakurai comes up with the idea to build a raft big enough to hold him in order to tow him back to Japan. While he initially tries to blow Kong up along with the raft when the giant ape starts to wake up from his stupor, he goes along with Tako when Kong makes it to the mainland and films his first fight with Godzilla for their television show, doing the same for the big climactic fight between the two giants. Besides his job, Sakurai also gets somewhat frustrated with his sister, Fumiko, and her boyfriend, Kazuo Fujita, especially when she continuously goes off to be with Fujita at his apartment and leaves Sakurai with no dinner (what, can the guy not cook for himself?) Later on, when both Kong and Godzilla are right outside the electrical blockade surrounding Tokyo, Sakurai gets equally frustrated with Fumiko and Fujita when the two of them refuse to evacuate, although they soon realize that they have no choice. When Fumiko is captured by Kong while trying to evacuate, Sakurai comes up with the idea to once again knock Kong out with the berry juice and use his drums to emulate the Faro Islanders' chant to enhance the effect. And furthermore, after Fumiko is saved, Sakurai comes up with the idea to use Fujita's extremely strong, experimental wire to bring Kong to Godzilla so the two of them will fight it out. In the end, Sakurai may be a comedic, cranky lead but he's still a likable guy and does have a hand in some important things that contribute to the plot.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sakurai's buddy, Furue (Yu Fujiki), seems quite willing to take this opportunity, obviously feeling that it might lead to something for them... that is, at first. Once they get to Faro Island, Furue begins to prove that he's nothing but a coward, freaking out about being barbecued by the natives when they initially act hostile towards them, while Sakurai tries to stay as calm as he can to figure a way out of the situation. The two of them really play off each other well, with Furue at one point actually trying to leave when they're told that the village chief wants them to do so, saying, "Well, if he insists," while Sakurai pulls him back, and when Sakurai is trying to pass off a small radio as a powerful object to the chief, Furue nervously babbles something technical, even though the chief doesn't understand anything that either of them is saying and probably wouldn't get what Furue said even if he could. It gets particularly funny when the two of them, after having impressed the natives with the radio, start passing around cigarettes and don't know what to do when a little native kid wants one as well and they each actually give him one but his mother takes just one of them away! They continue to be a great comedy duo when, upon seeing the natives react in abject fear to the sight and sound of lightning and thunder, Sakurai gets all smug and confident, laughing at the natives' ignorance and at how Furue still seems shaky... but when they hear King Kong's roar mixed in with the thunder, they both start to get jittery, with Furue grabbing onto Sakurai when the two of them kneel down in fear and Sakurai telling him to let go of him. When they're traveling through the jungle to find the monster, Furue is still acting scared of his own shadow, and is especially scared at the idea of Godzilla showing up on the island. He jumps at the slightest sound he hears in the jungle and, at one point, falls down and starts panicking, flinging around a large lizard that he thinks is attacking him. Once they get back to the village, poor Furue is exhausted and freaked out, wanting desperately to leave, and later on, he's initially ecstatic when he learns that they are going home but that feeling turns to terror when he learns that they're taking Kong with them. On the boat-ride back, Furue apparently gets seasick and is absolutely miserable. He also kind of loses his mind when Tako refuses to allow them to blow Kong up with the dynamite on the raft when he's waking up, actually pulling a rifle on his boss to try to make him allow them to do so! Once they get back to Japan, though, Furue goes back to be a fairly loyal employee, recording sound for the first fight between Kong and Godzilla, helping Sakurai to save Fumiko from Kong, and accompanying Tako to the site of the climactic battle, although they miss about 4/5 of it.

After having made his first appearance in the series with a nonspeaking and extremely brief bit part in the original Godzilla, Kenji Sahara has his first major role in the franchise here as Kazuo Fujita, the boyfriend of Fumiko, Sakurai's sister. Fujita, at first, seems like he might end up being more of a spectator than an important cast member but, in reality, he contributes to the proceedings in several ways. Most importantly, the very strong, experimental wire that he's come up with, (which he has enough confidence in to hang off the outside of a balcony with it, about giving Sakurai a heart attack in process), is what is eventually used to bring King Kong and Godzilla together for their climactic battle, so, in some way, without Fujita, the big draw of the film wouldn't take place. Second, Fujita has a couple of courageous hero moments where he rushes in to save Fumiko from danger. The most impressive is the first one where, upon hearing that Fumiko has gone to Hokkaido to search for him after hearing some news that the ship he was on may have been sunk by Godzilla, Fujita races there to find Fumiko after hearing that she's heading right into Godzilla's path. He doesn't let anything, not even a military roadblock or the very fact that he's putting himself in extreme danger, stop him and it pays off because he finds Fumiko on the brink of passing out in a creek and gets her to safety, as Godzilla passes by them. Later on when they're taking part in the massive evacuation of Tokyo, Fujita becomes separated from Fumiko due to mass crowding on a train and when she takes another train that gets attacked by Kong, she's taken by the giant ape. When Kong climbs atop of the Diet Building while still holding Fumiko, Fujita becomes distraught at the fact that he can't do anything to help her this time and futilely screams at Kong to let her go. Little does Fujita know that his anguished and very melodramatic, as well as downright silly, gestures while doing so remind Sakurai and Furue of the ritual dance that the natives of Faro Island used to help coax Kong into a drunken sleep, giving them an idea of how to save Fumiko. While Fujita does put his trust in their plan, he's still so anxious to save Fumiko that he almost goes for it before Kong is completely out, forcing Furue to pull him back and tell him, "Not yet." Once Kong finally does pass out, Fujita heads straight for him as quickly as he can, takes Fumiko from his hand, and brings her back to safety. You really have to admire how brave Fujita is. He's certainly a more courageous than I could ever hope to be.

My favorite human character in the movie by far is Ichiro Arishima as Tako, the temperamental and, in some ways, borderline psychotic head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals and the embodiment of the film's take on marketing and advertizing. He's the main reason why King Kong is brought to Japan and, therefore, why there is a conflict between him and Godzilla. Despondent about the boring nature and low ratings of the science television show that his company sponsors, Tako is desperate for something to boost the company's publicity and stature. When a scientist tells him about the possibility of an enormous creature living on a remote island in the South Seas, Tako immediately becomes enamored with the prospect of his company having their own giant monster and, after ordering Sakurai and Furue to travel to the island to see if the monster really exists, he throws a big party and press conference to get the word out there. Too bad Godzilla soon bursts out of the iceberg and begins heading back for Japan, taking all the attention away from Tako's expedition. This causes Tako to come to hate Godzilla as much everyone else, not because of the death and destruction that he causes but because he stole his thunder. It all proves to be too much for Tako and he has a wire sent to Sakurai and Furue to tell them to pick up the pace in looking for the monster of Faro Island. And, of course, once they discover King Kong and all of the newspapers and magazines begin covering him instead, Tako is ecstatic and actually flies out to the ship to see Kong firsthand. Before he leaves, though, he hears someone tell these people who are questioning whether Kong or Godzilla is the stronger monster that it's not a wrestling match and Tako says, "I'll buy that: King Kong vs. Godzilla." When he arrives at the boat, he's absolutely thrilled to see Kong, almost smitten with the giant ape, waving and blowing kisses to him through the porthole of a cabin! Even when their lives are put in danger when Kong begins waking from his stupor, Tako tries to stop them from blowing the monster up and while he's initially sad when they finally manage to do so, the look on his face when Kong rises unharmed out of the water is one of sheer delight. And since he had initially considered having Kong fight Godzilla, Tako is more than overjoyed when the two monsters do end up doing so after Kong makes his way to the mainland and he has Sakurai and Furue film it for their television show. While he's not happy when Godzilla manages to force Kong to retreat, he still intends to use the big ape as publicity and enthusiastically goes along with the plan to knock Kong unconscious again rather than kill him and to have the two monsters battle a second time, although he's not happy about the thought of Kong dying along with Godzilla. Yeah, all of the property damage and deaths that Kong has caused along, with what Godzilla has done, is fine with Tako as long as Pacific Pharmaceuticals has its own monster to use as publicity.

Like I said, Tako is not only a very temperamental guy but there are also hints that he's... not all there as well, given how crazy he acts. The way he angrily talks about how boring the show that they sponsor is at the beginning of the film is only the tip of the iceberg in his nuttiness. When he's becoming interested in the idea of using a giant monster to gain publicity for the company, he seems both excited and fanatical when he talks about how it's what the company needs. He's so angry when Godzilla steals all of his press that he throws the newspapers everywhere and looks like he's about ready to throw something at the television when he sees a news report about the monster. Even when he's happy about the discovery of King Kong and the publicity that brings, he still has to throw papers up in the air while yelling, "Banzai!" a bunch of times in a row and he's overjoyed that he can't wait for them to arrive and flies out to the boat himself. His personal assistant, Obayashi (Sachio Sakai), is the one who takes the full brunt of his craziness. You can just see Obayashi shrivel up in terror when he says or does something that he knows will anger Tako, like at the party and press conference when he tells him that there aren't that many people from the press present there or when he finishes Tako's sentence for him when he's erratically and furiously telling him the message that he wants to be sent to Sakurai and Furue on Faro Island. However, despite how crazy Tako is, he's not unlikable; on the contrary, his reactions and such are so over the top and nonsensical at times that they're hilarious. The way he angrily shakes his hand Obayashi after he finishes his sentence while taking down that message is hysterical and the same goes for the other times when he loses his cool. In addition, he's also genuinely comedic, what with how he apparently walks right into something when he goes inside a supply closet to change into an expedition uniform and when he twice almost blows up King Kong by obliviously putting his hand on the lever connected to the dynamite on the raft. I already mentioned how he seems to almost be in love with Kong upon seeing him and you have to laugh at how excited and overjoyed he is about the ape making it to the mainland, to the point where he, Sakurai, and Furue try to camouflage themselves with parts of a bush in order to watch the first fight between Kong and Godzilla. He's so much like a big kid that he even gets into an argument with two teenagers about which monster is stronger. I could go on and describe all of the other silly things that Tako does in the film but I think it's best for you to see the movie for yourself rather than have me spoil everything. I will end here with the fact that Tako ultimately lets Kong return home at the end of the movie, feeling it's not worth the trouble. He seems genuinely sad and maybe he should be. Who knows if Pacific Pharmaceuticals will survive much longer without their big "sponsor?"

