We continue our Godzilla review marathon with the 1962 classic King Kong vs. Godzilla. This is an absolute epic movie for a multitude of reasons, it marked the first time Godzilla or King Kong had been seen in color, it also marked the return for both characters who hadn’t been a film for a pretty long time and most importantly it was directed by Ishirō Honda with visual effects by Eiji Tsuburaya who worked together on the first Godzilla film. And did you read the title? It’s KING KONG VS. GODZILLA! Do I really need to explain how awesome the concept is? I think it goes without saying they had to cheat the mythology a little bit to even the playing field because the original king Kong was only 30 feet tall and the hulking beast in this movie measures right up to Godzilla.
The showdown of the century begins with a pharmaceutical company discovering a red berry that will hold the key too many future pharmaceutical discoveries. The berries are used by natives to placate a supposed giant god and the pharmaceutical company sends a team to the remote island to procure more. Meanwhile a U.N. submarine is dispatched to investigate a strong nuclear presence that is breaking up icebergs. Upon investigating the submarine accidently opens up a crevice unleashing Godzilla himself who has been trapped in the ice since the last film. Godzilla sets his sights on Japan and begins a devastating march. Back on the island a giant octopus attacks the small village the team is gathering berries from, and we get our first look at King Kong who easily defats the octopus and falls asleep. While he’s asleep the team decides to transport him back to Japan because he will help with the marketing or something. Of course it’s just an excuse to get Kong and Godzilla together. Kong escapes and goes on his own rampage which happens to converge on Godzilla’s path which sets up the first of their battles.
The human characters are really memorable and interesting my favorite is Mr. Tako who owns the company and is a hilarious devious jerk. All he cares about is making money and its really funny to see him not even care about the destruction Kong is causing he is in fact glad Godzilla’s destruction is getting more press then his own mistake. Another good character is Famiko who becomes a woman interest for Kong an obvious homage to the original. Famiko’s story is really compelling she is just on her way to find her boyfriend and happens to run across both monsters a few times! The military spends most of the movie trying to keep Godzilla distracted from reaching Tokyo and their attempts are very fun to watch.
The special effects are wonderful, but a little uneven. The highlight I think is when Kong shoves a tree down Godzilla’s throat. The miniatures are great and the set design is really interesting. Everywhere the monsters go feels like its real and I think that’s really important in films like this and it helps draw us into the drama. There are many Battles in this movie it really goes all out. You have the fight with the submarine, the fight with the octopus and a bunch between the two title monsters. The Kong suit however looks terrible, the eyes look really weird and off center and he just looks goofy. Sometimes there is a blue glare around the people as they run away from the destruction. Godzilla uses his tail as a weapon along with his trademark atomic breath which looks good. It’s worth mentioning this was never intended to be a Godzilla but Frankenstein of all things it would have been called “King Kong vs. Frankenstein” where Kong would fight against a giant version of Frankenstein’s monster in San Francisco. There is small reference to this because electricity gives Kong super strength. The final fight looks amazing and lasts a good 20 minutes as the two monsters blast away at each other on top of Mt. Fuji. The fights are better and well-choreographed, the human characters are interesting and the film is all around an extremely enjoyable watch that uses every single minute to its advantage.