KING OF THE KAIJUS
A look at giant monsters and what makes them so much fun
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
How I learned to stop worrying and love guys in rubber suits
Welcome to the first in a new feature titled “King of the Kaijus.” Kaiju is the word first used to describe the genre of giant monsters exemplified in Japanese movies. However, the term is no longer just for Japanese films but now describes all giant monster movies even those made in America.
In the future we’re going to be looking at all kinds of kaijus from across the spectrum. But this feature is called King of the Kaijus and there are actually two giant monsters that are rivals for that title. First there is Godzilla who has been called “King of the Monsters” and there is King Kong. Which of these is King of the Kaijus? We could spend the next several posts arguing the pros and cons of each of these guys and still get nowhere. After more than sixty years maybe it’s more fun if they remain rivals.
But there is a movie in which these two giants battle it out and I felt it was appropriate to start with a review of that movie. So we begin with KING KONG VS. GODZILLA released in Japan in 1962 and in the United States in 1963.
I first saw this movie as a kid in a theatre when I was 8 years old. Yes, I realize I just dated myself. Back then I went to see this movie because it had King Kong in it and I had seen the original 1933 King Kong movie on TV and loved it. There is something about big gorillas that make you want to say Yay!
At this point I didn’t know anything about Godzilla having missed his first two movies. So this was my introduction to Godzilla. I say this because, although I remain a King Kong fan, my favorite is Godzilla.
The movie begins with Tako (not to be confused with Taco Bell) as the head of a Japanese pharmaceutical company who is frustrated with the TV shows his company is sponsoring and is looking for something to boost the ratings. A scientist tells Tako about a giant gorilla living on a Pacific island called Faro. Believing it would be a good idea to use the giant monster for publicity (after all what could go wrong?) Tako sends two men – Kinsaburo and Sakurai – to Faro Island to bring back King Kong.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, errr sorry, meanwhile the United Nations submarine SEAHAWK gets caught in a collapsing iceberg. Inside the iceberg Godzilla emerges. He then destroys the submarine and a nearby Arctic base before heading for Japan. Why Japan? I don’t know maybe he was looking for good sushi.
Back on Faro Island a giant octopus crawls ashore and attacks a native village. Apparently everything is bigger on Faro Island even the octopi. King Kong arrives and gets into a knock down drag out brawl with the octopus and kicks its butt. Kong then drinks some red berry wine prepared for him by the natives – he apparently has a drinking problem – and passes out. Sakurai and Kinsaburo somehow get Kong on a large flat boat and begin bringing him to Japan.
Back in Japan, Godzilla arrives and begins terrorizing the countryside. I can only assume he is upset because he can’t find any good take-out sushi. The authorities do not like the idea of having both Godzilla and Kong in Japan at the same time. Not good for the tourist trade.
Tako takes a helicopter to the ship bringing Kong. But then the Japanese Navy arrives and orders them to take Kong back to Faro Island. Kong wakes up; they try blowing up the boat he is on but only succeed in giving him a good dunking. Kong is mad! I’m not sure if it is because he got soaking wet or because there is no wine. They should have offered him some tequila.
Kong makes it to Japan and he and Godzilla meet and take an instant dislike to each other. They fight with Kong throwing giant boulders at Godzilla. The big lizard does him one better and burns Kong with his atomic breath. Kong retreats realizing that he cannot take on Godzilla and his bad breath.
The Japanese military come up with a plan to get Godzilla. They dig up a large pit fill it with high explosives and poison gas and sucker Godzilla into falling into the pit. I could have told them it wouldn’t work. Next they try a barrier of power lines around Tokyo with 1 million volts. This stops Godzilla. He likes his sushi raw not electric baked.
Kong then approaches Tokyo from the other end – someone must have told him they were serving sake – and feeding off the power lines (electricity makes him stronger) he tears thru and enters the city. In Fay Wray style he grabs Fumiko, Sakurai’s sister, and climbs a building. He was probably looking for the nearest bar intending to buy Fumiko a drink. At Sakurai’s suggestion the military launch capsules filled with the Faro Island cherry wine in gas form and Kong falls asleep. That boy cannot hold his booze. After rescuing Fumiko the military decides to transport Kong to Godzilla using giant balloons in the hope that they will kill each other. One guys wants sushi and the other guy just wants a drink and the military want them to kill each other. Tokyo is a rough town.
Kong is dropped on Godzilla atop Mount Fuji – and the slugfest begins. Meanwhile a thunderstorm starts brewing. Apparently Mother Nature was on Kong’s side. At first Godzilla is the obvious winner. His tail and bad breath giving him clear advantages and it looks like curtains for Kong. But then a bolt of lightning from the storm clouds hit Kong and soups him up. Like Rocky at the end of a movie Kong makes mince meat out of Godzilla. In a clinch the two tumble off a cliff and into the ocean where the fighting continues. The underwater fighting is so intense it causes an earthquake on dry land. When things calm down we see Kong swimming back towards Faro Island and there is no sign of the defeated Godzilla.
When I first saw this movie back in 1963 not knowing any better I loved it. Fifty-two years later I still loved it but not for the same reasons. The operative word for this film is cheesy. It has cheesy special effects, cheesy acting, and a cheesy plot. However, it does have three things going for it that makes you forgive all the cheesiness. First, it has Godzilla. Second, it has King Kong, and third – King Kong and Godzilla fight! That makes up for everything.
This movie is decades before CGI. It doesn’t even have stop motion animation. What it has are guys in rubber suits tearing up miniature sets with Lego buildings. That’s the fun of it! This movie had me laughing from beginning to end. Now you might say that the movie is not a comedy so I’m not supposed to be laughing. Cow Chips! It’s giant monsters – its not supposed to be taken seriously. It’s supposed to be fun. And I had fun watching it. Enough said.
I’m giving KING KONG VS. GODZILLA three and a half gray geeks.
If you love Godzilla, if you like King Kong, if you don’t mind guys in rubber suits chewing up the scenery then you will love this movie. However, if you do not like any of those then avoid this movie and go see some drivel like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
By the way, I think Godzilla really won at the end but who am I to judge I just watch this stuff.