OverviewUnlike the previous two films in the series King Kong vs. Godzilla overtly emphasizes comedy, both in the human and monster scenes. This is usually attributed to Eiji Tsuburaya, who wanted to move the Godzilla series in a lighter direction. The film is obviously a spoof of commercialism and the burgeoning media in Japan. Some critics also claim that Kong, and in the following film Mothra, represent the resources of the Pacific Islands with Godzilla as symbol of the United State's nuclear power. However, Kong is usually viewed as an 'American' monster (as it was an American film company that first came up with him). The portrayal of Kong by a man in a suit angered many Kong fans, due to his rather comical appearance which differs from the frightening look he had in the original.
Much of the overt comedy of the film disappears in the re-edited version released in America by Universal International. Producer John Beck cut large amounts of the Japanese footage and replaced it with new footage of American actors playing newscasters commenting on the action. The score by Akira Ifukube was also replaced with library music, much of it replaced by stock music from the movie Creature from the Black Lagoon by Henry Mancini.
The film had its roots in earlier concepts for a new Kong feature put out by Willis O'Brien in his search to fund another film starring the famous ape. In O' Brien's original proposed treatment, the gorilla King Kong fought against a giant version of the Frankenstein creature. After American producer John Beck sold the concept to Toho Studios (much to O' Brien's dismay), the Japanese executives replaced the Frankenstein monster with their own flagship giant monster, Godzilla. This was the first color feature for either monster.
Mr. Tako, head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, is frustrated with the television shows his company is sponsoring and wants something to boost his ratings. When Doctor Makino tells Tako about a giant monster he discovered on the small Faro Island, Tako believes that it would be a brilliant idea "...with a punch" to use the monster to gain publicity. Tako immediately sends two men, Sakurai and Kinsaburo, to find and bring back the monster from Faro.
Meanwhile, the American submarine Seahawk gets caught in an iceberg. Unfortunately, this is the same iceberg that Godzilla was trapped in by the JSDF seven years earlier in 1955 in the movie Godzilla Raids Again. As an American rescue helicopter circles the iceberg, Godzilla breaks out and heads towards a nearby Japanese Arctic base. The base, of course, is ineffective against Godzilla. Godzilla's appearance is all over the press and makes Tako angry. As Tako is complaining about Godzilla's media hype to his employees, one of them exclaims "And... there's a movie too!"
Meanwhile on Faro Island, a giant octopus attacks the village. King Kong finally makes his appearance and defeats the monster. Kong then drinks some red berry juice and falls asleep. Sakurai and Kinsaburo place Kong on a large raft and begin to transport him back to Japan. Back at Pacific Pharmaceuticals, Tako is excited because Kong is now all over the press instead of Godzilla. As Tako is out of the room, one of the employees ask which is stronger between King Kong and Godzilla. Another employee responds "Stupid, it's not a wrestling match!" Tako walks back in the room and exclaims "I'll buy that idea!"
Mr. Tako arrives on the ship transporting Kong, but unfortunately, the monster then wakes up and breaks free from the raft. As Kong meets up with Godzilla in a valley, Tako, Sakurai, and Kinsaburo have difficulty avoiding the JSDF to watch the fight. Eventually they find a spot. Kong throws some large rocks at Godzilla, but Godzilla shoots his atomic ray at Kong, so King Kong retreats.
The JSDF constantly try and stop both Kong and Godzilla but are mostly ineffective. They set up some power lines filled with a million volts of electricity (compare that to the 300,000 volts Godzilla went through in the original movie). The electricity is too much for Godzilla, but it seems to make King Kong stronger. Kong attacks Tokyo and holds a woman from a train, named Fumiko, hostage. The JSDF explode capsules full of the berry juice from Faro's scent and knock out King Kong. Tako approved of this plan because he "...didn't want anything bad to happen to Kong." The JSDF then decide to transport Kong via balloons to Godzilla, in hope that they will fight each other to their deaths.
The next morning, Kong meets up with Godzilla and the two begin to fight. Godzilla eventually knocks Kong unconscious but then a thunder storm arrives and revives King Kong, giving him the power of an electric grasp. The two begin to fight, Kong shoving a tree in Godzilla's mouth, Godzilla lighting it on fire, burning Kong's hand. The two monsters fight some more, tearing down Atami Castle in the process, and eventually plunge into the sea. After an underwater battle, only King Kong resurfaces and begins to slowly swim back home to Faro. As Kong swims home onlookers aren't sure if Godzilla survived the underwater fight, but speculate that it was possible.
- Although fans of both Kong and Godzilla argue to this day, Toho has declared that King Kong was meant to win. Not only was King Kong the star and hero of the film, but Kong was much more popular than Godzilla at this time, and was the obvious choice to win audiences over. Toho confirmed Kong's victory in the press materials that they released when the film came out in 1962 that clearly says "A spectacular duel is arranged on the summit of Mt.Fuji, and King Kong is victorious".
- A long-standing urban legend claims that the Japanese version of this film has an alternate ending in which Godzilla wins, but this was based on a misconception.
- In Japan, this film has the highest box office attendance figures of all of the Godzilla series to date.
- Not only was this the first Godzilla, or King Kong film shot in "Scope" ratio (2.35:1), but was also their first appearances in color.
- While many fans of King Kong hated the ape's portrayal in this film, it was said that Eiji Tsuburaya deliberately made Kong comical as to not frighten young children, and make the audience root more for Kong than the frightening Godzilla.
