This can't end well...
"But nothing, nobody can stop the great showdown, when King Kong and Godzilla meet, to fight for survival of the fittest!
— Universal-International's trailer for the film.
"King Kong could kill us all! You wouldn't care! Publicity's all you want! Publicity!
— Kinsaburo to Mr. Tako in the American version.
The third entry of the Godzilla
Showa series. King Kong vs. Godzilla
is the second film to be directed by the known director Ishiro Honda
. Known in Japan as ''Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira''
.King Kong vs. Godzilla
, released in 1962, is notable for many things. First, it was the first movie to feature both King Kong and Godzilla in color and widescreen. Second, and this is really important, it had both King Kong and Godzilla in sharing the screen at the same time.
Originally released in 1962, Toho
's 30th anniversary, King Kong vs. Godzilla
remains the most commercially successful film in the franchise. The Japanese version of the film had a satirical tone, while the American version excised it in favor of a more conventional approach. The biggest difference between the two versions of the movie is the removal of most of Akira Ifukube
's score, which is usually regarded today as one of the maestro's greatest works ever. The only pieces of music to survive this butchery were the the natives' chants and a brief piece that plays during the jungle trek. It was in this film that Godzilla's theme would be properly introduced, although it was first heard by American audiences in 1964 with the tastefully intact release of Mothra vs. Godzilla
, although the Godzilla
theme in that film was also a modified version of the theme heard here. Fortunately, La-La-Land Records released the original Japanese version of the score, in it's original stereo along with two bonus tracks, in America in 2005.
The original idea for the film was actually conceived by Willis O'Brien, although it didn't feature Godzilla at all. It was only through numerous rewrites that Godzilla eventually became King Kong's adversary, and that was only after the script was bought by John Beck, who then sold it to Toho. The differences between the Japanese version of the film and the American version are discussed on the trivia page. The plot description in the synopsis page will cover the Japanese version of the film.
The film was a commercial success back in 1962, and made over 350,000,000 yen at the box office, with a budget of 5,000,000 yen. Contrary to popular belief, King Kong is the victor in both
versions of the movie. At the time the movie was made, King Kong was still more popular than Godzilla. The Godzilla suit used in the film, named the KinGoji suit by fans, remains very popular, and the design was used for some of the earliest Godzilla merchandise stateside. In the following installment
, the costume was reused for a few "big pool" scenes, namely when Godzilla is seen swimming towards Iwa Island, and later when Godzilla falls into the sea, covered in the webbing of Mothra's larvae.King Kong vs. Godzilla
also remains notorious for being one of the most poorly preserved Kaiju Films from the 1960s and has had a rough history on video. In the 1970s, the film was edited down to 74 minutes for the Toho Champion film festival... on the original negative. As consequence, the cut 24 minutes went missing. In the 1980s, Toho's first video release used an awful 16mm print for all cut shots, but in 1991, the cut portions magically reappeared in 35mm, which Toho used for a marginally better restoration. Then those elements went missing again, somehow, and Toho's DVD is just an upscale of the laserdisc master. Fortunately for the time being, a dedicated fan constructed a composite restoration using the latest HD version containing Champion Festival footage and the Universal DVD of the U.S. version, narrowing the poor quality segments down to about only nine minutes.
This film contains examples of the following:
- Aborted Arc: From this film to Terror Of Mechagodzilla (or chronologically, Destroy All Monsters), the events of Godzilla are never brought up again (The Heisei series did it as well, except in certain cases). In Honda-specific entries, he always reminds us that Godzilla's a radioactive dinosaur.
- Adult Fear: You can't find your kid on an island with giant octopus and King Kong on it, of course you're going to quickly freak out when you can't find him.
- An Aesop: After Tako finally gives up his pursuits after all that's happened, Dr. Shigezawa delivers one at the end.
"Well, I guess that we, as humans, must change how we treat plants and animals. It's time to learn from them... That's all I have to say..."
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: How the first rampage scene goes. All the tanks hightail back to the hangar after Godzilla roasts just one.
- A-Team Firing: In the Arctic base scene, the military really missed Godzilla. Only two shells hit him, but to no avail.
- Behemoth Battle: The entire point of the movie is to get King Kong to fight Godzilla. They both face other obstacles in their path before they meet.
- The Brigadier: General Masami Shinzo.
- Bumbling Sidekick: Furue to Sakurai's straight man.
- Character Tics: Godzilla's "clap" seen throughout the course of the two battles. It even has its own sound effect. This was improvised by Haruo Nakajima in imitation of the gestures used by professional wrestlers during those days.
- Chekhov's Gun: Fujita's super strong thread comes in useful for lifting King Kong up to Mt. Fuji.
- Chekhov's Skill: During the making of a commercial at the beginning of the movie, Sakurai is playing the drums. This comes in handy later on when rescuing Fumiko fom Kong's clutches.
- Cut-and-Paste Translation: As mentioned above, Akira Ifukube's score was almost completely removed from the American version and replaced with stock music. It severely downplays any thematic leitmotifs for the two monsters and the excision of Godzilla's first real theme is unfortunate.
- Diabolus Ex Nihilo: The Giant Octopus Kong battles on Faro Island.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Harold Conway is seen with one aboard the submarine at one point.
- Distressed Damsel: Fumiko, who is menaced by both monsters, each time while on board a train.
