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King Kong Escapes

a/k/a Kingukongu no gyakushu 

Part Four of Monkey See --

Monkey Doo-Doo!

      "Itís very easy for us to understand. As ridiculous as this may sound, Kong is a male and Miss Watson is a -- well, see for yourselves."

-- Commander Nelson, Agent of M.O.R.O.N.      

 

     

Reviews:

Gonzoid Cinema

 

 

Buzzkillers!

"Okay, just hold it, right there, MISTER Monkey! Where else has that finger been?"

 

Watch it!

AMAZON

DVD

 
Sights &
Sounds:
King Kong
Escapes
(1968)
 Rankin&Bass /
 Toho Eiga /
 Universal Pictures

Stomped
Tokyo:
The Kaiju-eiga
Canon of
Toho Studios.

(1954 - 1975)

Varan: the Unbelievable

Mothra

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Monster

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters

War of the Gargantuas

Son of Godzilla

King Kong Escapes

Destroy All Monsters

Godzilla's Revenge

Godzilla on Monster Island

Godzilla vs. Megalon

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

Terror of Mechagodzilla

 
And our Mad Mammoth Monkey Marathon officially spins out of control with the hilarious second appearance of Toho Studio's own Mammoth Monkey in King Kong Escapes. (The first appearance, of course, being the title bout in King Kong vs. Godzilla.) 

Here, our strange pipe-dream of big-headed monkeys with tiny little legs, pulsating lights, and kinky spy shenanigans kicks off underwater with the crew of the UN Submarine Explorer, under the command of Commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason), as it searches for new oil deposits. Inside, Susan Watson (Linda Miller -- who looks darned cute in that majorette outfit cum-uniform), the ship's chief medical officer, finds the Commander in his quarters, chatting with Lt. Hiro Nomura (Akira Takarada -- a veteran of many Kaiju epics), studying some pictures of gorillas. Her interest piqued, the men tell her that this particular gorilla is over 60ft. tall. Now really intrigued, when Nelson asks if she's ever heard of Kong, Susan nods; she has heard the tales of the legendary ape but thought it was just a myth. Showing her photos of a giant stone stairway that lead up to a large cave on nearby Mondo Island, where the creature allegedly lives, Nelson then reveals that he's spent his entire life studying the creature, and is more than a little disappointed that they're so close to Mondo but canít stop to take a look. (I guess the UN frowns on going off mission for personal reasons, especially to look for alleged giant monkeys.)

We then crash-bang-zoom-cut to the North Pole where dirty work is afoot at the secret base of the mad mechanical genius, Dr. Who (Eisei Amamoto). Now, we realize heís a crazed genius because the centerpiece of his operation is a giant robot version of Kong. Bragging up his creation to the mysterious Madame X (Mia Hama), the secret-agent/super-spy of some unknown government, who is funding the Doctorís operation, she is more interested in the promised robot's end-results. Seems the base is near a large deposit of Element X, which makes uranium look like plain old gravel, and whatever government controls Element X, will control the world. To accomplish this, the mad doctor designed his Mechani-Kong from notes he stole from Nelson, and plans to use the robot to dig out the radioactive substance. (Geez. Youíd think thereíd be an easier way, but remember, heís a demented evil genius after all, so just humor him.)

As Spy-Girl warns that he had better succeed this time -- or else! -- Dr. Who activates the robot and offers Ms. X a front row seat to watch the action. When the robot comes to life, it immediately heads outside the hangar and onto the frozen landscape. (Who seems to be sending the control signals by banging on the same organ key again and again and againÖ) Approaching a large crevice, the robot starts detaching grenades from his chest and dropping them into the hole. (Extreme strip mining!) And after several detonations, Mechani-Kong banzai dives into the hole. Then, after several more grenade tosses, a large glowing mass of Element X appears. An excited Who orders the robot to dig it up, but suddenly, the robot sputters out and collapses -- the massive radiation from the large deposit has shorted out his circuits. (Of course, Who blames his hired help.) Promising Ms. X that the robot can be rebuilt with better shielding, Who is told itís too late, and with this latest display of incompetence, she's ready to withdraw her nation's financial support. Who quickly counters, saying that without financing, he canít fix the robot -- but he's sure he can find someone else to fund the project and then he can give them the precious metal. Reluctantly, she relents but only agrees to give Who just thirty more days before permanently pulling the plug.

