CD REVIEW: KING KONG VS GODZILLA SOUNDTRACK
La-La Land Records Hits Another One Out of the Park
Author: John “Dutch” DeSentis
Following up their incredible release of the musical score to GODZILLA in 2004, La-La Land Records has made available for the first time ever in North America the soundtrack to 1962’s KING KONG VS GODZILLA. As most of Akira Ifukube’s score was replaced with stock library music for the film’s 1963 American release, this CD is truly a first.
Just like the former release, this disc is a grand slam, perhaps even more so than the first one. To me, KING KONG VS GODZILLA represents the pinnacle era of not only Toho, but also Akira Ifukube’s magnificent scores. Between 1954 and 1964, the maestro produced what could arguably be his best scores to both Godzilla and non-Godzilla films alike. KING KONG VS GODZILLA is a non-stop tour de force of great thematic material, much of which would pop up in Ifukube’s later scores.
The day I received the CD, the disc went in and the volume went up to 29. What came from my speakers was so clear and free of any aging, that one might have thought the Faro Islanders were outside my window. I have the 1993 issue of the soundtrack from Futureland Japan Records (TYCY-5347) as well as the reissue from the 2004 Godzilla Perfect Collection Volume 1 set, and I can safely say that La-La Land Records’ release has them both beat. What I immediately noticed was the fact that this recording of the soundtrack was the stereo version. Now, there have been issues of the soundtrack in stereo before, but this has to be the best mix I have ever heard. The Perfect Collection release contains both mono and stereo, but I really think that La-La Land Records did a superb job with their stereo version. One such testament to this is the fact that on previous stereo versions, the vocals of the natives during the “Main Title” music have always suffered from being somewhat buried in the mix. In this version, this problem is not as serious and the vocals are as strong as the thundering music. The sonic depth of this remastered version is so good that it could have been recorded yesterday. This version is unique in that it features cues edited in the manner that they appear in the film (for instance, the melding of “The Devil of the South Seas” with “Drums of Battle” and “Giant Octopus vs. King Kong”).
The score for KING KONG VS GODZILLA marks a major milestone for Godzilla; the establishment of his “Enter” theme. While the theme would go on to be further refined and established in the following year for GODZILLA VS MOTHRA, it’s foundation as Godzilla’s signature motif is firmly planted in Godzilla lore like his gigantic foot in a Tokyo street. The theme is given a new introduction that leads into the familiar ascending strains from the 1954 film’s version. It is also augmented by two additional variation themes that ascend the key of C (which is a frequent key for Ifukube especially in military marches). Another incredible standout piece in the score is the “The Plan to Transport King Kong” or more simply the “Operation Kong” theme. Ifukube has always been the best at creating stirring military marches, and he does not disappoint on this one. “Preparations for Operation One Million Volts” had previously made an appearance in the score to the movie BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE and would also show up later on as the theme for Mechanikong in the movie KING KONG ESCAPES. In more recent Godzilla years (at least compared to the Showa Series), the KING KONG VS GODZILLA music when the two square off for the first time was utilized to open the 1991 movie GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH.
Ifukube composed his own version of the native chant to Kong, and he does a superb job writing a stirring and appropriately exotic sounding piece of music. I often love to listen to Ifukube’s piece along with Max Steiner’s “Jungle Dance” from the 1933 original movie score and John Barry’s “Sacrifice: Hail to Kong” from the 1976 remake to compare the flavor of all three. It is wonderful how the three pieces are so different yet each serves its own purpose wonderfully. The native chant cue along with a piece of the “Fumiko’s Misgivings” track are the only original Ifukube cues that remain in the American version.
The liner notes in the booklet are especially well written and offer a lot of insight and information as to the sources of the American stock music cues, most of which are from scores written by Hans J. Salter, including his famous “Creature” theme from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. The booklet, written by David Hirsch, features not only great notes about both the American and Japanese versions, but also a complete breakdown of every track on the CD. The only error he makes is naming Katsumi Tezuka as the actor who played King Kong in the movie. In reality, King Kong was played by Shoichi Hirose who reportedly was built like a gorilla or so Ken Satsuma remembers according to Ed Godziszewski’s Illustrated Godzilla Encyclopedia. Katsumi Tezuka played in the Godzilla suit for one scene, where Godzilla breaks out of the iceberg. The rest of the scenes were done by stuntman Haruo Nakajima. Of interesting note is that the artwork for the CD booklet features only pictures of the great 1962 Godzilla suit. There is a note on the back of the booklet that states that they were unable to use any images of King Kong for licensing reasons. In that case, it makes one wonder how they were able to even use the name King Kong on this very well designed jacket.
As opposed to the CD release of GODZILLA however, this CD features only two tracks of bonus material. The first is a mono version of the “Main Title” theme that actually benefits from having a more prominent vocal mix. The second is actually a treat to listen to. It is an “a capella” version of the “Main Title.” A capella literally means “in chapel style” or in layman’s terms, vocals only without musical accompaniment. The liner notes of the score breakdown reveal that this track is actually a performance by the Japanese group Bukimisha, which performed at Akira Ifukube’s 90th birthday celebration.
Sadly, the maestro passed away at the age 91, mere days before the release of the CD in America. His legacy however will forever remain in our hearts and minds in the form of his great marches and themes that enthralled us since our childhoods. What better way to celebrate his life and magnificent accomplishments than with a gorgeous, wonderfully remastered release of one of the best scores from Toho’s heyday of science fiction and fantasy films? The La-La Land Records release of KING KONG VS GODZILLA is available from their website with a retail price of $15.98, or from other online retailers. The great thing about ordering it from La-La Land Records’ website is that they are running a special where you can nab their release of GODZILLA for $9.98 if you buy them together. Be sure to grab a copy if you don’t already have one as it is truly a release not to be missed. One can only hope that La-La Land Records continues to release Ifukube’s incredible scores in the North America for fans to enjoy.
KING KONG VS GODZILLA TRACK LISTING
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)