King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

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Godzilla films
Godzilla Raids Again
King Kong vs. Godzilla
Mothra vs. Godzilla
King Kong films
Son of Kong
King Kong vs. Godzilla
King Kong Escapes
King Kong vs. Godzilla
See alternate titles
The Japanese poster for King Kong vs. Godzilla
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka; John BeckUS
Written by Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by Akira Ifukube
Special
effects by
Eiji Tsuburaya
Distributor Toho,JP Universal InternationalUS
Rating PGUK (American re-cut version)
Budget ¥150 millionJP[1]
$12,000US[2]
Distributor rentals ¥350.1 million[3]
Running time 97 minutesJP
(1 hour, 37 minutes)
91 minutesUS
(1 hour, 31 minutes)
74 minutesTCF
(1 hour, 14 minutes)
Aspect ratio 2.35:1
Rate this film!
4.04
(120 votes)

Not to be confused with Godzilla vs. Kong or Godzilla vs. King Kong.
Will you win, Godzilla? Will you win, Kong? The battle of the century! (ゴジラ勝つか?コング勝つか?世紀の大決斗!)
„ 

— Japanese tagline

Who will win? 2 giant monsters rampage throughout Japan! (どちらが勝つか?日本中を暴れまわる2大怪獣!)
„ 

— 1970 Japanese tagline

Monster against monster! Battle of the century!
„ 

— International tagline

The two mightiest monsters of all time! ...In the most colossal conflict the screen has ever known!
Mighty King Kong! Mighty Godzilla! Now an all-mighty all-new motion picture brings them together for the first time in the colossal clash of all time!
„ 

— American taglines

King Kong vs. Godzilla (キングコング対ゴジラ,   Kingu Kongu tai Gojira) is a 1962 tokusatsu kaiju film directed by Ishiro Honda and written by Shinichi Sekizawa, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Produced by Toho, it is the third installment in the Godzilla series as well as the Showa series. It stars Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yu Fujiki, Ichiro Arishima, Jun Tazaki, Akihiko Hirata, Mie Hama, and Akiko Wakabayashi. The film was released to Japanese theaters by Toho on August 11, 1962,[4] as a part of Toho's 30th anniversary celebration. The idea for the film originated when independent producer John Beck approached Toho with a screenplay by George Worthing Yates titled King Kong vs. Prometheus, based on a story treatment by original King Kong stop motion animator Willis O'Brien. Toho acquired the rights to use Kong from RKO Pictures and Universal, though O'Brien received no credit or compensation for his idea. Beck produced an altered English-language version of the film for markets outside of Asia, which was released to American theaters by Universal International on June 26, 1963.

The first film to feature either of its titular contenders in color, King Kong vs. Godzilla pits the most famous monster from the West against his counterpart from the East. Awakened from his icy slumber seven years after he was trapped within ice at the conclusion of Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla resumes his campaign of destruction against Japan. Meanwhile, the Pacific Pharmaceutical Company discovers the legendary Giant Demon God King Kong on the remote Faro Island and brings him to Japan for advertising purposes. When Kong escapes and runs loose in Japan, it is only a matter of time before the two behemoths meet in a fight to the finish.

The film's success revived the previously dormant Godzilla series, resulting in a new film being produced almost yearly for the remainder of the decade, beginning with Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1964. The renewed popularity of Kong resulted in the creation of the animated series The King Kong Show, which served as the basis for another Toho film featuring the character in 1967, King Kong Escapes.

Plot

The Arctic Ocean's currents are mysteriously rising in temperature, causing the area's sea ice to melt and break up. The United Nations sends a scientific team to investigate the cause of the phenomenon. The investigation is covered by the World Wonder Series, a Japanese documentary science program, sponsored by the Pacific Pharmaceutical Company.

Mr. Tako, the advertising department director of Pacific Pharmaceutical, is frustrated with the program and wants something to boost its ratings. When pharmacologist Dr. Makioka returns with red berries from the small Faro Island in the Solomon Islands, he tells Tako about a giant demon god spoken of by the natives there. Tako believes that it would be a brilliant idea to use the god to gain publicity and sends two television employees, Osamu Sakurai and Kinsaburo Furue, on an expedition to find the monster from Faro Island and bring it back alive. Sakurai is reluctant to go, but is given good wishes by his sister Fumiko and her fiancé Kazuo Fujita, who is departing on a voyage of his own to test the strength of a new synthetic textile that he and his company are developing.

Meanwhile, the United Nations submarine Seahawk crashes into a radiant iceberg harboring Godzilla, long presumed dead from the JSDF's actions seven years earlier. Godzilla breaks out, destroys the Seahawk and kills everyone onboard, then heads toward a nearby country's military base. The base's forces are unavailing against Godzilla, who continues southward through the Bering Strait and the Aleutians towards Japan, supposedly returning instinctively to his former territory. Godzilla's reappearance saturates the media and the public eye, enraging Tako as his company's competition profits off of the news.

On Faro Island, a Giant Octopus attacks the local village. The island's giant god, King Kong, finally makes his appearance and defeats the monster, forcing it to retreat back to the sea. Kong then drinks some red berry juice and falls asleep in the midst of a celebratory dance and chant by the natives. Taking advantage of Kong's slumber, Sakurai and Furue bind him to a large raft and begin to transport him back to Japan. Back at Pacific Pharmaceutical, Tako is ecstatic because Kong now dominates the press instead of Godzilla. As Tako's employees speculate which monster is stronger, Tako overhears and decides to play up the idea of the two fighting like a wrestling match.