Back in the sub, when a convenient underwater rockslide damages the rudder, necessitating an emergency stop for repairs, Nelson takes the opportunity to explore Mondo Island. Taking Namura and Susan with him in a nifty hovercraft, they soon land on the beach and drive inland where the group disembarks and begins to look for any signs of Kong. The first sign comes when they find a lone, loony islander who accuses them of trespassing, and who also warns them to get off quick or face the wrath of King Kong. Nelson wants to question the squirrelly bugger further, but he quickly disappears. Then, leaving Susan by the car "where itís safe" (uh-oh), the men head up into the hills to find the old coot -- but the men barely reach the top before a Tyrannosaurus Rex bursts through the jungle foliage below. (The beast has come to be known as Gorosauraus and itís one of the better Kaiju suits Toho ever created.) Susan screams when the beast spots her and closes in for a little snack. The men hear her and hustle back down, but they weren't the only ones who heard her... In a nearby cave, a set of papier-m‚chť eyes blink open and the camera zooms out to reveal our titular hero, King Kong, who leaves his lair to investigate the commotion. Arriving on scene with a patented war hoop, Kong thumps his chest in a challenge to the dinosaur.

Here, we get our first full body shot of Kong and we are struck by the strangely odd body proportions of the animal. And if the huge head, broad shoulders, and really long arms perched on those tiny little legs doesnít bring a smile to your face, then check your pulse 'cuz you may be dead.

The dinosaur backs off a little, allowing Kong to scoop Susan up. Immediately fascinated with her (-- the big ape always had a thing for blondes), Kong decides to keep and play with her awhile -- but first, heís gotta take care of the old T-Rex first. Placing her in a nearby tree, he roars into battle. And it's a pretty good Kaiju rumble, too, as the saurian has the upper hand at first, using a kangaroo kick to keep the great ape at bay. But Kong finally gets close enough and ferociously pummels the monster into submission. When Kong moves to retrieve his prize from the tree, Nomura raises his rifle to shoot but Nelson stops him. Cradled in the monkey's paw, Susan pleads with Kong to put her down, and to everyoneís amazement, he obeys her. Unfortunately, it turns out the T-Rex wasnít quite dead yet and clamps onto Kongís leg. Roaring in pain, the ape starts pummeling the lizard again, allowing Nelson and Namura to retrieve Susan and head back to the hovercraft. Meanwhile, Kong finishes off the dinosaur by breaking its lower jaw -- just like old granddad back on Kong Island.

The incident also proposes that dinosaurs were filled with Scrubbing Bubbles, sending paleontologist scrambling back to recheck the fossil records.

Kong pursues the hovercraft to the beach, that's already out on the water, but the craft barely makes it halfway to the sub before Nomura spots another monster, a sea serpent, racing right toward them! But Kong sees it, too, and sends a rock missile that gongs the serpent right on the head. (Again, if youíre not laughing at this display of marksmanship, call 911 right away.) Wading out into the surf, Kong intercepts the serpent, allowing the others to safely reach the sub. After quickly dispatching the smaller beast, Kong comes after them -- and the sub canít get away because the repairs arenít quite done yet! Seizing the sub, Kong curiously shakes the craft but doesnít tear it apart. Believing he means them no real harm, Nelson allows a volunteering Susan to go out on deck to try and calm the ape down until the repairs can be finished.

