Retro Review: King Kong Vs. Godzilla

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Today we’re going to talk about King Kong Vs. Godzilla. No, not the upcoming Godzilla Vs. Kong movie that’s been rolled back to 2021 because of the COVID.

I’m talking about watching a stuttering Goodtimes Video copy of the 1962 Toho film King Kong Vs. Godzilla on a rickety VCR. The way it was meant to be viewed. Shitty tracking, blacking out for no reason and then suddenly coming back on…what is that noise when you shake the tape, like a piece broke off in it? Good times. Goodtimes.

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Goodtimes = Quality

Join me, won’t you?

After enduring the bombastically banal rigors of the Roland Emmerich Godzilla, I was in serious need of a palette cleanser. And in a competition merely based on looks, the 1962 Godzilla clearly wins this contest over 1998 hands-down. He’s pretty much the same suave, ridged giant lizard with the sexy grimace that we all know and love.

King Kong, however…

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Nothing perhaps some eyebrow shaping and caps couldn’t fix

Quite simply, this must be the worst man-in-an-ape-suit in all of cinematic history, and I include Robot Monster and Mighty Peking Man in that assessment.

We have a highly visible zipper seam, a horribly goofy fright mask of a head that looks like it was designed off of an 8-year-old’s scribble, and distractingly long spindly arms that just flop around like Kermit the Frog. I suppose the arms were purposely designed in an elongated fashion so Kong could do the knuckle-walk— unfortunately, the actor inside the costume rarely attempts a realistic ape walk. So in short: it looks really really awkward.

In terms of King Kong Vs. Godzilla’s plot, it’s essentially two movies smushed together—not uncommon for these international monster movie mashups. But what’s striking here is that the American half of the film is almost entirely two dudes providing exposition at either a newscast or a U.N. desk (I mean really, who the fuck knows?). That’s it. One American guy, and one Japanese guy with a secretary in the background. Talking. About the movie. Endlessly.

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“Come, trip balls with me.”

The actual Japanese portion of the film has, predictably, a completely different look and film quality from the American scenes. It starts as basically a retelling of the original King Kong —complete with asshole corporate guy in a safari hat—and is as racist as all get out. Sure, the mysterious island in which Kong dwells is supposed to be somewhere on Polynesia and not Africa—but that doesn’t prevent an awful amount of Japanese in blackface and Afro wigs. Oof.

It turns out that all you need to do to defeat this Kong is get him drunk while listening to a constant rhythm beat—which means that basically you could take him to a rave and be done with him.

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Dude.

Meanwhile, Godzilla just does his thing, stepping on cars and houses. In an attempt to figure out how to stop the lizard this time, the Japanese army comes up with a brilliant plan—airlift Kong via the use of about a dozen balloons and drop him in front of Godzilla so they can fight it out. And they use the type of balloons that you’d give a small child, one of Kong’s legs sort of sticking out in a weird position.

One of the all-time great scenes in the annals of Cheesy Cinema:

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Dude.

And so now we have the fight we’ve been waiting all picture for, and it sort of plays out like a lesser-card pro wrestling match. Only with Godzilla’s fire breath…and Kong’s electrical powers.

Oh, you didn’t know Kong had electrical powers????

Well, I imagine this is all because the movie was originally supposed to be “King Kong Vs. Frankenstein,” penned by original Kong animator Willis O’Brien. O’Brien took the outline to producer John Beck—who then apparently brought the idea to Toho behind O’Brien’s back. Frankenstein was changed to Godzilla, and O’Brien died the same year the movie came out. Sorry if I’m being a bummer, but this is typical Hollywood fuckery & Santa Claus isn’t real either.

Watch this video for a bunch of “King Kong Vs. Frankenstein” concept pieces and fan art and imagine what might have been:

The movie ends with the two giant monsters falling into the sea; the narrator back at the U.N. Evening News reporting that Godzilla is nowhere to be found, and King Kong is seen walking off to have further adventures.

Alas, there would be no more Toho adventures starring this particular giant ape, though that didn’t stop John Guillermin, Peter Jackson, and Jordan Vogt-Roberts to take a crack at Kong. And of course there were still plenty of generic Konglike tales to knuckle-walk about cinema.

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For example, consider THIS 1979 gem

But in general, I’d rather watch a crazy, corny flick like King Kong Vs. Godzilla over that 1998 “Godzilla” remake any day of the week. Why? Because, despite Kong’s crazy papier-mâché face, the wildly uneven editing, the imbecilic island sequence, that dude with a jar of roasted red peppers, and everything else wrong with this movie—there is some sincerity there.

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