Mr. Tako arrives on the Taian Maru, the ship transporting Kong, but the JMSDF also arrive and order the ship to remain outside of Japan, declaring Kong a threat to public safety. Elsewhere, the ship on which Fujita was conducting his textile's tests, the Shinsei Maru No. 2, is sunk by Godzilla off Hakodate. Fumiko heads to Hokkaido to find out if Fujita is among the survivors, unaware that he departed earlier at Nemuro. Godzilla reaches the Japanese mainland at Matsushima Bay and wreaks havoc along an expressway after laying waste to Sendai. Fumiko, who was among the passengers of the express, is rescued from Godzilla by Fujita, as the monster continues further inland towards Tokyo. Back at sea, Kong begins to awaken, the effects of the juice having started to wear off. Fearing for the ship's safety, Sakurai and Furue decide to blow up the raft, but Tako vehemently disapproves, and in the ensuing scuffle, Tako accidentally presses down on the detonator himself, which fails as the cables had already been severed by the crew. Sakurai and Furue fire their rifles at the dynamite on the raft, successfully blowing it up. However, Kong survives the explosion and rises from the sea, then travels to Japan on his own. Sensing Godzilla's presence, Kong, after landing in Chiba, heads north and the two clash in the Nasu Highlands. Kong hurls boulders at his opponent, but Godzilla gains the upper hand with his atomic breath and King Kong retreats.

Opposed to the U.N.'s request to use nuclear weapons on the beast, the JSDF enact countermeasures of their own against Godzilla. Exploiting his aversion to fire by igniting adjacent riverbeds, Godzilla is driven into a giant pit where explosive chemical weapons are detonated, but the monster emerges from the trap unscathed. In their second plan, some high-tension wires are set up around Tokyo carrying 1 million volts of electricity. The current is too much for Godzilla and drives him away, but King Kong grows stronger from it, storing it like a battery. Kong enters Tokyo and kidnaps an evacuating Fumiko, then climbs to the top of the National Diet Building with her in his hand. The JSDF explode shells full of a gas made from the red berry juice from Faro Island and successfully render Kong unconscious with the aid of Sakurai and Furue playing a recording of the chant of the natives, saving Fumiko. Tako approved of this plan only because he could not afford to lose Kong. Via balloons fastened to him with cables made out of Fujita's textile, the decision is made by the JSDF to transport Kong by air to Mount Fuji, where Godzilla presently is, in the hopes that the two giants will fight each other to the death.

The next morning, Kong awakens and is dropped onto the ground at Mount Fuji near Godzilla, where a great battle ensues. Godzilla eventually knocks Kong unconscious, but then a thunderstorm arrives and revives King Kong, giving him the power of an electric grip. The two clash once again, with Kong gaining the upper hand, even forcing a tree into Godzilla's mouth, which the reptile dislodges with his atomic breath. The monsters continue their fight towards the coast, tearing down Atami Castle in the process, and eventually plunge into Sagami Bay, causing a small earthquake. After an underwater battle, only King Kong resurfaces and begins the long journey back to Faro Island. Tako relents and gives up pursuing Kong. As Kong swims home, the onlookers are not sure if Godzilla survived the underwater fight, but speculate that it was possible, given the unfathomable mysteries of life surrounding the both of the monsters.

Staff

Main article: King Kong vs. Godzilla/Credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

U.S. version

  • Directed by   Thomas Montgomery
  • Written by   Paul Mason, Bruce Howard
  • Produced by   John Beck
  • Stock music by   Hans Salter, Heinz Roemheld, Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter, Herschel Burke Gilbert, Henry Mancini, Herman Stein (uncredited)
  • Edited by   Peter Zinner

Cast

Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Tadao Takashima   as   Osamu Sakurai, Tokyo Television cameraman
  • Kenji Sahara   as   Kazuo Fujita, Tokyo Cable Manufacturing engineer
  • Yu Fujiki   as   Kinzaburo Furue, Tokyo Television employee
  • Ichiro Arishima   as   Tako, head of Pacific Pharmaceutical advertising department
  • Jun Tazaki   as   Commanding General of the JSDF Eastern Army
  • Akihiko Hirata   as   Dr. Shosuke Shigesawa, biotechnologist
  • Mie Hama   as   Fumiko Sakurai, Sakurai's sister
  • Akiko Wakabayashi   as   Tamie, neighbor and friend of Fumiko
  • Akemi Negishi   as   Chikiro's mother
  • Yoshio Kosugi   as   chief of Faro Island
  • Yoshibumi Tajima   as   captain of the Shinsei Maru No. 2
  • Ikio Sawamura   as   Faro Island shaman
  • Somesho Matsumoto   as   Dr. Onuki, atomic physicist
  • Ko Mishima   as   JMSDF officer
  • Sachio Sakai   as   Obayashi, Pacific Pharmaceutical advertising department employee
  • Tatsuo Matsumura   as   Dr. Makioka, pharmacologist
  • Senkichi Omura   as   Konno, Faro Island native and interpreter
  • Ren Yamamoto   as   JSDF Chief of Demolitions
  • Haruya Kato   as   Pacific Pharmaceutical advertising department employee
  • Shin Otomo   as   captain of the Taian-Maru
  • Nadao Kirino   as   Eastern Army Second Chief of Staff
  • Yasuhisa Tsutsumi   as   Eastern Army First Chief of Staff
  • Yutaka Nakayama   as   Shinsei Maru No. 2 correspondent
  • Toshihiko Furuta   as   policeman
  • Naoya Kusakawa   as   newspaper reporter
  • Mitsuo Tsuda   as   JGSDF officer
  • Haruko Togo   as   evacuating resident of apartment complex
  • Kenzo Tabu   as   World Wonder Series announcer
  • Takuzo Kumagai   as   police executive
  • Shiro Tsuchiya   as   evacuating man
  • Yasuzo Ogawa, Kazuo Suzuki   as   onlookers
  • Hideo Shibuya, Masaaki Tachibana   as   newspaper reporters
  • Haruya Sakamoto   as   Eastern Army facilities manager
  • Hiromi Mineoka   as   passenger on the Tsugaru Express
  • Haruo Hirano   as   Chikiro, young Faro Islander boy
  • Terumi Oka   as   Pacific Pharmaceutical clerk
  • Ichiro Chiba   as   Pacific Pharmaceutical advertising department employee
  • Mieko Kurenai   as   Pacific Pharmaceutical clerk
  • Douglas Fehn   as   captain of the Seahawk
  • Harold Conway, Osman Yusuf   as   United Nations correspondents on Seahawk
  • Cliff Harrington   as   Al / American rescue helicopter pilot (voice)[5]
  • Shoichi Hirose   as   King Kong
  • Haruo Nakajima   as   Godzilla / Faro Islander on the watchtower
  • Katsumi Tezuka   as   Godzilla (iceberg scene)

