King Kong (King Kong vs. Godzilla)
|King Kong incarnations|
King Kong (キングコング is a giant ape Kingu Kongu)kaiju who appeared in the 1962 Toho Godzilla film King Kong vs. Godzilla. He is the first incarnation of Kong to appear in a film produced by Toho, followed by the Kong from King Kong Escapes.
A colossal ape worshiped as a giant demon god by natives of Faro Island in the Solomon Islands, Kong was encountered by members of an expedition to Faro financed by the Japanese company Pacific Pharmaceutical. While the expedition members were quick to dismiss Kong as the natives' interpretation of thunder and lightning, they discovered that the creature was very real when he broke through a wall separating the native village from the jungle in order to fend off the attacking Giant Octopus. Kong proceeded to drink from huge jars of Farolacton juice manufactured by the islanders which, accompanied by their rhythmic prayer, caused him to fall asleep. Pacific Pharmaceutical attempted to transport Kong to Japan as a publicity to stunt to overshadow the recent return of Godzilla. However, Kong awakened during the transport and escaped from the raft holding him, then came ashore on the Japanese mainland himself. When he encountered Godzilla, Kong attempted to challenge the other monster to battle, but was held off when Godzilla set the surrounding forest ablaze with his atomic breath. Kong wandered off on his own and appeared in Tokyo after Godzilla had been repelled from breaching the metropolis with a barrier of high tension wires carrying 1 million volts of electricity. Kong merely bit down on the power lines and drew strength from the electricity, then stormed into Tokyo, where he kidnapped a woman named Fumiko Sakurai from a train and scaled the National Diet Building. The JSDF were able to incapcaitate Kong without harming Fumiko using rockets containing active ingredients from the Farolacton while a recording of the Faro Islanders' prayer was played over loudspeakers. Kong collapsed and fell off the building and Fumiko was rescued, but the JSDF determined that the best way to proceed was to force Kong and Godzilla to fight and hopefully kill each other. Kong was airlifted by balloons to Godzilla's current location at Mount Fuji and dropped onto him, and the two titans engaged in a second, much more vicious struggle. While Godzilla held the upper hand at first, lightning from a passing storm reinvigorated Kong and allowed him to turn the tide in his favor. The fight ended when both kaiju tackled each other into the ocean, with only Kong surfacing afterward. Rather than pursue, the JSDF allowed Kong to swim peacefully back to his island home.
King Kong's name was conceived by the character's creator, Merian C. Cooper, after he read his friend Douglas Burden's account of traveling to the island of Komodo and encountering Komodo dragons there. In Burden's book, Dragon Lizards of Komodo, he referred to the animal as the "King of Komodo." Fond of hard-sounding words beginning with a "k" sound, Cooper was inspired by this phrase as well as "Congo" to give his giant ape creation the name of Kong. David O. Selznick eventually added "King" to the title of Cooper's film in order to prevent audiences from confusing it with a docudrama, as Cooper had previously produced multiple such films with one-word titles.
Whereas in the 1933 film Kong is never referred to by his full name of King Kong in dialogue, the 1962 Kong is almost exclusively referred to by his full name. His name is phonetically approximated in Japanese as Kingu Kongu (キングコング), spelled without an interpunct, unlike the original Kong. He is also alluded to as the Giant Demon God (巨大なる魔神 in reference to the folklore of Kyodainaru Mashin)Faro Island, or the Mammoth Evil Spirit in The Criterion Collection's English subtitles for the film.
The idea of a follow-up to King Kong pitting the giant ape against another monster originated with stop-motion technician Willis O'Brien, who worked on the original film. O'Brien wrote a story treatment titled King Kong vs. Frankenstein, in which Kong would battle a giant humanoid creation of Dr. Frankenstein's grandson formed from the body parts of several African animals. O'Brien's story was never picked up by a major studio, and the story was retitled King Kong vs. Prometheus due to copyright concerns involving Universal Pictures with utilizing Frankenstein's monster. Eventually, independent producer John Beck offered to pitch O'Brien's King Kong vs. Prometheus story to studios in order to help get it made. Beck approached Japanese Toho Studios, which had enjoyed immense success with its own giant monster films in the 1950s. Toho was interested in the story, but opted to replace the Prometheus/Frankenstein creature with their own most popular monster: Godzilla. Beck made a deal with Toho without O'Brien's knowledge, while Toho negotiated with RKO Pictures and Universal to license the character rights to Kong.
