King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962)
A “battle of the giants” that revels in cheesiness, King Kong Vs. Godzilla was the G-man’s third outing, and remains the most profitable of all his movies in Japan. That’s solely due to its headliners, as the film itself—or, at least, the Americanized version produced by John Beck, featuring new scenes written by Paul Mason and Bruce Howard—is an amusingly nonsensical showdown whose Japanese action is held together by goofy connective-tissue sequences featuring a U.N. reporter named Eric Carter (Michael Keith) providing play-by-play analysis and informative background information via an International Communication Satellite broadcast. The exposition seems superfluous, since despite its human drama and narrative particulars, the set-up is as straightforward as the title implies: Godzilla is freed from his iceberg prison by a clumsy submarine and heads for Tokyo, where King Kong awaits, having already been captured by the minions of a clownish TV bigwig eager to make money showcasing his very own creature.
Magic red berries that put beasts to sleep, fantastical tension wire strong enough to airlift a gargantuan gorilla to Mt. Fuji, and Kong’s ability to gain power from electricity (?!?) are merely a few of the ridiculous devices that embellish King Kong Vs. Godzilla. Yet, such silliness is in keeping with the film’s entertainingly lighthearted tone, which is also fostered by typically over-the-top human performances and the monsters themselves, with Godzilla and King Kong’s rampages amounting to little more than stomping about on miniature houses, cars, tanks, and trains. Still, despite the fact that Kong’s costume, in particular, looks horrid—his face distorted, his arms unnaturally long, his hands immobile—the climactic fight delivers the requisite boulder-throwing, fire-breathing goods, all while cannily avoiding ending this historic face-off with the declaration of an actual winner.
Availability: King Kong Vs. Godzilla is available on Blu-ray and DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix.