In the interest of clarity, the version of King Kong Vs. Godzilla I am reviewing here is the U.S. version. How does this make a difference you may ask, well releasing a foreign monster movie in the States back in 1962 in a subtitles form was unthinkable so the American distributor would edit out whole scenes, refilm others with western actors literally explaining the plot step by step and add atrocious, unsubtle dubbing that frequently changed dialogue, characters and even major plots points.
So inbetween the traditional scenes of the original actors reacting to the traditional man in a suit carnage you get tedious scenes of suited white dudes manplaining where Godzilla is in relation to Japan.
Anyhoo, despite these jarring additions KKVG marks the first major leap from the harrowing disaster movie tone of the original to a more playful, action adventure vibe as the film strives to merge the two styles of the duo of titanic leading men.
The buffoonish boss of a pharmaceutical company is looking for a new mascot to boost the ratings of a tv show he sponsors (as you do) so he sends some underlings to the remote Faro Island to capture it’s reclusive God: The humongous monster Gorilla King Kong. However, wouldn’t you know it, Godzilla has decided to free himself from his iceberg resting place and immediately makes a beeline for, you guessed it, Japan. Meanwhile Kong spends all his days lounging around his own personal island, punching giant octopi and getting shitfaced on a narcotic berry juice made by the islands natives who roofie the giant ape regularly and then worship him while he’s passed out. This, and the fact that the natives are made up entirely of Asians in black face make the early Kong scenes rather uncomfortable but it gives the pharmaceutical team the idea to stick the massive gorilla on a raft and tow the black-out drunk monkey all the way to Japan.
Plans are made and the humans set out to pit both monsters against each other in the hope that they’ll wipe each other out. And so the stage is set for a showdown the likes of which has never been seen.
It’s hardly a surprise to reveal that Kong Vs. Godzilla is camper than Ru Paul putting a tent up, but the U.S. edit frequently shoves the fun and games into far stupider territory, removing any sense of character from the hapless human protagonists. What also doesn’t help is that Kong is, frankly, a bit shit. Looking like bigfoot has suffered a massively debilitating stroke (possibly from all the drugging) the film gives him barely any dignity at all. The greatest indignity being hoisted all across Japan by balloon in order to fight Godzilla while being (again!) utterly wankered on berry juice.
And yet when the two titans finally lock horns and the Americans finally shut up, the film finally makes sense with a stonkingly entertaining rubber suited wrestling romp. Dropkicks, tail poundings and lots of boulder hurling are abound as the two Kaiju bludgeon each other senseless as the world looks on like the crowd of a wrestling pay-per-view.
Maybe the full, untampered Japanese version tells a better story and therefore earns an extra star but as it stands, its silly, endearing treat for monster movie fans. Although let’s hope the upcoming reboot in 2020 has a little more meat on it’s bones – and a lot less drugging.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have since seen the original Japanese edit of King Kong Vs. Godzilla – thanks Criterion – and despite it being much less patronising, still keeps it’s three star rating.)