The Original 1962 King Kong vs Godzilla

Dept. of Monster Mash-Ups


Click here for our spoiler free review of Godzilla vs Kong.

Life used to be so simple. Put two guys in rubber suits, make some (read: a lot) miniatures, throw some black face on, and you’ve got yourself a movie. The 1962 classic King Kong vs Godzilla was never on my list of things to watch before I die, but with the imminent release of the 2021 Godzilla vs Kong, what better time to go back and look at the first battle between these two cinematic giants.

King Kong vs Godzilla opens with the head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Tako, being frustrated with the low ratings of a science based TV series that he is sponsoring and upon hearing of a possible giant monster on a small Pacific Island, sends two of his men to find the monster and bring it back to Japan so Pacific Pharmaceuticals can use it in it’s promotional work. You know, #marketing.

Worst. Marketing. Meeting. Ever.

At the same time, an American nuclear submarine doing science research into warming seas in the Arctic runs into an iceberg, where just as luck would have it, Godzilla has been in hibernation since 1955. 

The two Pacific Pharmaceuticals men head to the mysterious Faro Island (meet some Faro Island natives), capture King Kong, and transport him back to Japan.

Some Faro Island natives in King Kong vs. Godzilla
Faro Island “natives”.

Godzilla, having been awoken from its slumber, takes out the American submarine, a nearby military base, and heads to Japan because of “homing reasons.”

Reporter: You think Godzilla will come here?
Doctor Shigesawa: Yes, he’ll come to Japan without fail. “Return” is more accurate. Animals have homing instincts and remember their former habitats.

The two giants arrive in Japan, fuck shit up, fight it out, and then leave. You know, like Australians.

King Kong fight Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla
OZ! OZ! OZ! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Having never seen any of the later kaiju films, I was surprised at the lack of depth in the movie. There are no deeper political, environmental, or anti-military themes, something the earlier Godzilla movies were known for. Godzilla was awoken from his hibernation because of an accident, and King Kong was released into Japan because of a PR stunt. No nuclear chemicals in sight. In fact, the director Ishiro Honda later admitted to saying that King Kong vs Godzilla was meant to be a satire of the Japanese television industry and its outrageous programming and publicity stunts driven by sponsors’ need for higher viewer ratings.

The other thing that was quite surprising was how much the King Kong storyline seemed to follow the original King Kong movie. In the original RKO production, Kong is brought to New York as “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” and paraded into a Broadway theatre. In King Kong vs Godzilla, Mr. Tako funds the capture of Kong so that Pacific Pharmaceuticals can use him as a brand ambassador. King Kong vs Godzilla even recreates the famous Empire State Building scene.

King Kong recreates the famous Empire State Building scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla
In his defence there probably weren’t that many tall buildings in 1960s Japan.

It’s worth noting that there was a “reshot” American version of King Kong vs Godzilla released a year later, where scenes with American actors were shot and inserted into the Japanese original. The American cut of King Kong vs Godzilla was made to look like a news program which seems like a good idea in theory, but failed spectacularly in practice.

Almost 60 years later, King Kong vs Godzilla is still a very charming watch. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Thunderbirds reruns, but movies that use miniatures and remote control models will always have a place in my heart. Yes the movie does devolve into two men in rubber suits fighting it out, but that doesn’t happen until two thirds into the movie. In fact, the pivotal fight between King Kong and Godzilla doesn’t happen until the last ten minutes of the movie’s 97 minute runtime. And in a precursor of things to come, the movie ends with neither of these cinematic giants actually winning the fight, as they both tumble into the ocean, swim away to lick their wounds, and prepare to fight again.

See? Even 60 years ago filmmakers knew the value of leaving the audience wanting more and how to set-up a sequel.

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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