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A Thanksgiving Memory: Why I’m Thankful for King Kong and Godzilla

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King Kong and Godzilla Films: A Thanksgiving Tradition

How Monster Movies Have Given Us Something to be Thankful For

King Kong vs. Godzilla (Ishiro Honda, 1962)As Thanksgiving is once again upon us, it is time to reflect on all the things that we’re thankful for. Our health, our happiness, the fact that we’ve just made it through another day, another month, another year. As people travel hundreds and thousands of miles to be with their families, it is probably the one secular holiday that has some significant meaning…especially when you’re a kid because you have a four day weekend from school.

There were many traditions that symbolized the Thanksgiving spirit in my family. There were all the Thanksgiving songs we’d sing around the piano in the living room such as “Cranberries from a Can”, “Wishbone, Wishbone” and “Please Pass the Yams, Uncle Bob”; the Thanksgiving games such as Convert the Savage to Christianity and the countless Thanksgiving TV specials and movies, such as “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, Grandma Got Kidnapped by a Turkey, Squanto’s Revenge, “Plymouth Rock and Roll”, The White Man Steals Our Corn and the “My Three Sons/Partridge Family Reunion.”

I, of course, have extremely fond memories of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, with the cheesy production numbers featuring the cast from whatever musical was big at the time, complete with poorly lip-synched songs, etc. The parade has changed dramatically over the years and once the Bullwinkle and Underdog balloons were retired for good, I stopped giving a shit.

All of these aforementioned items were part of the Thanksgiving experience, yet there was one particular Thanksgiving tradition that would change my life forever.

In 1976, channel 9 (WOR-TV) in New York City took the daring risk of showing King Kong films on Thanksgiving Day. This cinematic trilogy included the original King Kong (Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) and its sequel Son of Kong (Schoedsack, also 1933), followed by Mighty Joe Young (Schoedsack again, 1949), starring Mr. Joseph Young and future Academy Award Winner Ben Johnson, which wasn’t really a King Kong film, but it featured a large gorilla on a destructive rampage, so, same thing basically. This was a great form of escapism, sitting on the couch, eating turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce and watching stop motion animation all day. Hell, it was better than fuckin’ Christmas for crying out loud, and when it was over, I wanted more.

Well, dammit, I got more…a whole lot more. Not only was there another full schedule of movies the following day, it was six hours of Godzilla. Yes, Japan’s loveable radioactive lizard would hold my hand and guide me through a day of mystery and adventure, all while eating holiday leftovers. Godzilla will forever have a special place in my heart as he would take me to a fantasy land, where the idea of grown men in rubber lizard costumes could make a living destroying scale models, seemed like a lucrative career move.

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)The Godzilla films were a great way to round up the end of the holiday, especially as a kid, where you didn’t have to be subjected to the sugary crap that made for entertainment back in those days. Instead of visiting family or spending hours shopping for that perfect deal, you had 6 hours of King Kong Vs. Godzilla (Ishiro Honda, 1962), Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster (aka Godzilla Vs. Hedorah, Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971), and Godzilla Vs. Megalon (Jun Fukuda, 1973) waiting for you. Just plop yourself in front of the TV and get lost in atrocious English dubbing and relentless destruction.

While computer graphics and CGI have destroyed all that, and while we eagerly await the next installment in the Godzilla franchise, hopefully something along the likes of Godzilla v. Karl Rove or Godzilla v. Al-Qaeda, we have the memories of these classic films from the 1960s and 1970s to whet our appetites.

By 1985, it was all over and done as the King Kong films originally produced by RKO Studios were removed from the line up and replaced by sub-par Japanese King Kong films for a year or so and eventually reruns of 1970s detective dramas. A nice attempt, but it didn’t cut the mustard…in fact it flat out ruined the whole vibe of Thanksgiving for me. It’s akin to completely revamping the set of “The Price is Right,” which basically hasn’t changed since 1973. It was, how you say…over. It was along the lines of Genesis without Peter Gabriel, The Pink Floyd without Syd Barrett and Bread without David Gates.

As a childhood tradition, it spoke volumes…this was the real deal. Oh sure, today you can just plop in a DVD of any King Kong or Godzilla film while you’re eating your holiday dinner, but it’s just not really the same thing as experiencing it back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Thanksgiving without King Kong and Godzilla is just…well…it’s just un-American.

Dave Bower is Co-Publisher of The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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1 Comment for “A Thanksgiving Memory: Why I’m Thankful for King Kong and Godzilla”

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m a native New Yorker and whenever Thanksgiving rolls around I also get nostalgic for King Kong and Godzilla.

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