Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (1962) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 Not being an ardent fan of the Man in Rubber Suit genre, I never really know what to expect going into a film like Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, also known as King Kong vs. Godzilla. Outside of model buildings and wind-up tanks being demolished by not-so scary monsters as the general public gapes in horror, is there any room for a surprise here and there? Well, yes, as it turns out. I was surprised to find that, while it contains all the usual elements of its genre, KKvG is surprisingly very boring. More boring than a marathon of The Jeff Foxworthy Show.

The haze that is this film really starts to set in when you realize American hands nabbed it up and began arbitrarily inserting footage featuring their own actors, which is a mistake bordering on the criminal. This is plot padding of the worst kind, with wooden actors portraying various reporters, politicians, and other officials spouting useless blocks of exposition. It is truly an exercise in tedium to watch these men in their stiff suit-and-tie combos, especially when their only purpose is to provide dry commentary on scenes we have already seen or they have randomly interrupted.

Granted, I make these criticisms as if to say the original footage is worth savoring, which it most certainly is not. I’ve never been more bored by a film that could have easily received a free pass by being dumb and loud. KKvG spends far too much time getting to the point where its title can be realized, as if its creators thought they could keep us on pins and needles by holding off on the inevitable confrontation. Godzilla is brought to the forefront fairly quickly, hopping out of a glacial tomb after being hit by a couple of rockets. It’s a silly turn of events, but at least it moves us along.

Kong, on the other hand, practically has an entire short film’s running time dedicated to his origin. It involves a pair of reporters (one dashing, the other fat, lazy, and easily frightened) traveling to Skull Island so they can bring Kong back to Japan for their ratings-hungry boss. The reporters are meant to be a comedic duo, but the poor English dubbing boils their dialogue down to repetitive, mindless banter. It’s morbidly interesting to watch the racist caricatures that are the inhabitants of Skull Island, especially when half of them are covered in laughable face paint, but c’mon! When the heck are we gonna see some monkey-on-lizard brawlin’?

Eventually the two titans do face each other in combat, but by then the damage is done. I couldn’t have cared less what they did to one another, and the movie chooses to play unfairly by amping up Kong’s limited range of abilities. Normally I would think our boy Godzilla could fry the ape with one breathy blast, but no, apparently Kong becomes super strong when hit by lightning. Yeah, talk about unadulterated idiocy. It also doesn’t help when Kong’s visual design reminds you of an alcoholic hobo draped in five layers of rotted-out carpet.

In the version I watched Kong came out the victor, though I’m well aware that in its home country of Japan the film gave the crown to Godzilla. Either way, the audience lost, as I’m sure audiences back in 1962 stumbled back to their cars with fuzzy heads and a need to take a long, cleansing shower. This isn’t the worst flick I’ve seen by any stretch of the imagination, but man, talk about a wasted opportunity.