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  King Kong vs. Godzilla Icon-o-Clash
Year: 1962
Director: Ishirô Honda
Stars: Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yu Fujiki, Ichirô Arishima, Jun Tazaki, Akihiko Tirata, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Akemi Negishi
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A businessman on the look out for further opportunities, Mr Tako (Ichirô Arishima) has discovered a type of berry new to the world that only grows on one South Pacific island. They produce a narcotic effect on the user, only without any addictive side effects. The trouble is, the natives might not take too kindly to their home being used as the base for harvesting the berries, but the duo heading the expedition, Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Furue (Kenji Sahahra) are confident, dismissing the myth of a giant creature on the island. Talking of giant creatures, an iceberg has been discovered further North that is glowing radiotactively: whatever could be inside?

After a hiatus of seven years, Godzilla was back and in the time he had been away Toho Studios had found a worthy adversary for him. The idea came from original King Kong animator Willis O'Brien, who had been trying to sell his King Kong vs Frankenstein idea and eventually took it to Japan; changes were made and it was the towering green lizard who took up the mantle of Kong's rival. Against O'Brien's idea, stop motion was not used and instead the old reliable of men in rubber suits was settled on as the best way of bringing the conflict to the screen.

Unlike the first two Godzilla movies, the comic relief quotient was upped considerably perhaps in a more conscious attempt to appeal to children, although the big guy was still in his villainous character at this time. This means that when Sakarai and Furue arrive on the island, they placate the natives by playing them music in a radio and erm, handing out soothing cigarettes - even to the children. This seems to do the trick, and before long the berries are collected all ready to be shipped out...but they reckon without a certain giant gorilla.

Yes, it takes him a while to arrive, but Kong - a disappointingly cheap looking suit, here - makes a great entrance when he smashes down that big gate and lays into a huge octopus, played by an actual octopus which has been menacing a mother and child in the berry storage huts. Here we see a little of the stop motion that O'Brien wanted when the creature lifts up a native with its tentacle and flings him about, but the effect is obvious. Anyway, Kong beats the eight legged horror, drinks some berry juice and has a lie down, causing a brainwave in the Japanese: they can take him back with them. Although how they get him onto that large raft to tow behind the ship remains a mystery.

However, Godzilla has been reawakened (yes, it was him in that iceberg) and all the signs are that he will be heading for a showdown with his hairy counterpart soon. But not before swathes of Japanese cities and countryside are laid to waste, of course. There are other attempts to echo that original Kong film, as when the character picks up a female and climbs a building with her in his grasp (Mie Hama is in the Fay Wray role), but it's a pale shadow of the first film. Better are the sequences where the filmmakers throw away all sense of pretension and have the antagonists beat each other up - Kong even gets super electrical power thanks to a lightning bolt, but really this was neither of the icons' finest hour. It is amusing, though, hilarious in places, and gave rise to the enduring urban myth that Kong won in the American version but Godzilla won in the Japanese. Music by Akira Ifukube.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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