King Kong Escapes (1967)
|King Kong Films|
The Arctic, South Seas and Japan―three enraged giant monsters of the century! Amazing! A breathtaking duel! (北極・南海そして日本―怒り狂う世紀の三大怪獣！すごいッ！息づまる驚異の大決闘！)
— International tagline
King Kong Escapes (キングコングの逆襲 is a Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū, lit. King Kong's Counterattack)1967 tokusatsu kaiju film co-produced by Toho and Rankin/Bass Productions. It is a loose adaptation of episodes of Rankin/Bass and Toei Animation's cartoon series The King Kong Show. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 22, 1967 and to American theaters on June 19, 1968.
During a research expedition in their submarine the Explorer, a United Nations crew led by Commander Carl Nelson encounters the legendary giant ape King Kong living on the remote Mondo Island. Meanwhile, the evil scientist Dr. Who has completed his own mechanical duplicate of Kong: Mechani-Kong. Who intends to use the electronic robot to mine the deadly Element X for his benefactor Madame Piranha, but when Mechani-Kong fails he decides to kidnap the real Kong to do the job himself. It is up to Nelson, Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura, and Lieutenant Susan Watson to foil Who's plan and help Kong escape, which leads to a final confrontation in Tokyo between Kong and his robot doppelganger.
The United Nations research submarine Explorer is on a mission in the Java Sea, under the command of Carl Nelson. Nelson sits in a room conversing with Lt. Commmander Jiro Nomura, where they are joined by the ship's nurse, Lieutenant Susan Watson. She asks if they are discussing gorillas when she sees them looking at a diagram of one, remarking that she finds them dull. Nelson asks if she still finds gorillas dull even if one is 60 feet tall. He explains that he has spent a great deal of time researching a legendary giant ape said to live in this area, known as Kong. He and Nomura show Susan photographs of a gigantic staircase and underground tunnel from the nearby Mondo Island, and explain that they are believed to have been built by Kong. Susan asks if they can visit Mondo Island, but Nelson responds that they unfortunately can't because of their mission.
In a secret base in the Arctic, the diabolical Dr. Who prepares to show his mysterious benefactor Madame Piranha his latest invention: Mechani-Kong. He states that he created this robot using schematics he stole from his former colleague, Carl Nelson. He claims that Mechani-Kong can do anything the real Kong can do, but Madame Piranha asks how this is going to help her nation obtain Element X. Dr. Who replies that other nations have only been able to find a few small pieces of Element X in the world, because they are unaware of a huge deposit which exists in the Arctic. Mechani-Kong, he says, is designed specifically to withstand the intense radiation given off by Element X and directly mine it from under the ice. Dr. Who and Madame Piranha observe from a helicopter as Mechani-Kong exits the hangar and makes its way to a crevice in the ice. The robot jumps into the fissure and lands on a ledge overlooking a deep chasm. Mechani-Kong begins tearing off bombs from its utility belt, then activates them and drops them into the hole below. After several explosions, the ice gives way and Mechani-Kong drops to the bottom. It then begins to dig through the ice before finally reaching a large deposit of Element X which emits a bright radioactive glow. As Mechani-Kong continues to dig, it suddenly malfunctions and collapses. Dr. Who is surprised that even his Mechani-Kong could not withstand the radiation of Element X. Dr. Who returns to his base where he instructs his men to work on repairing Mechani-Kong and figuring out what caused it to break down. He sees Madame Piranha leaving the base and tries to convince her to give him more time to retrieve the Element X. She eventually agrees, saying she will convince her country to give Dr. Who one more chance.