The two main female characters, Sakurai's sister Fumiko (Mie Hama) and her friend Tamiye (Akiko Wakabayashi), are both very lovely, especially Fumiko. It's small wonder that both of them were chosen to be Bond girls in the film You Only Live Twice (Mie Hama's IMDB page has an image of her in her bikini from that movie as her picture there). As for their characters, it's not worth talking about Tamiye since she's only in a few scenes and doesn't do much except comfort Fumiko when she's feeling lonely with nobody around and inform her that Fujita's ship has gone missing. As for Fumiko, she's obviously very fond of Fujita, to the point where it really annoys Sakurai, especially when she sneaks off to see him and leave her brother alone with no dinner. Later on in the film, she refuses to evacuate because she doesn't think it would be worth it, given that King Kong and Godzilla aren't like natural disasters that you can take shelter from, and when Fujita considers staying behind, she naturally agrees with him. But, they eventually have no choice but to evacuate when Kong manages to break through Tokyo's electrical blockade and it's not too long before Fumiko wishes that the two of them left sooner. Poor Fumiko ends up getting herself into very perilous situations where she has to face both monsters by herself. When she goes to Hokkaido to search for Fujita after hearing that his ship was possibly sunk by Godzilla, she unknowingly puts herself right in the monster's path. With Godzilla approaching, she and everyone else has to evacuate the train but she gets left behind when the truck that's transporting the passengers to safety gets filled to capacity. Somehow, Fumiko ends up completely alone, separated from the other stragglers, and tries to find her way through the dense forests around the mountains, all the while with Godzilla not too far behind. I don't think that Godzilla is purposefully chasing Fumiko here but rather that she just can't get out of his path. Regardless, she almost passes out in a mountain stream from exhaustion, where she is saved just in time by Fujita. I can't help but find it funny when, as the two of them are sitting in Fujita's jeep as Godzilla passes by, Fumiko calls him an idiot a bunch of times in rapid succession and sounds like a chicken in the process since she's saying, "Baka!" Fumiko may recover from that harrowing experience but she gets herself into another one when she gets separated from Fujita while trying to evacuate from Tokyo and the train she's forced to take is picked up by King Kong. Upon spotting her hanging on from the inside of the train, Kong picks her up and starts carrying her around the city, all while Fumiko is screaming bloody murder and calling for help. After being stuck in the giant ape's hand for what seems like an eternity, Fumiko is finally saved when the military uses missiles filled with the berry juice to knock Kong unconscious again and is carried off to receive medical attention (I'm not sure if it's because the berry juice-laden exploding fumes may have had an adverse effect on her or if it's because they want to make sure that Kong didn't squeeze her too tight; of course, it could be because of the trauma she's suffered).

Another notable character in the film is Konno (Senkichi Omura), the jittery translator who speaks to the natives of Faro Island for Sakurai and Furue and tries his best to convince the island chief to allow them to stay, although Sakurai himself has to do that when Konno fails. Omura was an actor very adept at comedy and he gets to show that off here, with the hilarious facial expressions that he makes during really stressful moments (for that matter, his face is just naturally silly-looking) and the way he desperately tries to make his case to the chief but gets verbally beaten down by the guy. His acting is especially funny when he tries to talk to the chief a second time and when he gets terrified that their god is not happy when they hear the sound of thunder. While the Prime Minister (Sensho Matsumoto) doesn't have that much importance in the plot, he's the one who ultimately decides that, with the electrical blockade and Tokyo now vulnerable to Godzilla, their best course of action is to bring him and King Kong together and hope that they will kill each other in battle. Throughout the film, you're either introduced to or recognize some actors who are familiar faces in Toho's science fiction films. Akihiko Hirata, who played Dr. Serizawa in the original Godzilla, returns to the series here in the brief role of Shigezawa, the minister of defense. He doesn't do much except give information and advice as the authority figure that he is, as well as some moral at the end about learning from the plants and animals that really comes out of nowhere, but it's nice to see him in another Godzilla movie and this won't be his last appearance in the franchise either. Jun Tazaki, a burly older actor who would pop in several of the following films, makes his first appearance in the series here as General Shinzo. Like Shigezawa, there isn't much to the character since all he does is serve the function of his position and give orders, although at one point he does say he'll take responsibility for any criticism of his actions if he's forced to move against Godzilla before getting the okay from the Prime Minister, but again, he's worth noting due to the introduction of this familiar actor and because I could buy that guy as a big, tough general. And while he only appears in one scene that's present only in this version of the film, Yoshifumi Tajima makes his first series appearance here as the captain of the ship Fujita uses for his business travels.

There are two more groups of characters in this film that I'd like to comment on. One is the crew and passengers of the American submarine, the Seahawk, which ends up crashing into the iceberg that Godzilla is trapped inside of. There are two things that are noteworthy here. One is that a lot of these people are actually American, including Douglas Fein who plays the captain, Gary Collins as one of the submariners, and Harold Conway, who had appeared in some previous Toho flicks like The Mysterians, Battle in Outer Space, and Mothra, as one of the scientists aboard the sub. The other thing I have to mention is that not one of these guys can act for the love of crap! Years before I saw the Japanese version, I had read that even the English-speaking actors who appeared in it had been dubbed over for the American release because of how bad their acting was but I could never, ever have imagined how awful they truly were. Every time I watch this version, I cringe during these scenes aboard the sub. Their inflections are all wrong and unconvincing and the stereotypical American military accents they put on are just embarrassing. One of the actors here, Osman Yusuf, was a Turkish actor born in Japan and no doubt couldn't speak very good English anyway so I shouldn't rag on him too much (not that it matters, since I don't have a clue which one he is) but for the rest of these guys, it's small wonder why a lot of them were hardly, if ever, seen on film again (this is the only film credit that Fein has on IMDB). And before I forget, the same goes for the American helicopter pilots who fly in to search for the Seahawk. Again, horrible actors. The one named Al apparently knows he can't act, since he doesn't say anything at all, but the other guy? Whew, boy. And it's really awkward to hear him yell, "It's Gojira!" as well. I know he had no choice since it was the Japanese version but Gojira sounds best when spoken in a Japanese dialect; when spoken in an English one, it doesn't feel right.

I also want to make mention of the natives of Faro Island because there are definitely some interesting things to note. One is that they're all Japanese actors wearing makeup that makes them look darkly skinned! Konno is depicted in the same way to suggest that he's a less primitive inhabitant of this region. They probably did this to avoid offending the Ainu people, which they had previously with their depictions of them in the films Half-Human (which was so bad that you virtually can't get a copy of that film's original Japanese version) and Varan the Unbelievable, but it's still odd to see and difficult to buy them as inhabitants of a primitive island in the South Seas. In any case, there are several notable members of the tribe, with one of them being the stern chief (Yoshio Kosugi), who is quite intimidating at first when Sakurai, Furue, and Konno are unwelcome visitors but immediately loses that vibe when he starts laughing happily upon being introduced to radio and cigarettes by the newcomers. The part where he first hears the radio and looks underneath it to try to figure out where the sound is coming from is hysterical. Another noteworthy member of the tribe is Chikiro (Haruo Hirano), a little native boy who first appears when he wants a cigarette like everyone else, prompting to Sakurai to groan, "Damn, when it rains, it pours," and then actually give him a cigarette, along with Furue, telling him not to say where he got it from! Right then is when his mother (Akemi Negishi) takes one of the cigarettes from him, giving Sakurai and Furue something of a dirty look, although I don't know how she'd know cigarettes are unhealthy, especially in 1962, and lights it herself. Speaking of her, later on, after she and Chikiro are nearly killed when a giant octopus attacks the hut that they're trapped in, she joins the other natives in the tribal dance that helps put King Kong out after he guzzles down a bunch of the berry juice and, man. You get a shot of her wracking her hips back and forth and then doing the same with her torso while throwing her head back a couple of times, all while she's wearing a grass skirt and a coconut bra, which is all she ever wears, I might add! Suggestive doesn't even begin to cover it, especially when she's joined by a bunch of other, equally sexy native women. It's probably the most provocative moment ever in a Godzilla movie and, if you liked it, well, don't get used to it because that's not what this series is about at all and you'll never see anything close to it again.

Not only is King Kong vs. Godzilla the highest grossing film in the series and the movie that ensured its longevity but it also marks a turning point in the franchise's direction. In stark contrast to the extremely dark and brooding original film and the still straightforward, if bland, Godzilla Raids Again, this film is a very light and comical affair that, despite its satirical elements, goes more for pure entertainment than anything else. Ishiro Honda himself even once said that his intention was to make a movie that was fun first and foremost and Toho was more than happy to go along with that sentiment, no doubt because, with the money they had invested in the film, they needed to appeal to a wider audience than the previous films. This was also due to the influence of Shinichi Sekizawa, who not only injected the film's screenplay with its sense of humor but had proved with his script for Mothra the previous year that monster movies could be light-hearted entertainment rather than grim, humorless affairs and that the monsters themselves could be treated as actual characters and even as heroes, as King Kong is here. In keeping with this feeling, not only do a lot of the characters here act silly but the same goes for the two monsters, who sometimes act like out and out buffoons. Eiji Tsuburaya was also more than happy to help move the series in this direction in order to appeal more to children and, save for the next film, from this movie onward, he made sure to have the suit actors throw in silly, humanlike qualities whenever the opportunity presented itself. As I said, not everybody was in favor of this, including Honda who, despite his being all for making an entertaining film, didn't think the monsters should be dumbed down as a result, and fans to this day are still split as to whether they prefer the lighter, more family-oriented entries or the dark, serious ones like the original Godzilla. For me, personally, I think there's room for both. As much as I enjoy the dark and somber feeling of the original movie as well as that of some of the later movies like The Return of Godzilla and such, I'm also not above just having fun while watching a Godzilla film and I think that a good portion of the more light-hearted entries deliver that without fail. By extension, while I do enjoy him when he's a bad-ass bringer of death and destruction, I also enjoy seeing Godzilla act more humanlike and comical at times because I think it's pretty frigging funny and entertaining if it's done right. Plus, since he's the center of the franchise, I think it's only natural that Godzilla develop a personality all his own, which this film has the first hints of, since it would get pretty boring if he didn't (a major problem that many of the entries in the Millennium series have, I might add). So, I for one don't mind this humanization of Godzilla and the other monsters and, given this film's enormous success, apparently neither did audiences of the time. Toho was more than happy to go along with it and give the public what they wanted which, save for notable exceptions here and there, led to the original series of films adopting this light-hearted tone for the rest of its run.

