King Kong Escapes: 1967 A Review.
In my review of the King Kong movies I decided to do this one first because I have recently seen it for the first time. I heard it was very bad so I went in with low expectations. The movie was co-produced by Toho Studios and the Rankin & Bass people who brought to life so many Christmas specials such as Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer. The movie was also loosely based off of a Saturday Morning children’s cartoon. Sadly, it shows. The movie was directed by Ishirō Honda with music by Akira Ifukube.
I apologies for this next part but I get bored typing out detailed synopsis of the plot so let me see if I can put it in a few paragraphs.
An evil genius named Dr. Hu (pronounced “Who”, but no relation to the BBC character of that name) creates a robotic version of King Kong, named Mechni-Kong, in order to dig for a highly radioactive element called “Element X”, found only at the North Pole. Mechni-Kong enters an ice cave and begins to dig into a glacier, but the radiation produced by the substance destroys its systems and shuts it down. Meanwhile, a damaged submarine from the United Nations is forced to weigh anchor off the coast of Mondo Island. The UN team encounters the true King Kong who battles the Gorosaurus and falls in love with the UN assistant, Lt. Susan Watson, played by the lovely Linda Miller. Basically Dr. Hu, an over the top bad guy, reminiscent of a combination of Snidely Whiplash and Dr. Evil, is bent on world domination as the UN team and eventually King Kong try to stop him. Mechni-Kong and King Kong eventually have an epic battle while climbing Tokyo-Tower.
That is the basic plot in a nut shell and I do not want to give too much of the plot away in case you want to view it. As with all of my reviews I will list some pros and cons.
Pros: This movie does have its charm. It stars my favorite Toho actor Akira Takarada as Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura so his performance does increase my enjoyment of the movie. I will talk about the suit for Kong in the con section but I would like to comment on the miniatures. Like in many Toho productions of the Showa era it isn’t that difficult to spot miniature sets and in this movie it is actually even easier. I think the miniature sets is actually part of its charm. The miniatures help to set the tone and the mood for the film and the place the film in a very light mood.
The story itself is not bad and this movie is the first time a Mechanised version of a monster is used. Sure, the villains and the good guys are one-dimensional but that doesn’t detract from the charm of this film. I did find the story engaging and one of the litmus tests for movies that I watch is the movie engaging or do I want to turn it off? In the case of this movie I was willing to see it through until the end.
Cons: The movie is a bit too much like a Rankin & Bass cartoon and did not feel like a typical Toho production. The suit for Kong is one of the problems. While the body of the suit isn’t too bad, the face does look to kid friendly and like it came from a cartoon. Kong reminded me a bit too much like the Abominable Snowman from their Rudolph production. The evil Dr. Hu was just over the top and very silly. He was voiced by Paul Frees a staple of Rankin & Bass productions and for me it was very distracting for that recognizable voice coming from that character. I mentioned that the tone of the movie was very child friendly…but it really wasn’t always. There is some violent shooting and seeing some key characters die was a bit unsettling.
I try to stay away from the good-bad dichotomy so I will say that the movie was something I only marginally liked. I am not sure if I will add this to my collection because my feelings are almost equally divided on this movie. Sometimes the pros will out weigh the cons or the cons will out weigh the pros, but in the case it is a dead heat. I would only recommend this movie unless you’re a fan of either Toho movies or Rankin & Bass productions or a big King Kong fan and need to have a complete collection.
Posted on June 28, 2013, in King Kong Reviews, Old Movie Review and tagged Akira Ifukube, Akira Takarada, Ishirō Honda, King Kong, King Kong Escapes, Paul Frees, Rankin & Bass, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Toho Studios. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.