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When Did Godzilla First Fight King Kong?

March 10, 2024 - Movies

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Summary

  • Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire
    is the fifth film in the MonsterVerse and a sequel to the epic showdown in
    Godzilla vs. Kong
    .
  • In 1962, King Kong won its first cinematic smackdown against Godzilla in the iconic film
    King Kong vs. Godzilla
    .
  • Behind-the-scenes conflicts led to King Kong being chosen as the winner over Godzilla in
    King Kong vs. Godzilla
    , a landmark film.



Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire is right around the corner. It is the fifth film in the MonsterVerse and the follow-up to 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong. That film was a highly anticipated event, as it saw the two legendary movie monsters come face to face in an epic showdown. However, it was not their first cinematic smackdown; in fact, it was round two. In 1962, King Kong vs. Godzilla was released by Toho and was the third film in both the Godzilla and King Kong franchises. The movie was a landmark film, a crossover event that followed 1941’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and helped set the stage for other cinematic monster showdowns like 2003’s Freddy vs Jason and 2004’s Alien vs. Predator.


What is notable is that despite Toho being the creator of Godzilla and the studio being a Japanese film company, King Kong actually won its first cinematic smackdown. The rumors that the studio had different cuts of the movie for both Japanese and American audiences have been proven false, as King Kong was always the winner and was from the start of the film script. How did King Kong beat Godzilla in King Kong vs Godzilla, and more importantly, why did he win?


King Kong vs. Godzilla Features an Epic Showdown

King Kong vs. Godzilla

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Release Date
August 11, 1962

Director
Ishirô Honda

Cast
Tadao Takashima , Kenji Sahara , Yû Fujiki , Ichirô Arishima , Jun Tazaki , Akihiko Hirata

Runtime
91

The film King Kong vs. Godzilla finds a pharmaceutical company taking Kong from his home island to Japan in an attempt to boost ratings for a television show they are sponsoring. Meanwhile, Godzilla is awoken from the ice by a United States submarine, which frees him, and he attacks Toyko while Kong is being transported. The two engage in combat, but Godzilla quickly defeats Kong by using his atomic breath to weaken the ape. Kong retreats. Later in the film, Kong grows stronger by feeding off electrical power lines. How or why this is the case is never explained in the movie.


Finally, in the film’s final showdown, Godzilla attempts to burn Kong to death by using its atomic breath to set fire to the foliage around Kong’s body. When a bolt of lightning from thunderclouds strikes Kong, it revives him and charges him up. The two wrestle off a cliff into the water, with Kong emerging victorious and no sign of Godzilla. For years, there used to be a rumor that there were two different cuts of the film with different endings, with the one for American audiences having Kong as the winner and the Japanese release having Godzilla emerge victorious.

There are technically minor differences in the ending between both versions, like how in the Japanese version, both Godzilla and King Kong’s roars are heard during the film’s fade to black, while in the American version, only Kong’s roar is heard. However, in both versions, the final shot of Kong swimming away alone is unchanged. With how popular Godzilla is, it is natural for people to assume the falsehood there are two versions of the film, yet when one knows the history, it is clear why King Kong was the winner.


Why Did Kong Win in King Kong vs Godzilla

Godzilla is a cinematic icon, a titan known the world over. While King Kong is certainly a monumental figure in film history, Godzilla has had so many sequels that he is one of the longest-running franchises. His film series essentially created a subgenre of monster movies and is the go-to visual shorthand for giant monsters.

Yet despite his popularity now, at the time when King Kong vs. Godzilla was released, he was still a relatively new character. His first film had only come out eight years prior, and he had one proper sequel before this showdown. While both Mothra and Rodan had appeared in their own films, they had not yet crossed over with Godzilla, and many of the hallmarks of his franchise had not yet been made up. While Godzilla Raids Again saw him face off with another monster, King Kong vs. Godzilla popularized the concept of Godzilla movies being monster fight events.


