King Kong Escapes, (released in Japan as King Kong’s Counterattack (キングコングの逆襲 Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū), is a 1967 Kaiju film. A Japanese/American co-production from Toho and Rankin-Bass (Mad Monster Party?).
Directed by Ishiro Honda and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred both American actors – such as Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller – alongside Japanese actors – such as Akira Takarada, Mie Hama and Eisei Amamoto.
The film was a loose adaptation of the Rankin-Bass Saturday morning cartoon series The King Kong Show and was the second and final Japanese-made film featuring the King Kong character.
An evil genius named Dr. Hu creates Mechani-Kong, a robotic version of King Kong, to dig for a highly radioactive Element X, found only at the North Pole. Mechni-Kong enters an ice cave and begins to dig into a glacier, but the radiation destroys its brain circuits and the robot shuts down. Hu then sets his sights on getting the real Kong to finish the job. Hu is taken to task by a beautiful female overseer, Madame Piranha. Her country’s government (which is not named but may be North Korea) is financing the doctor’s schemes, and she frequently berates him for his failure to get results.
Meanwhile, a submarine commanded by Carl Nelson arrives at Mondo Island where the legendary King Kong lives. Much like the original 1933 film, the giant ape gets into an intense fight with a dinosaur, a large serpent, and falls in love with a human. In this case, Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller).
Dr. Hu subsequently goes to Mondo Island, abducts Kong and brings him back to his base at the North Pole. Kong is hypnotized by a flashing light device and fitted with a radio earpiece. Hu commands Kong to retrieve the Element X from the cave. Problems with the earpiece ensue and Hu has to kidnap Susan Watson, the only person who can control Kong.
After Watson and her fellow officers are captured by Hu, Madame Piranha unsuccessfully tries to seduce Nelson to bring him over to her side. Eventually Kong escapes and swims all the way to Japan where the climactic battle with Mechni-Kong transpires. Standing in for the Empire State Building from the original film is the Tokyo Tower where the two giants face off in the finale…
“The Japanese…are all thumbs when it comes to making monster movies like ‘King Kong Escapes.’ The Toho moviemakers are quite good in building miniature sets, but much of the process photography—matching the miniatures with the full-scale shots—is just bad…the plotting is hopelessly primitive…” Vincent Canby, New York Times, 1968
“It’s difficult to assign a single genre to King Kong Escapes. On the one hand, it has all the hallmarks of a kaiju film, with two giant beasts wreaking havoc in the heart of Tokyo. On the other, it adds to the mix elements of science fiction, adventure, and even James Bond spy films. It’s a formula that Toho used successfully in such films as Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster, but here the resulting tone often feels uneven.” Ed Glaser, Neon Harbor
“Toho fans, monster kids and generally anyone with a playfully less serious side to their cinema watching will get a kick out of this fun Kong adventure. The Japanese version is essential for Kaiju fanatics, but for most, the dubbed edition works just fine.” Cool Ass Cinema
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