Happy to see her, Kong scoops Susan up to take her back home. But using the old tried and true If they canít understand what youíre saying, say it again, only slower and LOUDER, the girl tries to get the point across that she can't go with him and rightfully belongs on the boat with the others. Eventually, the banana drops and the ape returns her to the sub, into the waiting arms of Nomura. And with the repairs finally finished, the Explorer leaves the ape behind and sails for the UN Headquarters in New York. After making a full report on their amazing discovery to the General Assembly, turns out they should have just stayed put as the powers that be announce plans to send them right back to Mondo Island to study Kong in his native habitat. At the ensuing press conference, when Ms. X, disguised as a reporter, asks why Kong seemed to listen and obey Susan, the answer leads to this priceless line from Nelson: 

"Itís very easy for us to understand. As ridiculous as this may sound, Kong is a male and Miss Watson is a -- well, see for yourselves." 

Yep, thatís pretty danged ridiculous.

Getting the info she needs, Ms. X slinks off, turns her hat into a radio, and calls Dr. Who. Seems theyíve changed their plans and want to use the real Kong to dig up the Element X, and all they need to make that work is a way to control the ape. And while the Doctor has his own ideas, Ms. X believes Susan is the key. Either way, they'll need the ape and Dr. Who leads the attack on Mondo Island with his fleet of helicopters. Using gas bombs, they knock the ape out, and while securing the monster for transport, the old loon comes out of the jungle and orders them to leave his big monkey alone. After Who promptly shoots him three times, stating plainly Kong belongs to him now, his men airlift the snoozing ape to a waiting tanker, destined to head back to the North Pole. (Not as goofy as the balloon lift in King Kong vs. Godzilla but goofy enough.)

When the UN expedition arrives on Mondo, they find plenty signs of a fight but no sign of Kong. Namura finds the old loon -- and the tough old coot is still alive; but his wounds are mortal and he lives just long enough to reveal that an "oriental skeleton" --  a "devil disguised as a man" -- has ape-napped Kong. This doesn't seem like much of a lead but Nelson knows it can be none other than that international Judas, Dr. Who.

Elsewhere, when Kong wakes up in a cage at Dr. Whoís North Pole stronghold, he doesnít quite know what to make of his robot double stored nearby. (I think heís still under the influence of the ether.) After assuring Ms. X that they having nothing to fear from the UN, Who then sets into motion his plan to hypnotize Kong into obeying him by lowering a large, glowing disco ball into Kongís field of view. (You are getting sleepyÖ) And when Kong goes off to la-la land, Whoís goons implant a pair of control diodes into his ears. In the resulting stupor, an enthralled Kong obeys the Doctor's orders to start digging and proves a natural miner as he quickly burrows a new tunnel to the Element X deposit.

While watching this scene I kept thinking about that old Sesame Street sketch where the Cookie Monster had to eat his way through an avalanche to get a trainload of goodies through to the children. "Through! Through! Through! He'll get that train through!" Anyway, back to the review...

But again, the glowing metal shorts out the electronic diodes, and when Kong snaps out of of his funk, the big ape goes berserk. For once, though, Who appears to have been prepared for this contingency and drops a huge gate, sealing Kong inside the cave. And since Plan A didnít work, they'll have to resort to Plan B and hatch a plot to abduct Nelson, Namura and especially Susan to control the ape for them. Sending his henchmen disguised as UN agents, Who's thugs hijack our heroes on their flight to Tokyo. Namura smelled something fishy but by then itís too late and they're whisked away to the North Pole. Once there, when Susan refuses to cooperate, they're all dumped in a holding cell to await their fate. Trying a more subtle approach, Ms. X has a private meeting with Nelson in her swanky spy suite and offers him the opportunity to take Whoís place, and then together, they can rule the world -- but the evil Doctor catches her in the act and breaks the meeting up. Tired of being subtle, Who resorts to torture by trying to freeze his prisoners into submission. When they still refuse to cooperate, as Who tries to push Susanís face against the flash frozen metal, with his lady in distress, Kong picks that moment to finally break out, saving her. And in the ensuing panic and confusion, the guards run off, leaving the cell door open, allowing our heroes escape.

