Sunday is upon us again friends and what better way to celebrate this holiday weekend than with a healthy dose of monsters! Here is our regular guest contributor Chris with this weeks Stomp Sunday. Take it away!
Labor Day weekend, being a very American holiday, I thought I’d take a look at what happens when another culture gets their hands on something very American and gives their spin on it. Now, in this instance , since I’m clearly talking about Japan and an American monster, I’m talking about Toho and their King Kong films. And if I’m talking about Toho and King Kong movies, I would be talking about King Kong Escapes. But, the thing is, there wouldn’t be any King Kong Escapes with out Toho making this film first for their 30th anniversary. I’m sure you guessed by now that I am talking about, King Kong vs Godzilla.
The idea of dream fights between two characters that wouldn’t normally cross over has been fodder for many geeks across fandom. The idea of a dream fight between two characters that don’t exist in real life probably takes up more room in the brain than simple math. Sizing each character up by their abilities and weaknesses. Gets the blood flowing it dose! Mostly, these arguments end up with some sort of retarded scenario of fight situations and the outcome. Suffice to say though, dream fights
are not something that hasn’t been noticed by companies as glorious cash grabs. Marvel and DC do it once every decade or so. Street Fighter is taking on Tekken soon. Robocop and Terminator have duked it out in the
comic books. Movie wise, we’ve seen what would be natural enemies go at it. Freddy fought Jason (in a very underrated film in my opinion) and the Aliens took on a Predator or two over a group of films (Overrated in my opinion) But, let’s be honest, in the pantheon of cross over fights, there will always be the granddaddy of them all. When King Kong fought Godzilla.
Now, before some of you yell and scream, yes, I know that King Kong vs Godzilla wasn’t the first real Vs film. Frankenstein and the Wolfman did meet in a film, but their confrontation was reduced the last few minutes of the film. Lot of build up for a lot of nothing. A mistake that King Kong vs Godzilla didn’t make.
Now, why was the idea of a giant ape taking on a fire breathing dinosaur so important that people would pay good money to see? To understand this, lets break down the combatants shall we?
King Kong, the original giant monster. He came to life in 1933 under the hands of Willis O’ Brian. The original Kong, a stop motion masterpiece, fought in a valley of Dinosaurs where he was worshiped as a king. An early masterpiece of both story telling and film making. It was a true classic and set the bar as the de facto American monster. Kong, ironically would be seen by special effects guru Eiji Tsuburaya in his formative days and get the man who would pioneer the effects industry in Japan to begin his journey in to the annuals of history. In 1954, he would help create an iconic beast that would rival Kong in his own right. Godzilla.
Godzilla, self proclaimed King of the Monsters. A beast created by the horrors of nuclear fallout, Godzilla was a symbol for the fear of nuclear war. An unstoppable beast that destroyed everything in his path. Something that could not be stopped by conventional weaponry. A beast that demanded your attention.
When the original Godzilla film was released in the US in 1956,it was a huge hit. That hit stirred one of first real nerd debates: There was now a world with two great giant monsters. Who would win in a fight? Kong? Or Godzilla?
In 1962, Toho was given a once in a lifetime chance to answer that question.
After some shady dealings, producer John Beck went behind the back of American special effects pioneer Willis O’ Brian and pitched O’Brian’s proposed film, King Kong vs Prometheus to Toho. The studio heads were interested. Just not in Prometheus. They saw dollar signs with Kong facing off against their own home grown monster: Godzilla. Contracts were signed, and Toho had Kind Kong vs Godzilla green lit as their special 30th (of Toho) film.
Under the direction of Ishiro Honda, who had already directed a handful of giant monster films, Toho would self produce King Kong vs Godzilla on their native land. Having full control over the character of Kong, Tsuburaya went for the hills in crafting the effects of the film. It was a dream come true for ol Tsuburaya. He loved King Kong, and, like many creative types, he wanted to put his own touch on the beast. Honda and Tsuburaya contemplated doing both Kong and Godzilla as stop motion. But, much like the problems that O’Brian faced getting his original Kong sequel off the ground, the process took too long and was too costly. Thus, the tried and true method of suitmation was used. Being the first time that both Kong and Godzilla would be seen in not only Widescreen, but in color, the creative team wanted to make sure they were doing things right.
