Movie Name: King Kong Escapes
Release Date(s): July 22, 1967 (Japan)/June 19, 1968 (US)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
The discovery of King Kong on Mondo Island rocks the world. Dr. Who (Eisei Amamoto) has created a Mechani-Kong to dig for the radioactive and expensive Element X at the North Pole. When Mechani-Kong fails to work, Dr. Who and his buyer Madame Piranha (Mie Hama) realize the real Kong is the only one who can reach Element X. With only Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller) able to control Kong, Dr. Who has her and Kong kidnapped…leading to a battle between Kong and his mechanical monster.
Directed by Ishirō Honda, King Kong Escapes was called King Kong’s Counterattack (キングコングの逆襲 or Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū) in Japan. The movie is based on the Rankin/Bass The King Kong Show which ran for three seasons from 1966-1969.
The 1976 King Kong movie was a big deal for me when I was little. It aired on two nights, and I can remember getting to see half of it each night. That instilled a love of King Kong (and all giant monster really) in me. King Kong Escapes is a bad movie, but it still has that big monster fun.
The movie follows the basic kaiju format. The people encounter the big monster, the big monster attacks, and a monster fight ensues. It is odd because they essentially impose a King Kong story on top of the kaiju movie. Instead of Fay Wray, King Kong is in love with Susan and Susan is able to convince him to move the plot forward. Leading to two characters fighting on top of the Empire State Building…or the Tokyo Tower in this version.
The movie blends an American cast with a Japanese cast (the film was made by both Toho and Rankin/Bass). A lot of the film is dubbed for American audiences (even some of the actors that could speak English).
The movie’s monsters look pretty bad. The King Kong in particular is pretty weak. He does battle with some dinosaurs (which are fair), but the eyes and movements of the man in the costume aren’t very natural (especially when compared to some new more natural acting apes in movies). I do however like the design of Mechani-Kong which is pretty detailed…I wish we had had Mechani-Kong vs. Mecha-Godzilla.
King Kong Escapes is fun for fans of kaiju films, but for casual fans, the movie is quite bad. King Kong’s rights lapsed after the film so King Kong never returned from Mongo Island to do battle again…though a future King Kong/Godzilla crossover is scheduled to happen again (but I wish they would through a Mechani-Kong in there).