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RJ Bayley Reviews: King Kong vs. Godzilla

by RJ Bayley

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For someone who grew up in the 1990s, watching 1962’s crossover film King Kong vs. Godzilla is strangely nostalgic. Children of the 90s, those who would seek out King Kong vs. Godzilla at least, will have an intimate knowledge of both Gerry Anderson’s “Supermarionation” shows like Thunderbirds and Power Rangers.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is not good quality overall, but there’s great fun to be had. The sheer sixties-ness of the special effects are incredibly charming. Little remote control tanks and other vehicles, while completely unconvincing, are a joy to behold: they roll out amongst the tiny buildings, firing little fireworks at the monsters, one clearly just blowtorched into slag to represent the wrath of Godzilla’s atomic breath. The newscasts are also live action equivalents of those in Anderson’s productions, and the space station design is a beautiful and near-identical copy of Thunderbird 5.

And the battling monsters? While the pedantic may fume that there is no real explanation given for King Kong’s growth to Godzilla size, they need a serious priority check. Both kings of the monsters consist of movement impairing suits, meaning they’re reduced to Power Ranger-like slapping, grappling and throwing polystyrene boulders at each other. But in a film this eminently silly it’s undoubtedly fun; whether that’s intentional or not is beside the point.

Just how silly? Let’s put it this way. King Kong flies into battle suspended from helium balloons.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is not the epic scrap we’d love to see, but when the film is made by Toho studios it was never going to be. It is, however, one of the most preposterous novelties you’re ever likely to witness. As such it proves that a film doesn’t have to be great to be of value or worth your time.

★★★

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