An unexpected underwater rockslide damages the Explorer, forcing it to ascend and anchor near an island for repairs. As Nelson, Nomura, and Susan observe the island from a distance, Nelson states that he got his wish after all because the island happens to be Mondo Island. They three travel to the island in a Hover Car and disembark. They note that the island seems to be uninhabited, before an elderly native man appears over a hill and begins to shout at them. Nelson recognizes his speech as a Javanese dialect, and says he is telling them they must not proceed any further as it is taboo to encroach on the domain of Kong. Nelson notes that the man calls Kong Bon Kong, which in this dialect means "King Kong." Nelson and Nomura try to follow the man and instruct Susan to stay behind with the Hover Car. As Susan waits, the colossal dinosaur Gorosaurus emerges from the jungle and notices her. Susan screams, which gets the attention of Kong as he rests in a cave. Nelson and Nomura hear Susan's scream and try to make their way back, where they see Gorosaurus menacing her. Soon, Kong emerges from the jungle. He immemdiately takes an interest in Susan, grabbing her in his hand and lifting her up. After admiring her for a few moments, Kong sets Susan down safely in a nearby tree and prepares to battle Gorosaurus. Kong begins pummeling Gorosaurus with his fists, but the dinosaur leaps into the air and delivers a series of powerful kangaroo kicks that knock Kong down. The monsters continue to grapple, with Kong eventually gaining the upper hand by getting on top of Gorosaurus and repeatedly punching him in the head. Gorosaurus finally goes limp, and Kong stands and beats his chest victoriously. He grabs Susan again, and she begs Kong to put her down. Finally understanding, Kong gently sets Susan on the ground where she reunites with Nelson and Nomura. Suddenly, Gorosaurus stirs back to life and bites down on Kong's leg. Nelson says now is the time to escape back to the Explorer, but Susan protests and declares they can't just leave Kong like this. Still, they are forced to get back into the Hover Car and make their way back to the sub. Kong manages to free his leg by grabbing Gorosaurus' jaws and prying them apart. Kong continues to pull apart Gorosaurus' jaws, causing the beast to foam at the mouth. Finally, Kong breaks his enemy's jaws and Gorosaurus is defeated. Kong then makes his way into the sea and pursues the Hover Car. A Giant Sea Serpent suddenly surfaces and begins to approach the Hover Car, but Kong intercepts it and begins to battle the serpent. The Hover Car escapes in the confusion and the three get back aboard the Explorer. Kong dispatches the serpent and swims to the Explorer. Nelson asks if the ship is ready to leave, but is informed that repairs are not yet complete. Kong begins to shake the Explorer, prompting Susan to volunteer to go out and try to calm him down. Nelson and Nomura protest at first, but she convinces them that this is the best way to buy them time. Susan goes above deck and tells Kong to stop shaking the ship. Kong, still infatuated by Susan, picks her up in his hand again. She tells Kong to put her down, but this time he doesn't listen. Susan is forced to leap out of Kong's hand into the water below, prompting Kong to momentarily panic and snatch her back out of the water. She again asks Kong to take her back to the ship, and he finally complies. Nomura helps Susan back below deck, where Nelson gives the order to dive now that repairs are complete. As the Explorer departs, Kong swims back to Mondo Island.
Nelson delivers a report at the United Nations building in New York City. He says that Mondo Island was home to not only the mythical Kong, but also other prehistoric creatures. Madame Piranha, posing as a reporter, asks why Kong was so interested in Lieutenant Watson, to which Nelson responds that Kong is simply a male while Susan is obviously a female. Nelson concludes the press conference and states that he plans to make a return trip to Mondo in the Explorer to continue observing Kong. Madame Piranha enters a restroom and activates a hidden communicator on her lipstick. She contacts Dr. Who and explains that Kong is confirmed to be on Mondo Island and that Susan is the key to getting him to do what they want. Dr. Who is pleased and prepares to head to Mondo with a fleet of helicopters to capture the real Kong and force him to dig for Element X. The choppers arrive on the island and Dr. Who disembarks with a few of his men. The elderly native approaches them and gives a warning about proceeding further, but Dr. Who simply shoots the man several times. He orders his men to capture Kong quickly before the Explorer arrives. The choppers circle Kong in the jungle, dropping bombs filled with knockout gas around him. Kong tries to fight back, swatting at the choppers and throwing a tree at them, but to no avail. Kong finally succumbs to the gas and collapses onto his back. Dr. Who's men attach shackles connected to the helicopters around Kong's limbs and airlift him off the island to Dr. Who's base in the Arctic. When the Explorer arrives and its crew comes ashore, they find the jungle damaged as if a fight occurred there, while Nelson finds several shell casings. He concludes that Kong's enemy was human beings. Susan comes upon the dying native man, and tries to tend to his injuries, though she knows she cannot save him. She is joined by Nomura and Nelson, who listen to the man's final words before he passes away. Nelson interprets the man's dying words and says he said that a "foreign devil" kidnapped Kong. Nelson concludes that the "devil" he described could only be his former colleague and infamous international criminal, Dr. Who. They are contacted by the UN and instructed to make their way to a ship docked off the coast of Japan, where they will be airlifted to a UN office in Tokyo. They comply, and the Explorer meets the ship near Japan. Nelson, Nomura, and Susan come aboard and enter the helicopter supposedly bound for Japan. They quickly realize that the pilots of the helicopter are not Japanese, and realize they are being taken somewhere else.