As has been said, King Kong vs. Godzilla is written as a satire of advertising and marketing, with the two monsters' effects on the media of Japan being displayed full front and, for that matter, you could see the sort of battle the two of them have in the press, with the highest amount of attention going back and forth from one to the other, as a satirical extension of their actual battle. Speaking of which, their very confrontation is a result of one man's greed and desire for his company's public profile to be much higher. Tako is so obsessed with the exposure that Kong and his bout with Godzilla will bring to Pacific Pharmaceuticals that the death and property damage that the monsters cause mean absolutely nothing to him; in fact, he is directly responsible for all of the terror and destruction that Kong causes since it was his idea to bring him to Japan and, again, it's no skin off his nose, with him going as far as to try to make sure that Kong himself isn't killed. Some may feel that Tako is so over the top and crazy that it kind of undermines the satire's effectiveness but I think he had to be portrayed as a caricature because, if he'd been played straighter, it wouldn't have been so easy to enjoy him and not think about the fact that he's responsible for the destruction wrought by Kong. Plus, another reason why everyone is so broad in how they act here is because the film takes a lot of cues from a series of "salaryman" comedies that satirized office politics and were very successful for Toho at the time. Even some of the actors in the film had appeared in those movies, making the connection even more clear. And, while I didn't like or understand it when I first saw the movie, I now have an appreciation for why this entry in the series was used a vehicle for such satire. The reason is, why not? If you had two enormous and yet very different creatures appear at the same and go as far as to threaten to fight each other, the press would undoubtedly have a field day with it and some sources may decide to cover different monsters, depending on which one seems to be the most popular with the public. You might think it a ridiculous notion that either one of these monsters who could potentially destroy an entire country would gain some popularity with the very public that they're threatening but, think about it: you've got a giant ape and a gigantic, radioactive dinosaur. Wouldn't either one of those appeal to some people, despite how potentially dangerous they are to national security? Despite all of the destruction he causes upon breaking out of the iceberg, at one point Obayashi that there's a movie to be made about him as a result of all the press coverage! I think the fact of the matter is clear.

The film also kind of makes fun of itself by realizing how absurd the premise of two enormous monsters coming together to fight it out is and, instead of a clash of two legendary titans, treating it like an enormous wrestling match. Now, while I personally think that a battle between arguably the two greatest movie monsters of all time should be handled with a little more respect and dignity (hopefully, that'll be the case if the movie is ever remade) but that said, the wrestling match angle here is effective for what it is. Throughout the film, not only are there discussions about which monster is the strongest, as if they are two popular wrestlers who each have their own diehard fans (even Tako gets into such an argument) but there's actually a moment where a couple of guys mention having bet on a potential winner for the battle should it occur. In fact, not only do the monsters fight like wrestlers but their first confrontation, where they come towards each other from either side and square off and taunt each other upon finally meeting, feels like something you would see during such a match in real life. All of this was not lost on Toho and they had the film's marketing play up the wrestling match scenario, with the theatrical trailer having camerawork that seems to zoom in on the monsters while they're posing and getting ready for the bout in their corners and Toho even printed out press sheets that claimed to have quotes from King Kong and Godzilla, talking about their upcoming battle and trash-talking about each other. Is that not great or what? While I still would have liked a more serious approach to this battle, after doing research on how it was put together and promoted, it's hard not to smile and get caught up in the vibe they were trying to create with the film.

Some have read the bout between King Kong and Godzilla, both icons of their respective countries' cultures, as having political implications and signifying the relationship between America and the United States. It is easy to think of it that way, especially given how there was still some tension between the two countries at the time, with there being a lot of anti-America feelings amongst the Japanese public. According to one of the crew members, even Ishiro Honda himself once said that the battle between the monsters was to symbolize the conflict between the countries. However, there's one little detail that kind of skewers the whole idea: in both versions of the film, King Kong, the monster meant to be symbolic of America, wins! If there were some serious political motivations behind the monsters' bout, why would the Japanese filmmakers allow the American monster to win against the Japanese one? I guess you could say that Honda intended for the outcome to symbolize Japan's defeat at the hands of the U.S. at the end of World War II but, at the same time, I find it a little hard to believe that a country with as much pride as Japan would make a politically charged monster movie where the monsters represent both them and America and have the American one succeed in the end. Maybe I don't know as much about Japan as I should, which is possible, but still, that just boggles my mind. For that matter, there's a more practical reason as to why Kong comes out on top at the end. Not only was he much more popular than Godzilla, who was a relative newcomer at the time, but Kong is the more heroic of the two monsters here. Despite how goofy he sometimes acts in this movie, Godzilla was still a threat to Japan at this point and, even though everyone ultimately hopes that the two of them will kill each other in their fight, given the destruction that they've both caused, Kong is fundamentally used as a means to defeat Godzilla when it becomes clear that he will eventually return to attack the now defenseless Tokyo. Some may argue that, since we don't see the actual end to the fight due to the monsters falling into the ocean, it's not exactly clear who won but, regardless, Toho confirmed that Kong was indeed the winner in one of their brochures for the international sales market. Ultimately, despite what Honda really intended or what anyone else may get from the film, I just see the battle between Kong and Godzilla as nothing more than a great gimmick and a very lucrative way to sell film tickets, which it was.

While we're on the subject, let's address a long-lived, persistent rumor about the film's ending that somehow became accepted in the mainstream as fact. Since the 1970's, it's often been said that the two versions of King Kong vs. Godzilla each have a different monster win the climactic fight, with King Kong coming out on top in the American version while Godzilla wins in the Japanese version. I remember first reading about this supposed dual-ending in both of those Crestwood House monster books about Godzilla and King Kong that I often checked out from my school library and in both books, it was reported as fact. To my very young mind at the time, since it was talked about in books that were written by adults who, of course, were more well-informed than I was, it had to be true. So, for a long time, I accepted the dual-ending as being the truth and I often wished that I could somehow see the version where my favorite of the two monsters wins the battle. As I said back in my introduction to this review, it wasn't until I read the Godzilla Compendium when I was ten years old that I learned that the supposed dual-ending was nothing more than a myth of popular culture and that Kong is the victor in both versions. Honestly, I don't remember having much of a reaction to finding that out. You'd think I would have been rather surprised to learn that but I guess by that point, I had grown somewhat complacent and felt that even if the rumor was true, there was no way I would have been able to see that Japanese version of the film. (At least, I think that was my mindset. It's been so long ago that I don't remember it very clearly.) In any case, I was far from the only one who believed that rumor. From what I can gather, it was first reported in an issue of Spacemen magazine, a sister magazine to the more well-known Famous Monsters of Filmland, and was reprinted in a couple of issues of Famous Monsters in the 1970's. It eventually became accepted in the mainstream pop-culture and would persist for years to come, going so far as to be a question in the game Trivia Pursuit and, as late as 1995, it was once again reported as fact by The New York Times (I've read that the L.A. Times made the same mistake as well). Since it was virtually impossible for Americans to see the Japanese versions of any Godzilla films back then, it was small wonder that the rumor persisted as long as it did. But, once the Japanese version became more widely available due to DVD-Rs and websites and dealers who specialized in this stuff, as well as just with the advent of the internet in general, the myth pretty much became dispelled. Undoubtedly, there are still many who haven't seen the Japanese version and don't know that the dual-ending rumor isn't true but, if you're one of those people, take it from me and other hardcore Godzilla fans when we say that Kong wins in both versions.

An interesting question is, how did that rumor get started in the first place? We know that it was first reported in a film magazine but how did people get that idea to begin with? Nobody really knows. It's possible that Henry Saperstein, a producer who would become heavily involved in later Toho productions such as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and War of the Gargantuas, may have stated the rumor in a press release a few years after the release of the American version (I don't know why he would have done that, though). It also could have been a result of what I was talking about earlier, that if the battle between King Kong and Godzilla was meant to be symbolic of the conflict between the United States and Japan, it seems odd that the Japanese filmmakers would have allowed the American monster to succeed. With that attitude in mind, some must have figured that the alterations to the original Japanese version for the American release included an alternate ending where Kong comes out the victor, while the original cut had the Japanese monster trounce his American foe. Given how the films were still being extensively altered at this point for their release in the U.S. (as we'll see, while the ending remains the same, the two versions of King Kong vs. Godzilla are quite different, nevertheless), such a change wouldn't have been too farfetched. In the end, it'll probably never be known exactly how this double ending rumor got started but, regardless, I still see it as an interesting example of how rumor can be accepted as fact by the mainstream.

Even though he wouldn't start to turn from a bad guy into a good guy for another two films, Godzilla is portrayed here with a sense of anthropomorphic exuberance and flair instead of animalism or out and out menace. Granted, when he first emerges from the iceberg, he wastes a nearby base in the arctic and, upon arriving in Japan, destroys a train but when he has his first fight with King Kong, he starts acting noticeably... different. When he first sees Kong, Godzilla starts to act very excited, like an overgrown kid who's found somebody to "play" with. After demonstrating his atomic breath on a helicopter that gets too close, Godzilla again starts gesturing very excitedly by moving his arms very enthusiastically and bouncing his upper body up and down. Even when Kong begins tossing boulders at him, Godzilla stays in his jolly mood and ultimately ignites the trees in front of him, as well as singes Kong's fur, with his atomic breath. After having done so twice, Godzilla continues roaring happily and we not only see him bounce around excitedly again, like he's had too much caffeine, but he also appears to clap his hands before continuing on his way, all the while roaring at the slowly retreating Kong, as if he's mocking him. Godzilla continues to seem energetic and happy when he enters the area where the military have set a trap, looking around in a curious manner and constantly flopping his tail up and down. Even after he climbs out of the army's enormous pit after having fallen right into it, his mood doesn't seem to have soured at all. It feels almost as if he were angry and strictly out for revenge against Japan when he first broke out of the iceberg but now, after having some fun with Kong, it's like his spirits have been lifted and he's now causing destruction purely for his own entertainment. Those good feelings do clearly diminish a little bit when he's unable to get by the electrical blockade surrounding Tokyo but that seem to come back in an instant when he sees the helicopters carrying Kong towards him at Mt. Fuji. He looks very happy to see Kong again and starts walking towards him before he's ultimately dropped from the helicopters. Even though the first thing that happens is Kong slides right into him after being dropped, Godzilla very eagerly gets back on his feet and starts chasing the big ape. When he follows him around the bend on the mountain, he curiously looks for Kong and, after he manages to throw the ape off of his tail when he grabs hold of it, Godzilla again starts bouncing up and down and clapping his hands. He's again acting like an oversized kid who was bored and is now happy to have a "playmate," i.e. someone he can rough up. Throughout the fight, while Kong is seriously trying to defend himself and defeat his adversary, Godzilla just seems to be having an absolute ball, be it when he's singeing Kong's fur again with his atomic breath, rolling down the mountainside while grappling with him, and trying to bury him in rocks while whacking him with his tail and setting fire to the trees around him. Naturally, when Kong gets his strength back from the lightning, Godzilla is the one on the defensive and is now as leery of the ape as he was of Godzilla before but, up until then, Godzilla is like a large five-year old who's having a lot of fun fighting and hurting his opponent.

