I know, I know. You all are probably sick of seeing movies involving giant gorillas. Well, good news. This will be the last giant gorilla movie for a while. So today’s movie is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it is the second, and final, movie produced by Toho that featured King Kong. Two, this movie was loosely based on a cartoon, which is not the usual method since usually the movie comes first, followed by a cartoon based on said movie. Now I first heard about this movie when I was a kid and read about a movie where Kong fought a robot duplicate, which made me want to see it but the fact that it also had Gorosaurus, a giant dinosaur that was in Destroy All Monsters, well that just sealed the deal for me and so it took me a while to track down, but I eventually bought a copy of today’s movie, King Kong Escapes.
The plot: As a United Nations sub travels in the south pacific, it’s captain, Commander Carl Nelson, is talking to two of his officers about Kong, a legendary creature said to live on nearby Mondo Island. The sub’s nurse, Lt. Susan Watson, wants to go to the island to see if Kong is real but the second in command, Lt. Jiro Nomura, says they can’t as they have their own mission to tend to. Up in the arctic, and evil scientist named Dr. Who (not the famed Time Lord) is showing a robotic version of Kong that he had built to Madame X (Madame Piranha in the Japanese version), whose country’s government is funding Dr. Who’s research. Dr. Who plans to use Mechani-Kong to dig for a highly radioactive element called Element X for Madame X’s country but as Mechani-Kong nears the Element X, the radioactivity cause the robot’s control systems to short out. Back on the U.N. sub, an undersea rockslide causes some damage to the sub’s rudder so they are forced to pull in to Mondo Island in order to make repairs. While the repairs are underway, Carl, Susan, and Jiro use a hovercraft to head on to the island. where they discover the island to be uninhabited except for a lone native, who warns them from atop a distant hill to stay off the island as it is King Kong’s home. While Carl and Jiro head off to locate the native, Susan is left behind with the hovercraft when a giant dinosaur, Gorosaurus, approaches, causing her to scream. Susan’s screams attract the attention of Kong, who grabs Susan and places her in a nearby tree while he begins to fight Gorosaurus. Kong manages to knock Gorosaurus unconscious then grabs Susan again, but she manages to convince Kong to put her down, where she runs towards Carl and Jiro. When Gorosaurus bites Kong’s leg, Carl and the others use this opportunity to head back to the sub while Kong kills Gorosaurus. As they are heading back to the ship, they are attacked by a sea serpent but Kong, having followed the hovercraft to the beach, throws a boulder at the serpent, then wades into the water to fight it. Carl and the others arrive on the sub but find out that the repairs are not finished just as Kong, who had killed the serpent, begins to shake the sub. Realizing that Kong wants her, Susan volunteers to go out and keep Kong preoccupied while the repairs are finished and, once they are done, she manages to convince Kong to put her back on the sub. As Kong heads back to shore, Carl tells the crew that they are cancelling the rest of the mission and heading back to U.N. Headquarters in New York. At the U.N. Headquarters, Carl, Susan, and Jiro give a report on Mondo Island, afterwards they announce that a mission to go back to Mondo Island to study Kong, as well as the other creatures on the island. Madame X, disguised as a reporter, leaves the conference and contacts Dr. Who, who plans to go to Mondo Island and kidnap the real Kong and have him dig up Element X. Dr. Who uses a squadron of helicopters to drop bombs filled with sleeping gas to knock Kong unconscious and, after killing the native when they land, Dr. Who has Kong taken to their Arctic base. When Carl and the others arrive back on Mondo Island, they find evidence of the struggle, as well as the old native, who tells them that Kong was stolen before he dies. When they get back to the sub, they receive a message that a plane is coming to pick the three of them up and that they should bring their research on Kong, but the pilots are actually some of Dr. Who’s men. Back at Dr. Who’s base, Kong has revived and attempts to break free from his cage but Dr. Who manages to use a device to hypnotize Kong and sends him to start digging up the Element X but the glow from the radioactive element causes Kong to break free from Dr. Who’s control and Dr. Who is force to lock him in the tunnel. When Carl and the others arrive, they notice Mechani-Kong, with Carl remarking on how it was created using designs stolen from him, and when they refuse to help Dr. Who, he as them placed in a cell. Madame X has Carl brought to her room, where she attempts to seduce him, but Dr. Who interrupts them and, lowers the temperature in an attempt to get Susan and Jiro to cooperate but Kong, having heard Susan’s cries, breaks free from the tunnel. While Dr. Who sends Mechani-Kong out to recapture Kong, Who has jumped into the ocean and swam to Tokyo. Meanwhile, Madame X decides to help Carl and the others escape so they can get Kong out of the city and avoid having innocent people killed. In the city, Susan heads towards Kong and manages to get him to calm down, but Mechani-Kong appears and begins to fight with the real Kong. At one point, Mechani-Kong grabs Susan and begins climbing Tokyo Tower but Kong chases after him and manages to rescue Susan before continuing his battle with the robot on the tower. At Dr. Who’s ship, Madame X attempts to kill Dr. Who and failing that, she attempts to sabotage Mechani-Kong’s controls but Dr. Who shoots and kills her. With his controls short circuited, Mechani-Kong falls from the tower, shattering into several pieces. Dr. Who attempts to leave the harbor but Kong, followed by Carl and the others, jumps into the water and proceeds to destroy the ship before swimming back to Mondo Island, with Susan calling out after him.
So Toho had wanted to do another movie featuring King Kong, and even had a script written, but at the last minute, they decided to replace Kong with Godzilla, thus giving us Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster. Still, Toho tried again and succeeded in making King Kong Escapes, basing it off of a joint American/Japanese cartoon called The King Kong Show, which is where the characters of Dr. Who, Madame Piranha, and Mechani-Kong came from. Toho’s rights to use King Kong expired before another movie was made, but they still managed to use the suit in one of their TV shows, calling the character “Gorilla”. In the 90’s, Toho wanted to remake King Kong Vs Godzilla, which was their most successful movie, but they figured it would be too difficult to get the rights for the character. They then decided to use Mechani-Kong instead, but even though it was a Japanese creation, the rights to even use Kong’s likeness proved to be too difficult to obtain so the plans were scrapped.
This is such a goofy, funny movie to watch. The acting was good, though a bit campy at times (such as when Madame X is killed) and the dubbing was pretty decent considering when this was made. The story was entertaining, containing a elements of the animated show, mixed with a mad scientist plot, as well as some spy elements made popular from the James Bond films. In fact, Madame X had just finished filming You Only Live Twice before starting on this movie. The suits for Gorosaurus and Mechani-Kong were both really good, but the Kong suit looked absolutely terrible, and at one point during the fight with Gorosaurus, a piece actually falls off and you can see the stuntman inside the suit. This is not an award winning movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it will definitely keep you entertained when you watch it.
Rating: 3 out of 5