Monday, May 5, 2014

Movie Monday: King Kong vs. Godzilla 1962

Hello Everyone,

This week's installment of Movie Monday is King Kong vs Godzilla. This review continues Phillihp Ray's journey through the Godzilla lore as we get closer to the release of the remake. Check out his thoughts. 

Long story short: original King Kong stop-motion animator Willis O´Brien had an idea for a Kong story involving a fight with a giant Frankenstein monster. After shopping it around Hollywood and being turned down, he did the next best thing – went to Japan. Thus we have the birth of one of the greatest West meets East battles of all time, making Rocky IV feel like a romp through the park.

This movie is important in Godzilla history for two notable reasons – it is the first colour film in the long franchise, and the first in which the monster battle is the center piece of the story: the human spectators even place bets on the behemoth fight. Yes, the previous film, Godzilla Raids Again, does also include a monster confrontation, but it comes off as more of a quick test-run than anything. King Kong vs. Godzilla is the real deal. And for all it´s grand spectacle it is, to date, the highest grossing Godzilla movie of all time, and it is definitely worth watching for all it´s maddening glory.

The story centers on a ratings-mad television programmer named Mr. Tako, willing to do anything to boost his viewership. He sends two of his men, Sakurai and Kinsaburo, to an island called Faro where a monster has reportedly been found. The monster of course is King Kong and Mr. Tako wants it. How they manage to capture King Kong is so inexplicably outlandish that I won´t spoil it for you. Let´s just say that it´s a lesson in responsible drinking: for you never know when you might end up tied to a raft being dragged by a ship to some unknown country.

While all this monkey business is going on on Faro inland, an American submarine has a head on encounter with Godzilla, which has escaped from inside an iceberg where he had been trapped since the end of the last film. He, as usual, wastes no time romping around Japan and creating general mayhem. This drives Mr. Tako even madder. He quickly makes it known that he is bringing Kong to the mainland so as to drive news coverage away from Godzilla and to his own station.

There´s a lot of zaniness which goes on in the time between King Kong´s capture and the final fateful meeting between the two monsters. These include: Kong sized balloons powerful enough to carry him through the air, giant gorilla sized sleeping potions, King Kong capturing a young Japanese girl from a train ala Fay Wray, and hypnotic tribal music. It really has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Amidst all this craziness there is also a quick first meeting between King Kong and Godzilla which doesn´t turn out favorably for the aped one. We do come away learning that he can take in quite a large surge of electricity though. This sets up for the final encounter where Kong turns into sort of gorilla version of Raiden or Electro. This turn of events was so unexpected that I had to rewind the movie just to see it again. The fight involves a lot of tussling, twirling, tail grabbing and rock throwing; it´s the WWE before it´s time. It´s truly epic to see these two movie icons going at it full force and in glorious color.

Of the three films I have seen so far this was certainly the most enjoyable. While the first is rather grim, and the second is uncertainty as to what it wants to be (serious or campy), this movie throws everything at the viewer in true Godzilla fashion – unabashed and unforgivably. I couldn´t help but admire the passion that went into making it, even down to the extreme athleticism of the two actors inside the monster costumes. This style of sincere over-the-toppness is what opened the flood gates for the many classic Godzilla films to follow and what has made the green monster a mainstay (even more so than the oft-time too serious King Kong) over the generations. Watch this one with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy.

Post by Phillihp Ray 

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