In stark contrast to the rather lackluster design I thought he had in Godzilla Raids Again, I really like the way Godzilla looks here. He's much bulkier here than he was previously, which I think is good, his claws are positively enormous, and this is also where I think he looks the most like an actual dinosaur, especially in the face and head, which has the strong appearance of an alligator to me. The face is one of the reasons why I think Godzilla looks really happy throughout the film. Doesn't it look like he's got a big smile? Speaking of the head, the effects crew did make some puppet heads for some shots of Godzilla firing his atomic breath that were ultimately cut, although you can see them in the Japanese theatrical trailer. I don't know why they were cut, though. Judging from the trailer, they look okay to me. In any case, there were many changes in the details of this suit from the previous one that stuck for the rest of the original series of films: the ears were taken away, the number of toes on Godzilla's feet were reduced from four to three, and the middle row of dorsal plates were made very large while the side rows were significantly diminished in size. Being that this is Godzilla's first color film, not only can we now see that he's gray in color but also that his atomic breath, as well as the color of his glowing dorsal plates before he fires it, is blue. Speaking of which, while it's still an "atomic breath" and not yet the concentrated beam of energy that it would eventually become, it's now looking a bit like a ray in shape when he fires it. Obviously, the changes to Godzilla's appearance were meant to go along with the lighter, more comical tone of this particular film (although, I still don't get why eliminating both of his ears, two of his toes, and making his central row of dorsal plates bigger was considered a good way to make him seem less threatening) and another way they made him more kid-friendly was alter his roar from a deep, threatening bellow to a high-pitched cry. While he still makes some threatening sounds in this film, such as a roar that remains very low and angry-sounding throughout its duration as well as the same roar that he made when he was almost completely buried in ice in the previous film, for the most part this film serves as the introduction of the high-pitched screeching roar that would become Godzilla's most famous sound and last throughout the rest of the original series, albeit with slight variations here and there as the movies went on. His roar in this film and the next has some different variations to it. They typically alternate between having a soft ending tone to a more hard-sounding one and there's another that he starts like normal but follows through with a very empty, shallow sound. Plus, he often belts out the start of his cry and then stops, making it sound kind of like he's barking.

If we're being totally honest, the giant ape in this film that goes by the name "King Kong" is basically him in name only. Make no mistake, this is not the same ape from the classic 1933 original and there are a couple of reasons why that is. One, Kong was definitively killed at the end of that film, and so was his son during the climax of The Song of Kong, so there's no way that this could be the same ape we saw in either of those films. In fact, they basically retell the story of the original film by having Pacific Pharmaceutical discover the existence of the island and send an expedition there to discover if its supposed monster god really exists, much like how Carl Denham became aware of Skull Island and embarked on a filmmaking expedition to check out both it and its legend, further proving that this is a completely different reality than the one those two films took place in. And second, the original King Kong was something like 25 feet tall (publicity often had him at 50 feet), whereas this one is just a little bit shorter than Godzilla, who's over 150 feet. Basically, what I'm getting at is that you have to think of this oversized gorilla as Toho's version of King Kong rather than as the exact same character that was originally created by Merian C. Cooper (actually, the character of Kong has been reinterpreted and remade so many times over the decades that he's never been a character with a concrete foundation or characterization that's been carried through a series of films, unlike Godzilla). Now that we've got that out of the way, like I said before, Kong seems to be the monster that has the more serious personality of the two. While Godzilla acts like a big, silly kid during the majority of their encounters, Kong isn't playing around at all and is really trying to defend himself from and defeat this very tough opponent that he's been put up against. You have to feel bad for the big ape since he's been taken away from his home, is now stuck in a strange land that he isn't familiar with, and has run-ins with this dinosaur-monster that can spew forth radioactive fire hot enough to severely singe Kong's fur. That's another thing about Kong. When he and Godzilla first meet up when he makes it to Japan, Kong attempts to intimidate him by pounding his chest and roaring at him but when Godzilla demonstrates his atomic breath by blowing up a passing helicopter, Kong is clearly stunned and realizes that this isn't going to be an enemy he can easily defeat. When he feels the full brunt of Godzilla's power during their first encounter, Kong knows that he's beat and walks away while rubbing his head, no doubt befuddled since he's never encountered a foe this challenging before. When Kong is forced to fight Godzilla again at Mt. Fuji, the ape seems to panic and attempt to get away and after he's dropped down on Godzilla, it looks as if Kong's running away. But then we see that he's hiding and waiting for an opportunity to get the drop on Godzilla. Now that he's seen what Godzilla can do, Kong knows that he has to use some strategy to fight him. Even though Godzilla has the upper hand during the first half of their big fight, Kong doesn't give up and keeps at him, and when he's revitalized by the lightning, turning the tables, he gives Godzilla some brutal payback for all of the crap he's done to him.

I think somebody needs to start going to AA.
For an ape, Kong definitely knows how to fight and that's due to the actor playing him, Shoichi Hirose, an extremely strong and muscular man who was adept at martial arts. He really got to show off his amazing physical abilities during the fights, particularly in a moment during the latter half of the climactic battle when Kong flips Godzilla over his shoulder. You might think that the Godzilla suit was empty for that shot but on the contrary, Haruo Nakajima was actually inside of it and got flipped hard on his back. I've heard that Hirose was particularly proud of that moment and also enjoyed just beating on Nakajima and throwing him around. Make no mistake, he really helped make Kong come across as a very tough and physical fighter, with the way he was able to move around very agilely inside of that suit and demonstrate those amazing feats of strength I mentioned. Isn't it just amazing how strong and graceful some of these guys are, especially when they're doing this stuff inside of some very bulky, hot suits? Unfortunately, despite how physically impressive Hirose's performance makes Kong look, there are some aspects to the character that I don't care for. I don't like the fact that he's basically addicted to the berry juice that the Faro Islanders make and guzzles it down to the point where he passes out. I know they needed a way for Sakurai and Furue to bring him back to Japan but they did have to make him come across as something of an alcoholic or a drug addict? And when he's knocked out by the military exploding some rockets filled with that berry juice above his head, it kind of undermines his power for me (I guess it's better than him being susceptible to hypnosis in the latter Toho film, King Kong Escapes). Second, the part where he picks up Fumiko while he's going through Tokyo feels very contrived. I guess they figured that since it's King Kong, they had to have him pick up and carry around a woman at some point but regardless, it still comes out of nowhere. At no point in this film did it seem like this Kong had an interest in human females, so what was it about Fumiko that caused him to become infatuated with her? Mie Hama is really beautiful, like I said, so I guess Kong just has good taste, but it still feels like the only reason they did that is because it's a tradition with the character as well as with giant apes in general. And finally, there's the concept that Kong draws strength from electricity. I think that was a holdover from the original concept of one of the monsters being a Frankenstein creature but nevertheless, you want to talk about something being contrived! I never liked that, even when I was a kid. I'm guessing they gave him that ability as a way for him to fight back against Godzilla but it's so forced and nonsensical. Yeah, it seems weird for me to be complaining that something is nonsensical in one of these films, especially given some of the later monsters Godzilla would battle, but this one in particular just bugs me. I especially don't like how Godzilla has Kong on the ropes during the climactic fight but once Kong is revitalized by lightning and has electrical power coursing through his fingertips, he totally dominates Godzilla and just kicks his ass. It seems like they could have come up with something a little better than that but whatever.

A lot of people consider the King Kong suit in this film to be one of the weakest monster suits produced for a Toho film and I have to say that I agree. Kong's very look is one of the worst aspects of this film and, like his addiction to the berry juice, takes away from his power in my opinion. Since he intended for this film to appeal more to kids, Eiji Tsuburaya didn't want Kong to look too scary but that didn't mean he had to make him look out and out crappy! I wish that Kong's fur was black like that of an actual gorilla instead of being reddish-brown and I also wish he didn't look so moldy and moth-bitten. His chest looks pretty fake, like it's made of plastic, and the hands don't look much better, especially when they're in close-up. And was it necessary to give Kong claws, something that apes don't have? But the worst thing about the Kong suit is the head. It's... well, look at it in these images! Doesn't it just look bad with how expressionless and fake it is? After a while, it looks as if Kong's cheeks have been bruised because they suddenly appear red and stay that way for the rest of the movie (maybe they were always like that and I just didn't notice, although I've read that the suit had two separate masks). They managed to get a little more expression out of the puppet and model heads, like when Kong blinks in surprise after Godzilla demonstrates his atomic breath and when he appears to smack his lips in satisfaction after drinking the berry juice (that's another thing those heads could do that the suit's head couldn't: open the mouth), but the design of them still look really bad. In fact, I think they look a little worse than the suit's head. I hate to rag on the design of the suit so much because I know that they were limited with the time and materials they had, as well as with Tsuburaya's desire to make the monsters more kid-friendly, but I have to be honest: Kong simply looks like crap in this movie. I like his roar, though, which is a very loud, thunderous, and rather threatening bellow that he often does while beating on his chest. He also has some short, snorting growls as well as a rather weird-sounding, sliding sort of growl/roar and a much shorter version of his typical roar that he does occasionally. The sounds created for Kong were modified and used as some of the cries of other monsters, such as the two title characters of War of the Gargantuas and most notably as the roar of King Caesar in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Since the original King Kong was one of the films that inspired him, Eiji Tsuburaya leapt at the chance to work on King Kong vs. Godzilla. Since they were dealing with the character, Tsuburaya and Ishiro Honda originally considered doing all of the special effects work in the film through stop-motion rather than using suits but, as had been the case when it was suggested for the original Godzilla, they didn't have the time or the money to do so. In any case, while it's impossible not to like Tsuburaya's enthusiasm for the project, I'd be lying if the special effects in the film were absolutely flawless; instead, it's more half and half. On the plus side, the models and miniatures are still top notch (well the miniature tanks during Godzilla's attack on the arctic base are clearly fake), they look great when they're smashed or set on fire, and the Godzilla suit in this film as awesome. On the downside, you not only have the aforementioned badly designed King Kong suit but some very noticeably bad matting and compositing effects whenever the actors are put in the same shot with the monsters. It's obvious that they hadn't yet mastered using blue screen shots for color film because the matted elements, be they real actors or body parts of a monster, have either a blueness or, at the very least, a lighter look to them that's impossible not to notice. Another instance of bad, as well as downright weird, compositing comes after Kong has been knocked out with the berry juice-filled rockets in Tokyo and the soldiers are tying strands of Fujita's wire around him in order to transport him to Mt. Fuji. Notice how the soldiers running back and forth across Kong's chest and such look like herky-jerky animation. Maybe they were created using that process but regardless, it just looks weird, especially since they either keep doing the same action over and over again or they just stand there while their bodies flicker, as if they are just pieces of animation. And as you can see, the soldiers in the foreground look very blue. Ever since I was a little kid, I thought that looked bizarre and I still do. Speaking of this section of the movie, when Kong is carrying Fumiko around in his hand, shots that just showed her were done with Mie Hama sitting inside a large replica of his hand that was positioned in front of a blue screen (you can actually see those shots before they put the background elements behind the hand in the Japanese trailer) whereas shots where you saw both Kong and Fumiko where done with Shoichi Hirose carrying around an unconvincing-looking little doll. When it's a really far-off shot of Kong, the doll works since you can't see it in any detail but in others where you do get close to it, such as in a shot where Kong is looking down at Fumiko, it's obvious that it's a little toy whose hands they're very slightly manipulating off-screen. It really looks bad in the close-up of Kong's hand where he slowly loosens his grip on Fumiko after he's conked out.