U.S. version

  • Harry Holcombe   as   Dr. Arnold Johnson, curator of the New York Museum of Natural History
  • Michael Keith   as   Eric Carter, U.N. reporter, New York
  • James Yagi   as   Yutaka Omura, U.N. reporter, Tokyo
  • Victor Millan   as   Rodrigo Infanta, U.N. reporter, Santiago
  • Les Tremayne   as   Yoshio Tako / General Masami Shinzo / Dr. Akira Makino / Commander Roberts / narrator (voice)
  • Bruce Howard   as   misc. characters (voice)[6]
  • Paul Mason   as   misc. characters (voice)[6]


Appearances

Monsters

Weapons, vehicles, and races

Production

The unusual history of King Kong vs. Godzilla began in 1958[7] with a screenplay treatment written by stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien, featuring King Kong and a large humanoid monster created in the Congo River region of Africa by Dr. Frankenstein's grandson clashing in San Francisco. Originally titled King Kong vs. Frankenstein, it would have been a direct sequel to the original King Kong, O'Brien's masterpiece. He showed his screenplay treatment and concept art for the proposed film to Daniel O'Shea of RKO Pictures, who in turn introduced O'Brien to producer John Beck. After a handshake deal with O'Brien, Beck commissioned screenwriter George Yates to flesh out the screenplay treatment into a full script that could be shown to investors.[8] Yates changed the title to King Kong vs. Prometheus, after the full title of Mary Shelley’s original 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Unable to find an interested studio in the U.S., John Beck went to Toho with the script. Toho instead purchased the rights to use the King Kong character from RKO and produced King Kong vs. Godzilla, which Beck retained the distribution rights for in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel.[9][10]

There are a few brief scenes in the film in which special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya made use of stop-motion photography, a rarity in his films due to its time-consuming nature. The first is the scene where the Giant Octopus grabs one of the natives with one of its tentacles and swings him around, and the second is during Kong's fight with Godzilla when Godzilla hits Kong with a dropkick.

Gallery

Main article: King Kong vs. Godzilla/Gallery.

Soundtrack

Main article: King Kong vs. Godzilla/Soundtrack.

Alternate titles

  • King Kong Against Godzilla (King Kong Contra Godzilla; Brazil; Spain; Netherlands; King Kong Contre Godzilla; France; French Belgium; King Kong Tegen Godzilla; Dutch Belgium)
  • The Return of King Kong (Die Rückkehr des King Kong; West Germany)
  • (Godzilla-) Battle-Party of the Giants ((Godzilla-) Schlachtfest der Giganten; German video title)
  • King Kong is coming back (King Kong kommt zurück; West German TV title)
  • King Kong Fighting Dinosaur (金剛鬥恐龍 Jīngāng dòu kǒnglóng; Taiwan)
  • The Triumph of King Kong (Il trionfo di King Kong; Italy)
  • King Kong X Godzilla (Brazilian DVD title)
  • Godzilla Against King Kong (Godzilla contra King Kong; Chile)
  • Wrath of Monsters (Canavarların Gazabı; Turkey)

Theatrical releases

View all posters for the film here.

  • Japan - August 11, 1962[4]   [view poster]Japanese 1962 (original release) poster; July 25, 1964   [view poster]Japanese 1964 poster; March 21, 1970 (Toho Champion Festival)   [view poster]Japanese 1970 poster; March 19, 1977 (Toho Champion Festival)   [view poster]Japanese 1977 poster; July 14, 2016 (4K digital restoration)[11]   [view poster]4K Restoration poster
  • Singapore - April 27, 1963
  • United States - June 26th, 1963   [view poster]American poster
  • Canada - June 30, 1963 (preview), July 11, 1963
  • United Kingdom - November 1963   [view poster]British poster
  • Australia - 1963
  • Thailand - 1963
  • Mexico - December 25, 1969   [view poster]Mexican poster
  • Australia - April 15, 1974
  • West Germany - 1974   [view poster]German poster
  • Egypt - 1975   [view poster]Egyptian poster
  • France - July 14, 1976   [view poster]French poster
  • Netherlands - July 21, 1976
  • Belgium - 1976   [view poster]Belgian poster
  • Italy - 1973; 1976   [view poster]Italian poster
  • Spain - December 26, 1978   [view poster]Spanish poster

Foreign releases

U.S. release

U.S. King Kong vs. Godzilla poster

In November 1962, King Kong vs. Godzilla played at the Nippon Theater in Honolulu in Japanese with English subtitles, and a week afterward it was shown at the Haleiwa Theatre. In June, August and September 1966 the film was screened in Honolulu again with English subtitles. The U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla was never theatrically released in Hawaii, nor was the international dub of the film.

