King Kong vs. Godzilla Blu-ray Review
Even though King Kong hadn’t appeared in a major motion picture in nearly two decades, the question of, Who would win in a fight—King Kong or Godzilla? seems like it would have been a lively debate topic for both teenagers and monster movie maniacs to have in the 1960s.
Toho Studios must have known, because it was in that decade that they licensed the rights to the character from RKO, undoubtedly with the plans to pit him against their most famous creation: Godzilla. The result is the aptly titled KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, released in 1962.
Before fans are treated to a battle between “the two mightiest monsters of all time!” (as the U.S. poster declares), they have to be rediscovered. The movie teases both a rarely seen island and giant icebergs, both of which will come into play soon enough. We’re then introduced to Mr. Tako (Ichiro Arishama, who earned the nickname “The Japanese Chaplin”), the head of a pharmaceutical company who plans to track down a mythical creature on Faro Island to drum up publicity. And then word comes in from a United Nations submarine in the Arctic Ocean, which gets a bit too close to an iceberg and releases a certain oversized lizard.
The creatures, as you likely guessed, are King Kong and Godzilla—and Japan isn’t big enough for the two of them.
But before they set paw and claw on Japanese soil, they’ll have to establish their strength (as if moviegoers weren’t already aware): Kong (Shoichi Hirose, who later played the titular dragon in GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER) squares off against a giant octopus (prepped by a spectacular introduction that calls to mind the works of Ray Harryhausen) while Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima, who played the monster around a dozen times in his career) shows that heavy-armed tanks are no match.
Audiences know full well that the battles between Kong and Godzilla will consist of two men in costumes duking it out in, on and around miniature sets. But that’s OK, because that’s what creates the cheesiness, and it’s that cheesiness that make movies like KING KONG VS. GODZILLA so fun. (Lines like “Giant octopus! He’s after the berry juice! Hurry!” and sporadic scenes where characters speak directly to the viewer in the name of exposition add to the camp value that would continue with KING KONG ESCAPES, the second and last Kong-related Toho release.)
While it takes more than 50 minutes for the titular monsters to meet, it’s worth the wait. Their face-offs are some of the most entertaining in the franchise(s), coming complete with boulder tossing, fire breathing, tail whips, electric shocks, a national landmark (Mount Fuji) and a moment where King Kong scratches his head in complete disbelief.
This is only the third time Godzilla appeared onscreen, after 1954’s GODZILLA and 1955’s GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN. It is also the only official KING KONG VS. title (although he would take on Mechani-Kong five years later), whereas Godzilla squared off against every creature/creation from Mothra and Mechagodzilla to Hedorah and SpaceGodzilla.
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer features just as much grain, dirt and scratches as fans—especially those who also saw the KING KONG ESCAPES Blu-ray, which is out the same day—would expect. Still, the image does occasionally boast a nice amount of detail.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono. Subtitles in English and French. The dialogue and sound effects are clear, but the transfer as a whole lacks any dimension.
There are no special features on this release.