Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Shinichi Sekizawa
Cast: Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yu Fujiki, Ichiro Arishima, Jun Tazaki, Akihiko Hirata, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Akemi Negishi, Yoshio Kosugi, Yoshifumi Tajima, Ikio Sawamura, Somesho Matsumoto, Ko Mishima, Sachio Sakai, Tatsuo Matsumura, Senkichi Omura, Ren Yamamoto, Haruya Kato, Shin Otomo, Nadao Kirino, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Yutaka Nakayama, Toshihiko Furuta, Naoya Kusakawa, Mitsuo Tsuda, Haruko Togo, Kenzo Tabu, Jiro Kumagai, Shiro Tsuchiya, Yasuzo Ogawa, Kazuo Suzuki, Shinpei Mitsui, Haruya Sakamoto, Hiromi Mineoka, Terumi Oka, Ichiro Chiba, Mieko Kurenai, Dagurasu Fuen, Harorudo Konwei, Osuman Yusefu, Shoichi Hirose, Haruo Nakajima, and Katsumi Tezuka
Composer: Akira Ifukube
Release Date: 8/11/1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Hoping to boost his television ratings, Mr. Tako (Ichiro Arishima)—chairman of Pacific Pharmaceuticals—sends company employees Osamu Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Kinsaburo Furue (Yu Fujiki) on an expedition to Faro Island, where a 150-foot-tall gorilla named King Kong is rumored to live. Following an encounter with a giant octopus, Kong is rendered unconscious by Soma berry juice and fastened to a transport ship; but promptly escapes before reaching the Japanese mainland. Meanwhile, Godzilla breaks free from the iceberg in which he had been imprisoned since 1955, allowing him to invade Tokyo once again. Only a confrontation between Kong and Godzilla can spare Japan from the existential threat posed by both monsters.
Despite showcasing one of the worst giant monster suits ever made, King Kong vs. Godzilla will surely entertain fans of the kaiju eiga genre. Especially terrific is the musical arrangement featured in this film, elements of which would later be incorporated into Godzilla’s iconic entrance theme.
During the climactic fight scene, Kong employs his mammalian intellect in order to gain an advantage over Godzilla—an intriguing, semi-realistic depiction of how a thinking animal might react in such a scenario. For example, Kong hides behind a mountain when chased by Godzilla, thereby maintaining the element of surprise. Another tactic worth mentioning, Kong later rams a tree into the mouth of his opponent, preventing him from using his atomic breath for a short while.
On a more technical note, the composition of Akira Ifukube generates a darkly majestic atmosphere befitting the magnificent, awe-inspiring natures of Kong—the Eighth Wonder of the World—and Godzilla, King of the Monsters. (The same praise cannot be given to the Americanized version, which substitutes the original score with stock music from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and other titles contained in Universal Studios’ library of movies.)
As opposed to Godzilla’s battle with Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again, the monster action in King Kong vs. Godzilla often resembles a professional wrestling match between stunt actors wearing rubber suits—hardly a convincing portrayal of two gigantic, aggressive creatures locked in mortal combat with each other.
In several instances, Kong draws upon the power of electricity to enhance his natural strength. Though intended to even the odds between both monsters, Kong’s ability to “recharge” himself is never explained within the actual film.
A salaryman comedy, King Kong vs. Godzilla is a satire on the woes, trials, and banalities commonly associated with white-collar life in postwar Japan. Unfortunately, writer Shinichi Sekizawa’s tongue-in-cheek subject matter, however subtle, serves as a poor vehicle through which to deliver an inaugural meeting between the two most popular movie monsters of all time. Problems with tone are even more apparent in the aforementioned Americanized version, which forgoes a satirical approach in favor of an overt style of humor (a direct equivalent of the “salaryman” genre does not exist in Western cinema, forcing the American editors to improvise).
King Kong vs. Godzilla is an enjoyable, albeit heavily flawed, entry in Toho’s classic lineup of daikaiju films. Monster movie buffs may therefore wish to view this offering; audiences of a strictly serious inclination, on the other hand, would likely prefer the original versions of King Kong and Godzilla for obvious reasons.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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