King Kong Escapes (1968)

Country: Japan
Director: Inoshiro Honda
Starring: Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Akira Takarada, Eisei Amamoto

The nuclear submarine, Explorer, a vessel of the United Nations Research Council, under the command of Commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason), is on a mission to discover oil. On route under the Java Sea, Nelson, who also happens to be an expert on anthropology, is talking about the legend of Kong with his first lieutenant, Jiro Nomura (Akira Takarada), and the sub’s nurse, Susan Watson (Linda Miller).

Nelson explains that Mondo Island, which they happen to be passing by, is where the Kong legend is the strongest, and this is backed up by giant stone steps on the island. They are too high for a man to use, and so it is surmised that they were used by somebody much larger. But alas, the Explorer is on a strict deadline, and they do not have time to stop off at Mondo Island to investigate.

Meanwhile, in a secret laboratory at the North Pole, the villainous Doctor Who (Eisei Amamoto) has built a giant robot replica of King Kong – based on Nelson’s anthropological studies – and is espousing the robot’s virtues to the financier of the project, Madame X (Mie Hama). Madame X works for an un-named Asian Government, who want to take over the world.

To do this, they need to acquire an element known as Element X. Element X is so powerful, it will render the Americans and Russians nuclear arsenals obsolete and impotent. The problem is, Element X is extremely rare, with only a few ounces of it ever being discovered. Until now!

At the North Pole, buried deep within a crater, is a deposit of Element X. That is where Robo-Kong comes into the picture. He is the only thing strong and agile enough (aside from the real Kong), to climb into the crater, and burrow through the rocks to the Element.

And that is what happens. Robo-Kong burrows down to the element, however when he reaches it, a magnetic pulse from the element, fries Kong’s circuits. Robo-Kong collapses, and the project is a failure. Madame X is not happy. Doctor Who assures her it is only a set back, and he will work on creating a new improved, insulated Kong.

Back on the Explorer, and underwater rock slide damages the submarine, and they have to stop to make repairs. It just so happens, that the nearest land mass, is Mondo Island, so the sub limps towards that, sailing on the surface.

While the ship is being repaired, Nelson, Nomura and Susan take the opportunity to explore the island. The sub has a hover car, that it can launch, so our heroic trio skim across the water to the island, where they are immediately told by a native that they are trespassing in King Knog’s territory. Do they listen, and return to the sub? No way!

Instead they decide to venture deeper into the interior. Well, at least the men do. They insist that Susan stays ‘alone’ near the hover car. Because that’s the chivalrous thing to do on a strange island, that is possibly inhabited with giant beasts, right? Leave the ladies to fend for themselves!

The men are not even out of ear shot, when Susan is attacked by a dinosaur. She screams (naturally), and her cries awaken the almighty Kong, who was snoozing. Kong comes to her rescue, defeating the dinosaur in battle. Of course, he also becomes infatuated with Susan.

Later Nelson and crew are back on their repaired submarine, and they sail back to New York to alert the world of their discovery. Paying attention is Dr. Who, who figures that the real Kong would be much better at extracting Element X, and he has no circuits to fry. So, he sets out to capture the beasts, sailing on his own private aircraft carrier to Mondo Island. Then he sends out a squadron of helicopters to drop knock-out gas bombs around Kong. The bombs work, and Kong collapses. The unconscious beast is transported to the aircraft carrier and shipped up to the North pole. From there, Doctor Who’s mad scheme gets wilder and bolder.

The ending, which contrives to have King Kong and Robo-Kong battle it out in Tokyo is forced, but a great deal of fun – and let’s face it, if there is one city that film-goers want to see giant monsters slugging it out in, it’s Tokyo.

The special effects in the film have dated – you’d expect that – and you can clearly see some of the wires on the models, but really I wouldn’t have it any other way. Call me sad, call me stupid, or call me deluded, but I got far more enjoyment from King Kong Escapes, than Peter Jackson’s King Kong. King Kong is a giant monster movie, and as such it should be fun. Who cares if the King Kong suit, looks moth eaten and worn. I found King Kong Escapes to be the perfect tonic, or should that be antidote, to all the digitally-graded, soul-less special effects extravaganzas that have been appearing over the last ten years.

I don’t know, but is there something wrong with making a movie in colour? How come films must have a thematic colour from start to finish? Why must a film look blue or green consistently from start to finish? That’s not how I look at the world, but yet film-makers believe it evokes an emotion, or a feeling in the film-goer. Maybe they are right, it does evoke an emotion. Anger. And it makes me want to watch films from the 1960s, where film-makers weren’t restricted to a mono-chromatic colour pallet. Back then, films were colourful and exciting. They were bursting with a hyper-realism that took the viewer out of the everyday lives, into a world that could never be. But now, we get blech!

I know I am sounding like a grumpy old curmudgeon once again, but the thing is, I enjoyed King Kong Escapes far more than the film warrants. Some people may even say that it is trash. So I am trying to work out, why I connected with this film, and all I can suggest, is that it captured something that I find missing in modern films – colour, excitement and imagination.

3 Comments Posted in Film
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  1. I also preferred ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ to the Peter Jackson remake of ‘Kong’. The scriptwriter of ‘King Kong Escapes’ named his villain ‘Doctor Who’, eh? He could not have been aware of the long-running B.B.C. sci-fi show of that name!

  2. I like Kong vs Godzilla too, but it is definately a slow starter.

    If the villainess hadn’t been called ‘Madame X’ which has a child like clunkiness to it, I may have suggested that they stole the Time Lord’s name – but as it stands, I think they were just trying to be clever – as in nobody knows ‘who’ this mysterious villain is.

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