While they weren't able to use stop-motion for the entire film, the filmmakers did manage to employ it for a couple of brief moments, such as when the giant octopus on Faro Island grabs hold of one of the natives and swings him around a little bit before finally flinging back onto the ground and during a moment in the climactic battle where Godzilla kicks Kong and sends him rolling backwards down the side of Mt. Fuji. While the latter moment is really great simply because it's interesting to see Godzilla created purely through stop-motion, the animation involving the octopus doesn't integrate well with the big practical tentacles they were using as well as when it's animated in front of the footage of the real octopus on a miniature set (the way the native gets grabbed looks awkward too). Speaking of which, yes, Tsuburaya and his team took a cue from movies like Tarantula, The Beginning of the End, The Giant Gila Monster, and such and put a real octopus on a miniature set while filming it as it moved around (they got it to move where they wanted by blowing hot air on it). Four octopi were used in all and while three of them were released after filming was completed, the fourth one ended up being Tsuburaya's dinner! Hey, the Japanese love their sushi. For shots of both the octopus and Kong during the brief battle that he has with it, some rubber octopi were used, one of which was covered in plastic wrap to give the impression of slime and mucus. Again, it's obviously fake since the thing barely moves in those shots and it close-ups, the plastic wrap becomes fairly obvious (also, as a result, the octopus inexplicably changes color from brownish-red to white). And while we're on the subject, this would start an odd trend in Toho's monster movies where a giant octopus would show up. Tsuburaya apparently had some sort of interest in octopi and even suggested that Godzilla be one in the original movie before it was decided to make him a mutated dinosaur. After this film, Tsuburaya would go on to include a giant octopus in an alternate ending for Frankenstein Conquers the World and in the opening of War of the Gargantuas before the green Gargantua makes his first appearance. Going back to Kong and Godzilla one last time, there are some far-off shots of the two of them during the latter part of their final battle where they're clearly two rod-puppets being moved up and down to simulate fighting (in some moments there, it looks like they're humping each other!) All in all, I don't think these are some of the best special effects that Tsuburaya and his crew pulled off and it feels like the color and the brighter picture that creates made the fakeness of some of them all the more apparent.

Godzilla breaks out of the iceberg he was trapped after the American nuclear submarine the Seahawk crashes into it. I'm not sure if that is what actually allows Godzilla to get out or if he was already in the process of doing so and the Seahawk just happened to slam into him at that time (probably the latter, since his atomic power was already causing the iceberg to glow) but regardless, after crashing into the berg, the captain orders the deployment of a mayday water signal that comes in the form of a green dye that creates a marker in front of the iceberg. (By the way, when I was a kid, I didn't understand that the green liquid that appears came from the sub and since it looks a lot like urine, I thought it was Godzilla relieving himself from inside the iceberg!) However, the marker soon proves to be of no use to them as Godzilla destroys the sub by igniting its interior. An American rescue helicopter soon arrives to search for the sub but all they find is the marker. They also get there just in time to see Godzilla burst his way out of the iceberg. After freeing himself, Godzilla heads for a nearby Arctic base, which immediately goes into action and deploys a squadron of tanks as well as uses their gun turrets to attack him as he approaches. Naturally, Godzilla isn't fazed by this and once he comes ashore, he makes short work of some of the tanks with his atomic breath. As the other tanks retreat, Godzilla begins smashing the base with his feet and tail, toppling a tower over with the latter before setting fire to more bunkers with his atomic breath. After doing that, he turns around and creates another fire that spreads through the trees and eventually surrounds and causes a couple of gas tanks to explode, literally capping off his first appearance with a bang.

On Faro Island, after hearing the roar of King Kong and almost getting crushed by an enormous landslide that the monster ape causes when they go out into the jungle to find him, Sakurai, Furue, and the natives have to do with the giant octopus that appears and attacks a hut containing the native boy Chikiro and his mother. As the two of them try to avoid being crushed as the octopus slides over the top of the hut, the other attempt to drive it off, with little success. It pays no attention whatsoever to the spears the natives throw at it and shrugs off the rifle shots that Sakurai gives it. Eventually, the octopus grabs one native with its tentacle and flings him around in the air, back and forth, before finally tossing him back on the ground. After natives get the guy to safety, Sakurai shoots the octopus several more times before deciding to use flares to toss at it while the natives continue to throw spears. Chikiro and his mother manage to escape the hut before the octopus completely demolishes and get to safety, while the others continue to try to drive the monster off. After Sakurai and Furue shoot the octopus some more, they and the natives suddenly hear King Kong roar nearby and they run for cover as the giant ape appears behind the wall that separates the village from the jungle (another nod of the hat to the 1933 original). After pounding his chest, Kong manages to break his way through the wall and, after tossing a couple of big sections of the wall at the octopus, stomps towards it, crushing some pots filled with the berry juice as he does so. The octopus manages to make some loud, chocking sounds as Kong approaches it but the big ape isn't at all intimidated by this and stomps right in front of it before picking it up. For some reason, Kong then lifts it above his head and appears to allow it grab ahold of him. When I watched this movie with my step-cousin back when we were kids, he said that he thought Kong lifted the octopus up to throw it and it grabbed his head before he could do so. I guess that's possible but at the same time, it looks as if Kong deliberately tries to put the octopus on his head like it's a hat and then throws it down after grabs him and slimes his head up. Maybe they were trying to go for what my step-cousin was talking about and they just didn't pull it off well but anyway, Kong struggles with the octopus a little bit before finally flinging it back to the ground. The octopus still stands its ground and continues to chock at Kong, even after he throws a couple of boulders at it. Finally, he gets it to leave through intimidation by growling at it a couple of times. After sending the octopus packing, Kong pounds his chest while roaring triumphantly and, to celebrate, he takes some jugs of the berry juice and chugs it down before falling into a drunken sleep while the natives perform a tribal dance for him to help keep him sedated.

While Kong is being transported to Japan, and after Tako passes out when he learns that Kong is considered smuggled goods and that he'll be held responsible for any damage the giant gorilla causes, Fujita learns that Fumiko went looking for him in Hokkaido after hearing that his ship was possibly sunk by Godzilla and he races to save her before she runs right into the monster's path. After Godzilla is spotted approaching the railroad, the train that Fumiko is on comes to a screeching halt upon being notified of this and the passengers are forced to evacuate to safety. As Godzilla walks over a nearby hillside and begins walking down the tracks towards the stationary train, destroying some of the nearby power lines as he does so, the passengers crowd into various nearby vehicles such as buses and trucks in order to be taken to safety. Fumiko falls out of the back of a very overcrowded truck and desperately runs after it, pleading for them to stop, as Godzilla gets ever closer to the train, eventually crushing it with his feet. Fujita manages to get past a nearby military roadblock while a distressed Fumiko attempts to escape via the hills, only to turn around and scream when she sees Godzilla not too far behind her and approaching fast. Fumiko runs a little further but when she falls into a mountain stream, she's too exhausted to go any further and almost passes out on a large stone in the middle of it, with Godzilla now apparently only a few yards away. Fortunately for Fumiko, Fujita arrives, gets her out of the stream, and carries her over to his jeep, which he parks in a nearby secluded section of the forest as Godzilla passes by.

After they attempt to blow up Kong along with his raft when he begins waking up on the way to Japan, the giant gorilla emerges from the sea, looking like a large drowned rat, and heads for the mainland. He destroys several towns as he races through the countryside after making it to shore and he soon crosses paths with a Godzilla in a large, forested valley. The two immediately begin squaring off after they catch sight of each other, with Kong pounding his chest at Godzilla in an attempt to intimidate him. As they continue staring each other down, a helicopter passes in front of Godzilla and he uses it as a way to demonstrate his atomic breath, which catches Kong completely off-guard. Quite happy with himself, Godzilla gestures excitedly and roars while Kong picks up an enormous boulder and tosses it at him (it doesn't even come close to touching him, I've noticed). Kong throws another and manages to hit Godzilla in the chest but he's affected by this at all and fires a blast of his atomic breath right in front of Kong, creating a huge forest fire. After Kong quickly backs away and notices that his fur is somewhat singed, Godzilla does it again and forces him back even further. Godzilla happily bounces his upper body and claps his hands, while Kong can only stare down at and touch his smoking fur. Godzilla continues to celebrate his small victory and after walking along the top of the valley a little bit, turns and looks back at Kong, who begins to lumber away very slowly, all the while rubbing the top his head as if wondering what just happened. As I said earlier, Godzilla continues to roar at his defeated opponent as the scene ends, as if he's mocking him.

Before Kong arrived on the mainland, the military had been setting a trap meant to bury Godzilla alive. They had been digging an enormous pit and had planned to use fire as a means to lure Godzilla into the right spot where they were going to detonate a series of explosions in order to buy him. After Godzilla manages to drive Kong away, the military proceeds with their plan and when Godzilla enters the area, they ignite some nearby gasoline-filled canals in order to get the monster's attention. As Godzilla approaches the area, he seems rather curious as to what's going on around him, apparently still enthusiastic after his brief and satisfying bout with Kong, as can be deduced from his excited movements and constantly thrashing tail. As Godzilla gets closer to the correct position, the soldiers prepare to detonate the explosions but then, something unexpected happens. Godzilla ends up falling right through the cover of the pit and down into the bottom of it, spoiling the military's chances to bury him. Regardless, they detonate the explosives anyway, hoping that they will do the job. After the explosions, there's a stillness in the air, and the soldiers look at each other, wondering if it worked. When they all walk to the edge of the pit to make sure, they're greeted by Godzilla as he climbs out of the pit, forcing the soldiers to retreat. Their next and final effort to protect Tokyo from Godzilla is the use of an electrical blockade of high-tension wires around the city, similar to how the military attempted to keep the first Godzilla out of the city in the original film, only this time the voltage has been increased to a million volts. This enormous voltage appears to be more than Godzilla can handle. When he stomps up to the blockade and attempts to tear through the power lines, the electrical shock that he gets clearly hurts him and stops him dead in his tracks. This is when you can see the energetic, enthusiastic mood that he's had since his bout with Kong sour as he stares at the power lines and realizes that this is a barrier he can't pass. He appears to walk down the length of the blockade in an attempt to find a way around it but you soon learn that he gave up and headed for Mt. Fuji instead.

