Wednesday, March 6, 2013
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
June 1963, U.S.)
Do you know what a guilty pleasure is? You probably do. For the record, Wikipedia defines GUILTY PLEASURE as something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The "guilt" involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, such as campy styles of entertainment. That being defined, what's your guilty pleasure? Is it reality TV shows? Is it Justin Bieber music? Is it Lindsay Lohan movies? Well, if you answered YES to any of those three examples, then I have nothing but absolute pity for you (but that's besides the point right now)!! In the world of movies, you've probably also heard the expression, "It's so bad, it's good!" For some, there are films that clearly define motion picture silliness, campiness, stupidity and mediocrity that somewhere along the way they become these rather bizzare cult classics that are enjoyed by many over and over again. One of the most popular examples I can think of (though not on my own film list) is the 1980 film FLASH GORDON. I saw it upon release when I was a kid. It sucked then and it still sucks now, though I do love the title song by Queen during the opening credits.
So, for my own tastes, it's become clear that the Japanese monster movie (with traditional poorly-dubbed English) KING KONG VS. GODZILLA is my personal guilty pleasure. Is it really that bad? Well, one look at the incredibly cheap King Kong suit will immediately tell you that this was NOT a high budget film...
(poor Merian C. Cooper must have shit several bricks when he saw what his famous creation has turned into!)
So clearly budget is out the window, dialogue is out the window and performance is out the window. What's left but two things, in my opinion. First, the concept itself. Bringing together the two mightiest of monster to fight each other is exciting in itself and surprisingly, the fight sequences in this film are not as bad as you'd expect. Because we're basically talking about grown humans inside monster suits, the physical contact has the potential to be extreme in some sequences. There are also more than several moments of photography and cinematography, particularly involving the city of Tokyo (where else?) and Mt. Fuji that don't disappoint (too much). The film takes some very silly liberties, though, such as a red berry juice causing a sleep effect on Kong, as well as lightning bolts giving the big ape unusual strength...just when he needs it. This film is perhaps the only "Godzilla Vs" movie where the giant, fire-breathing lizard actually loses his big battle against his enemy. Just goes to show you that in the end, no one is mightier than the great King Kong!
Oh yeah, so I mentioned there were TWO things to make this film worthwhile for me. The second is pure, unaltered childhood memories. You'll recall in my post for the original 1933 KING KONG, I described a two day annual film festival of monster movies shown every Thanksgiving on an east coast tri-state area local TV station. Thursday was ape day and Friday was Godzilla day! KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was a popualar favorite of this festival and kids of all ages during this era of the 1970s would never miss their chance to see the great monsters fight. When you're a kid, you almost never recognize what makes a movie good or bad, particularly when it involves monsters. So there you have it...what was once great fun for me as a kid is now a shameful guilty pleasure for me as an adult. And yes, I still watch it every year at Thanksgving time (sue me!)! Fact it, this film is, I believe, the most popular of all the Japanese Godzilla films and it's the only one that I own after the original black and white debut film with Raymond Burr.
Not that I'm in the habit of condoning such actions by modern day Hollywood, but I'm really quite surprised that none of the big studios have come up with some collosal, over-budgeted, digital 3D remake of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. Such a battle would likely take place in New York City...because Hollywood simply cannot resist repeatedly destroying New York City! Apparently, that poor city didn't suffer enough on 9-11!
Favorite line or dialogue:
United Nations Reporter Eric Carter: "Godzilla has disappeared without a trace. As for King Kong, our international communications satellite is following him. And strangely enough, we wish him luck on his long, long journey home."