At his Arctic base, Dr. Who has imprisoned Kong and attached a mind-control device to his ears through which he can relay orders. A hypnotic light is lowered in front of Kong, which seems to bring him under Dr. Who's control. Dr. Who orders Kong to dig for Element X, and sends the giant ape through a tunnel directly to the Element X deposit. Kong digs furiously through the ice before finally reaching the Element X. Kong seems unaffected by the radiation, but the devices in his ears begin to malfunction. Kong finally regains his free will and tears off the devices and begins charging back through the tunnel. A gate is lowered in front of Kong to prevent him from escaping, leaving the ape pounding angrily at the metal bars. The helicopter arrives with Nelson, Nomura, and Susan, and Dr. Who comes to greet them. He acts cordially toward Nelson and says it's good to see him again, but Nelson is well aware Who has sinister ulterior motives. Dr. Who explains that he needs their help to get Kong to obey him so he can make him mine Element X. Nelson and the others refuse to help him, so Dr. Who has them taken to a prison cell. Dr. Who's men later come to retrieve Nelson and bring him to Dr. Who's quarters where he is met by Madame Piranha. She attempts to seduce Nelson, who does not fall for her methods and asks what country she is from. She denies that she is from any world power such as the United States, Soviet Union, or China. When her attempts to seduce Nelson fail, he is taken back to the cell, where Dr. Who arrives to retrieve him again, saying it has been too long since the two of them last played chess. Dr. Who brings Nelson to a panel on the wall, where he activates vents that leak freezing cold air into the cell. He threatens Nelson saying that for every second he doesn't help him, Nomura and Susan will be closer to freezing to death. Dr. Who brings Nelson to his quarters where the two share a tense game of chess. Nelson still refuses to break, which frustrates Dr. Who even further. He and his men make their way back to the cell and come inside. Dr. Who tells Nomura and Susan that Nelson is dead. but they can still save themselves if they comply. Both continue to refuse, prompting Dr. Who to grab Susan by the throat and threaten to push her face into the icy walls of the cell and see if she's still beautiful after that. Just then, Kong manages to break through the bars holding him and escapes. Dr. Who and his men run out of the cell, but leave the key to Nomura's shackles behind. Susan frees him and they try to find a way out. They are confronted by Madame Piranha, who to their surprise leads them to Nelson. Dr. Who deploys the repaired Mechani-Kong to try and stop Kong from getting away, but the robot is to slow to catch Kong before he leaps into the icy water and begins swimmming away. In Dr. Who's quarters, Madame Piranha explains to Nomura, Susan, and Nelson that she simply wanted to help make her country a better place by helping it obtain a nuclear arsenal, but she quickly realized how ruthless and bloodthirsty Dr. Who was. Just then, Dr. Who and his men enter the room, and he decides to bring them all aboard his ship to pursue Kong.
As Dr. Who's ship tracks Kong down to Tokyo, Madame Piranha enters the room where Nelson and the others are being held and frees them from their binds. They insist that she come with them, but she says that she must stay behind. She helps them onto a raft and tells them to head to shore now, just as one of the guards sees them escaping and tries to stop them. Madame Piranha pushes the guard's gun aside so the bullets don't hit the raft. Dr. Who's men capture Madame Piranha and bring her to the control room where she is kept under observation. Kong comes ashore in Tokyo, with the JSDF scrambling to combat him. Nelson meets with the governmemnt and tells them not to attack Kong, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Nomura and Susan make their way to the streets and tell the JSDF not to shine lights on Kong. Susan sees Kong and runs toward him, allowing him to pick her up. Dr. Who releases Mechani-Kong in Tokyo to try and subdue Kong. When Kong sees his robotic double approaching, he sets Susan down and prepares to fight it. The two Kongs exchange blows, and seem to be evenly matched. Mechani-Kong uses the flashing light on its head to mesmerize Kong, only for Nomura to shoot it out with his rifle. After more intense hand-to-hand combat, Mechani-Kong grabs Susan and begins to climb the Tokyo Tower, with Kong in pursuit. Dr. Who broadcasts his voice through loudspeakers in Mechani-Kong's mouth, telling Kong to surrender and come back to the North Pole or else he will drop Susan. Kong does not heed the warning and continues scaling the tower, prompting Mechani-Kong to drop Susan. Fortunately, Kong catches her and sets her down on the observation deck before continuing to pursue Mechani-Kong. On Dr. Who's ship, Madame Piranha takes matters into her own hands and sabotages Mechani-Kong's controls, prompting Dr. Who to fatally shoot her in retaliation. Its controls destroyed, Mechani-Kong ceases functioning as the tower splits in half, causing the robot to plummet to the street and break apart into pieces. Nomura makes his way up the collapsing tower to rescue Susan, and the two are able to successfully escape.
