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What is the greatest movie crossover? Some may say Alien vs. Predator, some may say Freddy vs. Jason, but the truth of the matter is that King Kong vs. Godzilla stands above all cinematic crossovers. Some only know Kong from the Peter Jackson film of 2005, and some only know Godzilla as a giant iguana from the 1998 movie. Some don't even know this crossover exists! But that some is very few. King Kong vs. Godzilla may just be the most well-known Godzilla film in America, it still holds the record for highest grossing Godzilla film. (If we un-adjust inflation, Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth holds the record.) C'mon, it's Japan's premiere monster against America's premiere monster. (If only the Cloverfield monster could get a few more films.) Not everything was dandy though, this film does have some controversial origins. Originally this was going to be King Kong vs. Frankenstein. (Frankenstein had battled the Wolf Man, next step was King Kong.) The story by Willis O'Brian (the guy who animated Kong in the original 1933 film) was stolen and given to TOHO by John Beck, whom we know is responsible for the dub. TOHO replaced Frankenstein with their own monster and went on to make their most successful kaiju film to date. The original Japanese version to this day has still not been released in America, so many have not seen it. (I am part of that many sadly.) From what I know it's a satire of giant monster movies in general, and it was actually funny. When it was dubbed, Beck wanted to make it a 'straight up science fiction story.' The satire was removed and an attempt was made to make it into an adventure. What we got was a science fiction story with pretty bad dubbing comedy. While the dub is a complete joke, it's still magic when you see the two beasts fighting for the first and last time.
This film being a lot less serious than its two predecessors, the Godzilla suit was given a more cartoony-like look. Now don't think that's a bad thing, it's really quite awesome. Next to the GMK look, this one makes Godzilla look evil. In this film Godzilla was a complete jerk when it came to fighting. In their first encounter he was just laughing and clapping his hands and making Kong retreat thanks to his atomic breath. King Kong, well, as a kid I didn't really notice too much, but now I see how goofy the King Kong suit looks. There's no getting around it, it looks silly. But it's part of the film's charm. The final battle is what this film is known for. Unlike some vs. movies (any Asylum movie) where they wait until the final five minutes to show the two fighters battling it out and it ends up being disappointing, in King Kong vs. Godzilla the final fight is long and satisfying. America doesn't quite understand how to do giant monster fights like Japan does. Classic kaiju wrestling at its finest. King Kong is obviously no match for Godzilla, everyone seemed to know that, so they gave Godzilla a weakness against electricity just for the film, and made Kong stronger when struck by it. Godzilla was never without a doubt winning the whole time, easily outmatching Kong. Of course the biggest asset here was Godzilla's atomic radiation, whenever he struck Kong by it, the latter was like "The heck is this?" Meanwhile Godzilla is clapping at how futile the battle was. Godzilla even attempted burying Kong alive, and clapping while doing it! This is one of the few films where Godzilla is the definitive villain with his opponent being the good guy.
Originally the film was going to use stop motion animation, like with the original King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Sadly (though suitmation is awesome in its own right) it would have been too costly. (Japanese movies tend to have smaller budgets than American films.) So the classic suitmation was done. However, some stop motion is found, such as the famous Godzilla double kick on Kong. Unlike in the previous two entries, the monsters became 'characters' in the fights. This is where the crazy kaiju fights originated from. Instead of being dark where "Oh man, whoever wins we're screwed" with the dramatic music playing, here is a fight you'll be smiling at the whole time. C'mon, Kong tries to shove a tree down Godzilla's throat, you don't see this stuff like that anywhere else.
When one mentions King Kong vs. Godzilla, the infamous ending rumor comes up. Obviously it's been known as fake for a long time, but still a fun thought. In the end, as much as Godzilla fans dislike it, King Kong won the battle. They both plummeted into the ocean, and moments later Kong rose up and started to leave and head back home in time for King Kong Escapes. A rumor that had originated from the magazine Spacemen had stated that in the Japanese version Godzilla had won. Once Americans were able to get a hold of the original version, the rumor was destroyed. Still, a fun thought. Godzilla was more powerful than Kong, it was only when the latter was powered up by electricity when the tide had turned.
King Kong vs. Godzilla came out in 1962, seven years after Godzilla battled Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again. After the film's success, Godzilla became a profitable character again. While Gojira was immensely successful, Raids Again was poorly reviewed by fans and critics alike, and the monster was laid to rest as TOHO did other monster films such as Rodan and Mothra. But after King Kong vs. Godzilla, TOHO decided to start a franchise starring the title monster, he went on to crossover with Mothra and in the same year turned into a good guy and battled Ghidorah. So without King Kong vs. Godzilla, it is quite possible that there will have not been as many films we see today. (Imagine that!) On August 11th, 1962, Godzilla went on to battle King Kong for a battle of the ages, fifty years ago. It was on that day that Godzilla was defined as a character, and c'mon, it's the greatest crossover in the history of cinema!
Thu October 10, 2013, 7:30 only, VAC Basement Auditorium (1B20)
USA, 1962, Japanese w/ English subtitles, Color, 91 mins, 35mm, 2.35:1, NR