(Kingukongu Tai Gojira)
Director – Ishiro Honda, English Language Version Directed by Thomas Montgomery, Screenplay – Shinichi Sekizawa, English Language Version Written by Bruce Howard & Paul Mason, Producer – Tomoyuki Tanaka, English Language Version Produced by John Beck, Photography – Hajime Koizumi, Music – Akira Ifukube, Music Supervisor – Peter Zinner, Director of Special Effects – Eiji Tsuburaya. Production Company – Toho.
Tadao Takashima (Sakurai), Kenji Sahara (Fujita), Ichiro Arishima (Yoshio Tako), Mie Hama (Fumiko), Fujiki Yu (Furu), Jun Tazaki (General Matsami Shinzo), Michael Keith (Eric Carter)
A submarine witnesses Godzilla as it revives from having been frozen inside an iceberg. Godzilla then heads for Tokyo, razing all in its way. At the same time, an expedition to Faro Island in search of a narcotic berry encounters King Kong. They are able to drug Kong and tow him back to Japan. As nothing else seems able to stop Godzilla’s rampage, it appears that the last recourse may be pitting King Kong against him.
King Kong Vs. Godzilla was the third of Toho’s Godzilla films. (See below for other titles). Toho clearly felt they had exhausted most of the possibilities of large monsters attacking Japan with the first two films. With King Kong Vs. Godzilla, the series began its move toward what all the subsequent Godzilla films became – large-scale wrestling matches between Godzilla and one or more giant monster.
And what a great title match it was too – it must be one of the great drawcard title fights of the century, with Toho somehow having gotten the rights to sequelise King Kong (1933) from RKO. Although at this point, Godzilla had not yet made his way to become Japan’s defender – and would not for several more films – and was still seen as a villain. Rumours have persisted over the years that there were two versions of King Kong Vs. Godzilla in existence – one for Japanese audiences in which Godzilla wins, and one for American audiences in which King Kong wins – although this is untrue – Kong wins in both versions.
King Kong Vs. Godzilla is absurdly entertaining in the surrealistically cartoonish way that only Japanese monster movies can be. It is a long way down from the original King Kong – the lowbrow buffoonery with the explorers trading radios and cigarettes to the natives and pratfalling with iguanas is a world of difference from the primal power of the scenes meeting the natives and venturing into the jungle in King Kong.
It is also a long way down even from the ferocity of the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) – at most this film operates on a crude level of metaphor where Godzilla is seen as representing mindless brute strength and Kong intelligence. If you want to try delving into the murky level of subtext these films operate on, the metaphor has almost completely reversed since the howl of pain represented by the 1954 Godzilla. Ishiro Honda made Godzilla so that nobody would ever forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki; in King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Japan seems to rely on the intelligence of the foreign monster to save them where it is as though Ishiro Honda has bowed and surrendered to the post-War US military occupation of Japan and acknowledged its superiority in dealing with crises.
The special effects are not particularly good. King Kong is represented by an extremely shabby man in a monkey suit. The scenes with an optically added octopus attacking a village are convincing as the film has used a real octopus – although in the scenes where Kong takes on the octopus it then becomes represented by what looks like a plastic bag. The film takes a long time to build to the climactic showdown but this proves entertaining with the two title characters wrestling, rolling over cliffs, Godzilla battering Kong with his tail and Kong trying to shove trees down Godzilla’s throat.
Toho later revived Kong for a slightly better entry King Kong Escapes (1967). The American Godzilla series has announced a replay of the title match with the upcoming Godzilla vs Kong (2020).
The other Godzilla films are:– Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), Gigantis the Fire Monster/Godzilla Raids Again/The Return of Godzilla (1955), Godzilla vs the Thing/Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Monster Zero/Invasion of the Astro Monster (1965), Godzilla vs the Sea Monster/Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), Son of Godzilla (1968), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), Godzilla vs the Smog Monster/Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs Gigan/Godzilla on Monster Island (1972), Godzilla vs Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster/Godzilla vs the Bionic Monster/Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), Terror of Mechagodzilla/Monsters from an Unknown Planet (1976), Godzilla 1985 (1984), Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1993), Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995), Godzilla 2000 (1999), Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Shin Godzilla/Godzilla: Resurgence (2016), plus the anime Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) and Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018). Both Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) are big-budget, English-language remakes, while the latter launched a sequel with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (2019).