The U.S. English-language version of King Kong vs. Godzilla was prepared by producer John Beck, who felt that Toho's version of the film would not play well to American audiences. He hired writers Bruce Howard and Paul Mason to "Americanize" the film. Peter Zinner was brought in as an editor for Beck's version. Among the alterations made for the North American theatrical release are:

  • Dialogue for the film was dubbed at Ryder Sound Services, Inc. in Hollywood.[12] The new dialogue often strayed heavily from the Japanese script. Howard and Mason's script retains most of the broad humor of Shinichi Sekizawa's original screenplay but de-emphasizes its satirical aspects. The English dubbing session was completed in a week.[6] Some characters' names are changed. For instance, Tako's given name is revealed to be Yoshio, while only his surname is ever spoken in the Japanese version. Dr. Shosuke Shigesawa's first name is changed to Kenji, and Dr. Makioka is renamed Akira Makino.
  • Akira Ifukube's musical score was largely replaced by music from the Universal and Mutel libraries. The composers of the added music included Hans J. Salter (The Golden Horde, Thunder on the Hill, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wichita Town, Against All Flags, Man-Made Monster), Heinz Roemheld (The Monster That Challenged the World), Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter (The Deerslayer), and Herschel Burke Gilbert (While the City Sleeps).[13] Ifukube's Faro Island native chant used to put Kong to sleep after he drinks Farolacton juice kept in large clay jars and an exotic jungle cue are the only tracks carried over from the original soundtrack.
  • Altered: Although the film begins with the same footage of the spinning Earth, it has been repurposed to serve as an actual representation of the planet, rather than a prop for the TV show World Wonder Series. An excerpt from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy", also serves as an analogue for the presenter's comments about the mysteries of the Earth in the original version.
  • Deleted: Many of the comedic scenes integral to the original story line. Tako's initial introduction and other interactions with his staff in the advertising wing of Pacific Pharmaceutical throughout the course of the film were removed.
  • Deleted: A scene where Osamu Sakurai plays drums for the filming of a commercial. After the filming, Furue tells him about their meeting with Dr. Makioka.
  • Shortened: The dinner at Fujita's apartment. Sakurai is not shown coming home from work to find nary a meal nor Fumiko present, who has left to have her "fill" at her boyfriend's place instead. Sakurai catching the two off guard in a moment of amorousness is not shown, nor is a longer conversation between the trio about Sakurai's trip to Faro Island.
  • Altered: The scenes involving the Seahawk's investigation of the Bering Sea and subsequent destruction by Godzilla have been edited into one continuous sequence.
  • Deleted: A farewell party for Sakurai and Furue.
  • Altered: The subplot of Fujita aboard the ship Shinsei Maru No. 2 to conduct tests on the strength of his high tensile wire. The scene of Fujita talking to the ship's captain, played by Yoshibumi Tajima, about Fumiko is deleted. After he makes an early departure at Nemuro in Hokkaido, Godzilla is blamed for the sinking of the vessel. In the U.S. version's story line, a fatal plane crash is substituted as the motivation for Fumiko to search for Fujita in Hokkaido, and Fujita tells Tamie upon returning to Tokyo that he missed the flight instead.
  • Deleted: Newspaper inserts headlining Godzilla's attacks.
  • Altered: Godzilla originally attacks the Tsugaru Express train near Sendai in the Tohoku region, whereas the U.S. version purports the sequence to take place in Hokkaido.
  • Altered: King Kong and Godzilla's first meeting is shifted to before the scene showing the preparation for Operation Burial.
  • Altered: The JSDF's preparations and executions of Operation Burial and Operation One Million Volts against Godzilla have been condensed into one continuous sequence.
  • Added: Stock aerial views of the Ginza ward in Tokyo were inserted, one in the day time as an establishing shot for the scenes set at the Sakurais' and Fujita's apartment complex, and one at night time during Kong's liftoff.
  • Added: Approximately two minutes of stock footage from the film The Mysterians was inserted at various points throughout the film. This includes shots of a forest fire (Godzilla's immolation of the Arctic base), American, British and Soviet officials arriving in Tokyo (the military council's meeting with the scientific advisors), a landslide (Godzilla falling into the giant pit during Operation Burial), evacuating civilians (Kong's incursion into Tokyo), an establishing shot of Mount Fuji (Kong's transport to Fuji), and a massive column of water (Godzilla and Kong falling into the sea). Most notably, the climatic earthquake is much more powerful in the U.S. version, utilizing shots of the ground splitting open and massive tidal waves which flood nearby valleys, in order to make the earthquake much more violent than the tame tremor seen in the Japanese version.
  • The most notable alteration in this version is the addition of new scenes featuring United Nations reporter Eric Carter, played by Michael Keith, paleontologist Dr. Arnold Johnson, played by Harry Holcombe, and Japanese correspondent Yutaka Omura, played by James Yagi, in a series of pseudo-news broadcasts. These scenes make changes to the monsters' origins and characteristics, such as suggesting that Kong grew to his gigantic size by eating the berries native to Faro Island (referred to as "Soma" in this version) and that Godzilla has been imprisoned inside the iceberg since the Mesozoic Era, ignoring the events of Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again. Stock footage of the Mysterian Space Station from The Mysterians is added into these scenes to substitute as a United Nations satellite. These segments were directed by Thomas Montgomery over a three-day period.[6] Despite the new footage, the American version runs 91 minutes, six minutes shorter than the Japanese version.

In a 1963 issue of the American fanzine Spaceman, an article on King Kong vs. Godzilla concluded with an erroneous claim that would endure for decades: "2 endings have been filmed & if you see KING KONG VS. GODZILLA in Japan, Hong Kong or some Oriental sector of the world, Godzilla wins! On the other hand, in the USA & England, for instance, Kong wins!"[14] Spaceman's source for this information is unknown, as even Toho's 1963 international sales brochure makes it clear that Kong is the victor in the original version of the film.[15] Since then, Toho has generally preferred the explanation that the outcome of the fight was a draw, but whatever the case, Kong is the only monster who surfaces in either version of the film. The actual differences in the endings are minimal. While in the Japanese version the characters propose that it is possible that Godzilla survived the battle, in the U.S. version they merely state that they hope they have seen the last of both him and Kong. Godzilla's roar is also not heard over the end title card, while it is present in the Japanese version before Kong's.

