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Did ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ Really Have Two Endings to Satisfy American and Japanese Fans?

Did ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ Really Have Two Endings to Satisfy American and Japanese Fans?

The ending of the 1962 monster fight flick King Kong vs. Godzilla ignited a timeless urban legend in the creature feature domain. For decades, American genre fans thought the movie had two different endings, each showing a different victor in the battle, depending on the version watched.

In the Japanese ending, Godzilla is seen as the winner, while in the American version edited by John Beck, Kong comes out on top. Since the Japanese version was nearly impossible to get a hold of in the States for decades, this was a commonly held belief.

As a monster kid growing up in the 80s, this writer recalls reading the urban legend stated as fact in the famous Crestwood Monster Series books available at my elementary school library.

Bob Costas and Godzilla, King of the Monsters! star Raymond Burr also discussed the King Kong vs. Godzilla alternate endings as fact in an interview from the 1990s. Costas states that the separate endings were done “because the countries have rooting interest in their own particular monster.”

The Likely Origin of the ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ Alternate Endings Urban Legend

However, the urban legend seems to be sourced from a 1963 issue of Spacemen, a sci-fi fanzine. “Does King Kong best his saurian adversary or does Godzilla prevail over the mammoth ape?” the fanzine teases, via Syfy. “SPACEMEN lets you in on a secret. 2 endings have been filmed & if you see KING KONG vs. GODZILLA in Japan, Godzilla wins! On the other hand, in the USA & England, for instance, Kong wins!”

Unsurprisingly, this bit of pure fantasy meant to tantalize readers was thus picked up by other genre publications. It spread from there, a game of “Phone” with film trivia.

Meanwhile, film nerds of the 21st century know the above isn’t true. Both versions wrap up with Kong and Godzilla taking a dive off a cliff into the sea. Kong swims back to his island, leaving Godzilla’s fate a mystery beneath the churning waves. Lovers of both monarchs of monsters have conceded their first film fight was a draw.

The Actual Differences Between the American and Japanese Version of ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’

Of course, there are clear differences between the Japanese and English language versions of the 1962 film. Just like Gojira became Godzilla, King of the Monsters! for its English release (which added Raymond Burr as a reporter named Steve Martin), the U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla went through an “Americanization” process by Universal.

This involved the addition of scenes with American actors, almost reshaping the film into a new entity. The American adaptation predominantly presented the unfolding action through news broadcasts.

However, the notion of there being two endings may have stemmed from a slight variance in sound effects towards the film’s conclusion. In the American version, the screen fades to black with only Kong’s roar audible. Meanwhile, in the Japanese version, both Kong and Godzilla’s roars can be heard.

Another notable contrast between the versions lies in the musical score. The Japanese edition boasts a stellar soundtrack crafted by the maestro behind the Godzilla franchise’s tunes, Akira Ifukube. His themes are often reworked for Godzilla films through the decades.

The American version primarily utilized library music from some of the studio’s prior works. Monster kids will for sure pick up on the recognizable themes of Hans J. Salter’s iconic soundtrack from Universal’s Creature From the Black Lagoon.

Still, the camp of King Kong vs. Godzilla will delight monster fans looking for madcap fun. Especially those of us with a soft spot for the gargantuan gorilla. Kong Judo throws the giant lizard, shoves a tree down his open maw, and slings him by the tail. There’s even a sequence when Kong clearly gets drunk off of berry juice.

If only Godzilla had matched up against Adam West’s Batman later in the decade, we’d have both America’s biggest pop culture icons in documented fisticuffs with Japan’s most famous monster…