“Why, the whole world will pay to see this!”*…
Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion pioneer who originally brought King Kong to life in 1933, hit the skids pretty hard by the late ’40s. He spent the last decade of his life pitching assorted Kong scripts around Hollywood with little success. Finally, in the early ’60s, the script for a movie he was calling King Kong vs. Frankenstein (which seems an awfully unfair fight, if you ask me) ended up on the desk of Toho Studios producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. Tanaka had always wanted to make a Kong film, but he had no use for O’Brien’s slow and pricey stop-motion animation when rubber suits and miniature sets worked just fine. Still, he bought the script, made one small correction and was good to go.
Directed by Ishirô Honda, 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla would go on to become the most successful Godzilla picture Toho ever made, even if its giant gorilla looked more like an orangutan with mange. The film was such a huge financial hit in both Japan and the States that a follow-up was inevitable. O’Brien had since died, but with Kong now an indelible American icon (even after being Japanified into a mangy orangutan named Kingu Kongu), it only made sense for Toho to make the film as a U.S.-Japanese co-production.
Unfortunately, the Americans they teamed up with turned out to be Rankin/Bass, the insidious duo who’d inflicted Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other holiday-themed nightmares on an unsuspecting public…
More of this monstrous story at “That Time They Built a King Kong Robot.”
* “Carl Denham,” King Kong (1933)
As we cling to a Wray of hope, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that Astor Pictures released Cat-Women of the Moon.
Variety averred, “This imaginatively conceived and produced science-fiction yarn takes the earth-to-moon premise and embellishes it with a civilization of cat-women on the moon … Cast ably portray their respective roles … Arthur Hilton makes his direction count in catching the spirit of the theme, and art direction is far above average for a film of this calibre. William Whitley’s 3-D photography provides the proper eerie quality.”
The New York Times, on the other hand, wrote, “They [the Cat-women] try to get their hands on the visitors’ rocket ship, hoping to come down here and hypnotize us all. Considering the delegation that went up, it’s hard to imagine why.”
Notably, the score was composed by the celebrated Elmer Bernstein,** though his last name is misspelled as “Bernstien” in the opening credits.
** Elmer was not related to the even-more-celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; but the two men were friends, and even shared a certain physical resemblance. Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard)– and by the fact that they pronounced their last names differently: Elmer’s was BERN-steen, and Leonard’s was BERN-stine.