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King Kong vs. Godzilla

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Kingu Kongu tai Gojira

Ishirō Honda

Japan, 1962

Credits

Review by Thomas Scalzo

Posted on 03 February 2013

Source DVD

Categories The Compleat Godzilla

With a title like King Kong vs. Godzilla, it should come as no surprise that this is a film unconcerned with narrative subtleties. King Kong exists, Godzilla exists, and it’s only natural that if these two screen titans find themselves in the same town, they will battle to the death. What is surprising, however, is the utter inanity of the story set up, the hilariously shoddy production work, and the endless stream of memorably dim-witted dialogue. When compared with the well-crafted films that introduced the world to these respective monsters, King Kong vs. Godzilla is a joke. And yet, by the time the big battle rolls around we realize we’ve been laughing all along.

Before we can get to the monster throwdown, however, we need an explanation as to exactly how our prehistoric baddies have come to be in the same location. First, a clean-cut American newsman reports that a series of devastating earthquakes in South America have affected the ocean currents and the normally cool waters north of Japan have warmed significantly. When a rescue helicopter pilot spies a prehistoric monster emerging from a melting iceberg like a chicken from an egg, he shouts, “Godzilla!” Inevitably, the long-dormant demon heads for the mainland.

Meanwhile, an enterprising television producer/businessman named Mr. Tako is attempting to procure a rare, and narcotic, berry from an obscure island in the South Pacific. In the process, Mr. Tako’s lackeys come face to face with the local gorilla god, King Kong. Determined to use Kong as living proof of the island berry’s powers, Mr. Tako drugs the ape and sends him back to Japan. Before he gets there, Kong breaks free and sets about his own destruction of Japan. After whetting their respective appetites with small villages, the monsters meet.

Intermixed with an initial series of skirmishes between the two titans – forays seemingly intended to test each other’s strengths before the ultimate battle can commence – we’re treated to regular updates by American and Japanese reporters who offer behind-the-scenes glimpses as to how the governments of the world hope to solve the global dilemma. The atom bomb is discussed, of course, but ultimately dismissed as overkill. Electricity is attempted, but Kong seems to feed off it. No, it seems the best solution to this two-pronged terror is to let the titans duke it out.

Although the final battle between these screen legends is the clear centerpiece of the film – a wonderfully preposterous scene full of rock tossing, fire breathing, and full on wrestling moves – the idiotic human-centric scenes that lead up to it are just as fun. From the foolhardy plotting of the scientists, to the dour Japanese newsman’s simple warning, “Do not go to Hokkaido,” to watching along as a supposed professor of paleontology holds up a children’s book on dinosaurs to help explain what Godzilla is (See kids, Godzilla is a dinosaur!), hardly a scene goes by without a laugh. And when the inevitable battle comes, featuring two guys in monster costumes wrestling on a hillside, it serves not only as a summation of the story, but of all the lunacy that came before it—a perfectly ridiculous climax to a perfectly ridiculous film.

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