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Almost as soon as it was released, the original King Kong vs. Godzilla movie became subject to a rumor that still persists in some corners of fandom — a rumor that seems to have arisen from a simple misunderstanding.

The film had also been subject to the kind of industry machinations that so often seem to affect cult productions. Willis O’Brien, who’d animated the original King Kong, had started out with a story that featured a new Frankenstein’s monster instead of Godzilla; but when finance fell through in the U.S., producer John Beck took the rights to Japan, where they were used as a vehicle to bring the giant lizard back to the silver screen.

It’s likely that the rumor arose at least partly as a result of those machinations. The movie that opened in Japan in 1962 was heavily edited under Beck’s say-so before it opened in America the following year, complete with English language overdubs and a new framing arc that told the story as a TV news report. While the narrative itself remained intact, the versions were notably different. The story began circulating that the ending had been changed to favor American audiences by having “their” monster win the face-off on Mount Fuji, while the “opponent” creature was victorious in the Japanese cut. But it wasn’t true: While the closing scenes were edited differently, both movies ended with King Kong’s defeat of Godzilla (albeit potentially inconclusive).

Writing for UCR’s sibling site Screencrush, Matt Singer reported that he’d found the rumor’s “ground zero” in an edition of sci-fi fanzine Spacemen in 1963. The article concluded with: “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!”

‘King Kong vs. Godzilla’ Original U.S. Ending

From there, Singer followed the error into a series of movie books for children, published in the ‘80s under the banner Crestwood House, which he’d found in a school library, and was presumably available in other schools too. In the book that carried the story of King Kong vs. Godzilla, he found the sentence: “Who won? That depended upon where in the world you saw the movie!”

Singer admitted that, with the passage of time, he didn’t think he’d ever find the truth; but he speculated: “The most likely explanation is that whoever wrote the original Spacemen essay was told that the American cut of King Kong vs. Godzilla was different than the Japanese cut of the film, and misunderstood the full extent of the changes.” With the 21st-century version of the movie about to arrive, he added: “I’ve spent the last few months hoping that the modern Godzilla vs. Kong would turn the legend into a reality, and finally give its two monsters the the multiple endings they deserve.”

 

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