Wednesday, December 15, 2021

#2,677. King Kong Escapes (1967) - Godzilla / Kong Mini-Marathon


Co-financed by Toho (the studio behind the Godzilla films) and Rankin/Bass (best known for animated Christmas specials such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman), King Kong Escapes is straight-up children’s fare.

The world is being threatened by a mad scientist known as Dr. Who (no, not that Dr. Who… this one is a pretty evil guy played by Hideyo Amamoto, with voice actor Paul Frees dubbing him for the American release). Headquartered in the North Pole, Dr. Who plans to dig up several tons of “Element X” and sell it to an unspecified but very ambitious country (Element X, we discover, can be used to make nuclear weapons more powerful than the atomic bomb).

To help him accomplish this nefarious undertaking, the good Doctor has created a mechanical version of the mighty King Kong, and it is up to U.N. submarine commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason) and his crew - as well as the real Kong - to stop Dr. Who and save the world.

While kids will certainly enjoy King Kong Escapes, adults might have a hard time sitting through it; the plot is simplistic at best, and at times the story will have you scratching your head. Doctor Who seems to change his plan every 3 minutes, first promising his financier Madame Piranha (Mie Hama) that the mechanical Kong will bring Element X to the surface, then when that fails he decides to capture the real Kong to finish the job. Why he didn’t just use Kong at the start remains a mystery. There’s also an ill-conceived “romance” that develops between Kong and Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Jo Miller), a member of Nelson’s crew (the scenes in which she interacts with Kong are pretty woeful).

Still, with the great Ishiro Honda (Gojira, Mothra) directing, King Kong Escapes is fun whenever the monsters are on-screen; during their initial encounter with Kong on his island, Capt. Nelson, Lt. Watson and Lt. Nomura (Akira Takarada) are treated to an epic battle between the great ape and Gororsaurus (a Tyrannosaurus Rex that would later make a cameo in Toho’s 1968 film Destroy All Monsters), and the finale, set (naturally) in Tokyo, closes the movie out in grand style.

King Kong Escapes probably won’t make anyone’s Top 10 Kaiju list, but if you’re looking for something to keep the young ones occupied for 90 minutes or so, this film will do the trick.
Rating: 6 out of 10

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