Let's Talk: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962 & 1963)
King Kong vs. Godzilla. The battle the world had been waiting for since, probably, 1954, when Godzilla first debuted. It finally came to the big screen in 1962 (1963 for the U.S.) and it did not disappoint. The looks for both Kong and Godzilla were different, the storyline in the American version was different from the Japanese version (shocker), but the fight scenes were epic. And the story of how this movie came to be is fascinating. Do you know this movie's origin story? No! Well, let me tell you.
How did King Kong vs. Godzilla come to be?
According to The Official Godzilla Compendium, Willis O’Brien, the man behind the special effects for the original King Kong in 1933, wanted to create a follow-up to it called King Kong vs. Frankenstein.(No, not Frankenstein Conquers the World! That’s something totally different, but good try! Haha!) Producer John Beck loved the idea and wanted to do it; however, with stop-motion animation taking so much time to create and being too expensive, they needed an alternate way of making it. So… “Aware of Toho’s growing reputation in the suitmation monster market (i.e., using an actor in a monster suit), Beck took O’Brien’s core idea and approached the Japanese studio about bringing it to the screen. It just so happened that in 1961 Toho was casting about for an appropriate vehicle to return Godzilla to the screen after a seven-year absence…When John Beck came knocking at Toho’s door, the studio dumped the Frankenstein idea and substituted Godzilla. The rest is history.”
In other words, a couple of great minds came together to create a massive and monumental movie. Apparently, an American movie poster stated, “Mighty King Kong! Mighty Godzilla! Now an all-mighty, all-new motion picture brings them together for the first time in the colossal clash of all time!” In Japan, they even did “interviews” before the movie premiered, making it seem like it was a sumo match. Man, how I wish I was around during that time to see how this bad boy was promoted.
First Godzilla Movie in Color!
Now, onto the juicy stuff. What we come here to talk about: the differences between the story, the cinematography, and everything in between. But first, did you realize that this is the very first Godzilla movie in color? We finally got to see the true color of Godzilla, which is gray-black; however, for many years, people, especially in America, thought he was green. That’s because the movie posters, comics, toys, etc. in America designed him that way. But everything was wrong. I think the compendium said it best, “Kermit the Frog is green. Godzilla is not.”
New Looks for Both Monsters
As we get to see Godzilla and Kong in color for the first time, we also see new looks for them. Godzilla looks more like a reptile while Kong looks like…an old man! Seriously! Re-watch King Kong vs Godzilla (either version) and have that statement in the back of your mind. You’ll probably die laughing when you realize I’m right. And I’m not talking about the scenes when it’s the puppet being used (like when he’s drinking the berry juice or reacting to Godzilla’s atomic breath) because that looks like a freaking ape. I’m talking about the guy in the suit. He looks like a very hairy old man. Have fun with that image!
Now, this is when Godzilla starts to look less scary as well. He’s slowly transforming into the lovable monster that protects Japan from other monsters. As stated in the compendium, “King Kong vs. Godzilla saw the creation of a very distinctive suit, one with increased bulk, which gave an impression of greater mass and stability. This suit had a more reptilian look.” He really does look like a lizard in this movie, a monitor lizard to be exact. And he does look massive. They did an amazing job with scaling because at times he looks huge against the backdrop, especially when he’s going for the train. Speaking of, what is with him and trains. He attacked one in the original and he will continue attacking them in future movies, which we will obviously get to as the movies come up. But seriously, he really likes trains. And so does Kong.
Fight, fight, fight!
I also love the fight scenes because they’re simple, but really well done. I don’t know if you realize this (for the Star Wars fans reading this), but in the first battle sequence, Godzilla has the higher ground…and wins! Sorry Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters, but this bad boy isn’t busted. Thanks to Godzilla and Kong, it is confirmed. Any who, thanks to these great fight scenes – where we do see a Japanese national treasure, the Atami Castle, being destroyed – we have one of the greatest memes/gifs ever to grace the Internet. You know the scene I’m talking about. EAT YOUR VEGGIES! At first, when I was little, I felt bad for Godzilla, but now I think it’s the funniest thing in the world.
Now, let’s talk about the stories because America did it once again. The story is so different when you compare the two. In the American version, they don’t even acknowledge Godzilla’s past. They say it’s the first time they’re seeing such a creature and that he’s been in the ice for millions of years. Even after the first time Godzilla is seen, United Nations news reporter, Eric Carter says, “The world is stunned to discover that prehistoric creatures exist in the twentieth century.”
However, the Japanese version states, “Godzilla has awakened from its sleep in the iceberg. After all we couldn’t expect it to remain completely frozen in something like that forever. Even if it took over 200 years, we knew that eventually it would break out and return to us.” They’re reminding everyone that Godzilla was enclosed in an ice jail at the end of Godzilla Raids Again and I love it. They didn’t change the story. Even Kong’s story sticks to its original…kind of. I mean they do find Kong on this remote island that no one knows about and its natives see him as a god. Just no sacrifices are made to him, but it's close enough.
Added Scenes in American Version
Also, in the American version they added a lot of scenes with American actors. It kind of played out like a news report, which I think was kind of the point. It was like I was watching an episode of 60 Minutes. They would cut back and forth to Eric Carter with Dr. Arnold Johnson, who is supposed to be an expert on prehistoric creatures. (Who, by the way, said that Godzilla is a prehistoric species of dinosaur and is a cross between a T-rex and a stegosaurus. At a young age, I actually agreed with him!) They would also cut to a Japanese UN reporter keeping everyone up to date on where the monsters were. Once again, as a little girl, I thought this movie was the greatest thing ever and it truly is. Just the Japanese version is so much better.
What Do You Think?
So, this is what I think of King Kong vs. Godzilla. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is King Kong vs. Godzilla one of your favorites or do you hate it? Let’s talk!
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The photos featured in this post are my photos. The first is my VHS copy of King Kong vs. Godzilla while the second is my signature photo, me with my copy of this awesome film.
**This post was originally published on October 22, 2019**