My favorite Godzilla film (of all time), as I recently discovered. I'm speaking of course of the Japanese cut.
This film is nothing short of incredible. It's as ambitious and groundbreaking as Gojira while being the exact opposite of that film. While Gojira is a dark and brooding film that works on a very small scale, dealing with serious global political issues, King Kong vs. Godzilla on the other hand is a brightly colored spectacle on a grand and epic scale (befitting the wide-screen format) and deals instead with relevant social issue in japan at the time.
Acting wise, the performances are all around solid. Osamu Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Kinsaburo Furue (Yu Fujiki) shine as the films protagonists; two employees of Pacific Pharmaceuticals that reluctantly agree to exploring Faro Island. While individually there isn't a whole lot note-worthy about either of them, together they have great chemistry. With the cynical straight man Sakurai playing off the cowardly Furue very well. It's no surprise that these two would be brought together for similar roles a year later in Atragon. Kenji Sahara gives a rather placid performance as the pleasant inventor boyfriend Kazuo Fujita. But the real star of the films human cast is Ichiro Arishima as Mr. Tako. This maniacal character is the closest the film ever gets to an antagonist, but Mr. Tako doesn't have a mean bone in his body, despite how frenzied and obsessed he becomes, taking the media circus that Godzilla creates as a personal insult as it pushes his explorers out of the lime light. You also get two future Bond Girls Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama who don't get a lot to do, and Jun Tazaki and Akihiko Hirata pop in to say hello through the course of the film.
Story wise, the film starts out sharp and efficient, but between Godzilla's clash with the high tension wires and the re-capture of Kong in Tokyo, the film seems to lose itself. The pacing dips and we jump around not sure of what to focus on, but luckily composure is regained for the final act. Sekizawa's writing would become much more focused for pretty much every subsequent film after this one, but none would be quite as grand in scale. While the jumping around is something that hurts the film for the middle portion, it's this moving around during the first act that sets up the film that gives it this scope that no other film in the franchise would be able to achieve.
Much like the writing, the special effects also lack refinement. But they do have variety. Men in suits, live animals, stop motion animation, hand puppets, and traditional animation are all present and it's all fascinating to look at and makes every scene (combined with the ever changing scenery) always fresh and interesting to look at.
Monster wise, we have the fantastic Godzilla suit here. A gleefully destructive brute that gushes personality. While the Kong suit lacks the same level of detail the Godzilla suit has, it's not without its charm. I've always liked it's Ogre-ish appearance, but much like the mid-Showa Rodan, all it has going for it is some subjective charm that I enjoy. It's unfortunately lacking, but the only real stand out special effects blunder in the film.
Musically speaking, this has my favorite score by Ifukube. Much like the scenery and effects, it's shines in the department of variety but it's also a pretty simple score and fits each scene in the film perfectly.
Thematically, the film is a satire of media sensationalism and commercialism, which is a stand out and unique direction to take a monster movie. Sekizawa routinely enjoyed combining elements show business with giant monsters (Mothra, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidora, Godzilla vs. Gigan) but this is the most unfiltered and blunt presentation of this idea and I think it's fascinating.
This film is far from perfect, but it's still my favorite for the variety of special effects, the originality of the screen play, the epic scale, and it's thematic content. I love this movie. 10/10, 5 thumbs out of 5, 100% rotten stars, two meta-critics up, etc. whatever.
Also, the final battle on Mt. Fuji is easily the best kaiju confrontation, if not one of the best, in the entire franchise (if not genre).
“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” - Ray Bradbury