After breaking his way out into the cold arctic tundra, Kong doesnít like it and quickly heads south. Mechani-Kong is dispatched to retrieve him but his prey makes it to the water and swims off before it can catch up. Back inside, Ms. X manages to rounds up the escapees, and despite seeming to have a change of heart, turns them over to Dr. Who. Needing to get Kong back, they all pile into Dr. Whoís boat and head after the rogue gorilla, who's making a beeline for Japan. Along the way, Who's goons install the glowing hypnotic-disco ball on top of the robot Kong's head, and are almost finished when several excited radio reports state that Kong has swum all the way to Tokyo and is headed inland. (Thatís gotta be some king of record.)

Once again, Tokyo is forced to evacuate and send in the army to battle the beast. Meanwhile, Dr. Whoís freighter docks in Tokyo Bay. By now, Ms. X has had a complete change of heart and helps our heroes escape just as Who activates Mechani-Kong and sends him off to round the real one up. (Her sudden 180-degree turn is due to the fact that she doesnít want to see all the destruction that Element X or the dueling Kongs could wrought on the world.) When Nelson reaches the UN Defense Force's HQ, he manages to convince them to back off and let his team handle Kong. Namura and Susan have already reached the ape, and the word comes to stand-down just as the soldiers and tanks were preparing to open fire. Now it's up to Susan, who goes to Kong and manages to calm him down -- but the peace is short lived when Mechani-Kong stomps his way on scene.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!!

Ignoring her pleas to just runaway, Kong sets Susan down and starts slugging it out with the robot. But constantly blinded by the robot's high-beams, Kong starts to falter further when the hypno-disco ball lights up and starts to take control of him again. Luckily, a few well-aimed rifle shots from Nomura quickly puts the infernal contraption out of commission. Undaunted, following Who's orders, Mechani-Kong seizes Susan and starts to shimmy up the Tokyo Tower. (The same Tokyo Tower that Mothra destroyed in her larval stage.) Enraged that it stole his girlfriend, Kong climbs up after them to get her back -- until Dr. Whoís voice is broadcasted over the loudspeakers in the robot's mouth, ordering Kong to return to the boat or his robot will drop Susan. But at the same time back at the boat, Ms. X pulls a gun and orders the Doctor to stop all this insanity. And as they struggle over the gun, they trip several switches on the control panels, causing Mechani-Kong to drop Susan prematurely. Luckily, Kong catches her and gently places her unconscious body on a lower observation deck of the tower. And as Namura climbs up to her eventual rescue, Who gets the gun away from Ms. X and gets the Robot back under control. Back at the tower, now extremely pissed off, Kong continues his pursuit of the robot all the way to the top of the structure. Once there, as they exchange several blows, trying to knock each other off, Ms. X starts pulling wires in an effort to destroy the control panels. She succeeds, but Dr. Who shoots her dead. Mechani-Kong, meanwhile, doesn't react very well to his controls being destroyed and falls off the tower, smashing into thousands of pieces on impact. Above, Kong roars in triumph as Nelson, Namura and Susan reunite at the base of the tower.

As dawn breaks, Dr. Who orders his men to set sail immediately. But itís already too late as the look-out spots Kong and Co. rapidly approaching. When Susan tells Kong to stop Whoís ship, he does more than that. First, he cripples the tanker by tearing off the propeller, and then proceeds to use that as a club to destroys it. And the last we see of Dr. Who is the arch-villian trapped in his flooding control room as his ship, completely torn asunder, quickly goes under. Releasing one more triumphant roar, Kong then swims away. Susan calls after him but Namura stops her and says to let him go. And Nelson puts the film to bed by saying, "I think heís had enough of what we call civilization."

Amen.

The End

King Kong Escapes was a trans-Pacific co-production between Toho Studios and those animation wunderkinds, Rankin&Bass -- of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Mad Monster Party? fame, which might explain the more than passing resemblance between this Kong and the Abominable Bumble. (They both definitely bounce.) And the feature film was loosely based on R&B's 1966 animated series, King Kong, where young Bobby and Suzy Bond befriend the ape, who in turn helps out when their famous scientist father comes under constant attack from a variety of giant monsters -- most of them under the control of his arch-nemesis, the evil Dr. Who. (No relation to the British Time Lord.) The Japanese studio Toei provided the animation for the series, one of the first American toons to be farmed out for foreign animators, but when Arthur Rankin Jr. wanted to make a feature film out of it, he turned to Toho, who by this time were old hats at this giant monster business.

