King Kong Escapes
|King Kong Escapes|
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)
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Editing by||Ryohei Fujii|
|Distributed by||Toho (Japan)
Universal Studios (USA)
|Running time||104 minutes (Japan)
96 minutes (USA)
|Box office||$1,000,000 (US/ Canada)|
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.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2013)|
An evil genius named Dr. Who (no relation to the BBC character of that name) creates a robotic version of King Kong, named Mechani-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. Once on the Island, the crew see an old man atop a hill shouting at them to leave the area, for it is taboo to enter the territory of Kong. Commander Carl Nelson and executive officer Lieutenant Commander Jiro Nomura go to confront the old man, leaving Lieutenant Susan Watson alone with their landing craft. No sooner have the men left, than a dinosaur emerges from the forest and attempts to attack Susan. Suddenly from out of a nearby cave, King Kong himself emerges, bellowing and beating his chest. Seeing Susan, he realizes she is in danger and places her in a tree, then attacks the dinosaur. The bipedal predator possesses a powerful "kangaroo-kick" that floors Kong several times, preventing him from getting close enough to inflict serious damage. As the two titans fight, Nelson and Nomura return and with Susan in tow, escape in their hovercraft. Behind them, Kong finally defeats the dinosaur by breaking its jaw. He follows the hovercraft to the coast of the island just in time to see a giant sea snake heading for them. Kong dives into the water and grabs the snake, buying time for the crew to return safely to the sub. The giant ape defeats the huge serpent and swims over to the sub. He begins to shake it and bang on the hull, hoping Susan will appear again. Knowing she is what Kong wants, Susan volunteers to exit the sub to try to calm him down. She succeeds, and after saying goodbye to a crestfallen Kong, she returns to the sub and the crew leaves for New York.
Once in America, the submarine crew relate their amazing discoveries on Mondo Island to the United Nations. They also state that the sub will be returning to the island to study Kong and the other kaiju on the island. However, they are unaware that Madame Piranha is at the meeting and after it ends, she contacts Dr. Who. She relates the details of the crew's discoveries and she begins to hatch a plan with the evil genius.
A few days later, Dr. Who arrives on Mondo Island and attracts Kong's attention with helicopters. Dropping gas bombs around the great ape, they render him unconscious. The helicopters and a ground crew quickly secure Kong's wrists and ankles. The old man bursts from the jungle demanding answers from Dr. Who, who shoots him, leaving him in the underbrush to die. As he departs, four helicopters lift King Kong from Mondo Island and lower him into the cargo hold of their ship. They then head back to the North Pole.
Soon after, the United Nations sub returns and the trio of Commander Nelson, Lt Commander Nomura, and Lt Watson venture onto the island. They discover evidence of something nefarious, and are unable to locate Kong. What they do find, however, is the old man bleeding in the bushes. s the islander lays dying in Susan's arms he tells Carl that "An oriental skeleton, a devil with eyes like a gutter-rat, kidnapped Kong and took him away into the skies." He then expires, but Carl realizes Kong was kidnapped by Dr. Who, an "old friend".
We learn Dr. Who's Mechni-Kong was built using blueprints based on Nelson's own detailed diagrams of the real Kong. The Doctor had stolen the drawings and used them to create a robot that he believed would secure for him the Element X. Since the robot failed, Who plans to use the real Kong to do his bidding. Dr. Who decides to try controlling Kong, so when he awakens from the effects of the gas, his first sight is a flashing light which soon places him in a state of hypnosis. From a speaker, the voice of Dr. Who commands Kong to enter the cave and dig out the Element X. Kong complies and ventures into the cave, digging for the deposit. However, the hypnotized Kong and his electronic controls are affected by the emanations of the element. Kong awakens from the hypnotic effects of Dr. Who and tears both the speaker and camera off Who had placed in his ears. He then turns around and attempts to invade the base, but Who orders the gate shut, trapping the great ape in the cave. Who now needs another approach to control Kong and mine the Element X deposit. In order to do that, he sends minions to Mondo Island posing as Japanese SDF (Self Defense Force) to collect Carl, Jiro and Susan. Claiming that Kong has swum ashore at Tokyo, the suspicious trio are flown instead, to the North Pole.
