Kong count #7 – King Kong Escapes

If I had to describe Eisei Amamoto’s character Dr. Who (no relation to Peter Cushing) in the 1967 film King Kong Escapes, I’d probably say something along the lines of “an enthusiastic go-getter with a can-do attitude and a real passion for customer service”. His client is an unspecified Asian country that wants the radioactive element X buried beneath the arctic, and the doc will not rest before he gets it to them.

His first plan is to dig it up using a mechanical King Kong he’s constructed (see The King Kong Show), using plans he has from his estranged pal Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason). One would think that giant killer robots would have applications other than mining for a burgeoning superpower, but the doc promised them rocks, and by god he’s going to deliver them! Well, the robot fails due to all the radiation surrounding it (raising a question: was he able to retrieve the robot then, or did he leave it there and construct a new one?), and Who, undeterred, assures his liaison (Madam Piranha, played by Mie Hama), that this is just a temporary setback, and he’s got an outside-the-box plan B to get the ore: kidnap and hypnotize the real King Kong into doing it. Again, he could pitch her country on the sale of a brainwashed kaiju to do their bidding, but he promised this ore and he’s going to deliver on that at any cost.

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There are more setbacks, but Dr. Who keeps up his optimism. The earpiece broke? Well, I’m sure Carl will help me. He won’t? Well, he’ll come around if I threaten his friends a little. Oh, that didn’t work and Kong escaped? No worries, I’ll just send Mechanikong after him, he’ll beat up Kong and drag him back here to be re-hypnotized and continue work. Everything will be fine.

Madam Piranha, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have confidence in the doctor’s vision, so when things go south, she switches sides and dies violently (because this is an Ishiro Honda movie, after all). Oh, I suppose the heroes are there too, but they lack both the charisma and fashion sense of prior pair, even if Akira Takarada and Linda Miller make an adorable couple.

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The movie is certainly worth checking out, despite showcasing arguably the worst Kong costume, for its great synergy: it’s very much a Toho kaiju film, but it also brings in the best aspects of the cartoon while paying tribute to the iconic bits of the original King Kong untouched during King Kong vs Godzilla (with some James Bond and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea mixed in for good measure). Gorosaurus is arguably the best dinosaur costume Toho produced during its Showa-era run (boy, did Toho get their money’s worth out of that suit with later movies and TV), and the miniatures look quite nice by sticking to the 20-meter scale previously used in Frankenstein Conquers the World and War of the Gargantuas. Mechanikong is simply awesome, and it makes sense that the company later revisited the robot doppelganger idea for Godzilla (King Kong Escapes played in the Toho Champion Matsuri in 1973, for context). They even tried to bring Mechanikong back to the screen in the 90s, but rights evidently choked that project up (despite him appearing in some manga at the time).

But first and foremost, this is the Amamoto show. I feel bad for him; he was just really committed to digging up some rocks and everything went wrong. At least he got to boss Susumu Kurobe around a little before his organization was destroyed.

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2 Responses to Kong count #7 – King Kong Escapes

  1. John Summers says:

    King Kong Escapes is certainly a memorable movie. Mechani-Kong is a nice precursor to Mechagodzilla, and this movie introduced one of my favorite Toho kaiju: Gorosaurus. Thankfully, Gorosaurus had another appearance in Destroy All Monsters, and I think that without that movie, he would have just drifted off into obscurity. Also, I have some links to show you and some questions to ask you.

    One is a small tumblr post about works that inspired King Kong. It’s not nearly as extensive as that french forum that went into great detail about Kong’s origins, but I figured I might as well show you this since I thought that there’s no harm in giving you yet another link, and I don’t want to run the risk of forgetting it.

    I found yet another Kongsploitation movie. I was going to put it with the other links in your last entry, but it slipped my mind. You’ve probably heard this one. It’s called King of Kong Island.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGGY3_IiHwU (full movie)

    Now onto the questions.
    1. I have heard that the reason the Toho Kong suit looks so poor in the face area is that while the suit designers were initially able to replicate the 1933 look of Kong, the head area was too small for the suit actor to fit his head in. This forced the suit designers to make the head area bigger, but at the cost of the integrity of the head design. Is there any truth to this rumor?

    2. King Kong vs Godzilla and King Kong Escapes introduced some very minor kaiju: the giant lizard and the giant sea serpent. How come the fandom refers to them by their plain translated names when you have other kaiju that fall under the same category (giant version of an already existing animal) that the fandom keeps calling by their Japanese names?

    For example, I’ve heard that the reason a number of fans (at least from my experience) call the giant octopus that appears in King Kong vs Godzilla and the giant condor from Godzilla vs the Sea Monster as Oodako and Ookondoru since it “makes them sound more interesting.” Yet why isn’t this same treatment extended to the giant lizard and the giant sea serpent? If I’m correct, their Japanese names would be Ootokage and Ō Umihebi respectively. I wonder if it’s a popularity thing.

    • kevnder says:

      Neat! I’d also call out The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1917) as one of the proto-Kong films, along with all of O’Brien’s other dinosaur work. I’m thinking there will have to be a post of “honorable mentions” for everything that didn’t get covered in the series; there’s certainly some gems in hold.

      As for your questions, I’m not 100% sure about the first one. I have heard that they were trying to make the suit less scary than the one in Half Human, but that could very well be a baseless fan-theory, and due to the Universal deal, we’ll probably never get a release here with audio commentary. They did use a puppet for close-ups, so that at least wouldn’t have been constrained by the actor’s head, though.

      For the second one, I could see it being a few things: The giant sea snake and giant lizard were one-offs, while the giant octopus and condor appeared multiple times, making them feel more like characters. “Ohdako” is simply easier to say than “the giant octopus”, while, for English-speakers, “giant snake” is easier than “oh umi hebi”. Also, I think a lot of folks don’t really know how Japanese works, so especially saying “Ohkondoru” makes me cringe in the same way as the people who go “Mothra’s Japanese name is ‘Mosura'” or write out Space Godzilla with “Supeesu”.

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