- The Davy Crockett, a portable rocket system for launching a small nuclear or conventional warhead, appears in the movie while still classified.
- This movie is discussed by Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in the Donkey Kong Country episode "From Zero to Hero", though it is not mentioned by name.
- The picture of Kong on the US-release poster was a cropped still from the original 1933 production (during his fight with the pterodactyl), rather than as he actually appears in this film.
- The bigger draw of the two monsters in Japan was King Kong, who at the time was far more popular there than their own monster, Godzilla.
- King Kong's original creator, Willis O'Brien had created a treatment in the 60's called King Kong vs. Frankenstein (also sometimes referred to as both King Kong vs. Prometheus and King Kong vs. The Ginko). O'Brien planned on using stop animation, like he had in the original King Kong, to bring the monsters to life. O'Brien sparked the interest of producer John Beck with some concept art and several screenplay treatments to make the film. Unfortunately, the cost of stop animation prevented the film from being put into production. Beck took O' Brien's main idea to Toho, who was planning to make Godzilla return to the big screen after his seven year absence since Godzilla Raids Again. Toho also wanted a big movie to celebrate their thirtieth year in production. The O'Brien treatment was changed to feature Godzilla to battle King Kong instead of Frankenstein's monster.
- In 1991, the film was to be "remade" as Godzilla vs King Kong with the names in reverse order, as part of the Hesei Series. Turner Entertainment, who claimed to be the owners of the original film, asked too much money for Kong's use, then Godzilla vs Mechani-Kong was attempted, but Turner tried to sue Toho for "Mechani-Kong being too similar to Kong". In the end, the film became Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
- Ishiro Honda had toyed with the idea of using Willis O' Brien's stop motion technique instead of the suitmation process used in his films. Unfortunately, budgetary concerns prevented him from using the process. However, there are a couple of brief scenes where Honda makes use of stop motion photography. The first use of it is in the scene where the giant octopus grabs one of the natives and swings him around. Another is the scene during Kong's fight with Godzilla- it is used when Godzilla hits Kong with a jump-kick.
- There were four live octopuses used in the scene where it 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.
- The dream project of special effects director 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 is the fulfillment of his dream. (Tsuburaya would later shoot giant octopus scenes for two other films, Frankenstein vs. Baragon (although this scene was cut), and War of the Gargantuas.)
- The Godzilla suit used for this film has been nicknamed "KingGoji." It is different from the previous suits in many ways because the movie itself had more of a sense of comedy than horror. Changes included: Godzilla's tiny eyes being done away with, a bulkier body (again), three toes instead of four, a longer snout, less jagged looking dorsal plates, and more evened out teeth.
- The stop-motion animation scene where Godzilla drop kicks Kong, would mark the first time Godzilla would be seen in this manner and the last time either monster would be protrayed via stop motion. All following appearances of the monsters in history following this are done through the use of Suits, Cartoon, or CGI
- King Kong and Godzilla would be the only two monsters in the toho universe that would later go on to fight complete Robot versions of themselves in later films, Kong being the first.
U.S. VersionKing Kong vs. Godzilla was distributed in the U.S. by Universal Pictures, who made many alterations to the film, including cutting it and adding scenes with American actors. Among the alterations made by Universal for the North American theatrical release are:
- Dialogue was dubbed, and it often strayed heavily from the Japanese script (jokes like "Kong can't make a monkey out of us" were by the American distributors).
- Akira Ifukube's musical score was replaced by various Universal library music, most notably from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. (Only the jungle dance theme sung by the natives on Faro Island remains within the American version.)
- Deleted: a farewell party for Sakurai and Farue.
- Deleted: a scene where Sakurai plays drums while recording a commercial. Later, Farue tells him he is to go to Faro Island.
- Deleted: most of the comic moments.
- Deleted : Newspapers showing Godzilla's attacks.
- The scene where Kong and Godzilla first meet is in a different time spot.
- The climatic Earthquake is much more powerful in the U.S version which uses stock footage from the film The Mysterians in order to make the Earthquake much more violent then the tame tremor seen in the Japanese version. This footage contains the ground splitting open and massive tidal waves which flood nearby valleys.
- Most notably, new scenes featuring United Nations reporter Eric Carter and other characters, including Dr. Arnold Johnson (a paleontologist who uses a children's dinosaur picture book to explain Godzilla's origins), and Japanese correspondent Yataka Omura were added. The characters comment on the film's action (which was comprised of the Japanese footage). However, the characters in the new scenes state facts about the main action that they cannot know, like when the expedition on Faro Island hears Kong's roar, and how Kong draws strength from electricity (although he has not done this yet in the film). They also claim that Godzilla has been hibernating in the iceberg since the Jurassic Period, an odd claim for anyone who had seen Godzilla King of the Monsters or Gigantis the Fire Monster. (After all, when Godzilla first breaks out of the iceberg, the two men in the helicopter call it "Godzilla". In the very next scene, Eric Carter states "The world is stunned to discover prehistoric beasts exist in the 20th century.")
The American version runs 91 minutes, seven minutes shorter than the Japanese version which runs for 98 minutes.
In Japan, there were 11 million admissions to King Kong vs. Godzilla, the most of any Godzilla film.
- Released: May 15, 2001
- Aspect Ratio: Full frame (1.33:1)
- Sound: English (1.0)
- Supplements: Production notes
- Region 1
- Note: Contains the U.S. version of the film
- Released: November 29, 2005
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic
- Sound: English
- Region 1
- Note: Contains the U.S. version of the film; Only available in a two-pack with King Kong Escapes