King Kong Escapes

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King Kong Escapes
King Kong Escapes 1967.jpg
Original Japanese poster
Directed by Ishirō Honda
Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written by Takeshi Kimura (screenplay) (as Kaoru Mabuchi)
Arthur Rankin Jr. (concept)
Starring Akira Takarada
Rhodes Reason
Mie Hama
Linda Miller
Eisei Amamoto
Music by Akira Ifukube
Cinematography Hajime Koizumi
Edited by Ryohei Fujii
Production
company
Distributed by Toho (Japan)
Universal Studios (USA)
Release dates
  • July 22, 1967 (1967-07-22) (Japan)
  • June 19, 1968 (1968-06-19) (US)
Running time 104 minutes (Japan)
96 minutes (USA)
Country Japan
United States
Language Japanese
English
Box office $1,000,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

King Kong Escapes, (released in Japan as King Kong's Counterattack (キングコングの逆襲 Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū?), is a 1967 Kaiju film. A Japanese/American co-production from Toho (Japan) and Rankin/Bass (USA). Directed by Ishiro Honda and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred both American actors (such as Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller) alongside Japanese actors (such as Akira Takarada, Mie Hama and Eisei Amamoto). The film was a loose adaptation of the Rankin/Bass Saturday morning cartoon series The King Kong Show and was the second and final Japanese-made film featuring the King Kong character.

The film was released theatrically in the United States in the Summer of 1968 by Universal Pictures.

Plot[edit]

An evil genius named Dr. Who[2][3] creates Mechani-Kong, a robotic version of King Kong, to dig for a highly radioactive Element X, found only at the North Pole. Mechni-Kong enters an ice cave and begins to dig into a glacier, but the radiation destroys its brain circuits and the robot shuts down. Who then sets his sights on getting the real Kong to finish the job. Who is taken to task by a beautiful female overseer, Madame Piranha. Her country's government (which is not named but may be North Korea) is financing the doctor's schemes, and she frequently berates him for his failure to get results.

Meanwhile, a submarine commanded by Carl Nelson arrives at Mondo Island where the legendary King Kong lives. Much like the original 1933 film, the giant ape gets into an intense fight with a dinosaur, a large serpent, and falls in love with a human. In this case, Lt. Susan Watson (played by Linda Miller) following in the footsteps of Fay Wray.

Dr. Who subsequently goes to Mondo Island, abducts Kong and brings him back to his base at the North Pole. Kong is hypnotized by a flashing light device and fitted with a radio earpiece. Hu commands Kong to retrieve the Element X from the cave. (Apparently, Kong understands English perfectly.) Problems with the earpiece ensue and Who has to kidnap Susan Watson, the only person who can control Kong.

After Watson and her fellow officers are captured by Who, Madame Piranha unsuccessfully tries to seduce Nelson to bring him over to her side. Eventually Kong escapes and swims all the way to Japan where the climactic battle with Mechni-Kong transpires. Standing in for the Empire State Building from the original film is the Tokyo Tower where the two giants face off in the finale.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The story is partly a remake of the animated series (itself a retelling of the original 1933 film) about a tamed Kong who is befriended by a boy and directed to fight for the forces of good. That concept (minus the boy) is combined with a mad scientist story with elements from the then-popular spy film genre. The sinister Dr. Who (not to be confused with the British television series or its main character) is patterned after James Bond villains Dr. No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. His partner, Madame Piranha, is an Asian spy played by Mie Hama, fresh from the Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967). Submarine commander Carl Nelson is similar to Admiral Nelson, commander of the Seaview sub in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a series that also featured giant monsters and stories about international espionage.

Veteran voice actor Paul Frees dubbed the voice of Dr. Who in the American release.

The shot of Gorosaurus living on Monster Island seen in the 1969 film All Monsters Attack was actually stock footage taken from this film.[4]

Effects[edit]

Release[edit]

Theatrical poster for the 1973 reissue of Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū.

Toho reissued the film in 1973 as part of the Urutoramantaro Moero! Urutora roku-kyoudai film festival.

Outside of Japan and the U.S, the film received a wide release in most International markets where it went by different titles. The film was released in Germany as King-Kong, Frankensteins Sohn (King Kong: Frankenstein's Son), in Belgium as La Revanche de King Kong (The Revenge of King Kong) - a direct translation of the Japanese title, in Italy as King Kong il gigante della foresta (King Kong, the Giant of the Forest), in Turkey as Canavarlarin Gazabi (Wrath of the Monsters), in Mexico as El Regreso de King Kong (The Return of King Kong), in Finland as King Kong kauhun saarella (King Kong on the Island of Terror), and in Sweden as King Kong på skräckens ö (King Kong on Terror Island)[5][6]

Home media[edit]

DVD

R1 America - Universal Pictures[7]

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic) [NTSC]
  • Soundtrack(s): English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
  • Case type: Keep Case
  • Notes: Also available in a double feature 2-pack (separate Keep cases) with "King Kong vs. Godzilla AKA Kingukongu tai Gojira (1962)".

