King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Akira Ifukube - King King Vs Godzilla - O.S.T. - Amazon.com Music

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Godzilla actually took a long hiatus after his second film. Toho instead put its resources into other solo monster films, introducing the likes of Rodan and Mothra. In 1962 it finally brought back the King of the Monsters, but only after acquiring the rights to American icon King Kong. In a rare event, two characters would cross universes to fight each other (or more accurately King Kong would enter Godzilla’s universe, as the big G starts the film encased in his prison from 1955). The end result was a pretty goofy film, shockingly butchered in its Americanization. The King Kong costume is terrible, but the final clash itself is one of the best fights of the entire series. Much of the crew from the first Godzilla film were brought over, including Akira Ifukube. Ifukube would have the chance to develop the Godzilla theme further, as well as introduce some other memorable tunes.

The Terror of Godzilla theme is slightly altered and extended to sound less like a death march and more of a general villain theme. The most important thematic addition is a threatening bombastic motif, introduced at the end of “The Seahawk’s SOS.” This motif has been rendered iconic by its use in more recent Godzilla series, affixed to the front of the main title march from the first film to create the more recognizable Godzilla March. “Godzilla’s Resurrection” is the first full-fledged presentation of Godzilla’s motifs in Kong vs. Godzilla. This material would be used in all of Ifukube’s Showa era efforts until Terror of MechaGodzilla, when it did not line up well with the goofier superhero Godzilla of the 70s.

King Kong has two major themes. The first one also represents his native worshippers on Faro Island. It’s introduced as a choral native chant in “Main Title” and often appears diagetically in the island scenes. This theme is menacing and after Godzilla’s introductory motif the most recognizable music from this score. After the main title the theme first appears in a slower alteration in “The Natives.” A faster version with only the drums for instrumentation is provided in “Thunder and the Devil.” The lengthiest and most dramatic variation is “The Sleeping Devil.” There are further uses of the theme as a full instrumental battle theme (first in “King Kong vs. Godzilla 1”). In addition to other island native cues, this theme really gives this score its own unique identity within the series. The other theme is introduced at the outset of “Giant Octopus vs. King Kong.” It’s not entirely its own theme, as a motif from the choral song is interwoven at the 0:13 mark. This slower ponderous piece plays up the horror aspect of Kong, though it’s hard to be frightened by such a goofy looking creature.

A final theme appears in “Preparations for Operation Burial.” This theme is for the efforts of the human characters to transport or combat monsters and assumes a prolonged energetic version, with choral snippets, in “The Plan to Transport King Kong.” Otherwise there’s not much to say about this score and I have to spend some time discussing Ifukube’s style. He often has several major themes that rehash themselves over and over. Sometimes he provides some variation, but often the score feels like it’s cycling through the same cues for long passages (by contrast the “Ending” cues on these albums are often short, stand-a-lone pieces with no reference to any of the major themes). Godzilla fans might find this blasphemous, but much of the maestro’s work doesn’t work well as complete, chronological score presentations, faring better as highlights on compilation albums. Otherwise, they work effectively in the movies themselves, the ponderous monster themes conveying a sense of scale and destruction.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is definitely one of his stronger efforts, with a good amount of variety until the later action cues. The tribal native material is a strong point, the Godzilla theme is great, and the human theme provides for some epic moments. This score is a smart departure from King of the Monsters, reflecting a less allegorical and dreadful tone in favor of blockbuster sci-fi fare.

Rating: 8/10

  Tracklisting
  1. Main Title (2:02)
  2. Series of World Wonders (0:09)
  3. The Sparkling Iceberg / Pashin Commercial (1:20)
  4. Fujita & Fumiko (4:30)
  5. The Seahawk in Crisis / Great News Gathering Team Departure (4:33)
  6. The Seahawk’s S.O.S. (1:58)
  7. Faro Island (0:47)
  8. The Natives (0:57)
  9. Southern Island Tale (1:50)
  10. Thunder and the Devil / Fumiko’s Misgivings (2:18)
  11. Godzilla’s Resurrection (1:42)
  12. The Cry of the Devil / A Prayer to the Rolling Thunder (2:12)
  13. The Devil of the South Seas / Drums of Battle / Giant Octopus vs. King Kong (4:57)
  14. The Sleeping Devil (3:13)
  15. The Terror of Godzilla (3:36)
  16. The Invincible King Kong / Preparation for Operation “Burial” (1:00)
  17. King Kong vs. Godzilla I (2:42)
  18. Preparations for Operation “One Million Volts” (0:24)
  19. Operation “Burial” (0:53)
  20. Operation “Burial” Fails (0:13)
  21. Operation “One Million Volts” I (0:59)
  22. Operation “One Million Volts” II (2:13)
  23. Kong Shows Up in Tokyo (2:05)
  24. The Plan to Rescue Fumiko I (2:17)
  25. The Plan to Rescue Fumiko II (2:44)
  26. The Plan to Transport King Kong (2:13)
  27. King Kong Advances on Fuji (2:07)
  28. The Confrontation at Fuji (2:07)
  29. King Kong’s Resurrection (1:41)
  30. King Kong vs. Godzilla II (1:59)
  31. Ending (0:21)
  32. Main Title (mono) (2:02)
  33. Main Title (a cappella) (3:44)

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