For the two monsters to fight, Kong had to be scaled up substantially from his original film appearance, in which he was billed as standing 50 feet tall and was shown to be vulnerable to machine gun fire. Kong's height was increased to 45 meters (147.6 feet), making him only slightly shorter than Godzilla. Rather than the stop-motion animation through which he was originally portrayed, Kong was brought to life through the method of suitmation, in which Toho specialized when it came to their kaiju films. The King Kong suit's head was modeled by Teizo Toshimitsu, while the body was handled by Kanju Yagi and Yasuei Yagi. The hair on the suit's body was actually expensive yak hair, which Eizo Kaimai hand-dyed brown. Two heads were constructed for the suit; one for close-ups and one for "action." The close-up head allowed suit actor Shoichi Hirose's eyes to be visible through the mask, while the action head's eyes were covered in a transparent material. RKO, the owner of the character at the time, gave Toho specific instructions regarding Kong's portrayal. For example, they instructed that the face must be very different from the original design's. In line with this demand, Teizo Toshimitsu based Kong's face on the Japanese macaque rather than a gorilla. Early mockup publicity stills for King Kong vs. Godzilla composited images of Kong from his debut film with images of Godzilla from Godzilla Raids Again.
The arms of the Kong suit were equipped with long poles which Hirose grabbed onto and manipulated, in order to make the character appear to have long ape-like arms. However, this had the unintended effect of making Kong's arms appear to lack elbow joints. For some up-close battle scenes with Godzilla, these poles were removed from the arms to assist Hirose in performing the intense fight choreography.
According to Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima, Hirose received strict instructions from special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya to study the movements of apes so as to capture true "ape-like movements" during his performance in the film. During the many scenes in the film in which Kong is lying down, sweat accumulated heavily within the suit due to the intense heat, leaving Hirose's body immersed in his own sweat. As both Hirose and Nakajima were skilled in martial arts, they choreographed a great deal of the film's final battle themselves, with many of Kong's more impressive moves, such as his lifting Godzilla over his head and the scene where he swings Godzilla through the air, filmed with Nakajima actually inside the Godzilla suit. Tsuburaya was content with the results of the actors providing their own fight choreography, and kept it in the finished film.
A 2-shaku (Japanese foot) small model of Kong and a stick-manipulated upper body puppet were also created for certain scenes. A "muppet" of Kong's upper body was created to convey facial expressions from the monster in close-up shots and was used for the scene in which he drinks Farolacton juice from jars and part of his battle with the Giant Octopus. In addition, a stop-motion puppet of Kong was created, though it was only utilized for a single stop-motion shot in which Godzilla delivers a punishing drop-kick to Kong's chest.
The 2-shaku models of King Kong and the Giant Octopus
The Kong upper body muppet in use to depict the monster drinking Farolacton juice
Following the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla, Toho considered producing a direct sequel pitting the two monsters against each other once again. This proposed film, simply known by the working title Continuation: King Kong vs. Godzilla, had a screenplay written by Shinichi Sekizawa before it was scrapped. Toho would go on to attempt a standalone film starring Kong while it still held the rights titled Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs. Ebirah, which was also to feature Toho's second-most popular monster, Mothra. However, due to objections from American co-producer Rankin/Bass Productions, Toho replaced Kong with Godzillla in the story and went on to produce the film King Kong Escapes, a more faithful adaptation of Rankin/Bass' anime TV series The King Kong Show.
The Kong suit had its head replaced and a tail added to portray the giant monkey Goro in an episode of Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Q in 1966. The suit was reused the following year with a new head as the water suit for Kong in King Kong Escapes.
The 1962 Kong suit with a new head in use as the water suit for King Kong Escapes
The 1962 King Kong resembles a gigantic gorilla-like ape that stands upright like a human. The majority of Kong's body is covered in dark brown fur, with gray skin exposed on his face, pectoral muscles, hands and feet. Kong's head resembles that of a gorilla, with a large mouth lined with almost rounded teeth inside the lips, a short nose, relatively small eyes, and a sagittal crest on the top of his head. Kong's arms are longer than his legs, and he tends to hold them at his sides or suspend them above his head while walking, rather than knuckle-walk like most non-human apes. Prior to Godzilla vs. Kong, the 1962 Kong was by far the largest incarnation of the character, standing 45 meters or approximately 148 feet tall, and weighing 20,500 metric tons.