Dr. Who's reason for kidnapping the three crew members was not only for their familiarity with Kong, but for the ape's relationship with Susan in particular. On Mondo, Kong had been so infatuated by her that he began to listen to her and do what she asked. Soon after Carl, Jiro and Susan arrive and are greeted by Dr. Who. He explains his plans and requests their assistance. All three refuse and are put into a holding cell. A few minutes later Carl is released and brought to the room of Madame Piranha, who explains her view of the whole situation. As she attempts to buy off and/or seduce Carl, Dr. Who enters and promptly breaks up the meeting. Then a few minutes after Carl is returned to the cell, he is once again summoned by Dr. Who. In an attempt to coerce Carl's assistance in controlling Kong, he turns the prison cell's temperature down to zero, which puts both Jiro and Susan in a freezing environment. Carl refuses to help, even as his friends slowly begin to freeze to death. Dr. Who enters the cell shortly after and states that Carl has been killed. He shackles Jiro and attempts to press Susan's face against the ice-covered metal wall. Fortunately, Kong has almost broken through his cage door and the banging shakes the entire lair. Who and his minions leave the cell; Jiro and Susan quickly make their getaway. Kong crawls out of the underground lair, dives into the frigid ocean and quickly swims away. Back inside, Jiro and Susan discover that Carl is still alive, but the three are once again captured and loaded on board Dr. Who's ship as he sets sail in pursuit of Kong.
The ship soon arrives in Japan, where Kong has swum ashore. Dr. Who plans to unleash his Mechni-Kong against its organic counterpart. However, Madame Piranha is hesitant to be a party to the inevitable collateral damage and urges the doctor not to let the two kaiju fight in Tokyo. Dr. Who ignores her sudden change in character, as well as her pleas and prepares his robot for combat. Down below, the submarine crew are chained in a cell, unable to help Kong. Madame Piranha enters and frees them, begging them to save the lives of the people in the city by leading Kong away before his mechanical doppelganger can engage him. The trio flee the ship and arrive safely in Tokyo, where the JSDF are preparing to fire on Kong. Carl warns the army not to attack as Susan runs to Kong, who picks her up gently. She calms him down and assures him that he will not be attacked.
But with a loud crash behind them, Mechni-Kong emerges through the remains of a destroyed building. Susan tries to warn Kong not to fight the machine, expecting a losing battle. Kong, however, carefully places Susan on the ground and then turns to fight his robotic clone. Mechni-Kong has been outfitted with a hypnosis device and as Kong charges, the light begins to flash, first slowing the ape, then stopping him completely. On the ground nearby, Lt. Commander Nomura fires at the robot, shooting and destroying the blinking light; Kong awakens and charges his opponent. The two seem evenly matched, so Dr. Who turns the tide of the battle by ordering his robot to scoop up Susan. The giant robot then begins to ascend Tokyo Tower with Susan in hand and Kong follows. Back on the Dr. Who's ship, Madame Piranha pulls a gun on Who and threatens to shoot him. However, he triggers a silent alarm and his minions quickly overpower her, leaving her with a bullet wound in her arm from Who. On the tower, the mouth of Mechni-Kong opens and the voice of Dr. Who warns Kong that if he does not return to the ship, the robot will drop Susan. Kong continues to pursue his metal clone up the tower and the robotic ape lets go of its prisoner, sending Susan falling toward the ground. Kong catches her and sets her safely down on a tower platform, resuming his climb after Mechni-Kong. From below, Jiro climbs up the tower and rescues Susan. As the two titans climb higher and higher, the tower begins to shake. Susan slips and nearly falls off the tower, but is saved by Jiro and a team of policemen who bring them both safely to the ground.