After completing production of the U.S. version, Beck sold his rights to the film to Universal International, which distributed the film in the United States and later in most of the rest of the world starting in June of 1963. To this day, Universal owns exclusive rights to the film in North America. Though the company issued King Kong vs. Godzilla on DVD and Blu-ray previously, it was the last Toho Godzilla film to be released in the U.S. with its original Japanese language track. This was because Universal felt that the cost of acquiring the necessary materials from Toho was too high for such a release to be profitable.[16] Ultimately, The Criterion Collection licensed the film from Universal and acquired the materials for the Japanese version, and released both cuts in the United States as part of its Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 Blu-ray box set in October 2019. The Japanese version was presented as a bonus feature.

United Kingdom release

UK King Kong vs. Godzilla poster

The Rank Organisation brought the American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla to UK theaters in November 1963 as a double feature with The Raiders.[17] It received an X rating from the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), preventing children under 16 from seeing it. In 1981, The European Video Company Ltd. briefly released it on VHS, possibly without having the rights; CIC Video released a second legitimate VHS tape in 1987.[18] Universal issued it on DVD and Blu-ray in 2006 and 2017, respectively. The former release prompted the BBFC to reclassify the film as PG for "moderate fantasy violence."[19] Sony released both the Japanese and American versions of King Kong vs. Godzilla on Blu-ray in 2019 as part of The Criterion Collection's Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975 box set.

German The Return of King Kong poster

West German release

Apollo-Film GmbH and Avis-Filmverleih released a further shortened cut of the American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla under the title Die Rückkehr des King Kong (lit. "The Return of King Kong") on August 23, 1974.[20] Running 82 minutes, it primarily removes footage from the interstitial segments at the U.N. building. The German dubbing was recorded at FFS Film- & Fernseh-Synchron GmbH in Munich.[21] The original Japanese version of the film was first released in contemporary Germany on DVD in 2013 by Anolis Entertainment through Koch Media as part of their steelbook Kaiju Classics line. This release also contains the West German theatrical version, as well as the American version with German subtitles.[22]

Box office

King Kong vs. Godzilla was released on theaters four different times in different years in Japan. The first theatrical release had an attendance of 11,200,000, the third release had an attendance of 870,000, and the fourth release had an attendance of 480,000, adding up to a rough 12,550,000 attendance. It is the most-attended Godzilla film of all time in Japan, with or without the inclusion of the ticket sales from the re-releases. It was Toho's second-highest earner in 1962, and fourth among Japanese films overall.[23]

The U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla had a $12,000 budget.

Reception

King Kong vs. Godzilla is very popular among kaiju fans and hailed as a classic. Its plot, acting, special effects, and musical aspects are often regarded as some of the finest in the Showa series of Godzilla films. IMDb gives the film a 5.9 out of 10, with over 8,300 reviews. Metacritic gives the film a harsher 40/100. It should be noted, however, that they both reviewed the American version. Both websites cite the classic charm and charming special effects as major points, with IMDb being more positive towards them and Metacritic more negative. Rotten Tomatoes (who also reviewed the American cut of the film) gives the film a 50% with 16 ratings, with a slightly higher 52% audience score, reviews ranging from "It's a preposterously silly entry, but it's also one of the all-time greats" from Bob Chipman of The Escapist to "The one mild surprise of this cheap reprise of earlier Hollywood and Japanese horror films is the ineptitude of its fakery" from Bosley Crowther of The New York Times.

Preservation

Repaired tear in reel 3 of the original camera negative of King Kong vs. Godzilla

In the larger context of the Godzilla series, the original Japanese version of the film remains notorious for its preservation history. When director Ishiro Honda was assigned to re-edit his film for the Spring 1970 Toho Champion Festival, he deleted approximately 24 minutes, resulting in a 74-minute runtime. As a cost-cutting measure, the editing was carried out directly on the original camera negative. Thus, the highest quality element for the film was permanently conformed to the shorter runtime. This same abridged version was also shown at the 1977 Champion Festival and the 1983 Godzilla Revival Festival. No 35mm master positive of the original Japanese version is known to have existed since immediately prior to the editing of the 1963 U.S. theatrical cut.

Over the years, various original elements went missing, comorbid with studio neglect before the home video era. Some of the only domestic elements known to exist during the 1980s were the re-edited original camera negative, the re-edited subtitle negative, the mono magnetic master of the complete Japanese version, the optical soundtrack negative of the Champion Festival cut, and a heavily worn, faded 16mm rental print of the complete Japanese version. In 1983, the complete mono mix of the film was issued on LP by Star Child, whose jacket featured stills of the excised footage unseen since the 1964 reissue, so listeners could follow along with the story visually.[24] The elements that were known to exist in the 1980s were collated for a video restoration of the full length version released in 1985 on VHS and Betamax.[25]

In 1991, the trims of the cut 24 minutes, as well as the 4-track stereo D-M-Es (separate dialogue, music and effects stems in 4-track stereo), were found in a warehouse. The subtitle negative trims and fully mixed 4-track stereo magnetic master, however, were not found. A photochemical restoration was not attempted. Instead, a video restoration by Toshifumi Shimizu, using telecine transfers direct from the re-edited negative and the trims, as well as a new 2.0 stereo mix from the 4-track D-M-Es, was released in November of that year on VHS and LaserDisc.[26] The recovered trims disappeared again thereafter, and the 1991 video restoration became the basis for video releases fully or in part until 2021.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Toho undertook a magnetic audio preservation project due to the instability and high deterioration of magnetic media,[27] and in 2001 a transfer of the original, fully mixed 4-track stereo magnetic master, unheard since the 1960s and featuring directional dialogue, was included on the film's domestic DVD debut. It was discovered that parts of the audio had been originally mixed out of phase. This 4-track stereo magnetic master, along with the mono master and 4-track D-M-Es, were known to still exist as of 2016.[28]

