King Kong Escapes (1967)

King Kong Escapes (1967)

The fate of the world hangs in the the balance as KING KONG fights the KING KONG ROBOT!

An evil dictator and his terrorist group build a huge robot called MechaKong so that it can dig out a rare mineral which they will use to make nuclear bombs. When the robot fails there is only one thing to do: bring in the real thing. They kidnap King Kong, still alive on Kong Island, and have him dig for the mineral instead. But he escapes and they send Mechakong out to destroy him. The battle that ensues threatens to destroy Tokyo and the whole of Japan.

 

After Toho had spent way too much money on securing the rights to the King of the Jungle, it became apparent that they had little in store for him once they cast him in the biggest monster showdown ever. After rushing through the titanic battle with Godzilla and ending the film rather weakly (with no outright winner), Kong peaked too early in his Japanese career. Once you’ve fought Godzilla, what else is there to do?

It took five years for Toho to get this sequel out after the success of King Kong Vs Godzilla. In the meantime, they’d prepared a story for Kong but it ended up becoming a Godzilla film – that of Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. So when a studio thinks that a giant ape and a huge lobster battling each other isn’t going to cut it, what other monster is there for Kong to fight? Well they used the good old standby of the monster fighting his mechanical doppelganger. Hey it worked for Godzilla later in his career, why not Kong?

King Kong looks to have really hit the bottle since his last outing. There’s no comparing the Toho men-in-suits version with the classic Willis O’Brien stop motion model but there’s comparing this suit with the one he was stuck with in King Kong Vs Godzilla. And the difference is staggering. Toho look like they locked him up for years and let the moths do their worst on him. He looks in really bad condition and I’d swear you can see bits of him crumbling in some scenes. He’s got a stupid perma-grin on his face, even when he’s getting his ass kicked and his goofy teeth stick out for a mile. MechaKong looks the part though, or at least as much as a mechanical ape could look. The fact that they’re both human in form means that at least they can grapple with each other and use their arms and legs. Some of Toho’s monsters lacked arms or a decent range of movement so fights were limited and a bit dull. Here they do look like two guys bashing the hell out of each other in fancy dress.

Kong gets to battle his mechanical doppleganger in numerous scenes, none of which are particularly memorable save for the finale in which they both climb atop the Tokyo Tower. In fact the best fight scene comes when Kong does battle with Gorosaurus on the island. It may smack of unoriginality – I mean Kong fights a T-Rex in pretty much every movie he’s been in. But at least Gorosaurus gives him a good fight, with a nifty kangaroo-like kick. The T-Rex suit looks pretty good too.

The rest of the film is just bonkers. There’s a sub-standard James Bond-style vibe going on with the terrorist corporation trying to build nuclear bombs with the mysterious Element X. They’ve got a secret Antarctic base and have their own private army. Dr Who does a lot of killing – he is a 100% certified psycho in here – and he’d give some Bond villains a run for their money. Actor Eisei Amamoto has a lot of fun in the role and wears a cape and funny hat whilst delivering some clunky dialogue like “the world is ours.” It’s a bit weird that Toho didn’t have a clue that England had their own, infinitely more famous Doctor Who back in 1963 and there’s probably a lawsuit lost in limbo somewhere along the line. Mie Hama plays Madame X, a mysterious agent who negotiates with Dr Who and is from an unnamed country. The script goes to great lengths to avoiding naming the country but it’s blatantly obvious it’s meant to be China or North Korea. Hama more famously portrayed Kissy Suzuki in classic Bond film You Only Live Twice so there is more than one Bond connection to this kaiju film.

 

King Kong Escapes is the big ape’s worst day at the cinema by a long shot and he’s had some real stinkers. He probably wished he’d have stayed dead at the end of the 1933 original now. There’s some daft fun in the fight scenes but it’s more likely because you feel sorry for the state of King Kong himself rather than any emotional attachment to this film.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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