Back in the control room on Dr. Who's ship, Madame Piranha decides to tip the battle in Kong's favor. Making one last attempt to save the world, the wounded woman rises and quickly rips wires and control cables from the wall. Dr. Who turns and shoots her twice and she falls dead to the floor. But her actions and sacrifice are not in vain: Mechni-Kong begins to short-circuit, and disabled, falls from the very top of Tokyo Tower, shattering upon impact with the ground. Having won the battle, King Kong beats his chest in triumph.
As morning rises, Dr. Who decides to beat a hasty retreat in his ship. On the dock Carl, Jiro and Susan are standing with Kong; Susan commands Kong to "stop that ship!", and the ape obliges by diving into the sea in pursuit of the freighter. Kong soon catches the ship and begins to destroy it from the outside in. He pounds on it and begins to push it under the water. Inside, Dr. Who is crushed by falling debris and is killed as the ship finally floods and sinks. With his job done, King Kong beats his chest and bellows in victory, then turns and begins his long swim home to Mondo Island.
- Rhodes Reason - Commander Carl Nelson (voice actor: Kei Taguchi)
- Akira Takarada - Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura
- Linda Miller - Lt. Susan Watson (voice actor: Akiko Santou)
- Eisei Amamoto - Dr. Who
- Mie Hama - Madame Piranha
- Ikio Sawamura - Old Man of Mondo Island
- Yosihumi Tajima - Chief
- Nadao Kirino - Dr. Who’s assistant
- Sachio Sakai - Dr. Who’s assistant
- Naoya Kusakawa - Dr. Who’s assistant
- Susumu Kurobe - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Tooru Ibuki - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Kazuo Suzuki - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Shigemi Sagawa - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Yoshio Katsube - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Haruo Suzuki - Dr. Who’s subordinate
- Jun Kuroki - Jet helicopter crewman
- Takuya Yuki - Jet helicopter crewman
- Masaki Shinohara - Carrier sailor
- Andrew Hughes - United Nations journalist
- Al Kramer - United Nations journalist
- Ryuuji Kita - Police inspector
- Shoichi Hirose - Submarine Explore crewman
- Rinsaku Ogata - Submarine Explore crewman
- Ousmane Yusef - Submarine Explore crewman
- Yutaka Oka - Submarine Explore crewman
- Yū Sekida - Headquarters guard
- Kazuo Hinata - Headquarters guard
- Akio Kusama - Headquarters guard
- Masaaki Tachibana - Self-Defense Force soldier
- Tadashi Okabe - Self-Defense Force soldier
- Hideo Shibuya - Self-Defense Force soldier
- Haruya Sakamoto - Self-Defense Force soldier
- Keiichirou Katsumoto - Curious spectator
- Haruo Nakajima - King Kong
- Yū Sekida - Mechani-Kong and Gorosaurus
Veteran voice actor Paul Frees dubbed the voice of Dr. Who in the American release.
- Eiji Tsuburaya - Special effects director
- Sadamasa Arikawa - Secondary special effects director
- Teruyoshi Nakano - Assistant special effects director
- Takeo Kita - Art direction
- Fumio Nakadai - Wireworks director
- Yasuyuki Inoue - Special effects sets
Toho reissued the film in 1973 as part of the Urutoramantaro Moero! Urutora roku-kyoudai film festival.
Outside of the 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)
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."
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 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.
Toho would bring the character Gorosaurus into the Godzilla series in the 1968 film 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.
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.
- "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- Godzilla Abroad by J.D Lees. G-Fan #22. Daikaiju Enterprises, 1996. Pgs. 20-21
- "Scans of King Kong Escapes theatrical posters".
- 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
- Godman & Greenman: Toho's school morning heroes by Mike Bianco. Monster Attack Team Vol.2 #8. MAT Publishing. 2010. Pg.28
- Mike Bianco. Pgs.26-27
- Koichi Kawakita interview by David Milner, Cult Movies #14, Wack "O" Publishing, 1995
- "Koichi Kawakita Interview".
- Canby, Vincent. "New King Kong:Ape-Hero Is Uncle Tom in Japanese Version" (film review) The New York Times. July 11, 1968.
- Variety June 26, 1968.
- "キングコングの逆襲 (Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū)" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-07-17.