Thursday, January 22, 2015

Holy Screwed and Tatooed Batman

I read a very interesting article this morning on one of the co-creators of Batman, Bill Finger.  He was actually more responsible for creating the Batman mythos than Bob Kane.  His daughter, Athena Finger, is trying to sue DC comics, now Warner Brothers, for some of the rights to the copyright.  If you decide to read the article, don't be distracted by the crazy guy (Tamerlane) holding the sign that says, "Your mother is fat."  He actually does tie-in with the fight for the copyright, where he appears again at the end of the article.  But you can skip down further into the article if you'd rather not read about his antics and villainy.  Here's the article.  

Last night I watched King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), I guess I was in the mood for something pretty cheesy, but also wanted to revisit the film to see how it held up.  It is not one of my favorite Godzilla movies.  So far my favorite two movies in the franchise are Godzilla, King of the Monsters (the U.S. title) with Raymond Burr, and Mothra vs. Godzilla.  I always thought King Kong in this film looked pretty bad compared to the original film by Willis O'Brien.  Oddly O'Brien does have something to do with the Godzilla film however.

By the late 50's, special-effects wizard Willis O'Brien had fallen on hard times.  After the commercial failure of his third ape epic, Mighty Joe Young, O'Brien tried to peddle a follow-up script to his 1933 classic King Kong, called King Kong vs. Frankenstein.  As O'Brien conceived it, Kong would face a new giant monster.  This Frankenstein-like creature would be sewn together from the parts of various African animals.  Too bad we never got to see that film.

O'Brien managed to pique the interest of producer John Beck in 1960.  Unfortunately, stop-motion photography, the animating process behind the original Kong was costly and time-consuming.  Aware of Toho's growing reputation in the suitmation monster market (ie. using actors in a monster suit), Beck took O'Brien's core idea and approached the Japanese studio about bringing it to the screen.  It just so happened that in 1961 Toho was casting about for an appropriate vehicle to return Godzilla to the screen after a seven-year absence from the Godzilla sequel, Godzilla Raids Again (1959).  As a bit of trivia, Godzilla Raids Again, played on a double bill in some cinemas with Teenagers From Outer Space.

At any rate, Toho dumped the Frankenstein idea and substituted Godzilla, and the rest is history.  The original Godzilla director, Ishiro Honda, and the original composer, Akira Ifukube, reunited to work on King Kong vs. Godzilla.  Special effects were once again handled by Eiji Tsuburaya, who had reached the zenith of his craft.  These three men became the trademark team for Godzilla. 

In the this new film, the world would see Godzilla in widescreen and color.  As I said, the movie is a bit silly, but at the time was the Jaws of the Japanese film industry, and by some accounts, King Kong vs. Godzilla became the most profitable Japanese film of all time.  Though I don't think that is still the case.  However, at least it did legitimize Godzilla's fame as an international movie star from some of the other atomic monsters of the fifties and place him among the classic pantheon of cinema creatures.  It gave the creature box office clout, and an inexhaustible array of sequels and future possibilities, which lead into Godzilla vs. Mothra or the U.S. title, Godzilla vs. The Thing (1964).  Again, Godzilla vs. Mothra was sometimes double billed with another SF film, Voyage to the End of the Universe. 


At 6:01 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

Sounds like a fun night. I saw King Kong vs Godzilla for the first and last time in the theater with friends -- in summer 1962 I was 9. At the time it was exciting. I'm sure I'd laugh more now.

The first Mighty Joe Young way outshines the remake despite Charlize Theron.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Hoo boy KK vs. Godzilla didn't weather too, but if you're in the mood, it's as fine as any. :) I've seen just about all the big ape pictures and the remake from the '76 too with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges. Again depending on your mood they can be entertaining on some level.


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