This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek
In the third installment in the Godzilla series, Toho decided to bring in another well-known monster to be Godzilla’s opponent; the mighty King Kong!
It was originally an idea by Willis O'Brien to film a movie to be called King Kong vs. Frankenstein, in which Kong fights a giant version of the Frankenstein monster. It was turned down by several American studios because of the cost of stop-motion animation to produce the movie. O'Brien then shopped the script overseas, where it was picked up by Toho Studios. Toho altered the script to include Godzilla as the monster Kong fights, and thus this classic was born.
This is where Toho Studios, much to Ishirô Honda's regret, turned the monsters toward humorous moments and showing emotions. There is even a scene where Godzilla laughs at Kong after burning his chest with his atomic breath. Toho’s reason for moving to a more lighthearted tone with Godzilla was to appeal to younger audiences. It seemed that children loved Godzilla despite him being shown to be the bad guy, so Toho wanted to make them happy.
The plot for the movie is very simple. On an island near Japan, a berry has been found that has several medicinal uses. The pharmaceutical company studying the berries learns from the scientist that discovered them that the island natives worship a god they say is a giant monster. The head of the company, desiring a new ad campaign for the company, sends two of his employees to find this monster and capture it.
In the meantime, an atomic submarine has found an iceberg that is giving off a strange glow. When they get too close to it, the iceberg begins to break apart, sinking the sub. When a rescue chopper is sent to the location, the pilots see Godzilla breaking free from the ice. As Godzilla begins doing what he does, stepping on things and burning them with his atomic breath, Kong is found on the island. Kong falls asleep after getting drunk off the berry juice, naturally. Of course, the two humans from Tokyo decide to try to bring him back with them.
As usual, Kong escapes on the way back to Japan, and eventually the two monsters face off. Godzilla has the upper hand in the first fight with his breath weapon, and Kong retreats after getting burned by Godzilla. In this movie, Godzilla has now developed a weakness to electricity, so the government is able to hold him back by supercharging the power lines around the city.
However, Kong is not stopped by the power lines. Instead he is supercharged by them, and plows through doing a little destruction before grabbing a woman and climbing the National Diet Building. Thanks to the power of berry juice, they are able to put Kong to sleep and rescue the poor woman.
The government decides that Kong and Godzilla must fight each other and in the hopes that they will end up killing each other. Using balloons (yes, balloons), they are able to airlift Kong to Mt. Fuji, where Godzilla is taking a stroll. They drop Kong right in front of Godzilla and the two begin battling again. Once again, Kong is overpowered by Godzilla until storm clouds form and Kong is struck by lightening. It supercharges him and evens the battle, as Kong is now able to shock Godzilla by just touching him.
The battle is very physical. The suit actor who played Kong, Shoichi Hirose, was a black belt in judo and showed just how skillful he was by doing a shoulder throw to Haruo Nakajima, who came back as Godzilla for a third time. Nakajima weighed almost 300 pounds when in the Godzilla suit, so for Shoichi Hirose to be able to perform a shoulder throw during the fight is very impressive.
Godzilla and Kong battle on until both of them fall off a cliff into the ocean. Their underwater battling causes an earthquake, and at last Kong rises to the surface and begins to swim home. Godzilla is nowhere to be seen, but the watching humans do believe there is a chance he is still alive.
This movie is a fun little romp, as long as you apply what I like to call Godzilla Philosophy when you watch it. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy it for what it is: two guys play-fighting while knocking down toy buildings. Yes, the plot is silly. Yes, the Kong suit is godawful ugly, and yes, it is not possible in any way that this could happen. But if you watch it just for fun and can suspend your disbelief for the movie, it can be very entertaining. This was the second monster battle movie that Toho had made, and it is much better than Godzilla Raids Again.
Now, there is a myth in the Godzilla community about this movie that I need to address. A lot of people are under the misconception that there are two different endings for this movie: that in the edited American release, Kong is the winner, and in the Japanese version it is Godzilla that rises up out of the water and swims away.
I hate to break it to you, but that is nothing but myth. As much as it pains me to tell you this as a Godzilla fan, Kong wins! Toho Studios even considers this ending to be an official loss for the Big G. You have to understand that at the time this movie was made, Godzilla was still considered the bad guy, so he had to lose at the end of the story.
However, there is one difference between the American ending and the Japanese one. At the end of the movie, you hear Kong roar, and it is then followed by Godzilla’s roar. In a way, this shows the audience that he did indeed survive the battle.
I suggest that you watch the original Japanese cut of the movie. It is much better than the Americanized version, which was heavily edited and loses a great deal in the process. The musical score is completely changed, a lot of the human plot is altered or dropped, and it to me is a much better movie when seen unaltered.
Up next in the Summer of Godzilla: Mothra vs. Godzilla! SSSSKKKKREEEEROOONNNK!
Special Effects: 3 SRRREEEROOONNKS
Plot: 3 FOOT STOMPS
Fun Factor: FOUR ATOMIC BREATH ATTACKS