Patiño’s Lores and Myths: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

This is it, folks. The last kaiju stop on the road to Godzilla vs. Kong. Now, we go back to a time before, to the first showdown! A cataclysmic clash between two titans of film: Kong! Godzilla! The cinematic gladiator bout of the century. It’s a match-up for the ages sure to wow audiences the world over. Right?

Eh. Sort of. And not exactly.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is a strange case. Produced and distributed by Toho Studios (the makers of Godzilla), the story was an original idea from Willis O’Brien, the stop motion animator of King Kong. O’Brien’s initial outline had Kong fighting a giant Frankenstein’s Monster. The sixties, man. O’Brien would’ve used stop-motion to make the two fight, but the project stalled due to cost concerns. Unbeknownst to O’Brien, producer John Beck shopped the script around, eventually coming to Toho, who were looking to bring Godzilla back following a seven-year hiatus following Godzilla Raids Again. Toho enlisted original Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya and hired screenwriter Shin’ichi Sekizawa to rewrite the Kong/Frankenstein script. They even brought back Godzilla’s composer, Akira Ifukube, to score the film. So you have the ingredients to make something special, yeah? A blockbuster worthy of the price of admission, right? Well, that really depends on which version of the movie you watch. An English-language version was produced for Western audiences, which added entirely new material and removed several scenes and sequences from the Japanese version. Stock music from older Universal movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon also replaced Ifukube’s score. These changes radically altered the film’s structure, resulting in, oh, how should I put it? Ah yes: a piece of ****.

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