King Kong Escapes is a 1967 Kaiju feature film and a Japanese/American co-production from Toho and Rankin-Bass (Mad Monster Party?).
Directed by Ishirô Honda (as Inoshiro Honda) from a screenplay written by Takeshi Kimura (as Kaoru Mabuchi) and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the movie stars both American actors – such as Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller – alongside Japanese actors – such as Akira Takarada, Mie Hama and Eisei Amamoto.
King Kong Escapes was a loose adaptation of the Rankin-Bass Saturday morning cartoon series The King Kong Show and was the second and final Japanese-made film featuring the King Kong character. The Japanese title is King Kong’s Counterattack (キングコングの逆襲 Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū)
An evil genius named Doctor Who creates Mechani-Kong, a robotic version of King Kong, to dig for a highly radioactive Element X, found only at the North Pole. Mechni-Kong enters an ice cave and begins to dig into a glacier, but the radiation destroys its brain circuits and the robot shuts down. Who then sets his sights on getting the real Kong to finish the job. Who is taken to task by a beautiful female overseer, Madame Piranha. Her country’s government (which is not named but could be North Korea) is financing the doctor’s schemes, and she frequently berates him for his failure to get results.
Meanwhile, a submarine commanded by Carl Nelson arrives at Mondo Island where the legendary King Kong lives. Much like the original 1933 film, the giant ape gets into an intense fight with a dinosaur, a large serpent, and falls in love with a human. In this case, Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller).
Doctor Who subsequently goes to Mondo Island abducts Kong and brings him back to his base at the North Pole. Kong is hypnotised by a flashing light device and fitted with a radio earpiece. Who commands Kong to retrieve the Element X from the cave. Problems with the earpiece ensue and Hu has to kidnap Susan Watson, the only person who can control Kong.
After Watson and her fellow officers are captured by Who, Madame Piranha unsuccessfully tries to seduce Nelson to bring him over to her side. Eventually, Kong escapes and swims all the way to Japan where the climactic battle with Mechni-Kong transpires. Standing in for the Empire State Building from the original film is the Tokyo Tower where the two giants face off in the finale…
“Poor material is no excuse for a bad movie. Just make the material better. And that’s exactly what everyone tried to do. But you can only polish a turd so much. And anyway, by 1967, the daikaiju genre as a whole was showing its age. Its creators were getting older while its fan base continued to skew young.” And You Thought It Was Safe(?)
“The Japanese…are all thumbs when it comes to making monster movies like ‘King Kong Escapes.’ The Toho moviemakers are quite good in building miniature sets, but much of the process photography—matching the miniatures with the full-scale shots—is just bad…the plotting is hopelessly primitive…” The New York Times, 1968
“On the one hand, it has all the hallmarks of a kaiju film, with two giant beasts wreaking havoc in the heart of Tokyo. On the other, it adds to the mix elements of science fiction, adventure, and even James Bond spy films. It’s a formula that Toho used successfully in such films as Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster, but here the resulting tone often feels uneven.” Neon Harbor
“Toho fans, monster kids and generally anyone with a playfully less serious side to their cinema watching will get a kick out of this fun Kong adventure. The Japanese version is essential for Kaiju fanatics, but for most, the dubbed edition works just fine.” Cool Ass Cinema
Cast and characters:
- Rhodes Reason … Commander Carl Nelson
- Mie Hama … Madame Piranha (Madame X)
- Linda Miller … Lieutenant Susan Watson
- Akira Takarada … Lieutenant Commander Jiro Nomura
- Hideyo Amamoto … Doctor Who (as Eisei Amamoto)
- Yoshifumi Tajima … Henchman
- Sachio Sakai … Henchman
- Susumu Kurobe … Henchman
- Nadao Kirino … Henchman
- Tôru Ibuki … Henchman
- Kazuo Suzuki … Henchman
- Ryûji Kita … SDF General
- Yasuhisa Tsutsumi … General
- Ikio Sawamura … Mondo Islander
- Tadashi Okabe … Soldier
- 104 minutes
- Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1
- Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)