In 2014, the trims from reels 2-7 were discovered again. They were re-transferred for Toho Video's 2014 Blu-ray, enabling the public to see most of the cut scenes in HD for the first time. Two years later, a 4K restoration was carried out by Tokyo Laboratory. The re-edited camera negative, all trims, the re-edited subtitle negative, and the newly rediscovered subtitle negative trims were scanned in 4K DPX on an ARRISCAN film scanner.[29] Restoration was done in 4K over the course of three months. The original 4-track stereo mix was restored, inverting parts that were mixed out of phase. The original mono mix was restored using a scan of the complete Japanese optical soundtrack negative. The film was brought back to its full 97 minute 15 second runtime, as the frames unavoidably lost from the creation of the new cement splices in 1970 were recreated mostly using a motion interpolation filter. The 4K restoration was subsequently released in theaters on July 14. It then aired on the Japanese Movie Specialty Channel between 2019 and 2021 with slight modifications. This revised 4K restoration was released by Toho Video on Blu-ray and UHD in 2021.[30] Because a film-out of the 4K restoration was not created, the full-length Japanese version still does not exist on 35mm film.

Technical specifications

Japanese version (1962)

  • Shooting format: 35mm Eastman color negative (anamorphic)
  • Lab work: Tokyo Laboratory
  • Distribution format: 35mm color print (anamorphic)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio format: Optical mono, magnetic stereo (4.0)
  • Spoken language: Japanese, English
  • On-screen language: Japanese (credits and subtitles)
  • Lab reel count: 7 reels[31]
  • Footage count: 8,727 feet (2,660 meters)
  • Notes: "Toho 30th Anniversary Commemorative Picture" title before Toho logo.

U.S. version (1963)

  • Shooting format: 35mm color negative (anamorphic)
  • Cut on: 35mm color interpositive (anamorphic)
  • Lab work: Pathe Laboratories (prints)[a]
  • Distribution format: 35mm color print (anamorphic)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio format: Optical mono (duo-bilateral variable area)[b]
  • Spoken language: English
  • On-screen language: English (credits)
  • Lab reel count: 9 reels[34]
  • Projection reel count: 5 reels
  • Footage count: Approx. 8,190 feet (2,496 meters)

Toho Champion Festival version (1970)

  • Cut on: 35mm Eastman color camera negative (anamorphic)
  • Printed format: 35mm color print (anamorphic)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio format: Optical mono
  • Spoken language: Japanese, English
  • On-screen language: Japanese (credits and subtitles)
  • Lab reel count: 6 reels
  • Footage count: Approx. 6,660 feet (2,030 meters)

Video releases

Toho VHS / Betamax (1985)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (Mono)
  • Notes: 1985 home video restoration incorporating 16mm footage for the 24 minutes missing from the Toho Champion Festival edit. Out of print.

Toho LaserDisc (1986)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Discs: 1 (CLV, 2 sides)
  • Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono)
  • Notes: 1985 home video restoration incorporating 16mm footage for the 24 minutes missing from the Toho Champion Festival edit, with further modifications. Early pressings mistakenly contained an earlier work-in-progress assembly of the restoration. Out of print.

GoodTimes VHS (1987)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: English (Mono)
  • Notes Duplicated in LP mode. Out of print.

Toho LaserDisc (1991)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Discs: 1 (CLV, 2 sides)
  • Audio: Japanese (2.0 Stereo)
  • Special features: Isolated score, five trailers, publicity photos insert
  • Notes: First home video release to use rediscovered trims from the original negative to assemble the complete theatrical cut of the movie. Out of print.

Toho VHS (1991)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (2.0 Stereo)
  • Notes: Same restoration as the 1991 LaserDisc. Out of print.

Toho LaserDisc (1992) [Godzilla: The Death Battle Chronicle]

GoodTimes VHS (1998)

  • Region: NTSC
  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: English (Mono)
  • Notes Duplicated in LP mode. Out of print.

GoodTimes DVD (1998)[35]

  • Region: 1
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Special features: Production notes
  • Notes: Cropped 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Out of print.

Toho DVD (2001)[36]

  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (4.0 Surround and 5.1 Surround)
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Koji Kajita and Yu Fujiki, isolated score (2.0 Mono and 4.0 Surround), five trailers, cast profiles, image gallery, footage from a 40th anniversary Godzilla event (4 minutes), audio advertisements

Siren Visual Entertainment DVD (2003)

  • Region: 4
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Special features: None
  • Notes: Cropped 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Transfer derived from a scope 16mm print. Packaged with Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (same disc). Out of print.

Universal DVD (2005)[37]

  • Region: 1 or 2
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Special features: None
  • Notes: Also sold in a set with King Kong Escapes and King Kong (2005).

Universal Blu-ray (2014)

  • Region: N/A
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Special features: None
  • Notes: Reissued in an FYE-exclusive SteelBook in 2019. The SteelBook contains an empty space for another disc; it is unknown if this was an oversight on Universal's part or if the release was originally intended to include two discs.

