King Kong vs Godzilla

Year: 1962
Production Co: Toho
Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Bruce Howard/Paul Mason/Shin'ichi Sekizawa

The plot contrivance that results in the giant smackdown says it all. A nuclear submarine crashes into an iceberg in the Arctic, releasing Godzilla, who's been frozen in the ice. At the same time the grasping CEO of a pharmaceutical company wants a killer promotional campaign, so he sends two of his best men to Skull Island (though it's not named) to capture and bring back King Kong.

Godzilla lands in Japan to wreak his usual rubber-suited havoc with his fire-breathing and iconic roar and the two bumbling hunters are taken prisoner by the natives, but a quick trading of trinkets and the rescue of a village woman and a little boy from a slimy giant octopus later and they're on their way with their yak-suited prize.

On the way, things go pear–shaped with the transport and the crew has no choice but to blow the giant raft Kong's strapped to, releasing him into the not-so-deep and letting him walk the rest of the way to Japan.

Kong makes landfall and the situation quickly spirals out of control as the titans come together in the forests outside Tokyo, Godzilla's fire breath driving Kong off. The heroes, supporting characters and military decide their only chance is to capture Kong the same way they did on the island and deliver him to Godzilla to let them fight it out, figuring they'll at least stop destroying the city.

What interests me about these films from the classic Toho era is that – unlike the original movies that inspired the giant monster films of 60s Japanese cinema – they eventually turned comical, as if the directors and studio decided they were making stupid, cheap, disposable entertainment for kids.

It's not in the low-fi production values and rubber suits, it's the zany characterisations - particularly those of the pharmaceutical company CEO and the two hunters. There are always iron-jawed hero types portrayed as well, but there's a huge shift in tone away from both the original King Kong and the original Godzilla , neither of which had any gags or pratfalls.

Unless you're very dedicated to the cult genre, you can honestly say you've seen all of these if you've seen one.

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