Godzilla vs. King Kong

By Kelan Young

Mailed on May 12, 2014

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Dear Akira Ifukube

Dear Akira,

Did the controversy surrounding the American release of King Kong vs. Godzilla reach you at some point? The producers seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that the film is by and large a comedy, as evidenced by their decision to cut numerous scenes and replace them with inserts in which the "actors" demonstrate an uncanny ability to bring the action to a screeching halt by accurately predicting - and then explaining in detail - future plot points (unless, of course, it was common knowledge in the early 60s that electrocuting monkeys enhances their strength, in which case, pardon my error).

But the greatest crime committed against the original cut of this film is the loss of your fantastic musical score, which is completely removed save for the chant performed by the natives worshipping King Kong. Which, in itself, would have been bad enough. But to then replace it with it stock music from Universal Studios' library--that's just rubbing salt into my wounds.

As one of the great Japanese film score composers, the importance of music in dictating the mood of a scene is clear to you. And though, to be completely honest, the stock soundtrack sometimes works decently with the Kong-centric moments, hearing the same cue played over Godzilla clawing his way out of a trap set by the military feels strange, even a little off-putting. The music suggests that we're watching someone stalk through fog-shrouded woods under the light of a full moon. But we're actually watching two titanic creatures having a wrestling match on top of a mountain. To turn this light-hearted fantasy adventure into a horror movie is so baffling I can't even begin to wrap my head around it.

But enough of that nonsense. On to the good stuff. Your opening title track…wow! If memory serves, you rarely ever incorporated vocal work into your themes, but I literally got goosebumps hearing it for the first time. If anything, it's so arresting, so awesome, that the viewer can be forgiven for feeling slightly off balance once the main story kicks in, which sees the marketing director for a pharmaceutical company plot to kidnap Kong and use him as a mascot, all in the interests of boosting ratings. It's an unabashedly silly premise, but it never aims too low, and actually has quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, with some nice jabs of social satire. It's an appreciated (and wise) change of pace from the unrelentingly grim tone of the first two entries in the Godzilla canon.

What I like most about your score is that it lends weight to sequences that, in and of themselves, don't feel all that interesting. The pounding military march in the background lends reality to the miniature tanks that assault Godzilla. The utterly ridiculous scene in which our hero's sister stumbles through a stream as Godzilla nonchalantly hangs out hundreds of feet away feels almost exciting because of the music's urgency. In my favorite moment, a drunken, passed-out Kong is strung up and attached to enormous balloons, the absurdity of which, I think, speaks for itself.

That said, you could have been conducting the most talented orchestra in the world, but nothing would have been enough to distract from how tremendously ugly the Kong suit is. Do you know if anyone involved with the production was happy with how it turned out? It's a hell of an eyesore, and yet, it doesn't necessarily lessen the value of the finished product. It's just a shame that many Western viewers will be unable to see the film in its purest, uncut form, and be able to truly appreciate your masterful efforts.



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