While still incredibly destructive and aggressive, Kong is portrayed as being somewhat more sympathetic than Godzilla. Kong seems to be mostly content living on Faro Island, staying behind the huge wall constructed by the islanders in exchange for the Farolacton juice and worship they provide him. Kong acts as an unintentional defender of the native populace as well, fending off the Giant Octopus when it comes ashore in the village. Kong takes an interest in the human woman Fumiko Sakurai, abducting her from a train while wandering through Tokyo and climbing with her to the top of the National Diet Building. Kong seems to be less aggressive than Godzilla, retreating promptly from their first battle and hiding from Godzilla for a large portion of their second battle.
King Kong's origins are unclear. All that is known is that he is a gigantic ape that resides in the jungles of the remote Faro Island, living behind a huge wall constructed by the native humans. The natives worship Kong as their mighty giant demon god, and frequently pray to him and prepare offerings of Farolacton juice.
The American re-edit of King Kong vs. Godzilla suggests that Kong and the other creatures of Faro Island attained their gigantic size by consuming the berries indigenous to the island, called "Soma" in this version of the film. However, no such suggestion is made in the original Japanese version of the film, while the American version frequently contradicts the established canon of Toho's Godzilla films.
King Kong was discovered by an expedition to Faro Island, which was sent there by Mr. Tako, marketing executive for Pacific Pharmaceutical, in order to find a legendary monster worshiped by the natives. The expedition only heard Kong's roar from the mountains, but saw the beast himself when he battled a Giant Octopus that attacked a village on the island. After chasing the octopus off, Kong began to drink jars of the Farolacton berry juice that the natives had prepared, and fell asleep. The expedition members had Kong tied to a raft and taken back to Japan to be used as publicity for the company, but their ship was stopped by the Japanese Coast Guard, who informed Tako that he would be liable for any damage caused by King Kong in Japan. Suddenly, Kong began to stir and try to break free of the raft. The crew members opened fire on the dynamite attached to the raft, causing it to explode. Kong emerged from the water unharmed, and swam to the Japanese mainland. Kong rampaged along the coastline until he encountered Godzilla in the wilderness. Kong tossed a boulder at Godzilla, who responded with a blast of his atomic breath, which singed Kong's fur and set much of the forest ablaze. Kong scratched his head and walked away in defeat.
Later, Kong arrived in Tokyo and easily passed the electrical barrier that had been used to repel Godzilla earlier, actually drawing strength from the electrical current. Kong smashed several buildings in his path and grabbed a train, and while looking inside was smitten with Fumiko Sakurai. Kong grabbed Fumiko and dropped the train, then climbed to the top of the National Diet Building. The JSDF surrounded the building and loaded rockets with a gas made from the Farolacton berry juice while playing a recording of the Faro Islanders' chant, hoping to lull Kong back to sleep. After a few minutes, Kong fell unconscious and slid off the building, allowing the JSDF to rescue Fumiko. The JSDF then formed a desperate plan: bring Kong to Mount Fuji so he can fight Godzilla and the two monsters will destroy each other. Kong was tied to several large balloons with indestructible metal wire and towed by helicopters to Mt. Fuji. Kong was dropped onto Godzilla, and the two titans resumed their battle. Godzilla again claimed the upper hand, eventually battering Kong into unconsciousness and razing him with his atomic breath. Luckily for Kong, a lightning storm passed overhead and Kong was struck by lightning, re-energizing him and surging an electrical current through his body. Kong grabbed Godzilla's tail, electrocuting him with his touch, and the battle raged on, this time with both combatants on equal footing. The monsters fought across the Fuji wilderness until they reached Atami Castle, which they destroyed before tackling each other into the ocean below, causing an earthquake. After the tremors settled, Kong emerged from Sagami Bay, with Godzilla nowhere in sight, and began to swim back to his home on Faro Island.
King Kong is incredibly strong, and demonstrates this by lifting and throwing objects such as boulders at his opponents. Kong's strength allows him to easily break down the huge wall that is meant to keep him out of the Faro Islanders' village. In his battle with the Giant Octopus, Kong pries the giant cephalopod off his face and throws it to the ground, forcing it to retreat. During his final battle with Godzilla, Kong grabs hold of Godzilla's tail and swings him through the air before releasing him. Kong's formidable strength is capable of overwhelming even Godzilla, as Kong is at one point able to pin Godzilla to the ground and relentlessly pummel him with his fists.
