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The Epic Story Behind King Kong and Godzilla’s First Monster Mashup

As the MonsterVerse series of films continues to roar on, with the upcoming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire headed for the 2024 movie schedule and the recent Godzilla Minus One being a massive critical success and financial juggernaut, it’s a great time to be a movie monster fan. The New Empire trailer’s release shows the two kings of the kaiju teaming up and has sparked unprecedented anticipation amongst fans, reminiscent of the excitement surrounding the first-ever meeting between two iconic monsters. The clash, born out of a complex history and legal battles, not only marked a milestone in the monster movie genre but also set the stage for epic showdowns that would shape the future of cinematic team-up spectacles.

The Origin of the Clash: A Pioneering Encounter

The monumental clash between these two titans marked the first-ever meeting between the cinematic icons. Released on August 11, 1962, in Japan by Toho, the film quickly became the best-attended Godzilla movie to date. The clash not only enthralled audiences but also laid the foundation for the evolution of the monster movie genre, paving the way for future epic showdowns that continue to captivate audiences today.

Originally Meant to Be A King Kong vs. Frankenstein

The idea for this colossal clash originated from the creative mind of Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion animator behind King Kong (1933). In 1960, O’Brien devised a story outline for a film titled King Kong vs. Frankenstein. The story Willis developed went through many permutations and names, but after he finished it, he handed the concept art and outline to producer John Beck for development. Beck was unable to secure the deal with American film companies. However, he did attract the Japanese company Toho. The famous studio became involved in the project, securing the script rights. They quickly replaced the giant Frankenstein character with their creation Godzilla, King of the Monsters, and discarded most of O’Brien’s original story. Sadly, O’Brien found himself cut out of the project entirely.

Toho had no interest in Frankenstein but had been interested in making a Kong movie for some time. Leveraging their connection with producer Beck, they secured the rights to The Eight Wonder of the World. O’Brien tried to sue Beck but lacked the financial means to do so. Tragically, O’Brien passed away in 1962, leaving his creative vision in the hands of others. Merian C. Cooper, the original 1933 Kong film producer, opposed the project vehemently. A lawsuit filed by Cooper to enjoin distribution of the movie never materialized, as it was revealed he wasn’t Kong’s sole legal owner. However, he expressed great dissatisfaction, stating in a letter addressed to his friend Douglas Burden:

I was indignant when some Japanese company made a belittling thing to a creative mind, called King Kong vs. Godzilla. I believe they even stooped so low as to use a man in a gorilla suit, which I have spoken out against so often in the early days of King Kong.

Cementing the Monster Movie Mash-Up

Despite the reservations from the original Kong creative team, King Kong vs. Godzilla proved to be a monumental success upon its release, grossing ¥352 million and becoming the second-highest-grossing Japanese film. To this day, it stands as the Godzilla movie with the highest attendance in Japan. The film’s positive reception encouraged Toho to prioritize continuing the Monster series after seven years of dormancy. A re-edited American version, released by Universal International Inc. in 1963, further solidified the film’s global impact.

A History of Firsts

This iconic clash was not only the third film in both franchises but also the first Toho-produced film featuring Kong. It marked the first time each character appeared on film in color and widescreen, solidifying its place in cinematic history.

In the vast entertainment landscape, King Kong vs. Godzilla is a testament to the compelling power of collaboration and audiences’ insatiable appetite for larger-than-life spectacles. Now, more than six decades since their initial onscreen encounter, fans eagerly anticipate the Kaiju Big Battel, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. While we eagerly await this epic team-up to hit the cinemas, there’s no shortage of thrilling monster mashups to enjoy. Currently gracing theaters is Godzilla Minus One, or for those opting for a cozy movie night at home, numerous Godzilla movies are available for streaming. Alternatively, it might be the perfect time to revisit some of the best monster movies on Netflix.

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