King Kong vs. Godzilla: Facts About The Colossal Franchises

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Toho Co. Ltd.

It’s been 60 years since King Kong vs. Godzilla burst onto the big screen, with both these ginormous monsters having come a long way and sporting many (and often questionable) forms. Also, let’s not forget the octopus, who by now is as part of the world of nuclear sea-dinos and apes with a soft side as any other Titan. You’ll see why.

King Kong Was Inspired By A Komodo Dragon Hunt

David Clode, Unsplash

Back in 1926, the American Museum of Natural History set out to the East Indies to record footage and bring back specimens of Komodo dragons to the United States.

King Kong’s screenwriter and director Merian C. Cooper was inspired by these gnarly lizards — that ended up in the Bronx Zoo — and wrote the 1933 film to bring big monsters to a bigger screen.

The Sounds Of Godzilla

In the original 1954 movie, Godzilla’s bellowing roar was the result of rubbing a pine leather glove coated in tar over a double bass string. While the new sounds have been kept secret by the production teams, some insiders have said that they played around with friction — from rusty car doors to rubbing tom drums. They also recorded the shrieks of the Rolling Stones tour speakers in Warner Brothers Studios' backlot to capture the echoes one would get in the city, as one does.

Kong And The Superstition Of The Number 13

Warner Bros. Pictures

In the book The Making of King Kong, it is told that the 1933 classic was originally 13 reels long, but Cooper — being of the superstitious sort — refused to have a movie with that spooky number attached, and instead filmed the train scene to bring the number up to 14. The movie was ultimately cut to 11 reels, but the epic train footage remained.

The Original King Of The Monsters: A Giant Octopus?

Toho Co. Ltd.

Yeah, Godzilla was originally going to be Peter Benchley’s Beast, only radioactive and such. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka came up with the concept of Godzilla while reading about the Lucky Dragon Five incident, in which a Japanese fishing boat was involved in a U.S. thermonuclear bomb test, leaving its occupants exposed to the radiation blast. 

Tanaka wanted to combine that story with the American sci-fi film The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and the first draft of what would become the first Godzilla movie was dubbed The Giant Monster from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The problem, however, was figuring out just exactly what this giant monster should be, and special effects designer Eiji Tsuburaya proposed they make the creature a huge octopus, building on a story he himself wrote after first seeing King Kong.

King Kong: The Lost Scene That Scarred Test Audiences

Warner Bros. Pictures

According to pieces of evidence, there was a scene dubbed the Spider Pit Sequence that was cut after test audiences totally freaked out. The cut was never discovered — it’s believed that Cooper burned it himself since he did that with his throwaway footage — but Peter Jackson took it upon himself to recreate the scene in 2005.

George Takei Got His Start Dubbing Godzilla

Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

The Star Trek legend got his start in show business by dubbing Japanese monster movies in English, starting with the second Godzila movie, Godzilla Raids Again, in 1955.

Kong Was Almost About An Actual Gorilla Fighting Actual Komodo Dragons

Warner Bros. Pictures

Cooper, who was ever a fan of “natural dramas” and wanted to make his film look more like a documentary than anything else, initially thought it would be kind of cool to go to Africa, capture a real-life Gorilla, and bring it back to the states to fight those newly-acquired Komodo dragons on a miniature set. Luckily (in this case) this was all happening during the Great Depression, and no one had the money to fund such a macabre project.

The Godzilla Suit That Caught Fire

Toho Co. Ltd.

In the 1964 Godzilla vs Mothra, the pyrotechnicians accidentally set the suit’s head on fire. Luckily, the actor inside the suit was a-okay, and the footage made the final cut.

King Kong Almost Fought Frankenstein’s Monster

Heritage Auctions,

That image is from animator Willis O'Brien collection in which he depicted his idea for a showdown between the big ape and Frankenstein’s monster.

The Making Of Godzilla (1998)

TriStar Pictures

Roland Emmerich's Godzilla was the Hollywood debut of the nuclear sea lizard, and the filming had its fair share of natural disasters. The movie had to be put on hold on numerous occasions. During its first week, production was halted when a mini-tornado touched down in New Jersey, followed by an electrical storm in Central Park, and two manholes blasting seven feet into the air at a city location.

King Kong vs. Godzilla: Return Of The Giant Octopus

Toho Co. Ltd.

The 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla would be the first time these two colossal creatures got to fight each other, and it also marked the ultimate inclusion of that giant squid idea. Of course, we’d also see the return of Octo-Beast in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island.

King Kong vs. Godzilla Satirized The TV Industry

Toho Co. Ltd.

In the 1962 movie, a Japanese pharmaceutical company reasons that, by kidnapping the great Kong, they could help boost TV ratings for a show they sponsored. Director Ishirô Honda explained: “People were making a big deal out of ratings. But my own view of TV shows was that they did not take the viewer seriously, that they took the audience for granted ... so I decided to show that through my movie.”

The Big Fight Scene In King Kong vs. Godzilla Involved Some Pro-Wrestling

Actor Haruo Nakajima, who had been playing Godzilla since 1954, choreographed the fight between him and his co-star Shoichi Hirose (who played Kong) for the movie. “I used the elements of pro wrestling, as well as the movements of the original Godzilla. I modified the way he moved, so it was quite difficult. None of the staff, including Mr. Tsuburaya, knew anything about staging a fight."

Godzilla vs. Kong: Kong Is … Clint Eastwood, Apparently

Toho Co. Ltd., Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Adam Wingerd explained his idea behind the big ape in the 2021 match-up: "I see him as not just an animal. He’s the gunfighter without the gunfight. He’s this over-the-hill action hero who is not in a great place in his life. The way I always look at my version of Kong ... in Kong: Skull Island, in the ’70s, he’s basically Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. In my version, this is Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. He’s at the end of his rope. He’s not having a great time. But when action calls, he’s always still ready to step up and take it on!"

Godzilla: King Of The Ratings

Toho Co. Ltd., Warner Bros. Pictures

According to the data from Rotten Tomatoes, Godzilla movies have the highest rating averages from both critics and audiences alike, with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah being the highest-rated film of the franchise, so far. King Kong, however, seems to enjoy more screen time, and does slightly better at the Box Office. 

A pretty even match, then, from the two monstrous creatures we’ll never stop watching on the big screen.

Thumbnail: Toho Co. Ltd., Warner Bros. Pictures


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