The military's satisfaction at driving Godzilla away is short-lived, though, as King Kong shows up to take a crack at the electrical blockade. Kong tears through the power lines as if they're not even there and even bites on them, absorbing the electricity. After he completely tears his way through the blockade, Tokyo is quickly put through evacuation procedures. Kong then wanders into the heart of the city and smashes through the side of a building with his fist before spying a nearby train, which he immediately walks up to and grabs. After holding one of the train cars up into the air, dumping the other passengers out in the process, Kong sees Fumiko hanging outside of the car, just barely able to hold onto the inside of the door. He proceeds to take her from the car and drops it onto the side of a nearby building. Looking down at Fumiko, who continues to scream for help while being held in his hand, Kong begins walking through Tokyo again, destroying the raised tracks that the train was traveling on in the process, and eventually makes his way to the Diet Building, where he's confronted by the military, who attempt to subdue him by shining large searchlights in his face. The military is just about to open fire on Kong when Sakurai, Furue, and Fujita arrive and Sakurai tells General Shinzo that Kong is holding his sister. When Shinzo uses his binoculars and sees that Sakurai is right, he realizes that they're in a tough spot and wonders how they can attack Kong without harming Fumiko. Things get even more complicated when Kong climbs atop of the Diet while still holding Fumiko. This is more than Fujita can bare and he starts screaming at Kong to let Fumiko go. In doing so, Fujita makes some frantic movements that remind Sakurai and Furue of the Faro Islanders tribal dance and inadvertently gives them an idea to save Fumiko. Sakurai and Tako explain to Shinzo that if they use the berry juice in combination with Sakurai's drum playing to simulate the song the natives played, they can knock Kong out. The soldiers load some rockets up with the berry juice and Sakurai prepares to get ready to play the drums while technicians set up large microphones nearby to make sure that Kong hears it. With everything ready, the rockets are fired and explode right above Kong's head, with the berry juice-laden fumes drifting down onto him. As Kong inhales the fumes, it's obvious that it's already affecting him and when Sakurai begins playing the drums to simulate the natives' song, Kong starts to become groggy and even rubs his eyes at one point. I'm not sure if the fact that we can actually hear the natives' song is meant to suggest that they're playing an actual recording of it in conjunction with Sakurai's drum playing or if that's what it sounds like to Kong due to the drowsy effects of the berries but whatever the case, it's not too long before Kong slumps off the top of the Diet Building and falls down onto the side of it. As the giant ape falls down on his back, now completely out, Fujita carefully makes his ways towards the monster and manages to pick up and carry off Fumiko, who was slowly released from Kong's grip after he fell asleep.

With Kong out, the Prime Minister decides that the best way to be rid of both him and Godzilla is to bring them together at Mt. Fuji and hope that they'll fight each other to the death. Using Fujita's strong, experimental wire and a helicopter transport with balloons, they manage to lift the sleeping Kong up into the air and transport him out of Tokyo, arriving at Mt. Fuji by morning. As the transport approaches Mt. Fuji, Kong wakes up and is noticeably confused when the first thing he sees is the mountain. The pilots, upon spotting Godzilla on the side of the mountain down below, prepare to fly Kong, who is struggling to escape upon catching sight of Godzilla, into position. When Godzilla sees his opponent being flown towards him, he becomes excited and begins walking to meet them. That's when they release Kong from the balloons and drop him on the side of the mountain, which he slides down and eventually slams right into Godzilla, sending him tumbling back down it. When Kong manages to stop himself, he begins running back up the side of Mt. Fuji, while Godzilla gets to his feet and begins following him, now wanting very much to fight. After pounding his chest at his oncoming opponent, Kong rounds the peak of the mountain and hides himself underneath a large outcropping, waiting for Godzilla to pass by. Godzilla follows Kong around the bend but seems baffled when he doesn't see the enormous ape and begins looking around, not realizing that he's right behind him. Kong takes the opportunity to grab Godzilla's swinging tail and while he's initially thrown off, he manages to grab it again as Godzilla claws onto a section of cliff-face, apparently to climb up the side of it to get away. After a little bit of struggling, he manages to fling Kong off of his tail and turns around to face him, happily clapping his hands together at his success. Kong flings a boulder and hits Godzilla in the chest. As he prepares to throw another one, Godzilla moves forward to get out of the way and after the boulder hits him, he fires his atomic breath singeing Kong's fur a little bit again. This time, though, instead of retreating, Kong charges right for Godzilla and the two of them grapple with each other. After continuing to do so for a little bit, all the while turning each other around and with Godzilla scratching Kong with his claws, Godzilla manages to shove the ape away from him and blast him again, this time causing a lot more of his fur to smoke. With Godzilla still roaring at him in a mocking way, while still clapping his hands happily, Kong charges at him again and the two of them tumble down the side of Mt. Fuji while grappling with each other. They soon get pried loose from each other and with Godzilla struggling to get to his feet, Kong pelts him with boulders, at one point jumping up and down and beating his chest. With Godzilla still unable to get up, Kong throws another boulder and then attempts to barrel-roll into him. This proves to be a mistake because Godzilla gets out of the way and Kong ends up bashing his head on a nearby rock.

With his opponent knocked senseless, Godzilla takes the opportunity to give him some more punishment. He kicks some rocks onto Kong's body and when he initially gets no response, he continues doing so before turning around and whacking Kong with his tail, while clapping his hands again. Kong slowly but surely begins rouse to from his unconscious state and, upon becoming fully conscious again, quickly gets to his feet. Godzilla shoves Kong back a few feet and then proceeds to turn his back on the ape. Kong takes this opportunity to charge at Godzilla again but the mutated dinosaur swings around and gives Kong a nasty kick right in the gut that sends him careening back down the side of the mountain. Kong hits the back of his head on a large rock down there and Godzilla follows him, once again kicking rocks on his body, in an apparent attempt to bury him alive. Kong is once again just barely able to regain consciousness and when he tries to get up, Godzilla gives him a whack to the head with his tail, knocking him out again. After ensuring that Kong can't get away, Godzilla ignites the forest around him to try to barbecue him. Just when it looks as if it's over for Kong, a gathering thunderstorm revitalizes him with its lightning. Not only does Kong have his strength back but now has the ability to deliver electric shocks through mere touch. His puts this new ability to the test by grabbing holding of Godzilla's tail again and, after giving him a nice dose of electricity, swings him through the air and lets him fall down very roughly. Before Godzilla can get back up, Kong jumps on him and shocks him again as well as beating on him furiously. Godzilla manages to roll Kong off of him but as they get back to their feet and continue to fight amongst the spreading forest fire, Godzilla is unable to attack Kong without being shocked again. As the two of them grapple, with Kong continuing to shock Godzilla, Godzilla manages to fling him down to the ground but then, in a very memorable moment, Kong tears a tree out of the ground and shoves the roots right into Godzilla's mouth. After attempting to choke him, Godzilla manages to shove Kong away and then ignites the tree with his atomic breath (it looked like he sneezed and ignited it as a result) before spitting it onto Kong's chest. Godzilla charges at Kong but he gets flipped over the ape's shoulder and right on his back. Godzilla gets back up and the two of them engage in another brutal grappling match, with Kong continuing to zap Godzilla as they tear their surroundings, which includes the forest and some suburban houses, apart.

The battle moves along the mountain to the edge of a cliff where a large pagoda sits. After receiving some more shocks to the shoulder from Kong, Godzilla manages to whip around with his tail and knock the gorilla flat on his ass. When he tries to get up, Godzilla manages to trip Kong up a little bit again with his tail and he claps his hands in happiness... until Kong delivers a running head-butt that sends him tumbling backwards and falling down right in front of the pagoda. Godzilla quickly gets to his feet as Kong kicks some rocks at him and fires his atomic breath at him but he misses and hits the ground right in front of Kong, prompting the gorilla to charge at him. Godzilla tries to blast him again but Kong avoids it by this time stepping back a little bit before the blast can hit him. As Kong heads right for him, Godzilla gets behind the pagoda and they proceed to tear the building apart, trying to get at each other. As the building falls to piece, King Kong and Godzilla grapple again as the two of them tumble off the side of the cliff and crash into the ocean below. Their impact on the ocean floor causes a small earthquake that does a little bit of damage but nothing severe (you could make the argument that the quake was caused by the two monsters continuing to fight down at the bottom of the ocean). As everything settles down, Kong pops up out of the water and begins swimming away back to Faro Island, while Godzilla is nowhere to be seen. As the characters speculate as to whether Godzilla survived the battle or not, Kong is allowed to go back home, ending the movie.

When I first watched the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, one thing I didn't care for at all was the music score by Akira Ifukube, 98% of which I had never heard before since it was virtually removed from the American version altogether and replaced with music from other films. One of the reasons for my not being too impressed with it initially could have been because I was used to the music in the American version but another was because I didn't think that a lot of it fit the footage very well. I thought that the music that played throughout the final battle was too upbeat and wasn't as rousing and exciting as what was added in the American version and I also hated the sloppy sort of music for King Kong's brief battle with the giant octopus on Faro Island because, again, I thought it didn't fit. I also felt that the music didn't seem to know when to get quiet and let the sound effects and images speak for themselves, like during Godzilla's attack on the Arctic base after he first bursts out of the iceberg or during the final parts of the climactic battle, both of which I felt worked better without music. My opinion on the score stayed the same upon subsequent viewings, which is why, for the longest time, I said I didn't care for either version of the movie. However, upon watching the Japanese version again for this review, I can say that not only has this cut of the film grown on me but so has the music. I don't know what it was but this time around, I enjoyed a lot of the music. Some of it I still don't think is quite right for the images it's accompanying but on the whole, it is a good score in my opinion.

The opening title music is just kick ass. It's big and sweeping, giving a feeling of scope to the movie right off the bat and makes you realize that this is a huge event picture. It's accompanied by the sound of the Faro Islanders chanting and it's essentially a much larger version of their tribal chant for King Kong, done with a big orchestra to create the feeling of size. It's an awesome way to open the film. While I prefer the music that you hear in the American version because I think it's eerier, the theme that accompanies the scene where the crew of the Seahawk sees the glowing iceberg does the job just fine with its creeping, mysterious texture. The other pieces of music dealing with the Seahawk, like when it crashes into the iceberg and when the situation escalates until Godzilla finally destroys it, are fine but I think they should have taken the approach that the American version did and not have any music (maybe Ifukube scored those scenes to try to cover up the actors' horrible line deliveries). When Godzilla bursts out of the iceberg and attacks the nearby base, we hear his official theme for the first time in the series and if you're familiar with that theme, you can hear the growing pains in the way it sounds here. It's almost there but not quite. Some of the notes are either different here from how they would eventually sound or they're not present at all. It's another reason why I didn't care for the score that much when I first heard it because I wanted it so badly to be the theme that I'm used to and enjoy. But, after watching the movie again, I can now go easy on it and say that it's not a bad first attempt to create a definitive score for Godzilla and it does help with the tone of the scene where he attacks the base. The music that accompanies the scenes on Faro Island and the tribal songs and chants that the natives perform are suitable for a mysterious race of people on a little known island in the South Pacific (the natives' songs are one of the few bits of music that wasn't changed during the Americanization process). While I don't care for the over the top, brass trumpet theme for the giant octopus, I do like the music that plays when King Kong makes his first appearance and battles it. It's basically a different version of the opening title theme and the islanders' chant for Kong, just toned down and made to come across as more atmospheric. I like it and think it's a nice theme for Kong. And while I still think that some of it shouldn't have been scored, the theme that accompanies the climactic fight between the two monsters is exciting enough and so is the music that plays when the battle ends on the cliff with the pagoda. I still think the former theme is a bit too upbeat and cheerful for what's going on but still, it's not bad music. All in all, the score for the film isn't one of my favorites of Ifukube's but it's still enjoyable to listen to.

