Starring: Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yû Fujiki
Written By: Shin’ichi Sekizawa, Bruce Howard (American version)
Directed By: Ishirô Honda
Distributor: Universal Studios
Original Year of release: 1962
Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
With Kong: Skull Island arriving in theaters and the eventual crossover with Godzilla, which we all know is coming, it is time for the tie-ins! Let us start with Universal Studios’ their collaboration with TOHO CO. LTD., King Kong vs. Godzilla. Now, to be honest, I haven’t seen too many Godzilla films. In 2012 I did catch Criterion Collection’s release of the film that started it all, Gojira. So I have a good understanding of groundwork for a Godzilla story. This one, however, paired “The King of the Monsters” against “The 8th Wonder of the World”, King Kong. With introductions like “king” and “wonder” in their titles, is it high time these two giants squared off?
Now, the film was originally made in Japan and English scenes were written in to bridge the gap. The majority of these English speaking parts take place in the United Nations Newsroom. There is an international space satellite which enables us amazing coverage to communicate with the UN office in Japan. To allow this “seamless” jump from English to Japanese, the Japanese News correspondent speaks English (not dubbed) to the audience. The majority of the film is played by Japanese actors, some of which even don black face paint to play the residents of Kong’s Island.
The film takes its lead from the original King Kong and its plot for sensationalism. Mr. Tako, head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, wants an amazing new gimmick to help promote his products. He is tired of hearing about Godzilla and wants his own monster. Oddly enough, in this world, there is another monster, King Kong. In no time at all, Mr. Tako’s and his men are off to Faro Island in search of Kong.
North of Japan, a submarine for the United Nations is researching why the currents have changed. In an almost laughable, but still spectacular entrance, Godzilla has re-emerged from an iceberg. Guess what? He is heading directly for Japan.
Back on Kong’s island, the two ad executives participate in some trading with the natives that would never make a theatrical cut today. That night, a giant Octopus comes to the island and Kong emerges to save his loyal worshipers. The fight is incredible as a real Octopus is used with miniatures. It is actually very creepy to see the Octopus on land. The battle between it and Kong ends in a draw, but Kong’s people are safe.
Without ruining too many surprises, the ad executives capture Kong only discover that their prize may be the only thing that can stop Godzilla. Mr. Tako, who is both an evil money man and the comedic fool, tells everyone that Kong has his endorsement. Pacific Pharmaceuticals will be the ones to save the day.
This was my first full experience with a ridiculous money grab Godzilla movie. They were never something I watched as a kid. What I always saw, while flipping past these films on TV, were miniature sets, crazy explosions, and men in terrible rubber suits. So this was exactly all I hoped it would be. It might have been serious back in Japan (circa 1962), though I highly doubt it. This was a fun romp between two screen legends. Now, there was one thing I didn’t know about King Kong: he thrives on electricity. Who knew? Who knew that would be a deciding factor in helping Kong battle Godzilla’s fire breathing trick? Again, the film was fun, and the very definition of mindless entertainment. The first three minutes are better than Roland Emmerich’s entire 1998 film.