King Kong Versus Godzilla~ 1962, Ishiro Honda – Japan (Later reedited for American release)
THE PLOT: Scientists discover a mysterious berry on a remote island which can totally get you high.
This is King Kong, and he loves those berries.
Immediately, the race is on to collect these psychedelic berries, mash them into juice and sell them somehow. Coincidentally, the island these berries are found on is also home to King Kong, who some scientists theorize could have possibly reached his large size through repeated ingestion of these magical krunk berries, because there is ample evidence to show that Kong is a habitual berry user. So, while on the island, the decision is made to capture Kong, too, why the hell not? Meanwhile, Godzilla busts out of his iceberg prison from Godzilla Raids again, and he’s pissed about it. In the end, the decision is made to pit Godzilla’s “tail swipes and dragon breath” based fighting style against King Kong’s fighting technique, which, as everyone knows, is entirely predicated upon the availability of boulders. Having giant monster trouble? For Japan, the answer is always “Add another monster.”
This will work itself out.
Like all early Godzilla films, this move faced re-editing and the filming of additional “White people” scenes for American distribution. These scenes, I’m convinced, do not help, because they never, ever do. Ever. The white person version is the only one I’ve seen, though, so I guess I don’t know that for a fact.
So, the movie isn’t very good. The effects are surprisingly cheap, and the suits look terrible, especially King Kong and his sometimes elongated monkey arms. The monster scenes aren’t exciting, and the humans are also predictably disinteresting. The film is noteworthy, but only because these really are the two most famous giant monsters ever, so pitting them against one another is a big deal. The movie was also really, really successful. And wacky. This is a much sillier film than any preceding Godzilla movies, all that gloom and terror from Gojira has been traded for zany antics of near Abbot and Costello levels. I’m serious, this shit is straight goofy .
Really quick, I want to get back to Kong’s berry usage, because it’s pretty hilarious. The way they deal with Kong problems in this movie is just to present him with the opportunity to get wasted on berries, which he always immediately accepts without hesitation, and then he just passes out and they can chain him up or drag him onto a boat or kill him or whatever they need to do, no problem. This dependable “off-switch” for Kong makes him much more manageable than Godzilla, who has no known substance abuse problems. In this way, Kong becomes our de-facto “good guy,” because he’s controlable.
Another reason the movie is noteworthy? It’s full of what appears to be Asians in blackface, imitating… South Americans? Africans? It’s hard to tell what they were shooting for, but those definitely look like Asian people painted dark, pretending to be non-Asian people. They do the same thing in Mothra.. I’m not sure how to comprehend that kind of racism, but here it is, for future generations to ponder.