Being a primate, Kong is comparatively more intelligent than the reptilian Godzilla. Whereas Godzilla relies primarily on brute force in his encounters with Kong, Kong tends to use strategy and planning in combat. Early in the monsters' final battle, Kong runs away from Godzilla and hides behind a large rock, allowing him to attack Godzilla from behind when he passes by. Kong also makes use of environmental objects as potential weapons against his foes. Kong throws boulders at both Godzilla and the Giant Octopus, and even uses a tree as an improvised weapon against Godzilla, shoving it directly down his enemy's throat.
Additional scenes inserted into the American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla describe Kong as a "thinking animal," and estimate that his brain is approximately 10 times larger than a normal gorilla's skull.
Kong is remarkably resistant to Godzilla's various attacks, in particular his atomic breath. While Godzilla's atomic breath has been shown being capable of melting metal and setting both entire city blocks and enemy monsters ablaze, Kong is able to withstand multiple direct blasts from it with no visible damage aside from singed fur. While Kong reacts to these blasts, he does not demonstrate severe pain and immediately resumes his attack. In addition, Kong withstands most of Godzilla's physical blows, although he is knocked unconscious after smashing his head on a boulder.
Kong's most unique ability is his affinity for electricity. Not only is Kong immune to electricity, but he also derives power from it. When Kong reaches the high-tension wire barrier around Tokyo that was able to repel Godzilla earlier, he simply bites down on the wires and absorbs the voltage. During his final battle with Godzilla, Kong is repeatedly struck by lightning, giving him a second wind and allowing him to turn the tide of battle against Godzilla. After being struck by lightning, Kong gained the ability to release electricity through his touch, which was especially effective against Godzilla given the latter's aversion to electricity.
- Main article: King Kong/Gallery.
Sound designers Hisashi Shimonaga and Sadamasa Nishimoto created King Kong's roar by combining thunder with a lion's growl and an elephant's trumpet. It would be recycled for the 1967 incarnation of the character, in addition to other Toho kaiju such as Sanda and King Caesar. It was also used for numerous kaiju in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Series. During production of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, his roars were used for King Ghidorah in previsualization scenes.
- The 1962 incarnation of King Kong was the inspiration for the version of the character featured in the Rankin/Bass and Toei anime TV series The King Kong Show, itself the basis for the film King Kong Escapes.
- This was the first incarnation of Kong to be depicted in color, as well as the first to not be killed onscreen.
- The 1962 King Kong held the distinction of being the tallest incarnation of the character for nearly six decades. This record was finally broken in 2021 by the Monsterverse Kong, who stands at roughly 102 meters in Godzilla vs. Kong.
- A longstanding urban legend first published in the American magazine Spaceman #7 in 1963 claims that Kong is only the victor in the American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, while Godzilla was allegedly victorious in the original Japanese version. This claim is unfounded, as Kong is the only monster to surface from Sagami Bay in both versions of the film, while the actual differences between the endings of the two versions are minimal. Toho's 1963 international sales brochure makes it clear that Kong was intended to be the victor in the original version of the film, stating "A spectacular duel is arranged on the summit of Mt. Fuji, and King Kong is victorious." Despite this, the double ending myth still perpetuates popular culture to this day, while the outcome of the battle has seemingly been retconned into a draw by Toho, as first indicated in Tomoyuki Tanaka's book Definitive Edition Godzilla Introduction.
- It is sometimes mistakenly believed that this incarnation of King Kong reappeared in the 1967 film King Kong Escapes, which was also produced by Toho. This is not the case, as the version of Kong featured in the film is considerably smaller than the 1962 Kong, who is never once alluded to by the characters. Despite this, the two films do exist in the same continuity, which also includes all of the Showa Godzilla films and many other kaiju films produced by Toho. As such, the two incarnations of Kong are referred to in books as "First Generation" and "Second Generation," making them two separate individuals despite sharing their name and many other traits and existing in the same reality.
- In a story treatment for the unmade film Batman vs. Godzilla, Batman was to analyze footage of Kong's battle against Godzilla to study strategies to defeat the monster.
- While the majority of sources state that the 1962 King Kong weighs 20,500 metric tons, some sources, such as The Official Godzilla Compendium (p. 131), state the 1962 Kong weighs 25,000 metric tons instead.
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