King Kong versus Godzilla:  The only film that sets Kong's crotch on FIRE.

It's totally weird to me that this is both an "official" Godzilla film as well as a "legitimate" King Kong film.  Made by both Universal Studios and Toho Studios, "King Kong versus Godzilla" (1962) is one of those films that you've got to see if you want to call yourself any sort of fan of monster movies.  Hell, you can't really be a fan of giant monsters and not have wasted hours upon hours of your life watching claymation monkeys climbing buildings and sweaty japanese men in rubbers suits.  Watching those two worlds collide is almost required to be into this stuff.  That said, I didn't actually see this movie until fairly recently, so you can ignore everything I just said.  I'm a traitor to monster movies, but I'll try to make up for it by giving you a quick glimpse at the totally bizarre monster confrontation (not Kongfrontation, because if I typed crap like that you'd have permission to kill me on sight). 

Trivia Time (let's get it out of the way):  Now, the first thing you have to realize, if you're not already waist-deep in the world of monster trivia, is that this is really, really, really a King Kong film.  It's not a rip-off film.  It's not a trick title.  This King Kong, the one that fights Godzilla, is "officially" the real Kong.  Well, not the real one because he died, but this film was sponsored by Universal Studios and made by Toho Studies.  I already said that, but know that this film is as much a "legitimate" remake of King Kong as the recent Peter Jackson made in 2005.  Peter Jackson and the Godzilla people received the same permission to make their films.  Spooky, right?  The other MAJOR bit of trivia here is that this is first film that Godzilla AND King Kong appeared in color in.  That's kind of big, but I can't really make that sound funny.  Soooooooooo, let's dive into the play-by-play.

This movie is pretty much a remake of King Kong with a remake of Godzilla thrown in for spice.  From the title, that makes sense.  So instead of explaining the plot as it happens, I'm going to just separate the two for the sake of simplicity.

The Godzilla film:

Godzilla thaws out of an iceberg and heads directly to Tokyo.  He destroys a bunch of stuff and um.....gets thwarted by the military when they install electric fences around parts of Japan.  Apparently Godzilla is extremely vulnerable to electricity.  That'll be important later.  Besides making things blow up, Godzilla gets attacked by King Kong a couple times. 

:blink:  Is that it?  That's pretty much it "plot-wise" going on in the Godzilla side of this tale.  You see, King Kong was still infinitely more popular than Godzilla when this film came out.  As such Toho thought it would be best to use the "King Kong" formula when making the film, instead of focusing on Godzilla.  In all honestly, our big lizard friend doesn't do much but wail on King Kong whenever he gets the chance, but that's about it for cool stuff Godzilla's bringing to the table.  More on the actual confrontation (again, NOT KONGfrontation) later, but just understand that this movie is really a Kong film.  There's a reason the big ape got top billing.  Let's see why:

The Kong film:

Holy crap, this is such a surreal remake of the original Kong.  Let's just do this before the hallucinations take over:

First things first:  Yes, Kong is indeed a guy in a furry suit.  But what did you expect?  Did you think the Toho people would totally ignore their "holy crap we can make a lot of money by just trapping a random homeless guy in a rubber monster costume" formula of success?  So Kong's a guy in a rubber suit too.  I guess since he'll be fighting Godzilla, that's what you call a level playing field.  Anyway, the Kong plot is pretty close to the original.  By "close" I mean sort of similar but with more drug references.    So why does a scientific expedition go to mysterious Farou Island, the dangerous home of King Kong?

Because Soma berries get you totally high, man.

That's right.  The home of Kong is the only place on earth were you can get these wonderful narcotic and "non-habit forming" berries known as Soma.  So random medical/recreational drug companies want to cash in.  Oh and the natives on this island have a legend about a giant monster that lives on the island.  So, once the reporters get to the island, what do they find?

King Kong fights a giant octopus.  Since it's a real octopus and not made of rubber, this ends up being the best special effect of all. So what does Kong do after he lays the smack down on one poor cephalopod?

If you answered: "King Kong gets really high," then you answered correctly.

You can't really blame the natives of Farou Island for harvesting narcotics in bulk.  Soma just seems to be Kong's drug of choice.  If a giant gorilla kept running through my town I'd try to get him to mellow out too.  Maybe get Cheech and Chong to deploy that giant joint of theirs or something.  Speaking of the natives, they originally don't like the reporters.  Of course their attitude completely changes when the reporters start bribing them.  This sort of brings up a weird issue though:

The chief being happy about being given a radio (a.k.a. "the magic noise box") I understand.  I start worrying though when the explorers employ their back-up plan....

Which apparently consists of giving everyone cigarettes.  I know cigarettes are almost universally valuable (there are some good lessons learned in prison I guess) but it's kind of weird to me.  "Hi, you don't know what this is because you're an ass backwards native that's dressed like a chicken, but I want you to put this in your mouth while I light it on FIRE."  Oh and don't forget this important act of goodwill and diplomacy:

Giving children cigarettes is awesome.  Right?

Long story short, King Kong ends up being brought to Japan where he breaks loose and makes a beeline directly to Godzilla, who's also roaming Japan destroying whatever's at hand (claw?).  Across an empty valley, the two giant monster meet one another.  They eye each other threateningly.  King Kong beats his chest, issuing a challenge to Godzilla.  This ends up being the exactly wrong thing to do as, in response....

Godzilla sets King Kong's crotch on fire.

