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King Kong vs. Godzilla
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Box Front Japanese Title: Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira (“King Kong vs. Godzilla”)
Director: Ishiro Honda (Godzilla, King Of The Monsters; Rodan)
Original Release Year: 1962
Running Time: 91 minutes

DVD Released By: Goodtimes Home Video
Video: Fullscreen
Audio: English mono
Extras: Production notes
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 18
Packaging: Originally released in a snapper case; more recent pressings came in a keepcase
MSRP: $7.49
UPC #: 018713810137
Catalog #: 05-81013
Status: Out of print


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Reviewed by:  Zillamon51
The Film: A scientist in the employ of the Pacific Pharmaceutical Company has discovered a type of narcotic berry growing on the island of Faro in the South Pacific.  The berries, called “Soma,” are coveted for their medicinal properties.  Mr. Tako, the head of the company, wants to create a huge advertising campaign to exploit this new discovery.  He dispatches two of his underlings, the determined Sakurai and the bumbling Furue, to Faro.  Their job is to secure a supply of the berries, and to investigate reports of a gigantic creature that the island natives revere as a god.

Meanwhile, the U.N. nuclear submarine Seahawk is investigating strange oceanic conditions in the Bering Sea.  Unusually warm water currents are causing numerous icebergs to break apart.  The sub is destroyed, and a helicopter sent to investigate witnesses Godzilla emerging from a crumbling iceberg!

On Faro, Sakurai and Furue make contact with the natives.  They also set out into the jungle to investigate the cries of the island’s mountain god.  A huge octopus comes ashore at night and attacks the village.  The natives are helpless against the slithering menace.  The giant ape King Kong comes down from his mountain home and drives the octopus away.  He then indulges in urn after urn of the natives’ berry juice!  Kong is knocked out by the Soma.  The giant ape is secured to a raft for transport to Japan.  He is to be pressed into service as a mascot for Pacific Pharmaceuticals!

Godzilla razes Japan, and the military is helpless to stop him.  As the ship approaches, Kong awakens and breaks loose!  He comes ashore and heads for a showdown with his instinctive rival, Godzilla.  However, the reptilian behemoth easily repels Kong with his atomic breath.  An electrical barricade around the city of Tokyo is less effective against Kong, who somehow draws strength from the voltage.  Kong enters the city and abducts Sakurai’s sister.  After being subdued once again with Soma, Kong is airlifted to Mt. Fuji for a final climatic showdown with Godzilla.  Will a passing thunderstorm give Kong the power he needs to challenge the mighty Godzilla?

Following a seven-year absence after the lackluster response to 1955’s
Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla returned to the screen to face one of the most popular movie monsters of all time, King Kong.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t live up to its promise.  King Kong vs. Godzilla suffers from poor special effects, and an over-abundance of comedy.  The Godzilla suit is a favorite among fans.  The design itself is quite good; it’s massive and powerful-looking, with convincingly reptilian features.  However, in action Godzilla looks very fake; exactly like an actor wearing a bulky rubber costume.  Perhaps this is because it was the first Godzilla filmed in color?  The Kong costume is much worse, however.  King Kong is a mangy, pudgy creature with a paper-mache face.  It captures none of the animal ferocity of the 1933 American original.  Composite shots are also very poor.  Whenever people or full-size props are shown onscreen with the monsters, the various elements don’t fit together.  Foreground objects are outlined in blue, and there are obvious shadows cast on screens used for rear-projection shots.  KKvG has the worst special effects Eiji Tsuburaya ever contributed to the Godzilla series.  Both the original 1954 Godzilla, and the following installment, 1964’s Godzilla vs. Mothra, feature superior effects.

KKvG was the first film of the series to take a comedic approach.  It was intended as a broad satire on Japanese commercialism.  The silliness extends from the “people scenes” to the monsters.  Godzilla seems to clap his hands and laugh as he singes Kong’s hide with his breath.  Kong drunkenly chugs berry juice until he passes out.  Their final fight is full of somersaults and moves borrowed from pro wrestling.  It doesn’t help that this Americanized version of the film is re-edited to include numerous talky scenes of dull reporters commenting on the action.  Akira Ifukube’s score, widely considered one of the maestro’s best, has also been almost completely replaced with stock themes (some of which are recognizable from Creature From The Black Lagoon).  KKvG is held in high esteem by many fans for its nostalgic value.  It’s entertaining, but it falls far short of what it should have been.  Grade:  C-

Video: The first offense (and it’s a major one) is that the film is presented in fullscreen.  The widescreen spectacle of the original film is severely compromised.  The print has a lot of speckles and lines.  While some scenes are reasonably clear, others are a real mess.  Fortunately, the image is bright and color reproduction is reasonably good, but there is also quite a bit of grain in many scenes.  Grade:  C-

Audio: The film’s soundtrack is presented in basic mono.  It sounds okay.  The corny dialogue, stock music, and sound effects are all clear.  The audio is hardly a triumph, but there are no major problems.  Grade:  B

Extras / Menus: The only extra is one page of production notes.  It gives very little information about the film.  All it does is drop the names of the crew, and the titles of several other classic Toho kaiju eiga.  It could have included a lot more information.

The film has an interesting history.  It started out as a comeback vehicle for Kong’s creator, Willis O’Brien, entitled
King Kong vs. Frankenstein.  When producer John Beck couldn’t get financing for the project, he sold the script to Toho, who turned it into a comeback vehicle for Godzilla.  Despite becoming a huge hit in both Japan (it still holds the record for most tickets sold of any Godzilla film) and the U.S., O’Brien never saw a dime.  For a long time, it was reported that the original Japanese version had a different ending in which Godzilla was the clear victor.  This is not true; both versions end the same way.  In any case, you’ve just learned more about the background of King Kong vs. Godzilla than you will from Goodtimes’ paltry production notes.

It’s puzzling that Goodtimes didn’t include the film’s trailer.  It
is included in their trailer compilation Fantastic Dinosaurs Of The Movies.  The menus are all still pictures with no sound or music.  Grade:  D

Final Analysis: Poor quality fullscreen video on a bare-bones budget DVD.  This disk has been out of print for a while; hopefully the film will be reissued in much better form.  Peter Jackson’s upcoming King Kong remake (also from Universal, the U.S. licensor of KKvG) is the perfect opportunity (hint, hint!)  Final Grade:  C-
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