As day breaks, Dr. Who gives the order for his ship to leave immediately. Nelson, Nomura, and Susan pursue Kong with the JSDF as he makes his way to the harbor. Susan shouts at Kong to go after Dr. Who's ship before he gets away. Kong dives into Tokyo Bay and swims to the ship. He begins violently smashing it with his fists, causing it to break apart and begin flooding with water. Dr. Who is crushed to death by a desk just as the ship finally explodes and sinks. With Dr. Who defeated for good, Kong begins swimming off into the distance. Susan calls after him, but Nelson says Kong has had enough of civilization and misses his home on Mondo Island. Everyone then watches as Kong wades out into the sunrise, victorious.
- Main article: King Kong Escapes/Credits#Japanese.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Kaoru Mabuchi
- Executive Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Hajime Koizumi
- Edited by Ryohei Fuji
- Production Design by Takeo Kita
- Assistant Director Ken Sano
- Director of Special Effects Eiji Tsuburaya
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Akira Takarada as Lt. Commmander Jiro Nomura
- Mie Hama as Madame Piranha, foreign agent
- Rhodes Reason as Commander Carl Nelson, captain of the United Nations nuclear research submarine Explorer
- Linda Miller as Lieutenant Susan Watson, Explorer nurse
- Hideyo Amamoto as Dr. Who, scientist
- Yoshibumi Tajima, Sachio Sakai as Dr. Who's assistants
- Ryuji Kita as Chief Security Officer
- Ikio Sawamura as Old man of Mondo Island
- Shoichi Hirose as Explorer crew
- Kazuo Suzuki, Toru Ibuki as Dr. Who's henchmen
- Naoya Kusakawa as Dr. Who's assistant
- Susumu Kurobe as Dr. Who's henchman
- Haruo Nakajima as King Kong / curious spectator
- Hiroshi Sekita as Mechani-Kong / Gorosaurus / security headquarters guard
- Kei Taguchi as Voice of Carl Nelson
- Akiko Santo as Voice of Susan Watson
- Ryu Kuze as Killer
- Minoru Ito, Yoshio Katsube as Dr. Who's henchmen (uncredited)
- Shigeo Kato as Transport ship crew, Dr. Who's henchman (uncredited)
- Takuya Yuki, Jun Kuroki as Helicopter pilots, Dr. Who's henchmen (uncredited)
- Yutaka Oka, Osman Yusuf as Explorer crew (uncredited)
- Tadashi Okabe as JSDF soldier / Explorer crew (uncredited)
- Seishiro Kuno, Haruya Sakamoto, Masaaki Tachibana as JSDF soldiers (uncredited)
- Kamayuki Tsubono as Security headquarters guard (uncredited)
- Andrew Hughes as United Nations reporter (uncredited)
Universal English dub
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Rhodes Reason as Commander Carl Nelson
- Julie Bennett as Madame X / Lieutenant Susan Watson
- Paul Frees as Dr. Who
Weapons, vehicles, and races
Following the success of their animated series, The King Kong Show, co-produced with Toei Animation, Rankin/Bass approached another Japanese studio, Toho, to produce a live-action film adaptation of the series. Toho, who had previously produced the hit film King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962, began production on a film entitled Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs. Ebirah, pitting King Kong against the giant crustacean Ebirah on a tropical island inhabited by a terrorist organization called the Red Bamboo. The film would have also featured Toho's popular monster Mothra. Rankin/Bass, however, felt the proposed film did not follow the animated series closely enough, and rejected the screenplay. Rather than completely discard the project, Toho repackaged it as a Godzilla film, replacing Kong with Godzilla, and produced Ebirah, Horror of the Deep in 1966. Toho went back to the drawing board and attempted to produce a film closer to The King Kong Show. Toho borrowed several concepts from the show, including the location of Mondo Island and the recurring villains Dr. Who and Mechani-Kong, and produced King Kong Escapes in 1967.
