KING KONG ESCAPES (1967): a bad, fun movie
Today we discuss a movie that is the film equivalent of a banana, mushroom, bleu cheese, ham hock and gummi bear pot pie. Before we get into it, allow me to take a bit of time to set the context for this weirdest of concoctions.
Many of us grew up with the 1964 Rankin Bass production of Rudolph the Reindeer. And even if we didn’t have it in our childhoods, the stop-motion classic is the longest running TV special of all TV specials, so you can still catch it every holiday season. That special was actually created in Japan, with MOM productions providing the stop-motion animation. Rankin Bass continued to use Japanese animators in subsequent productions, finding that they could save money.
In 1966, Rankin Bass produced an anime inspired cartoon series based on the King Kong film, with Kong now being a hero, rather than a force of destruction. 12 years earlier, the Toho company also had their big creature feature star, beginning in 1954 with the introduction of Godzilla. In 1962, Toho introduced their offering to big monster Kong battles with King Kong vs Godzilla. Soooo… when Rankin Bass in 1967 decided they wanted to make a live action film based on their King Kong cartoon, and having already been familiar with working with Japanese production companies, who else would they call on but someone who had already done a Kong film? Correct, they called Toho. Clear as mud. Good!
So this perfect mess of a perfect storm gave us King Kong Escapes. In the Arctic, Dr Who (the Japanese Dr. Who, not the British Time Lord) discovered Element X, the most powerful element known to man. He is funded by Madame Piranha, an agent of an undisclosed government who will not stand for delays in the delivery of Element X. Who tells her not to worry, that he has invented Robo Kong who is so powerful that he will mine the Element in days instead of months. The problem is that geniuses like Who can invent incredible gadgets but forget to do normal things like take a shower.
So when Robo Kong goes in to get Element X, the radiation is so high that it burns out his circuits and he falls over. Piranha is furious, having been told that she can have Element X in 100 days instead of months, and packs up to leave. Who convinces her to give him more time. So here we have Piranha who was expecting months, got told it was reduced to 100 days, became ecstatic, and then got mad when Robo Kong fell over, but managed to get Who 30 days from then. Are you following me mathematics guy?
What can Who do? Well yeah, he’s going to have to capture real Kong who is on Mondo Island, and has become enamored by a Naval nurse on a visiting submarine (don’t ask). So all Who has to do is helicopter lift a 60’ gorilla, kidnap a nurse surrounded by a submarine full of naval officers, and make her convince Kong to mine the Element. Easy.
This begs the standard super villain question: why is a guy who is smart enough to invent an earpiece that works on 60’ tall gorillas to keep them hypnotized to do what he wants, even messing with mining an element and selling it to a foreign government? Money? Power? It seems like that level of tech genius would allow him to invent anything he wanted to secure his money and power. It reminds me of the Superfriends episodes where Lex Luthor invents some kind of gadget which is beyond the capabilities of anyone living only to use it to turn the gasoline in the Bat mobile into grape jelly to keep the Caped Crusaders from arriving at the crime scene on time. And then never use the devise again. Ever.
The rest of the plot doesn’t matter because Kong breaks the control, swims away, goes and fights the repaired Robo Kong (which would have saved Who a lot of time and money if he had just done this in the first place) and saves the world. If that doesn’t make sense, its because its not going to make any more sense when you watch it. But the fight between Kong and Robo Kong is something to see.
Side notes- I have no idea why, but the guy they used to voive Dr. Who in the English version is Paul Frees. One of my favorite voice actors, he did Ben Grimm is the 1967 cartoon version of the Fantastic 4, and he did Boris Badenov in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Yeah that guy. I’m not making it up. And Tokusatsu fans will notice Susumu Kurobe as one of Who’s henchmen. We know him as Shin Hayata, the guy who turned into Ultraman in 1966. I’m not going to kid you. This is not a good film, but it is fun
IMDB says 5.5/10. Let’s let that stand.