Commissioning a script from them, Rankin rejected Takeshi Kimura's first effort, tentatively titled Operation: Robinson Crusoe, when it strayed too far off course. But the second script was a go and the usual Toho culprits were all present and accounted for: Tanaka produced it; Honda directed it; Ifukube wrote the score; Tsuburaya helmed the rubber-suited mayhem; and veteran monster suit man Haruo Nakajima donned the Kong suit, while Hiroshi Sekata played the robot -- those two also played the battling Gargantuan brothers, also scripted by Kimura. As I stated earlier, this was Kong's second appearance for the studio but was there almost a third? Yeah. Sort of. You see, Toho took the rejected Crusoe script, and after a little more tweaking, turned it into Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, and you don't even have to look all that hard at the movie to confirm these suspicions: Godzilla is revived with electricity, just like Kong was in King Kong vs. Godzilla; the monster falls for a jungle girl, carries her around for awhile, and eventually dukes it out with some airplanes; and it also marked a distinct turn around for Godzilla as it launched his new career as a cinematic hero.

Once the film was completed, Rankin turned to his parent company, Universal, to distribute the film. Veteran voice man Paul Frees was put in charge of the dubbing and provides the majority of the male voices, while Julie Bennet handled both Ms. X and Susan Watson. Actually, Linda Miller was an American model working in Japan when she was cast in the role of Susan, and no explanation has ever been given as to why she had to be dubbed.

I donít know what it is about these giant monsters amok productions that always give me such a kick. I guess the F/X and rubber suits offer me something tactile to look at. Sure, they look goofy but at least they look three-dimensional; CGI, to me, sometimes looks very flat. There's also a kinetic energy about them, always bouncing around, beating the hell out of each other, that I just enjoy immensely. And the Kong suit for this film is an absolute riot. Once you get past the jaw-droppingly odd body proportions, youíll realize that the face is better than the suit used in the earlier film; itís more articulate around the mouth, but the mouth is inexplicably filled with razor sharp teeth! Itís eyes are also bigger -- and arenít in a perpetual squint like itís predecessor. (I assume that was an effort to conceal the eyeholes.) The zipper isnít hidden all that well, and the seams and flaps used to cover it are pretty damned obvious in a few spots. But then again, we know itís fake and do we really care?

Speaking truthfully, King Kong Escapes owes just as much to the oddball spy flicks Toho was putting out at the time as to their Kaiju-eiga canon. Dr. Who is definitely a Bondian villain with his secret hideout, innumerable henchman, and a demented plan to take over the world. (But he definitely doesnít have a dental plan. Wow. Check out that lower bicuspid.) And Ms. Hama was an actual Bond girl from You Only Live Twice. Hama and Amamato would also appear together in Kagi no kagi -- the spy movie that Woody Allen commandeered, changed the soundtrack of, and then released as the friggin' hilarious Whatís Up Tiger Lily.

When I dug into the World Wide Web to get a little background on this film, the number of sites and critics who called this film, "awful", "terrible" and "annoying" puzzled me. Are these people nuts?!? King Kong Escapes is insane, bizarre, and most importantly, a helluva a lot of fun and is such an extremely vivid chapter in the life of King Kong, Iím beginning to regret not using this film as the wrap-up for Monkey See -- Monkey Doo-Doo!

King Kong Escapes (1967/1968) Rankin/Bass Productions :: Toho Company :: Universal Pictures / P: Arthur Rankin Jr., Tomoyuki Tanaka / D: IshirŰ Honda / W: Takeshi Kimura / C: Hajime Koizumi / E: Ryohei Fujii / M: Akira Ifukube / S: Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Akira Takarada, Hideyo Amamoto
More Monkey See --

Monkey Doo-Doo!

Originally Posted: 04/12/01 :: Rehashed: 04/24/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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