“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.