Sunday, 16 April 2017

King Kong Escapes

Title: King Kong Escapes
Director: Ishiro Honda
Released: 1967
Starring: Rhodes Reason, Akira Takarada, Linda Miller, Eisei Amamoto, Mie Hama, Yoshiumi Tajima, Nadao Kirino, Shoichi Hirose, Haruo Najajima, Yu Sekida

Plot: Evil scientist Dr. Who (Amamoto) has created his own robot version of King Kong called Mechani-Kong which he plans to use to dig for “Element X” in the North pole only to find that the radiation emitted by Element X shuts down his creation. Meanwhile Commander Nelson (Reason) and his crew have discovered Kong living on Mondo Island who Dr.Who now plots to use to dig out the Element X by hypnotising the giant ape to do his bidding.
Review: One of the numerous overlooked King Kong titles / cash in titles with this one seeing Toho studios who’d previously obtained the King Kong licence for “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” and which despite being a box office success Toho hadn’t exactly rushed to follow it up until this film for which they teamed up bizarely with the American production company Rankin / Bass who are no doubt best known for their Christmas specials despite putting out several giant monster / dinosaur features such as “The Last Dinosaur” and “The Bermuda Depths”.

Drawing inspiration from the Rankin / Bass saturday morning cartoon “The King Kong Show” which saw the giant ape saving the world from various aliens, mad scientists and other monsters. This of course makes for the perfect source material for director Ishiro Honda especially as it puts Kong more in line with the likes of Godzilla who at this point was engaging in his own world saving antics. Working with the other three “Godzilla Fathers” producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, composer Akira Ifukube and most key special effects by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya which is no doubt why this film appeals to my Kaiju fanboy side especially with Honda hardly deviating from his usual Godzilla format, Ifukube even recycles some of his Godzilla themes to great effect here.

If anything could be said about this film is that it really wastes no time in getting to the monster action as we are barely 20 mins into the film before we get to not only see Kong for the first time but also Gorosaurus who makes his Toho debut in this film and despite being killed by Kong would make a miraculous recovery for his more prominent appearance in “Destroy All Monsters”. We also get to see Kong battle a sea serpent who looks strangely similar to Manda.

Despite Tsuburaya handling the special effects, the Kong suit is still an awkward Kaiju reworking which is only slightly better than the one we saw in “King Kong Vs. Godzilla”. Of course that being said it is still miles ahead of some of the awful giant ape costumes we got in the Kong knock offs like “A.P.E.” and “Queen Kong”. Here Tsuburaya really appears to be trying to tap into the more human side of Kong as seen through the overly sympathetic eyes which serve to make him more humane than any kind of monstrous threat, though he just looks down right dopey when he gets hypnotised by “Dr. Who”. The Mechani-Kong on the other hand looks fantastic, even if its movements sound like a disco siren.

Of course the reason we are all here is to see Kong face off against his mechi-counterpart and while it might be kept for the finale its well worth the wait as the pair battle it out while hanging off the Tokyo tower. Interestingly despite being in Tokyo Kong actually chooses not to destroy anything….unlike Mechani-Kong who mere minutes of arriving in Tokyo is busy smashing building. Why Kong chooses to head to Tokyo from the North pole is unclear much like how he manages to get there so quick after escaping Dr. Who’s secret base which appears like the henchmen uniforms to have been recycled from “You Only Live Twice”

The plot itself is kind of nonsensical aswell as just downright sexist in places with Commander Nelson having an unexplained past with the villainous Dr. Who which causes the second half of the film to grind its gears in places as Dr. Who tries to win over Commander Nelson to his cause even employing the charms of Madame Piranha played here former Bond girl Mie Hama whose country of origin which she is supposed to be representing is kept a mystery as one of the more random running themes of the film as characters origins are frequently questioned. The film also borrows elements from the original “King Kong” with Susan (Miller) essentially playing the Fay Wray role as Kong falls for her meaning that she is able to control him, when not constantly being kidnapped by him or his Mechi counterpart meaning we get to see a lot of footage of a questionable looking doll standing in for her.

Considering when this film was made Ishiro Honda was Toho’s go to director for their Kaiju movies not only through his heavy involvement with the Showa era of the Godzilla movies, but also introducing the world to the likes of “Rodan” and “Mothra” with their stand alone films and to this extent this version of Kong perfectly fits in this unofficial Kaiju universe that Toho were making with these films and which Honda would essentially bring together with “Destroy All Monsters” the following year.

A fun Kaiju movie which brings a fun spin to King Kong mythos which is certainly a lot more enjoyable than some of the entries in the apesploitation genre. At the same time its quick passing and generally fun kaiju action makes this one worth giving a look if only for some throwaway fun viewing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...