Posts Tagged ‘Inoshiro Honda’

Movie Reviews 397 – King Kong Escapes (1967)

June 22, 2019

It’s King Kong. It’s Kaiju. Kraptastically Keen

It was as early as the third Godzilla movie in 1962 that the Toho studio creators of the world’s most renowned giant dino-lizard realized that the gargantuan gorilla Kong would be a suitable (“suit”. Get it?) character to join their oversized menagerie. King Kong vs. Godzilla (note who got first billing?) had the highest box office return to that date. It was a huge hit but it took another five years before Kong would get his get his own solo Toho feature in King Kong Escapes.

And what better way to feature Kong than to pit him against a robotic Mecha-Kong? Surprisingly, the Mecha version of the King predates the introduction of Mecha-Godzilla (and all the other Mecha versions of other monsters in the Toho universe) by over a decade. The story itself was cobbled up from an early joint US Japanese animated kong series called The King Kong Show produced by Rankin-Bass. Some readers will be familiar with Rankin-Bass as the animation company known for their stop motion animation specials like The Little Drummer Boy and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and some other Saturday morning cartoon shows. But with Kong as the star this production would be far removed from the typical Rankin-Bass sweet and angelic tales.

Directed by Inoshiro Honda ( the human “God” behind the Godzilla franchise) it blends a retelling the original King Kong story and a touch of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea all centered around the dueling Kong with his robot doppelgangers.

The intro has US commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason) piloting a sub with second in command Jiro Nomura (Akira Takarada) on an expeditionary mission to the remote island Mondo when they come across Kong. As in every Kong movie there has to be a young woman who soothes the beast and in this case that role falls to Lt. Susan Watson the crew’s doctor (Linda Jo Miller, who ironically had to be redubbed in English by another voice actor).

As soon as that intro is done we switch to an evil scientist in a hidden artic lair who aims to mine the ultra rare “Element X” (insert an “Oooh” and “Ahhh” for shock and reverence). The wiry grey haired Dr. Who (Hideyo Amamoto) – not THAT Dr. Who – has built a giant Mecha-Kong to do the heavy mining in the inclement environment, the robot being built based on plans stolen from none other than Nelson himself. (This fact strains credulity since the robot’s stature and features exactly mimic those of Kong but Nelson just discovered Kong for the first time five minutes ago) Supposedly possession of Element X (“Oooh!”) can be used to build a world dominating nuclear arsenal, but Dr. Who does not want this for himself but rather for the leopard print wearing oriental Mata Hari who I don’t recall ever being named in the film itself but varyingly credited as Madame Piranha or Madame X (Mie Hama). Representing some evil aligned country (also never explicitly called out) she is funding Dr. Who and the mining mission. But when Mecha Kong fails after a few minutes of mining as exclaimed by Dr Who “Magnetic Mass has destroyed his circuits!” they set their sights on getting the real Kong to do their digging.

After a nifty abduction of Kong, hypnotizing him to obey their commands (yes, hypnotizing him!), Kong extracting himself from the trance, the evil Dr. Who kidnaps the lovely Watson for a different leverage against the ape. Meanwhile Madame Piranha tries to seduce Nelson until everything unravels, Kong kick the living daylights out of the tin ape and eventually walks into the sea under a beautiful sunset.

Their is so much goofy goodness to enjoy I hardly know where to start. Special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya’s (also responsible for Ultraman) space age vehicles and the mecha resemble those of Gerry Anderson’s marionation shows like The Thunderbirds while the dubbing delivers a bonus with Dr. Who being voiced by Paul Frees whom seasoned kids will instantly associate as the voice of Boris Badenov from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  Kong of course has battles with other mesozoic monstrosities including a giant snake and T-Rex wannabe. And there are timely touches like Madame Piranha whipping out a transmitter from her Jackie-O pink pillbox hat. All to a score has a few riffs off Akira Ifukube’s famous Godzilla March.

So when your mom tells you you can’t what yet another Godzilla film and playing another round of Donkey Kong is out of the question you now know where to go.