Toho Blu-ray (2014)

  • Region: A
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround, 4.0 Surround, LPCM 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Koji Kajita and Yu Fujiki, isolated score (4.0 Surround), Toho Champion Festival edit of the film, four trailers, interview with Keizo Murase (20 minutes), footage from a 40th anniversary Godzilla event (4 minutes), Then & Now look at the miniatures and their real-life equivalents (16 minutes), radio spot (3 minutes), publicity material slideshow (3 minutes), publicity brochure (12 images)
  • Notes: HD restoration incorporating footage from the Universal HD master for certain shots in reel 1, as the reel 1 camera trims were unable to be located at the time.

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray (2019) [Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975]

  • Region: A or B
  • Discs: 8
  • Audio: Japanese (4.0 Surround), English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English (hard-coded, non-removable)
  • Special features: All bonus features on Criterion's Godzilla Blu-ray, 1990 Ishiro Honda interview by Yoshimitsu Banno, interview with director Alex Cox, interviews with actors Bin Furuya and Tsugutoshi Komada, 2011 interview with critic Tadao Sato, Toho Unused Special Effects Complete Collection, trailers, illustrated hardcover book with an essay by Steve Ryfle and liner notes on each film by Ed Godziszewski[38]
  • Notes: Sony distributed a Region B version of the set in the United Kingdom. The Japanese version of the film, utilizing the 2014 restoration, is effectively presented as a bonus feature, being included on the eighth disc of the set.

Toho 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray / Blu-ray (2021)[39]

  • Region: None
  • Discs: 2 (4K Ultra HD set) or 1 (Blu-ray)
  • Audio: Japanese (4.0 Surround, 2.0 Stereo, and 2.0 Monaural)
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Theatrical trailer and teaser, Toho Champion Festival edit of the film, and still gallery. The 4K Ultra HD set includes a previously unreleased 28-page manga by Shigeru Komatsuzaki and a 116-page "Unpublished Photo Book" full of color photos by special effects art director Akira Watanabe.
  • Notes: Uses a 4K restoration of the film previously unavailable on home video. The 2.0 stereo track is a downfold of the 4.0 track, mistakenly folded down further to mono for the last reel of the film. The subtitles for the English-speaking portions are mistakenly omitted from the Toho Champion Festival edit.

Unmade sequel and remakes

In the aftermath of the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla, Toho immediately began production on a sequel, simply known by the working title Continuation: King Kong vs. Godzilla. Shinichi Sekizawa even completed a screenplay for the film, but it was ultimately scrapped. Toho would revisit the idea of a giant version of Frankenstein's monster that was featured in Willis O'Brien's original treatment, this time planning to pit the creature against Godzilla in a film called Frankenstein vs. Godzilla, which itself was replaced by the films Mothra vs. Godzilla and Frankenstein vs. Baragon. Toho would later reacquire the rights to King Kong from Rankin/Bass Productions, which resulted in the 1967 film King Kong Escapes, though it was not a direct sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla.

In the early Heisei era, Toho attempted to produce a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla, under the title Godzilla vs. King Kong, but encountered difficulties when Turner Entertainment, by then the owners of the original King Kong film, prevented Toho from using the character. Toho would attempt to circumvent this by considering several projects pitting Godzilla against Kong's mechanical doppelganger Mechani-Kong, but none of them materialized either. The two monsters finally met again in Legendary Pictures' Godzilla vs. Kong, released in 2021.

Videos

Trailers

Japanese trailer
Japanese teaser
Export trailer
U.S. teaser trailer
U.S. trailer
U.S. TV spot
West German trailer
John Landis' commentary on the
U.S. trailer

Miscellaneous

Champion Festival opening
Giant Octopus test footage
West German theatrical credits
Wikizilla: YouTube The Story of King Kong vs. Godzilla

Trivia

  • King Kong vs. Godzilla was theatrically released in Japan for a two-week period as a double feature with Myself and I (私と私). Its release was then extended by another week, during which it was screened alongside the animated film Touring the World (おとぎの世界旅行).[40]
  • Not only was this the first Godzilla or King Kong film shot in the anamorphic "Scope" ratio (2.35:1), but it was also both monsters' first appearance in color and stereophonic sound.
  • Before the movie's Japanese premiere, Toho released side-by-side "interviews" with King Kong and Godzilla, as if they were sumo wrestlers preparing for a bout.[41]
  • There were four live octopuses used in the scene where the Giant Octopus fights the natives. They were forced to move by blowing hot air on them. After the filming of that scene was finished, three of the four were released. The fourth became special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya's dinner.[42]
  • The dream project of Eiji Tsuburaya involved a giant octopus, and early designs for Godzilla himself in 1954 depicted him as a giant octopus. Although Tsuburaya's octopus design was rejected, it is likely that the Giant Octopus scene in this film was the fulfillment of his dream. Tsuburaya would later bring back the monster in two other films: Frankenstein vs. Baragon (although its scene was cut) and The War of the Gargantuas.
    • In 1966, Eiji Tsuburaya produced an episode of Ultra Q, the first entry in his Ultra Series, which revolved around a giant octopus named Sudar, using the props originally created for this film.
  • This film marks the debut of Godzilla's famous theme by Akira Ifukube, although it was completely removed in the American version. It would finally become available in the U.S. on the 2006 CD release of the film's original soundtrack by La-La Land Records.
  • Ifukube would later reuse and rearrange the tracks "King Kong vs. Godzilla I" and "King Kong vs. Godzilla II" from this film's score as part of King Ghidorah's theme in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla was re-released at the Spring Toho Champion Film Festival on March 21, 1970, alongside the animated films Star of the Giants: Major League Ball, Attack No. 1, and The Kindly Lion. The film was edited down to 74 minutes, rather infamously using the original camera negative as a cost cutting measure, as neither the necessity of future screenings of the original theatrical version or the advent of home video was anticipated at the time. This greatly affected the legacy of the original theatrical version, which was not shown in Japanese theaters again until 2016, after decades of various restorations undertaken solely for home video and television.
    • King Kong vs. Godzilla was re-released for a second time at the Spring Toho Champion Festival on March 19, 1977, making it the only kaiju film to be presented in the festival twice. It was accompanied by The Story of the Giants: Onward!! To Glory, Yatterman, Flying Saucer War Bankid, and Japanese Folklore Tales: Momotaro.
  • When animators working on Davy Jones' tentacles in the 2006 film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest were having trouble finding footage of octopuses on land, animation supervisor Hal Hickel hit upon the idea of using the Giant Octopus scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla as a reference.[43]
  • Newspapers in the film announce Godzilla's return on June 23, 1962, and profile King Kong on July 23.
  • In the 2017 film Kong: Skull Island, Kong fights a gigantic cephalopod as an homage to his battle with the Giant Octopus in this film. In the character's next appearance in 2021's Godzilla vs. Kong, Kong shoves the handle of his Battle Axe into Godzilla's mouth in reference to his similar use of a tree in this film.
  • In the third episode of Godzilla Singular Point, "Tigerish", a billboard in Nigashio City advertises Pacific Pharmaceutical.
  • The Escape from the Hotel with Godzilla Approaching escape room at Atami Bay Resort Korakuen presents itself as a sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla.