It's still not one of my absolute favorite Godzilla films but that said, I can say now that I enjoy the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla for what it is: a big event movie that was meant to be entertaining for both kids and adults. While the film does suffer from an appalling look for King Kong himself and quite a bit of bad effects work, on the whole, the film is entertaining, moves at a pretty good pace, has some nice sequences of the monsters causing destruction, Godzilla has an enjoyably campy personality to him here, the satire on advertising is enjoyable (if you're in the right mindset, that is), the characters are likable, the music score is pretty good, and the final battle between the two monsters is quite fun. While I still hope to one day see a more epic and serious film involving King Kong and Godzilla fighting each other (who knows if that'll ever happen, though), the tone of this film does work for what the filmmakers were trying to pull off and helped make it the highest grossing entry in the Godzilla series. Like I said at the beginning, this was the film that assured Godzilla's stardom so, without it, we wouldn't have gotten such a great, extensive series in the first place and is the reason why I ultimately can't hate on it. It may not be perfect but it's arguably the most important entry in the series outside of the original and, as I've said, is pretty entertaining in and of itself.

The American Version
File:Kingkongvsgodzilla-656x1024.jpgAs I've said, while I did enjoy this movie the first time I saw it when I was a little kid, over time I started to like it less and get really impatient with it because whenever I decided I wanted to do a Godzilla marathon, I would have to watch it right after starting it off with Godzilla, King of the Monsters. I'm still not exactly sure why I came to dread having to watch this movie over time. It may simply been the fact that it just wasn't one of my favorite entries in the series even though I could enjoy it or because, as the years went by, I gradually realized just how freaking bad a lot of the technical aspects of the film are (as I said, some of them looked wonky to me even as a kid) and I didn't want to waste my time with it but whatever the case, it did get to the point where I was like, "Oh, God, I have to watch this one now." It's why I was so interested in seeing the original Japanese version because I had heard that it was a lot better and more enjoyable. After I finally saw the Japanese version, though, I actually thought the American version was better, due to my feeling that the music in the American version fit the footage more and because at the time, I wasn't too enthused about the cinematic between King Kong and Godzilla being played for laughs. But, as you read, the Japanese version has grown on me considerably. So, what do I think of the American version, which was released in 1963, now? Eh, I still think it does some things better than the Japanese version and even fixes some problems that it had but, at the same time, I can say that there are things I like more about the Japanese version. Basically, I think they both have their strengths and weaknesses and now that we've talked about what's good and bad about the Japanese version, let's take a look at the one most people over here are familiar with.
When John Beck, the American producer who had brought the idea of doing a film featuring King Kong to Toho, made his deal with the studio, he was given exclusive rights to help bring the movie to America and he was also able to get Universal distribute it. But, when Beck saw the finished film, he, like the distributors of the original film back in the 50's, decided that the movie was too foreign for American sensibilities and hired a couple of writers to create a new screenplay. The writers, Bruce Howard and Paul Mason, came to the same conclusion that the makers of Godzilla, King of the Monsters had, that the best way to give the movie more of an American feel was to insert some new scenes of American actors. Once they wrote these scenes, Beck hired Thomas Montgomery, a man who had mainly been an occasional actor at that point, to direct the new footage. In case you're curious about Montgomery, he would to direct some episodes of mid-60's television shows, most notably a few episodes of Gilligan's Island as well as stuff like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and My Mother the Car but there's nothing listed on his IMDB page after the latter, which says that the last episode he directed was in 1966, so who knows if Montgomery retired or couldn't get any more work or what? Heck, I don't know if the guy's alive or dead because that information isn't given. Incidentally, John Beck was hardly a prolific producer as well. Having been in the business since only 1948, his credits leading up to King Kong vs. Godzilla include films like One Touch of Venus, The Countess of Monte Cristo, Kill the Umpire, and Family Honeymoon. Probably the most acclaimed film he was involved with was Harvey, a 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart. According to IMDB, he only produced two more films after King Kong vs. Godzilla: The Singing Nun, with Debbie Reynolds, and The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell, which starred Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller. Beck died in 1993 at the age of 83.
Rather than trying to insert American actors into the actual action of the film, as had been done with Raymond Burr in Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the scenes added to King Kong vs. Godzilla involve a United Nations reporter named Eric Carter (Michael Keith) commenting on and reporting the action, receiving the news from Japan via the "International Communications Satellite." While I've never minded, and still don't mind, these scenes with the character of Carter (although he does seem to have something of a smiling, smug attitude about him), they do raise a lot of questions. First off, the whole thing never feels like an actual newscast in that we never see the camera that Carter is supposedly talking into. We just constantly cut to him and he talks straight ahead, as if he's actually talking to the audience watching the movie rather than people who are watching this supposed news broadcast from their homes. And by the way, does something like this even exist or at least, did exist back then? Were there really reporters who broadcasted direct from the United Nations on a regular basis, as would be the case with a local newscast? Maybe there were but I've never heard of it. Second, this guy continuously reports on stuff that he can't possibly know, such as that the expedition team to Faro Island have heard King Kong's roar and that they're now moving into the interior of the island to find him. How in the hell could he possibly know this? It even cuts to a TV monitor that has a still of the establishing shot of the aforementioned people heading into the jungle that we're about to see! How is he seeing that? I know he has the services of a high-tech satellite but this is getting far beyond even its capabilities. By the way, he often talks with a Japanese reporter, Yutaka Omura (James Yagi, who did some dub work for one of the previous Godzilla films), who has to use some headphones to hear him whereas Carter doesn't need any at all. Again, how is that possible? But the biggest issue with these scenes is that they don't advance the plot at all and are just there to give out exposition, which could have easily been done by just dubbing the scenes from the Japanese version that did so. Moreover, the first of these scenes at the beginning of the film begins with a pointless story about how Chile is suffering a bunch of devastating earthquakes and they even cut to a newscaster in Chile who comments on the situation and that the president is grateful to the United Nations and the Red Cross for their support.. Um, what's the point of this? When I was a kid, I thought it was paid off by the enormous earthquake that Kong and Godzilla cause when they fall into the ocean at the end of their fight but now, I realize that there is no connection whatsoever. It makes as much sense as a God-like voice starting the film off by quoting Hamlet (which it does!)
It's when Carter is joined by supposed dinosaur expert Dr. Arnold Johnson (Harry Holcombe) that these added scenes take a detour into just plain stupidity on the filmmakers' part. Apparently, like Paul Schreibman before him, John Beck thought it would be best to not treat this film as a sequel but rather as a stand-alone film. That said, though, even he, the writers, and Thomas Montgomery didn't go as far as Schreibman by renaming Godzilla. When he first breaks out of the newspaper, the American helicopter pilots still yell, "Godzilla!" but the following scene has Carter report that, "The world is stunned to learn that prehistoric creatures exist in the 20th century," and the next time we cut back to the United Nations reporter, he's talking with Dr. Johnson, who theorizes that Godzilla has been in the iceberg for millions of years and survived due to suspended animation. In fact, before he talks about that, he says that he's examined photographs of Godzilla that were taken by the ICS satellite and has concluded that he's of a species of dinosaur. Do you see how this doesn't work at all? If this is the first time that Godzilla has appeared, how did those pilots know what he is? And if he's a normal dinosaur that's been trapped in the iceberg for millions of years, how is he able to breathe radioactive fire? As big of an idiot as Schreibman was for trying to distance his American version of Godzilla Raids Again from the original film, at least he tried (not very well, mind you, since he left in a tenuous connection to the first film, but still). Beck just left everything as is, including the monster's name, and still tried to do so. I'm guessing he did this because he figured that, since the American version of the second film didn't pass itself off as a sequel, there'd be no point in him trying to do so but, again, why keep Godzilla's name if that was the idea? This makes me so glad that the American distributors of the following films stopped trying to make them stand-alone movies, no doubt realizing that it was only going to get more confusing as it went on. Johnson says some other dumb things as well, stating that electricity gives Kong strength in a scene before the giant ape actually demonstrates this by attacking Tokyo's electrical blockade as well as that Kong and Godzilla are instinctive rivals but he never elaborates on how they're instinctive rivals. He makes some mention of their species possibly having battled before millions of years ago, indirectly stating again that Godzilla is just a dinosaur as well as flying in the face of decades of science and evolution theory that I'm not going to get into. But the scene with Johnson that I hated the most as a kid is when he says that Godzilla's brain is the size of a marble and he's nothing but mindless, brute force while Kong's brain is much, much larger and he's more intelligent. I hate that not just because I like Godzilla more than Kong but for the simple reason that it is an insult. You only have to watch Godzilla to know that he's more intelligent than they say he is and plus, a creature as big as him wouldn't even be able to properly function with such a tiny brain. Sorry for the bit of fanboy rage but that has always gotten under my skin.
Before we move on to other aspects of this version, I'd like to address something about Japanese reporter Yutaka Omura that didn't hit me until just now while I was writing. Now, supposedly, he acts as Eric Carter and the United Nations newscast's connection to Japan and informs them of what's going on in over there at the moment (although, given Carter's incredible intuition as to what's happening, I don't think they need Omura). Obviously, when he's talking with Carter, Omura is speaking in English, which makes sense. It's English that's quite good for someone who's supposedly a full-on Japanese native but, regardless, it makes sense. However, there are many times when Omura is obviously talking to Japanese viewers, informing of them where Godzilla is attacking and such, but he's still speaking in English! Yeah, because as we know, all Japanese are just as fluent in English as they are in their own country. I understand that this was meant to be for American audiences and my complaint doesn't seem valid in light of the usual dubbing of the Japanese actors here but regardless, that just strikes me as so odd that Omura is speaking to his Japanese viewers in a language most of them wouldn't be able to understand. Maybe in the context of the dubbing, you could say that Omura is speaking Japanese to his viewers and we're hearing it in English purely for our benefit but it's still a tricky subject.

Besides the footage they created specifically for this version, the filmmakers also used some footage from the Toho science fiction film The Mysterians, whose U.S. rights were owned by RKO at the time. They not only used footage from it for shots of the "International Communications Satellite" but also to beef up the earthquake that King Kong and Godzilla cause when they fall into the ocean at the end of their big fight. In the Japanese version, all the earthquake does is cause a tree to fall off the side of a cliff and a bunch of rocks to come colliding down the sides of the mountain but in this version, you also have shots of a massive tidal wave traveling around the countryside and the ground splitting open to swallow up some huts (you can tell that this footage is taken from another source because of the change in picture quality). It doesn't serve any purpose other than to make the sequence more spectacular but it doesn't hurt anything either. There are also shots of people being evacuated from Tokyo on some boats when Kong is approaching the city, as well as an overhead shot of the city when he's being transported via the balloon airlift to Mt. Fuji, that also must have come from The Mysterians because they're not in the Japanese version (I've never seen The Mysterians myself, so I'm not entirely sure) or at least the bit with the boats. The picture quality of that aerial view of the city seems to be crisper than the faded footage from The Mysterians. Who knows where they got that from?

