A few years ago when we were talking about Godzilla here at SportsAlcohol.com, in the run-up to Legendary’s 2014 film, we talked about which of Godzilla’s famous opponents we’d like to see in a future sequel. That approach doesn’t seem quite appropriate here, since King Kong doesn’t have quite as extensive or established a rogues gallery as Godzilla. Still, the trailers for Kong: Skull Island have certainly promised plenty of monster fights, so instead of suggestions for a sequel I thought we might just run down a complete list of the creatures Kong has already fought on film.*
- Note: I’m only including the movies, so this list doesn’t cover anybody he fought in cartoon shows, comics, books, or on stage.
The first and still most iconic battle of Kong’s life. There’s some debate as to whether we should call this a Tyrannosaurus or an Allosaurus. The script apparently only identified it as a “meat eater,” and different people in the production (including Merian Cooper, special effects technician Willis O’Brien, and model builder Marcel Delgado) referred to it by different species names. The dinosaur in the film has three fingers like an allosaurus, as opposed to the tyrannosaur’s two-fingered hand. But the model was reportedly based on Charles Knight’s illustrations of tyrannosaurus, and the tyrannosaur was thought to have three fingers at the time, due to incomplete fossil records. So we’re gonna stick with T-Rex here.
It’s easy to mistake this creature for a serpent, but even as it coils around Kong you can make out flailing limbs.
Kong’s second most famous opponent in the original film, thanks in part to this oft reproduced publicity still.
1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla features an excellent undercard match when Kong throws down with a giant octopus on his home of Faro Island. The octopus was portrayed with a combination of techniques, including footage of a live octopus, a rubber prop, and a few select stop-motion shots. Supposedly, four live octopuses were used to create the sequence and the story goes (I don’t know how apocryphal this is) that after filming three were released and the fourth was eaten as dinner by special effects director Eiji Tsubaraya and his crew.
The two monsters spend the entire film (with the exception of an abbreviated early skirmish) on a collision course that ends with their titanic fight at the foot of Mount Fuji. There is a persistent rumor (seemingly originated in the movie magazines of the 1960s) that the American and Japanese endings of the film offered different victors to the fight (Kong in America and Godzilla in Japan). Though the American version of the film does feature substantial changes, with certain events reordered, a new score, and the addition of new english language footage throughout, there is no difference in what happens onscreen at the end of either version of the film. Both monsters tumble into the sea, Kong resurfaces and swims back to his home island, the humans survey the scene and speculate what will happen to both monsters, and “The End” takes us out. But it’s possible the “different endings” rumor does have its origins in a slight audio difference between the two films. In the Japanese ending, as Kong swims back out to sea, you hear Kong’s bellow and then Godzilla’s roar. In the American version, Godzilla’s roar is missing.
King Kong Escapes includes a handful of homages to the original Kong story, and Kong’s battle with Gorosaurus is a clear riff on his first fight with the T-Rex in the original film. And though he decisively loses this fight, Gorosaurus would go on to show up as an inhabitant of Monster Island in subsequent Godzilla films.
Another quick and dirty riff on one of Kong’s fights in the original film (the elasmosaurus, in this case), Kong saves the a ship with a blonde woman from a menacing sea serpent.
King Kong beat Godzilla to the “fight your robot doppleganger” punch by seven years! In the last of King Kong Escape’s homages to the original King Kong, Mechani-Kong climbs Tokyo Tower with Linda Miller (playing Susan Watson, the object of Kong’s affection in the film) in his metal paw. Kong and Mechani-Kong fight at the top of the tower, and Mechani-Kong falls to its demise.
The only other animal the characters (or audience) encounter on the 1976 version of Kong’s island is this giant snake. It’s disappointing when stacked against the peril the crew of the Venture encountered in the original film, but I guess they try to make up for it with the grisliness with which Kong dispatches this thing.
THREE VASTATOSAURUS REXES
In keeping with the “more is still not enough” ethos of Peter Jackson’s 2005 Kong remake, Kong fights not one, not two, but three tyrannosaurus-like dinosaurs (while clutching Namoi Watts’s Ann Darrow in his hands or feet). Jackson and his design team did a lot of work designing the flora and fauna of their version of Skull Island (enough to fill the excellent The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, well worth checking out for Kong fanatics). This included imagining dinosaurs that had slight evolutionary differences from the dinosaurs we know from the fossil record, owing to their isolation on the island. So instead of a tyrannosaurus rex, the movie’s Skull Island has an even more ferocious animal called vastosaurus rex (note that the v. rex has, in a nod to the model from the original Kong, three fingers instead of two). The fight also includes one of the film’s many direct homages to the 1933 version, recreating the moment where Kong toys with the limp jaw of his vanquished foe.
Again, instead of a single pterodactyl, Jackson’s Kong has to fend of a swarm of bat-like creatures (identified in The World of Kong as terapusmordax obscenus).