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Meanwhile, King Kong was a much bigger icon than Godzilla in the 1960s. His debut film from 1933 was well-known, making Kong an even bigger commodity in Japan at the time than Godzilla. Toho went with the bigger, more popular character to win the showdown, giving Kong the edge in the fight. In fact, Toho was originally more interested in making a King Kong movie than a Godzilla movie, and the behind-the-scenes conflict is just as interesting as the on-screen showdown.

The Behind-the-Scenes Fight That Led to King Kong vs. Godzilla


The original idea came from King Kong stop-motion animated Willis O’Brien, which would have been titled King Kong vs. Frankenstein and would have had a giant kaiju-sized version of Frankenstein’s Monsters. O’Brien partnered with producer John Beck, but Beck went behind O’Brien’s back and sold the idea to Toho, who wanted to make their own version of a King Kong movie. They swapped out Frankenstein’s monsters for Godzilla for two reasons. First, they wanted to pit Kong against one of their original monsters, and the second was that Toho believed that Universal Pictures owned the film rights to Frankenstein. Godzilla being subbed in for another monster certainly explains why Godzilla lost, as he was seen as second fiddle to the star attraction, Kong.


Once Godzilla, a more serious threat than Frankenstein’s Monster, was introduced, Kong would need some major upgrades. Not only was Kong scaled up to be able to fight a towering Godzilla, but he would need to be given a boost of power as he was now facing a combatant who had more than just physical strength. It appears the lightning and electricity power-ups that gave Kong his strength to fight Godzilla might have originally been intended for Frankenstein’s Monster but then shifted over to Kong when Godzilla was added to the film.

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Willis O’Brien was very unhappy with what John Beck had done. He tried to sue Beck but didn’t have enough money for the legal fees at the time. O’Brien died on Nov. 8, 1962, four months after King Kong vs. Godzilla opened in theaters in Japan and seven months before the film was released in the United States. Toho would later make their own giant Frankenstein monsters series, first with Frankenstein vs. Baragon in 1965 (released in America as Frankenstein Conquerors the World) and its 1966 sequel, The War of the Gargantuas.

King Kong vs. Godzilla was a massive hit in Japan, selling 11.2 million tickets during its original run. It is still the highest box office attendance film in the Godzilla franchise in Japan. It breathed new life back into the Godzilla franchise, and the following movie, Godzilla vs. Mothra, followed the formula laid out by King Kong vs. Godzilla by pitting Godzilla against another monster, this time an original one from Toho’s previous film, Mothra. Godzilla would then become one of the biggest movie franchises not just in Japan but also around the world.


Godzilla vs. Kong Was the Rematch Fans Had Been Waiting For

When 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong came out, it was clear that Godzilla was the odds-on favorite to win. While Godzilla is getting top billing over Kong at this time, it could have just been seen as a marketing distinction between the two films; it was also a status shift. While King Kong is still certainly popular, he has not had the same number of cinematic interpretations as Godzilla has. Godzilla is, as his title suggests, king of the monsters. He has generations of fans across multiple films and eras; many fans can’t get enough.


Godzilla vs. Kong features plenty of hallmarks of King Kong vs. Godzilla. The duo’s first showdown of Kong being transported by boat is similar to how the two meet in the 1962 film, and Kong even tries to choke Godzilla with his glowing axe the same way he did with a tree in the original movie. The film is broken up into three main fights between the two titans. The first one, Godzilla, emerges victorious. The second round goes to Kong, and Godzilla quickly recovers and forces Kong to submit. The filmmakers do right by Kong as Godzilla is easily overpowered by the film’s true threat: Mechagodzilla. Only with Kong’s help can Godzilla defeat the new metal threat. The duo give each other a burgeoning look of respect and ends the film with Godzilla being the King of the Monsters on the surface, with Kong ruling over the Hollow Earth.

Yet now, these two former enemies must unite once more to battle a new threat in Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire. These two will either stand together or fall alone. Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire will be released in theaters on Mar. 29, 2024.


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