- Main article: King Kong Escapes/Gallery.
- Main article: King Kong Escapes (Soundtrack).
- King Kong's Counterattack (literal Japanese title)
- King Kong: Frankenstein's Son (King-Kong: Frankensteins Sohn; Germany)
- The Revenge of King Kong (La Revanche de King Kong; Belgium)
- King Kong: The Giant of the Forest (King Kong: Il Gigante della Foresta; Italy)
- Wrath of the Monsters (Canavarlarin Gazabi; Turkey)
- The Return of King Kong (El Regreso de King Kong; Mexico)
- King Kong on the Island of Terror (King Kong Kauhun Saarella; Finland)
- King Kong on Terror Island (King Kong på Skräckens ö; Sweden)
- Japan - July 22, 1967; December 20, 1973 (Toho Champion Festival)
- United States - June 19, 1968
- France - 1968
- United Kingdom - 1969
- Mexico - 1970
- Spain - 1977
King Kong Escapes was distributed theatrically in the United States by Universal Pictures. The film was dubbed into English, with Rhodes Reason dubbing over his own performance as Carl Nelson and Paul Frees voicing Dr. Who and most of the film's other male characters. The film's runtime was trimmed down by eight minutes. Two brief scenes excised from Toho's version were reinserted; an introductory scene for Susan, and a longer conversation between Carl Nelson and Madame Piranha. Some names were changed in the Universal version; Mechani-Kong is referred to as "Robot Kong," while the ending cast screen and promotional materials renamed Madame Piranha to "Madame X."
King Kong Escapes 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, calling Toho's Kong an "Uncle Tom," and 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 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 DVD (2001)
- Region: 2
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono)
Universal DVD / Blu-Ray (2005 / 2014)
- Region: 1 (DVD) or A/1 (Blu-Ray)
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (2.0 Mono)
- Special Features: None
- Notes: French and Spanish subtitles are included. The DVD is sometimes packaged with King Kong (2005) and King Kong vs. Godzilla.
Though King Kong Escapes is not available on Blu-ray in Japan, an HD version of the film can be rented or purchased on the Japanese versions of Amazon Video and iTunes.
- King Kong Escapes was released as part of Toho's 35th anniversary celebration.
- Akira Ifukube would later reuse and rewrite Mechani-Kong's theme for his score to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.
- In this film, the dinosaur monster Gorosaurus' name is never spoken. He is only referred to by name in the 1968 film, Destroy All Monsters.
- Mechani-Kong was Toho's first robot duplicate monster, and inspired Mechagodzilla in the 1970's.
- After plans for a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla in the 1990's fell through, Toho planned to produce a film pitting Mechani-Kong against Godzilla. However, Toho found they would be unable to utilize even King Kong's likeness for the film, and it was scrapped.
- King Kong's battle with Gorosaurus is a restaging of the famous battle in the original King Kong between Kong and the meat-eater. The two battles have many similarities, in particular the conclusion where Kong defeats his opponent by breaking its jaw. The battle with the Giant Sea Serpent is also reminiscent of Kong's bout with the Elasmosaurus in the original film.
- The battle with Gorosaurus also has echoes of Kong's battle with Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla, most noteworthy is that Gorosaurus utilizes a drop-kick, a reference to Godzilla's famous stop-motion drop kick. This "kangaroo-kick" would later become a trademark of Gorosaurus' character, as he utilized one at a critical moment in the battle against King Ghidorah in Destroy All Monsters.
- The King Kong suit from this film would later be reused for the monster Gorilla in the Go! Greenman episode, Greenman vs. Gorilla.
- King Kong Escapes was re-released at the Winter Toho Champion Film Festival on December 20, 1973 alongside a theatrical version of episode 25 of Ultraman Taro titled Burn On! The Six Ultra Brothers, and various cartoons. The film was edited down to 59 minutes for this release.
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