Now, here’s were we get to the crux of this article. While Godzilla was given a updated look after almost a decade of being out of the lime light, he wasn’t too radically changed. Given a chubby, bulkier look and minor changes to some of his physical traits, Godzilla was still Godzilla. Kong on the other hand though, was another story. It what could be described as the Japanese take on the hamburger, Kong was redesigned and given a new origin. As the original Kong was no more than a few stories tall, he was enlarged a good %50 to match up with Godzilla. Creating a genuine suit that would capture the essence of Kong would turn out to be difficult for Tsuburaya and his men. The first few Kongs were more cute and chubby. Not wanting to crap on the original, Tsuburaya had his team created look after look until he finally came up with something that didn’t offend him. Sadly, it would be a giant gorilla, but not exactly Kong. This new Kong was brown in color, compared to the black of the original. He was given an elongated face with flat lips. There were several head pieces used on the suit, and depending on the shot , Kong either looked like a cartoon, or a legit pissed off ape that more resembled a yeti than anything else. Some times the arms hung low like an apes for the wide shots, some time the arms were normal human lengths so that the actor could grab props. A mixed bag to say the least.
Still though, King Kong vs Godzilla gave everyone what they came for. The big fight. From the beginning of the flick, both monsters are given character moments to build up their destructive capabilities. Godzilla appears out of an iceberg and sinks a submarine before he heads to Japan to fuck some one’s couch. Kong is first introduced taking out a giant octopus, then getting wasted on what is essentially monster wine and brought to Japan. The two meet for the first time at the half way point, where, much like Freddy vs Jason, the filmmakers take notice to the tactical differences between the two. Kong is all strength, while
Godzilla has all the super powers. Godzilla basically blast the crap out of Kong with his fire breath, leaving Kong to take off and figure out another plan of attack.
In yet another thing that Freddy vs Jason took from this film, there’s a mcguffin that helps even the odds. In Freddy vs Jason, Jason inexplicably is afraid of water. In King Kong vs Godzilla, Kong can get super charged by electricity. It’s a out of nowhere plot device that gives Kong some advantage against Godzilla and his fire breath in the final fight. That final fight is were the film pays off and really gives the fans what they want. A knock down, go for broke fight between two icons that lives up to the hype. Think the original fight between Kong and the T-Rex, pumped up on steroids and HGH, and given a good 15 to 20 minutes. That’s the final act of this film. And it’s awesome.
When the final duel was being prepped, the suit actors were given almost free reign to come up with the fight themselves. Seeing that they both had decent movement in the monster outfits, they could get as physical as they wanted to. It was as if two kids took their toys and played war with them. The actors took pro wrestling moves, which was becoming popular in Japan at the time, and applied them to the over all brawl that ensued. Godzilla blasting Kong. Kong judo flipping Godzilla. The two locking up
and doing the giant monster equivalent of a hockey fight while the surrounding area is smashed to pieces. King Kong fighting Godzilla stands as the most physical giant monster fight put to screen after the War of the Gargantuas. It’s like two homeless guys going at it for a steak! And honestly, no other crossover film has lived up to this fight. Ever.
In the end, the two beat the crap out of each other, and the Japanese pay tribute to the monster that started it all, by having Kong the victor. The final shot of the big guy swimming off in the sea after laying the smackdown on Godzilla’s ass. King Kong vs Godzilla would go on to be the highest grossing Godzilla film of all time, (the American film not included) and is probably the most famous of all the Godzilla films outside the original. A unique experiment in another culture putting their spin on a foreign culture’s character. Remakes aside, the next time a foreign spin on a character as such would be the American Godzilla film.
It’s safe to say, the Japanese did it better.
Even though it might not truly be King Kong, he’s in here in spirit. So I say to you on this holiday weekend, if your getting drunk, or firing up the bbq with some friends, why not netflix a undeniably awesome dream match of a film and have a good ol time watching the American dream over come a foreign invader and kick some ass up and down another country like we do best.
So until next week, have a great holiday, and remember, bigger is better!
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