External links

Notes

  1. Although it isn't mentioned in the credits or publicity, Pathe processed the film for Universal-International, as they had a contract with U-I at the time.[32]
  2. Universal’s ca. 2004 studio print has a duo-bilateral variable area high magenta track. This was possibly struck from the U.S. version’s original optical track negative.[33]

References

This is a list of references for King Kong vs. Godzilla. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. Takeuchi 2000, pp. 27-28.
  2. Ryfle 1998, p. 89.
  3. Kinema Junpo 2012, p. 190.
  4. 4.0 4.1 キングコング対ゴジラ|ゴジラ 東宝公式サイト (official Godzilla.jp page)
  5. Homenick, Brett (5 June 2018). "WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT, AL? Cliff Harrington on His Japanese Movie Career!". Vantage Point Interviews.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Perkins, Sydney (10 June 2012). "Interview: KING KONG VS GODZILLA Screenwriter Paul Mason". SciFi Japan. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014.
  7. LeMay 2019, pp. 177-178.
  8. Morton 2005, pp. 120-121.
  9. Ryfle 1998, pp. 80-81.
  10. Ryfle & Godziszewski 2017, p. 191.
  11. King Kong vs. Godzilla 4K Restoration Poster.jpg
  12. Ryfle 1998, p. 151.
  13. Uploader comment for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA OST - "First Confrontation"
  14. Spaceman #7
  15. Tohofilms8hires.jpg
  16. Monster Zero Forums - KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and KING KONG ESCAPES on BD April
  17. Monsters From An Unknown Culture: Godzilla (and friends) in Britain 1957-1980 by Sim Branaghan – Part 1
  18. Monsters From An Unknown Culture: Godzilla (and friends) in Britain 1957-1980 by Sim Branaghan – Part 4
  19. "King Kong Vs Godzilla". BBFC. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  20. Kollege Schnürschuh (18 August 2013). "OFDb - : Avis / Apollo (Deutschland), Freigabe: FSK 12 von Rückkehr des King Kong, Die (1962)". OFDb. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  21. "Die Rückkehr des King Kong - Schnittbericht: Deutsche Fassung (Schnittberichte.com)". Schnittberichte. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  22. Meyers, Freddy J. (22 March 2013). "OFDb - DVD: Anolis / Koch Media (Deutschland), Freigabe: FSK 12 von Rückkehr des King Kong, Die (1962)". OFDb. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  23. Galbraith IV 2008, p. 194.
  24. t-sakamoto (2016). "キングコング対ゴジラ-オリジナル復元版(紙箱ビデオ版)". t-sakamoto's Walls and Bridges Home Page. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  25. t-sakamoto (2016). "キングコング対ゴジラ-完全復刻版". t-sakamoto's Walls and Bridges Home Page. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  26. Shimizu, Toshifumi. "デジタルリマスターと映像アーカイブの可能性". Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  27. t-sakamoto (2016). "キングコング対ゴジラ 2016 2019日本映画専門チャンネル版". t-sakamoto's Walls and Bridges Home Page. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  28. Ozawa, Asami (1 June 2016). "「キングコング対ゴジラ」が4Kリマスター。スカパー!4KやTOHOシネマズで7月14日放送". Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  29. t-sakamoto (2019). "キングコング対ゴジラ-2016 2019日本映画専門チャンネル版". t-sakamoto's Walls and Bridges Home Page. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  30. Ishikawa, Eugene; Hirai, Yutaro, eds. (28 September 2012). Toho Special Effects Movie Complete Works. villagebooks. p. 66. ISBN 4-864-91013-8.
  31. Variety 1963, p. 3: "Universal and Revue currently have deals with Pathe and it's understood the Revue contract runs out first, within the year."
  32. sleepyserenade (16 December 2023). "Mistress of the Reel™ on X". X. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  33. Continuity & Dialogue on "King Kong vs. Godzilla". Universal-International. 7 June 1963. p. 1.
  34. Amazon.com: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963) Goodtimes
  35. [1]
  36. Amazon.com: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963) Universal
  37. Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 | The Criterion Collection
  38. Ragone, August (1 April 2021). "NOT APRIL FOOL'S! "KING KONG VS GODZILLA" UHD BLU-RAY!". Kaiju Productions.
  39. Motoyama et al. 2012, p. 66.
  40. Lees & Cerasini 1998, p. 25.
  41. 『ゴジラvsコング』の原点『キングコング対ゴジラ』撮影秘話……敵の大ダコはその日のスタッフの夕食になっていた
  42. DVD Talk - Behind The Scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Bibliography

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