King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) - Ishiro Honda

GOOD CHEESY GIANT MONSTER MOVIE 57/100

Director: Ishirô Honda
Writers: Shin'ichi Sekizawa, Paul Mason
Stars: Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yû Fujiki
Country: Japan | USA
Language: Japanese | English
Release Date: 11 August 1962
Budget: $200,000 (estimated)
Gross USA: $2,725,000
Production Co: Toho Company, John Beck, RKO General Pictures
Runtime: 97 min

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King Kong vs. Godzilla is a Japanese kaiju film from Toho Pictures, and a bit of a dream match for the two titular mammoth beasts. Released in 1962, King Kong vs. Godzilla would have Ishiro Honda is returning to the director's chair after Godzilla’s eight-year hiatus. It was produced as a family feature and did very well upon release. Attracting families and making this movie the fourth highest-grossing Japanese film of that year.

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In 1955, Godzilla was attacked and trapped in an iceberg following the destruction of Osaka in Godzilla Raids Again. But now in 1962, the icebergs are starting to melt and float south towards Japan. More importantly the icy tomb of the Gigantic Lizard Death God. Acting quickly and before Godzilla can thaw, Mr. Tako, the head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, decides to import King Kong to Japan to help defend against Godzilla. He can control Kong using strange berries that put the huge ape into a sleepy trance. Things go awry and both monsters break loose, duking it out in Japan.

This is a much higher-quality product than the original feature from 1954. The effects are awesome for the time. However, it leaves quite a bit to be desired. Eiji Tsuburaya, the effects director, had provided some stellar miniature work. Something that has become a staple in these movies already. It’s unfortunate that most of these effects don't hold up very well. The octopus scene is one that comes to mind. I bet that octopus looked nuts in the sixties, but now in 2018, it looks terrible. I appreciate the effort.

King Kong vs. Godzilla introduces some pretty interesting things like Kong becoming stronger with electricity. But it also is an obvious product of its time with one of the craziest scenes where a production company, sent to find King Kong, gifts cigarettes to an entire village of natives on Faro Island. Even the children! “At least they’re all smoking!” exclaims one of the executives.

I have to admit that I am a bit of a fan of this movie. It was unintentionally hilarious and campy. I was truly surprised to be so entertained.This was a great movie. It’s fun and light enough for the entire family to enjoy. The story is solid and it has a good underlying message about global warming and taking care of the planet. Director Honda did a great job of presenting this monumental match-up. I recommend this to anyone that’s interested in giant monster movies or Godzilla films.

Unfortunately, I had to be entertained by the North American release. The far superior Japanese version is incredibly hard to find. I am searching for the original Japanese cut with original audio and English subtitles. eBay listings have the VHS copy at $40 - $90. Even the 2014 Blu-Ray release is around $50 - $60! It’s insane prices. But that has to do with the original cut of the film being of notoriously bad quality. In 1970 director Ishiro Honda had cut out twenty-four minutes of the film that are now lost to time.