I think King Kong, in this moment, does exactly the same thing that any of us would do in this situation.  You've started a fight or maybe you were just interested in a little action to break the monotony.  As you gaze down at your smoking, carbon-scored crotch and abdomen, you sort of have to rethink your priorities.  The King Kong/Godzilla confrontation (not Kongfrontaion) is pretty short, because Kong doesn't enjoy having his monkey-sack set on fire.  I can't blame him.  It took me a long time to get to that level of fetishism.  I'm not proud of it, but at least I can find solace in the fact that I wouldn't IMMEDIATELY run away if a giant lizard vomited up nuclear flame all over my precious bits.  I need to stop this tangent, because it'll only end in me painting King Kong in fetish garb whipping Godzilla, and no one needs to see that.  No one.  Stop emailing me about it.

Godzilla wanders around some more while King Kong has his own little adventure involving kidnapping one of the reporter's sisters because she's so beautiful.  Instead of getting shot and falling to his doom (like 80% of Kongs in other remakes), the Japanese military fires a missile filled with narcotics (Soma) again and people play drums to put King Kong to sleep.  Narcotic missiles?  I wouldn't mind losing the war on drugs if such things were involved.  Anywhooo, bad jokes aside, the Japanese realize that they need to pit King Kong and Godzilla against each other, in the hope that the resulting confrontation (must...not....type...KONGfrontation....crap) kills them both.  So now, for five points, tell me:  With Kong asleep and high, what do the Japanese do to get this battle started?

If you answered: "They tie yellow balloons to him," you get full credit.  There is nothing goofier than watching a "legitimate" King Kong travel like this.  Of course, when they're over Godzilla, they cut the strings, creating literally a "Kong Bomb" that, against all odds, actually hits Godzilla sending them both tumbling.  Not the best way to start a finale, but who cares?  This blasphemy of all things Kong is almost over.

I wish I could say that the fight was worth the wait.  Here's the short of it:  Godzilla pretty much kicks Kong all over the place until he's lying on the ground, apparently knocked out.  Of course Kong springs up to attack Godzilla just when you think Kong's out of the fight.  The first time it could be sort of dramatic.  The third time's more obnoxious than anything else.  Oh and King Kong gets struck by lightning which makes him superpowered (don't ask, electricity makes Kong stronger if he's in Japan apparently) enough to start kicking Godzilla's ass.  Highlights include:

King Kong shoving a tree in Godzilla's mouth.  Am I a total geek if my first thought is how freaking HUGE that tree is?  Oh and for you trivia geeks out there, King Kong did the same thing to the dinosaur in the original film.  In this one however, the dinosaur dislodges the offending plant by vomiting nuclear fire.  I don't care how lame it sounds, Godzilla making a tree explode when it's in his mouth is the epitome of hardcore.

What you are looking at is the only shot  where both Godzilla and Kong are, instead of being sweaty guys in rubber/furry suits, tiny models of clay animated through stop-motion photography.  It's only used for a second to show Godzilla dropkicking Kong, but it's pretty goofy and bizarre.  On a side note, the "claymation" Godzilla actually looks a lot closer in design to the later Godzillas...you know, the scary/cool ones.  Claymation (not Klaymation) Kong just looks like that weird guy who always wants to sit next to me on the bus and offers me sticky hard candy.

Don't ask me why, but after fighting each other for a while, both monsters take a break to destroy a building.  I guess that if Toho went to the trouble of making the model, they might as well go to the trouble of smashing it.  Needlessly destroying this building is also the finale finale, as immediately afterwards the two clutch each other like lovers and fall into the sea. 

In the end, we see King Kong swimming home but Godzilla doesn't resurface.  While it's been HEAVILY argued in geek/fan circles, there doesn't seem to be alternate endings to this film.  There ARE major difference between the American version and the Japanese version.  The first major change was that Universal scratched the Japanese score and replaced it with music from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon."  Kind of weird, considering how "well known" the music was at the time.  I guess Universal wanted a "horror" movie, while the Toho version was much more a comedy than than the two previous Godzilla films had been.  Oh there's also another major difference between the two versions:

Apparently in the Japanese version of the film, there are actual PEOPLE in the film.  While I can understand why Universal cut out the obnoxious and comedic scenes, when you watch both versions you really notice how, in the Japanese version, there's actual characterization going on, instead of just people pointing at rubber monsters that aren't really there.  I'd go on, but NO ONE watches a Godzilla (or King Kong) film because of the people in it.  (The exception might be the new one....Jack Black has a special place in my heart.) 

Well, that's about it.  The whole story of what happened when King Kong and Godzilla clashed (but not KONGfronted one another).  Just to revamp:  Godzilla sets Kong's crotch on fire, Kong dies but gets struck by lightning which gives him superpowers, and after a well-deserved "smash a building" break, Kong sucker-jumps Godzilla and leaves him for dead at the bottom of the ocean.  Truly a classic film that everyone should see.  In hell maybe.  Still, I recommend it to anyone who's a fan of Godzilla and King Kong films because, after all, it's both.  For real.  Anyway, enjoy yourself and remember:  If you ever end up fighting a fire-breathing dinosaur, wear PANTS.  It'll help the whole "not letting him immolate your genitalia" thing.  Trust me.  Kong knows what I'm talking about.

-jared

 

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Copyright 2005 jared von hindman, except for the damn images of Kong and Godzilla.  Those belong to Universal or Toho or some weird combination of the two.  They're use purely for review purposes.