Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I, THE AUDIENCE: King Kong vs. Godzilla 

I remember the first time I ever heard of "King Kong vs. Godzilla."

I was probably about eight years old, rummaging through the TV Guide to see what Channel 4 (in Indiana) was showing in the way of monster movies over the weekend, and there it was: "King Kong vs. Godzilla."

I think I decided right then and there that it was not only my favorite movie, but it also HAD to be the best movie ever made. I hadn't even seen it yet!

But it was right there in the title. This movie had King Kong AND Godzilla! What else do you need?

So I watched it, and, yes, there was a time in my life when this movie was the ultimate accomplishment of world cinema. Yes, I was just old enough to recognize that the film has its flaws, notably the inadequacies of the Kong suits - especially the one they used for close-ups. And I knew that Godzilla was much, much bigger than the classic King Kong of the 1933 film. (Not to mention: Kong died in the 1933 film. Come to think of it, Godzilla died, too, in his first movie! These Hollywood types are pulling a fast one!)


"King Kong vs. Godzilla" is a profoundly silly movie with very few action scenes, bad ape suits, lots of talk, natives played by Japanese extras in black face, King Kong drunk on juice made from giant berries, lovely Japanese miniatures, great scenes of panicky Japanese fleeing the monsters wandering around their islands, amusing scientific explanations and some nice shots of Mt. Fuji.

And King Kong shoots lightning bolts ... for some reason.

And it has Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi, two Japanese actresses that we here at MMC love because they are in so many of our favorite 1960s films. (Both are in "You Only Live Twice" and "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" Hama is in "King Kong Escapes." Wakabayashi is in "Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster." That's just off the top of my head.)

I have heard that "King Kong vs. Godzilla" is the most profitable Japanese movie ever made. It was probably true as recently as ten or twenty years ago. (I should probably look this up.)

There are so many reason to love this movie that its negatives are quickly averaged out of contention.

Some time ago, I mentioned that I was having a hard time picking my favorite Japanese movie. There are so many from which to choose! And part of the problem is that some of them are favorites from childhood that I haven't seen for a long time.

I finally got back to that film festival I was talking about. I got a couple of these films from Netflix and some from Amazon (I decided I needed my own copies of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and "Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster.") and over the next few weeks, I'm going to mull it over.

My nominees:
"Tokyo Story"
"The Seven Samurai"
"Female Convict Scorpion: Prisoner 701"
"Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41"
"Lady Snowblood"
"Sex and Fury"
"King Kong vs. Godzilla"
"Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster"
"Destroy All Monsters"
"Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" - (This really shouldn't be a contender, but I have a considerable soft spot for it because it was the first Godzilla movie I saw in a theater. And it aspires to a rare kind of goofy cinematic greatness.)

If anybody is outraged by what I might have left out, please drop me a line. You may know of something I've forgotten, or you may know of something I haven't seen.



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