(1967) director Ishirô Honda
From the director of many a Godzilla film, Ishirô Honda, I queued up a film that I remembered from my childhood for my kids, King Kong Escapes. While he fought Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), King Kong Escapes wasn’t necessarily a sequel. In fact, if you get down to it, this film is completely out of left field, except in its adherence to the traditions of the King Kong films. In this film, King Kong battles a robot King Kong, before Godzilla even battled a robot version of himself.
Especially in the dubbed version perhaps, this film has a ludicrous silliness to the storyline. On a UN submarine, with a crew on a mission in the South Pacific, headed by an American man, a Japanese man, and a blond American nurse, who all love the legend of King Kong, find themselves on Mondo Island, home of Kong. While they are met by only one native, speaking “Javanese” which only the male American commander understands, threatening them away from the holy ground, they wind up meeting up with Kong, a man in a giant gorilla suit, who runs through the basics of Kong’s script. Fall in love with the little blond woman, kill a T-Rex-ish monster, battle a sea serpent, relent to the woman and let her go.
Of course, the wacky part is set in the North Pole where a villainous Dr. Who, a mad scientist with a history with the American commander, has hatched a plan to build a giant robo-Kong to dig out “element X” from beneath the polar ice. Only it doesn’t work. So, he sets out to capture the real Kong, hypnotize him into digging for the radioactive element, and sell said element to the mysterious Asian woman who represents an unnamed country that wants to take over the world.
When hypnotzing Kong doesn’t work either, he kidnaps the submarine crew to try to coerce them into getting Kong to do the work. Only that doesn’t work either because…King Kong Escapes! In fact, Robo-Kong can’t even catch up with him until he nears Tokyo (where all great Japanese tokusatsu monsters go to destroy). The inevitable battle ensues on a Japanese version of the Eiffel Tower.
The mysterious woman stops being a villain halfway through, for no particular reason. Dr. Who seems to be the least competent villain ever. And if it wasn’t for the pretty good fight scenes and the good quantity of monsters, and Robo-Kong who is pretty cool with his flood-light eyes and briefly with his hypno-horn on his head, this movie would be a disaster.
As it winds up, it’s pretty entertaining. Honda, typically, delivers the goods. For as out-and-out silly as it is, it’s good fun.
The kids enjoy these films. At first, it was an experiment, but now it’s something that they regularly ask for. So, we’ll keep ’em coming!