- Eleventh Hour Super Power: Kong's ability to harness electricity against Godzilla. Ironic, as Godzilla would gain an electricity based power in a later film.
- Establishing Character Moment: Kong and Godzilla both have one. Godzilla trashes a nuclear submarine and attacks a military base, where he melts tanks and sets the entire complex ablaze with his heat-ray. Kong battles a giant octopus, which shows he is indeed powerful, but clearly outmatched by Godzilla.
- Evasive Fight Thread Episode: The reason why this movie exists is to show the two most famous giant movie monsters from America and Japan duking it out.
- Executive Meddling: In-universe. Mr. Tako is rather meddling in this film because he wants to boost his ratings by using the monsters' publicity. Yeah, having two destructive monsters to boost your ratings (even title dropping to drive the point home) is a "Good idea".
- Out of universe, Toho decided to move the series in a lighter direction despite Ishiro Honda not wanting to turn a serious monster into a comical one.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Fumiko and Osamu Sakurai, somewhat.
- Gratuitous Panning: Being a relatively early, pre-Dolby film, the theatrical stereo mix has sparse centered dialogue or sound effects. Everything is directional. The monaural mix has a different center focused recording of the score and a few less sound effects (Godzilla doesn't growl when he gets the tree down his throat, for instance).
- Glass Cannon Genius Bruiser vs. Mighty Glacier Dumb Muscle: The matchup between King Kong and Godzilla is framed this way. Kong has greater intelligence, speed and physical strength, while Godzilla has superior durability and can fight from a distance with his tail and atomic breath.
- Godzilla Threshold: Crossed the first time in the series when the JSDF effectively uses Kong to finish off Godzilla.
- Harmless Freezing: Godzilla breaks free of the "iceberg" he was trapped in (originally Kamiko Island) at the end of Godzilla Raids Again and immediately resumes his rampage like nothing happened.
- Heads or Tails: Mr. Tako habitually does this to make decisions. He even does it when the two monsters first confront each other in an attempt to predict the winner.
- Helicopter Flyswatter: Although he doesn't actually touch it, Godzilla does down a helicopter with his heat-ray.
- Jerkass: Godzilla, or at least the closest thing the movie has to one. Has good fun taunting Kong with his superior firepower.
- It Only Works Once: Averted. The military manage to use the high-tension towers on Godzilla when the previous idea failed in the original Gojira by massively upping the voltage.
- Large Ham: Mr. Tako. Godzilla's goofy theatrics can qualify him as one too.
- Lighter and Softer: The first two films, Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again were more or less intended to be Horror films. This film whisked the series off in a more whimsical, fantasy driven direction, and fewer moments of entirely serious drama are seen throughout the film.
- Lost World: Although it's easily accessible and has been mapped and charted, Faro Island is certainly one.
- Mobile Shrubbery: Sakurai and the others attempt to sneak past the JSDF to film King Kong and Godzilla by hiding in the grass and holding branches over their heads.
- Monumental Battle: Kong and Godzilla duel to the death atop Mt. Fuji before working their way to the Pacific.
- Monumental Damage: Godzilla and Kong do their best to tear the Atami Castle to shreds.
- Mr. Exposition: Dr. Shigezawa, played by Akihiko Hirata. Eric Carter, Yutaka Omura and Dr. Arnold Johnson in the U.S. version also count.
- Off Model: The stop-motion model used for Godzilla's infamous dropkick only resembles the suit very slightly. Kong's puppet used for closeups, as well as the suit itself, also qualifies.
- Opening Narration: Parodied. It's revealed the ominous narration was only part of the show Tako was sponsoring and the host laughs before shifting focus to the arctic ocean. Played straight in the U.S. cut, complete with the same fake spinning globe and a stock quote from Hamlet. Averted in the Champion Festival edit, which begins with Tako watching the show on TV instead.
- Pit Trap: The Self-Defence Force's plan to defeat Godzilla, coupled with Stuff Blowing Up and Deadly Gas. Naturally, neither the explosives or the gas work and he simply climbs out of it.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Godzilla.
: The storm will awaken Kong's inner strength. You'll see. Fujita
: Like spinach does for Popeye
- Spell My Name with an S: In the Japanese version of the film:
(After Godzilla breaks free) Helicopter pilot: IT'S GOJIRA!!!
- To note this, he says this in English.
- This Is My Boomstick: Sakurai's transistor radio and cigarettes serve this purpose.
- Title Drop: Mentioned above when Mr. Tako's trying to gain publicity. In the U.S. version, Prof. Onuki is the one who drops it much later during the third act.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: King Kong and Godzilla are quite possibly the two most famous giant cinema monsters ever, and this is a movie about them fighting.
- Translation Trainwreck: The common old bootleg subtitles convey about 0% percent of what the characters are actually saying. Half of it seems to have been made up on the spot.
- Urban Legend: There's an old myth that the film has two endings. A Japanese ending where Godzilla wins and an American ending where King Kong wins. For the record, however, both the Japanese and American versions have the same ending, but the American version cuts Godzilla's roar out, leaving only Kong's.
- Where's the Kaboom?: A classic example occurs during a scene aboard the ship, when Tako tries to wrestle Sakurai free of the plunger before accidentally operating it himself, to no avail as the wires had already been cut. So when that doesn't work, Sakurai and Kinsaburo try blowing up the charges with rifle fire, and succeed.