TTC: “Kingu Kongu tai Gojira” (1962)

KKTGb“King Kong can’t make a monkey out of us!” ~~Mr. Tako

“King Kong Vs. Godzilla” is the kind of thought-provoking motion picture that entices one to ponder life’s deepest and most meaningful Big Issues: the eternal struggle between good and evil; the devastating repercussions of nuclear testing; humankind’s foolish belief that nature is ours for the using and that the natural world remains firmly under our control.

<Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ow! My unformed stomach muscles!>

Forgive the untidy interjection, but typing that first sentence with a straight face is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do. So why the guffaw? Well, it’s possible that all the aforementioned elements exist in “Kingu Kongu tai Gojira,” my very favorite entry in the neverending and gloriously scattered Godzilla canon. Trying to unearth them from the heaping piles of amazingly awful costuming, comic special effects and horrendously fantastic dialogue is a fruitless endeavor. “Kingu Kongu tai Gojira” does not want or encourage the formation of brain wrinkles; this is camp for camp’s own sake, pure kitsch served straight-up with nothing to dilute the flavor.

Hold it, hold it — Why are we talking about chasers? This is a movie about GODZILLA, lizardly tyrant of the Far East, fighting KING KONG, the biggest, baddest, coolest damn dirty ape in history. Just put those two costumed dudes on a fake mountain, let them rip into each other for 90 minutes — smashing untold amounts of Tonka cars in the process — and that’s some mighty fine entertainment.

But director Ishirô Honda, plot pusher that he is, tries to work in some business about a backstory (or three) before he unleashes Kong and Godzilla, so the usual summary song-and-dance might be helpful. Lamenting his low ratings, TV producer Mr. Tako (Ichirô Arishima) hears about Pharoh Island, home to non-addictive narcotic berries and a mythical giant ape called King Kong, and decides it’s the perfect way to boost ratings for his show “Mysteries of the World.” His assistants Osamu Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Kinsaburo Furue (Yû Fujiki) get the unenviable job of charming the natives, harvesting the berries and hauling back Kong. During the voyage, their ship nicks Godzilla’s iceberg and frees Japan’s meanest, scaliest scourge. (He’s fightin’ mad, see, so in “King Kongu tai Gojira” he’s the villain. It changes in every movie, and sometimes a few times in the same movie; don’t bother to keep up.) When Kong wakes up on a raft in the ocean, he’s a might irked himself, so he breaks free and swims away, heading straight for Japan.

Cue blaring chorus of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” And here the real fun begins. At this point, blessed be, Honda’s movie kicks into action overdrive, with Godzilla letting his tail and his fiery breath wreak havoc on Japan’s unsuspecting citizens. (The fact that after so many attacks these people are still unprepared? My, my how that warms my heart cockles considerably.) There’s a thrillingly bad battle involving a train full of innocent bystanders. Kong gets airlifted to a mountaintop. Giant bolders are thrown, power lines are toppled and used as electroshock paddles and Japan, once again, gets smashed to itty-bitty pieces the size of malformed McNuggets. The destruction is magnificent in its spendid lack of choreography and anything resembling special effects.

Though the action sequences are great cheesy fun, they are only part of why “Kingu Kongu tai Gojira” is so terrifically terrible. The script and the characters are so over-the-top that overdubbing is unnecessary. Fujiki, who neatly fills the Loose Cannon role, gets to have all the fun as Furue, who interrupts Takashima’s serious moments (wonderfully few and far between) with lines like “My corns always hurt when they’re near a monster.” It is Arishima, however, who runs away with the movie. He’s the quintessential mad genius, or he would be if his diabolical intentions were backed by actual brain power.

Truth be known, that’s not a bad way to describe “Kingu Kongu tai Gojira”: all brawn and no brain. Hey, if you want brains, look elsewhere — this ain’t “Casablanca.” But maybe, just maybe, it’s the “Casablanca” of Godzilla films.

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13 Responses

  1. I can only assume, with a film that features both King Kong and Godzilla, that your use of “terrible” in the header is meant in the sense of “exciting terror, awe, or great fear” or even “formidably great.” If King Kong and Godzilla showed up in any film it would automatically get a boost. Citizen Kane? Kane buys them to guard Xanadu, and the reporters who come to dig up dirt on him after his death are crushed like insects. Titanic? Kong hurls the iceberg. The Passion of the Christ? God sends the two to wreak retribution on those who crucified His son.

    And it’s totally the Casablanca of Godzilla films, because it marked the start of a beautiful friendship (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!)

    • Intriguing, this device of yours — I like it! How many films, I wonder, could have been improved if only the director had thought to throw in a little Kong-on-Gojira action?

      One comes to mind immediately: “The Ugly Truth.” Bet Katherine Heigl would look even better squished into pancake form.

      • Oh you. I looked all through Google images for a captioned Arrested Development photo that said “Marry me!” but the Internet let me down :( Katherine Heigl crushed flat is my greatest wish.

  2. I haven’t seen this since I was a kid so am not sure if I am qualified to comment. However one thing I will say both King Kong and Godzilla are ridiculed because of crap sequels and remakes but ultimately the original King Kong (1933) and Gojira (1954) are actually really good films.

    • “Gojira” is one of my favorites because it is very unnerving and well-done — really makes you think about the repercussions of nuclear testing and what it does to our environment.

  3. man, theres a lot of love in this comments section – im out of my element.
    great to see TTC is going to be a regular series M Carter, looking forward to the next one.
    King Kong v Godzilla
    whoever wins…
    it will still be better than Transformers.
    and Transformers 2.

    • I think I’ve unwittingly tapped into a wellspring of C movies on Netflix, so I’ll keep going as long as NF keeps lobbing suggestions my way!

      Now THERE’S an idea, McG — Godzilla and King Kong join forces to battle Transformers. That is a movie I would pay good money to see. Whatever change I have leftover I’m betting on Godzilla. He’s the Michael Myers of genetically mutated lizards.

      • “Now THERE’S an idea, McG — Godzilla and King Kong” Taken out of context that could sound like McG Directing a Godzilla and King Kong movie. “Come see the horror of Godzilla and King Kong Vs Charlie’s Angels and The Terminator”!

        Godzilla and King Kong Vs Transformers is a great idea in theory but anything that involves Transformers should be discouraged. How about just putting a line of dialogue in the next Godzilla movie. “Hey look it’s Godzilla, the creature that destroyed all Transformers for ever destroying the franchise”

        Why do these strange responses always find themselves on your blog? (other than the fact Ross and me post them!)

    • Everything is better than Transformers 2. Everything.

  4. Anything with Godzilla in it gets my vote…. unless it’s made in America and stars that lizard thing someone tried to pass off as Godzilla.

    • When Ferris Bueller shows up in a Godzilla movie, rest assured that something has gone horribly, horribly awry!

      I’m a longtime Godzilla fan and I’ve recently begun collecting some of my favorites: “Godzilla Vs. Megalon,” “Godzilla Vs. Gigan,” “Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla.” But “Gojira” is the only one in the canon I’d consider to be a great film, not a fun movie.

  5. Speaking of which, did you guys here about rumors of a King Kong vs Godzilla remake?

    • Dear God I hope not. I shudder to think what would happen to this classic. I still haven’t forgiven Roland Emmerich for what he did to “Godzilla” in 1998.

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