I don't know what the general consensus is but in my opinion, the dubbing in this film is quite good. I think the voices sound natural for the most part and that they fit the characters they're attached to. I really like the voices that are given to Sakurai, Furue, Fujita, and Fumiko, especially the first two. The voice given to Tako is a little bit shaky, though, and, because so many of his scenes at the office of Pacific Pharmaceutical are cut from this version, he doesn't come across as crazy here, which is disappointing but I can live with it. The voice they give to Konno is a little stereotypically goofy but it fits since he's a comical character and plus, I think some of his deliveries are funny, like when they're trying to get on the good side of the Faro Island chief and Sakurai tells Konno to smile, to which he says, "I smile!" Although, they made a mistake in the scene where Konno tells Chikiro, the native boy, to go get some berry juice to help Furue sleep. In the Japanese version, Konno spoke to the kid in the islanders' native language and he had to explain to Sakurai what he said but here, he just talks to the kid in English and they cut out the rest of the scene, which doesn't make sense. I don't know why they couldn't leave the scene how it was originally shot and just dub it like normal. An instance where the dubbing really helps the movie is in the case of the American actors that appear during the sequence involving the Seahawk. Realizing how awful and forced the performances of those actors were, the filmmakers dubbed them over as well and, my God, does it make a difference! This is so much better than what you hear in the Japanese version and it makes you wish that there was a way to have these voices in that version. The best bit of dubbing comes from Les Tremayne, an actor with an incredibly deep and commanding voice that is well suited for someone in a high position of authority. He dubs over Douglas Fein, who plays the captain of the Seahawk, and as I've said, it's a vast improvement over that actor's original performance. He also dubs over General Shinzo and, naturally, his voice suits that role very well, although I don't know why they felt they had to make Shinzo kind of an asshole with the moment where a soldier tells him that guns won't do anything except make Kong angrier and he snarls, "Soldier, I'm in charge. You listen to me!" Some may think otherwise but I think that the dubbing for King Kong vs. Godzilla is one of the better examples of the practice. I'd say it's an improvement over Gigantis, the Fire Monster, wouldn't you agree?

There's still a lot of comedy in this version but it's different from that of the Japanese version. A lot of the satire on advertising is removed here and in its place, we have some more overt comedy, mainly due to the character of Furue, who's made out to be even more of a coward here than he is in the Japanese version and Sakurai becoming visibly agitated by it. Something of a running joke pops up during the section on Faro Island, with Furue constantly talking about how his corns are hurting him, saying the classic lines, "My corns always hurt when they're near a monster," and, when they're nearly crushed when King Kong creates a landslide, "You see? My corns never lie!" I thought it was kind of funny when I was a kid, even though I had no idea what corns were back then, and now, even though it's stupid, I still smirk when I hear those lines. However, there's one joke here that's so cringe-inducing in how bad and corny it is that not even Beast Boy from Teen Titans would touch it. After they've figured out how to save Fumiko from Kong's grasp in Tokyo, Tako smugly says, "Huh, King Kong can't make a monkey out of us." Ugh. I don't think I need to say anything else. There's also some unintentional humor here in the fact that when re-writing the Japanese dialogue, they made some mistakes. Now, I never noticed these until just recently when somebody pointed them to me but now that I do notice them, I think they're hilarious. One involves the character of Fujita. In the Japanese version, we're shown that he works on a ship and we later hear news that it may have sunk; in the American version, they decided to say that a plane he was supposedly on crashed instead... and yet, they forgot to cut out the shot of the newspaper where you can see a picture of the ship. Even funnier than that is when Sakurai, Furue, and Tako are watching the first fight between Kong and Godzilla and when Tako tells them to get some pictures, Furue says, "I think I better get a light check," right before he blows on and holds up a microphone! And incidentally, in this version they ended up making Tako look like someone who decides to risk imprisonment! In the original Japanese version, he's told that Kong is considered smuggled goods and that he'll be held responsible for any damage that he causes. Here, though, he's told that the government forbids him to allow Kong to enter Japan and that he must take him back to Faro Island at once or else he'll be placed under arrest and yet, the next time we cut back to the ship, they're still on course for Japan. I guess Tako, after he woke from his fainting spell, just said, "Ah, screw it. I'm still bringing Kong to Japan." And for that matter, why didn't those people from the Coast Guard personally make sure that they did take Kong back to Faro Island? It may not have been intended but this stuff still is pretty funny.

Like the nuclear allegory in the original film, some feel that when King Kong vs. Godzilla was edited for American consumption, it lost the satire on advertising that was so prevalent in the original version. I don't think that's entirely true, though. Like Godzilla, King of the Monsters, I think that the deeper intentions that the original version had are still here, just somewhat reduced. We still have the scene where Tako tells Sakurai and Furue that Pacific Pharmaceutical needs publicity and that their show is sucking in the ratings because of how boring it is. We don't actually see the show here but we're still told that the company needs something to boost it up and even Sakurai says, "We must really need publicity!" However, I will admit that they made a mistake by rearranging some scenes around and deleting others because, when Tako becomes angry after seeing a report about Godzilla on the TV, he then sends the word out that he wants his own monster and we see the ship carrying Sakurai and Furue to Faro Island, whereas the expedition was already underway when Godzilla appeared in the original version. Here, it looks as if he wants his own monster simply to defeat Godzilla because he's sick of him whereas originally, it was made clear that he's desperate to get his own monster because the appearance of Godzilla took the publicity away from his sponsored expedition to the island. That was a bad call on the filmmakers' part but, they remedied it with the scene on the ship when Kong begins to wake up and Tako won't let them detonate the dynamite on his raft. When Furue angrily points a rifle at Tako, he hits the nail on the head by saying, "King Kong could kill us all. You wouldn't care. Publicity's all you want! Publicity!" (Couldn't he have called him something a little stronger than a dumbbell, though?) After Kong makes it to Japan and confronts Godzilla for the first time, Tako is still having Sakurai and Furue film the proceedings for their television show and when the Prime Minister says that hopefully both of the monsters will die in their final battle, Tako is visibly shattered by this because he still wants to use Kong for his company's publicity. In conclusion, while a lot of the scenes that went into more detail about the film's take on advertising may have been removed from this version, it wasn't gotten rid of completely either.

While the rearrangement of scenes in this version did undercut the impact of the marketing and advertising angle a little bit, it also helped in another area. In the Japanese version, there's a constant cutting back and forth between what's going on with the Seahawk in the Arctic Ocean and what's happening back in Japan with Sakurai and Furue embarking on the expedition to investigate Faro Island. For me, this caused some plotholes in the timeline of events because we see in one shot that the Seahawk is approaching the iceberg, then we cut back to our main story where we see Sakurai, Furue, and Tako meet with the doctor who discovered the berries on the island and after a little more business, we cut back to the Seahawk, which has just now slammed into the iceberg. The thing is that after we cut back from the submarine the first time, we see Furue tell Sakurai about their meeting with Tako and the doctor and how it's going to take place the next day, and after that scene, as well as the dinner scene involving Sakurai, Fumiko, and Fujita, we go back to the Seahawk slamming into the iceberg. It's implying that it took them over a day to get close enough to the iceberg to where they could ram into it whereas when we saw them originally, they weren't that far from it. We're also led to believe that they were stuck for another long while before the captain fired his mayday signal and Godzilla finally destroyed the sub before breaking out of the iceberg. In this version, the entire sequence is shown in one go, which feels much more natural and plus, the action isn't constantly being interrupted. It would have worked even better had they actually shown the scene where the expedition to Faro Island departs and then we see Godzilla escape the iceberg because then we would have had more of an understanding as to why Tako says he's sick of the monster. They also could have dubbed Tako's message to be for Sakurai and Furue to hurry up and get to the island and find the monster god as soon as possible. But, as it stands, I think it flows better and the pacing isn't playing red-light like it was originally.

Except for the songs and chants that the natives perform, the song that comes out of the radio that Sakurai uses to impress the Faro Island chief, and a piece of music that was taken from a scene not present in this version and placed somewhere else, all of Akira Ifukube's score for the Japanese version was removed because Beck and the others felt that it was too oriental. In its place was put a large mixture of music from other movies, most notably a lot of Henry Mancini's music for Creature from the Black Lagoon. I first saw this movie years before I would see Creature so this was the first time I ever heard that music and I thought it was really cool. Imagine my surprise years later when I finally saw Creature from the Black Lagoon and heard that music from King Kong vs. Godzilla! There's also a lot of music from the film The Golden Horde used here, most notably in the opening titles. I think the music that was used there, which itself came from the opening titles of The Golden Horde, opens the film just as well as the big rousing music that Ifukube originally came up with. Like the theme he scored, it's big and epic-sounding, giving some scope to the film. Another piece of music from that film can be heard when the balloons meant to transport King Kong to Mt. Fuji are being filled with helium. You can also hear some music from movies such as Against All Flags, Bend of the River, Untamed Frontier, and even some other monster/horror movies such as The Monster That Challenged the World (some nicely atmospheric themes used for when the Seahawk is approaching the iceberg and when Godzilla is getting close to the train tracks in Hokkaido), Man-Made Monster, and even The Wolf Man, as well as the television show Wichita Town. Even if it is all from other movies, I think the editors made good use of this music and put it up against some very appropriate scenes. So help me, I think that the music meant for Creature from the Black Lagoon works well for when the monsters appear and during the final battle between the two as well. Although, I find it ironic that the filmmakers felt that Ifukube's original score was too oriental for Americans and yet, for establishing shots of Tokyo, they put in some very stereotypical-sounding Asian music. Odd priorities, wouldn't you say? In either case, I do still like the score for this version of the movie. I just think it fits.

The 1963 American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla may not be a classic or more well-done than the film it was created from but on the whole, it is enjoyable. While the filmmakers did make some mistakes with their re-editing, their writing of the new scenes they added in, and the translations for the dubbing as well as with some of the humor they put in, the film still moves at a good pace, there are some improvements made from the Japanese version, the dubbing is pretty good (if you think otherwise, watch the trailer for the unavailable international version and see what you think of the English dubbing there; aye yay yay!), the satire on publicity and advertising is muted but not completely dispensed with, and while it's a shame that they removed so much of Akira Ifukube's original score, the music that they put in its place works well. Of course, that's all my opinion. I know that there are a lot of people out there who think this American version is a piece of crap and prefer the Japanese version but for me, someone who isn't completely crazy for this movie either way, I think both have their strengths and weaknesses. So, ultimately, that's my view on both versions of the highest grossing Godzilla movie ever. Watch both versions yourself and then decide what you think about the movie in both of its forms (the Japanese version may not be officially available over here but you can easily find it on sites that specialize in these types of hard to find films).

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