King Kong vs. Godzilla
Dir: Ishirō Honda
One of cinemas greatest battles, between two of the most famous and infamous of rivals, is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Clearly not intentionally funny and I really don't want to make fun of it because I genuinely adore both the King Kong and the Godzilla films, but 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla is always good for when you need a good chuckle, the kind that only the most low-budget of b-movies can deliver. Of course it is the American version of the film I am reviewing, the Japanese original is still unavailable and the two versions are quite different. The American version is strangely narrated by a man behind a desk who at first seems to be a news reader but later seems to be addressing secret service agents or people of that nature. It's never clear who he is talking to, or should I say, who the audience is supposed to be. It's never clear quite why we should see the satellite that receives and sends the messages between America and Japan and why it's any of America's business at that early stage. That said, I'm still not sure how a pharmaceutical company could really benefit from owning a giant man-eating Gorilla, but that is the story. Certain characters also exist purely because they do or because they have something that can be of use later in the film, such as the lead's brother in law, who has really strong wire (that they use to air-lift Kong later in the film). Very little makes sense and it is clear that is the case for both versions. It really doesn't matter though, it's all about the two monsters. I'm not sure how it would have worked, and it clearly didn't, but King Kong vs. Godzilla was originally going to be King Kong vs. Frankenstein. I'm guessing it would have been a short film but due to a misunderstanding of copyright (the production company thought the name Frankenstein was copyrighted, when in fact it was only his make-up and image from the original movie that was) they sought another movie villain to fight and Godzilla made much more sense. They did go back to the idea for the sequel but again realized that it just wasn't practical, so they had Godzilla fight a giant moth instead. The studio didn't have enough money to produce stop-motion animation sequences and decided to use models and men in monster suits instead and thank goodness they did. Stop-motion is great, don't get me wrong, but the later monster films with men in suits were something else and quite brilliant. The little models are fantastic, done on the cheap but full of charm. The Godzilla franchise continued from here on to much success and King Kong vs. Godzilla has gone on to become something of a cult success, even though it enjoyed mainstream success and remains the bestselling Godzilla film to date. Godzilla clearly wins the battle as far as popularity goes, he was by far the greater monster and old Kong wouldn't be seen again until the late 70s, while Godzilla had a new film out nearly every year since.