Blu-ray

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35.1 (High-Def Widescreen)
  • Soundtrack(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Francais

Universal is releasing on April 1, 2014.[8]

Reception[edit]

English version[edit]

Universal-International's theatrical poster for the 1968 U.S. release of King Kong Escapes

The film opened in the United States in June 1968 on a double-bill with the Don Knotts comedy The Shakiest Gun in the West Contemporary American reviews were mixed. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby gave it a particularly insulting review, commenting, "The Japanese...are all thumbs when it comes to making monster movies like 'King Kong Escapes.' The Toho moviemakers are quite good in building miniature sets, but much of the process photography—matching the miniatures with the full-scale shots—is just bad...the plotting is hopelessly primitive..."

The July 15, 1968, issue of Film Bulletin, however, gave it a more positive review, saying, "Grown-ups who like their entertainments on a comic-strip level will find this good fun and the Universal release (made in Japan) has plenty of ballyhoo angles to draw the school-free youngsters in large numbers."

Legacy[edit]

"Gorilla" battles the Toho superhero Greenman from an episode of the 1973 series Go! Greenman. "Gorilla" was portrayed by the King Kong suit from this film.

Toho had wanted to use King Kong again after this film. King Kong was included in an early draft for the 1968 film Destroy All Monsters[9] but was ultimately dropped due to the fact that Toho's licence on the character was set to expire. Toho managed to get some use out of the suit though. The suit was reused to play the character "Gorilla" in episode #38 of the Toho giant superhero show Go! Greenman. The 3 part episode titled Greenman vs. Gorilla aired from March 21, 1974 through March 23, 1974.[10]

Toho would bring the character Gorosaurus into the Godzilla series in Destroy All Monsters using the same suit from this film. The suit was reused again four years later (at this point in dilapidated condition) to portray the character in episode #6 of the Toho giant superhero show Go! Godman. The 6 part episode titled Godman vs. Gorosaurus aired from November 9, 1972 through November 15, 1972.[11]

In the early 1990s when plans for a King Kong vs. Godzilla remake fell through, Toho had planned to bring back Mechani-Kong as an opponent for Godzilla in the project Godzilla vs. Mechani-Kong. However, according to Koichi Kawakita, it was discovered that obtaining permission even to use the likeness of King Kong would be difficult. Kawakita stated:

Toho wanted to pit Godzilla against King Kong because King Kong vs. Godzilla was very successful. However, the studio thought that obtaining permission to use King Kong would be difficult. So, it instead decided to use MechaniKong. Soon afterward, it was discovered that obtaining permission even to use the likeness of King Kong would be difficult. So, the project was canceled. MechaniKong was going to have injectors. A number of people were going to be injected into Godzilla while the robot was wrestling with him. They then were going to do battle with Godzilla from within while MechaniKong continued to do battle with him from without. There were going to be many different strange worlds inside Godzilla. The concept was very much like the one on which Fantastic Voyage was based.[12][13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  2. ^ Ragone, August (2007). Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-8118-6078-9. 
  3. ^ Morton, Ray (2005). King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 152. ISBN 1-55783-669-8. 
  4. ^ http://www.tohokingdom.com/movies/all_monsters_attack.htm
  5. ^ Godzilla Abroad by J.D Lees. G-Fan #22. Daikaiju Enterprises, 1996. Pgs. 20-21
  6. ^ "Scans of King Kong Escapes theatrical posters". 
  7. ^ http://www.dvdcompare.net/comparisons/film.php?fid=4718
  8. ^ http://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?p=8720868
  9. ^ Godzilla: Still the king of the monsters after all these years by August Ragone. Famous Monsters of Filmland #256. Movieland Classics LLC. Jul/Aug 2011. Pg.37
  10. ^ Godman & Greenman: Toho's school morning heroes by Mike Bianco. Monster Attack Team Vol.2 #8. MAT Publishing. 2010. Pg.28
  11. ^ Mike Bianco. Pgs.26-27
  12. ^ Koichi Kawakita interview by David Milner, Cult Movies #14, Wack "O" Publishing, 1995
  13. ^ "Koichi Kawakita Interview". 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]