DVD Review: King Kong vs. Godzilla

The story of how King Kong vs. Godzilla came to be is likely more interesting than the film for most people. Originally envisioned by Willis O'Brien as a sequel to the original King Kong where the ape fought a giant Frankenstein monster, the film ended up at Toho after various dealings where Godzilla was inserted. There are meager connections to either creature's brief history (at the point of release), and it was created only to put two of the world's biggest monsters on screen at the same time.

The biggest box office draw for a Godzilla film ever, this wild, funny, and over the top monster classic is a favorite amongst the Japanese kaiju fan base. That's referring to the Japanese version, and in this case, the two films respective releases were radically different. In the hands of Universal, this DVD only features the butchered US version, though it's the first time on home video presented in widescreen.

Looking solely at the translation, King Kong vs. Godzilla is annoying, plot hole filled mess. John Beck produced the American sequences; done to extend the length after certain scenes were cut that wouldn't appeal to American audiences. These are jarring, stopping the film dead at multiple points to offer little necessary information.

It's also embarrassing. The attempt to show a UN scientist explaining Godzilla by using a dinosaur book meant for four year olds is unbelievably stupid, and the comedic tone of the Japanese scenes contrast with the rest of the film. Since it was originally played straight for comedy, most of that is lost, either in the dubbing (Ichiro Arishima's character is especially destroyed) or the editing. Akira Ifukube's music has been sliced, replaced by stock music from Creature from the Black Lagoon amongst others. It's decent music, but it doesn't fit, especially if you've heard the proper accompanying themes.

Even if this was the Japanese version, this is still a hard film to defend in spots. There's little question the King Kong suit is one of the worst to ever come from Toho, with arms that change length from shot to shot and sudden, unexplained surge of power when he's electrified. The Godzilla look is better unless viewed from the front. Their pro-wrestling styled fight is a blast to watch regardless of the suits though, and it's the bright spot. However, after the serious tones of the films before this, it's obvious to see the camp value sinking in.

This was also the audiences first time viewing the beasts in color, certainly a strong marketing tactic. Add in the brief lulls in their movie careers (seven years for Godzilla, 18 years for Kong), and audiences ate this one up. It's hardly a great film, but it is enjoyable, just all the more so in its original form. (** out of *****)

While anything is better than the first DVD release from Goodtimes (horribly panned and scanned and the grain was so thick it was unwatchable), this is a disappointing DVD. There's a definite difference between the spliced in American scenes and the original scenes. The Japanese footage is dirtier, spottier, and flaws on the print are consistently evident. US sequences fare a little better (enough to be noticeable). The overall sharpness is impressive, and on the whole, this looks better than the official region 2 disc direct from Toho. The black levels are the biggest improvement, along with stronger color. (***)

After being spoiled by Sony and their dual language DVDs for Toho monster films, it's only natural to feel under whelmed by the audio here. Because of the differences in the actual film, only the English dub is included, and only in 2.0 mono. It's clean even during the battles, and mixed nicely to compensate for dialogue that would otherwise be over powered. (***)

There are no included extras, not even a trailer. (No stars)

In one of the classic movie rumors, it's long been thought that King Kong ends up victorious in the US version, and Godzilla wins out if you saw the film in Japanese. That's completely untrue, merely a rumor attributed to Famous Monsters in Filmland magazine decades ago. The only difference in the ending is that Godzilla roars instead of Kong when the screen glows "The End." That's hardly a sign of victory.

Comments (1)

arsa05:

ok
gracias

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