King Kong Escapes (Movie Review)

Tor's rating: ★ ★ ★ Director: Ishiro Honda | Release Date: 1967

I don’t know. I don’t… know. Is “King Kong Escapes” just a criminally cheap cash-in on the diakaiju eiga (Japanese Giant Monster movies) explosion of the 1960’s? Or is it perhaps a Japanese re-interpretation of “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Or, or, or is this film a sly wink at how artistic appropriation fueled by profit analysis models turn moderately clever mimics into culturally revered ‘geniuses’ and ultimately squeeze authentic artists into the fringes of industry, where they shelter to keep their art pure? I don’t know. What I do know is that even a simple plot summary cannot be written without tipping my hand to the fun that is there for the taking with the right attitude.

An evil genius named Dr. Who has been hired by an unspecified Asian superpower to harvest the rarest element on earth from the permafrost of the North Pole. Right off the bat there’s a question, how can you excavate the earth at spot with no land mass above water? I digress. Who builds a giant robotic monkey (in the likeness of another legendary flesh and blood giant ape) to ‘Deliver 10,000 tons of X’. Halfway through the Robot’s dig the metal simian OD’s on X and Dr. Who’s funding is pulled.

Meanwhile on Mondo (formerly Skull) Island another big monkey named Bong Kong is intoxicated by the wafting pheromones of Lt. Susan Watson and subsequently commits TMJ dislocation on a T Rex that looks more like an Allosaurus and absconds with the lieutenant. Kong’s affections for Susan are somewhat disturbing if one considers that it is the equivalent of you, the viewer feeling amorous towards a Pygmy Marmoset. Susan escapes Kong’s clutches with the help of two men, Cmdr. Carl Nelson and Lt. Cmdr. Jiro Nomura one or both of whom might be her brother, her lover and or her Uncle.

Back in the world the crew reports their findings on Mondo Island and plans a return to study Kong in his natural habitat. Unfortunately, Dr. Who, who is desperate to have his X and continue his research, has put his genius brain to the task of devising a new strategy. He comes to the conclusion that he should go get the real King or Bong Kong because the original Giant ape is better than the robot Kong anyways. It should be mentioned that this particular evil genius actually stole the plans for the giant robotic monkey ….from Cmdr. Nelson. It also may be worth noting that Who is the only person calling Who a genius and his former compatriot Cmdr. Nelson refers to him as “My old friend and international Judas”.

Kong is dusted to unconsciousness by Who’s henchmen and shipped back to the North Pole just in time to save the good Dr.’s funding. To get him to work the doc mesmerizes Kong with a psychedelic hypnosis pendulum and then instructs him through suggestion using an oxygen tank converted into a Bluetooth earpiece. Kong digs, but then Kong gets zapped by the X and quits digging. The Dr. blames this on an equipment malfunction but instead of fixing the equipment he abducts Lt. Susan and her two cousin/comrade/boyfriends and tries to coerce the good Lt. into making Kong dig again.

The real ape escapes, the imitation primate gives chase and there is a showdown in Tokyo, of course. During the final battle Tokyo Tower takes a beating, again, the bizarre love triangle nearly shows its architecture and Dr. Who makes diffident threats like “Let’s see how your hero likes you when you’re disfigured… a little bit.”

“King Kong Escapes” could well be the most innuendo filled G-rated movie of all time and while some of it is clearly unintentional other things seem like they couldn’t possibly be done without the filmmaker’s knowledge. In my universe this makes it well worth an hour and a half of your time. Sadly though, I guess this kind of movie is not for everyone.

To try and give you an idea of whether or not to approach this movie I’ll offer the following points: If you absolutely need to see a scoliotic man wearing a gorilla suit that looks like a cross between a cymbal monkey and the Bumble Yeti from the Rankin and Bass “Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer” TV specials, this is your movie. By the way, Kong’s similarities to the Bumble are not accidental, Rankin/Bass had a hand in the production of this film. If you need to see that Monkey/Man/Yeti doing battle with the silver street performer version of Magilla Gorilla, this is the only place you can get that itch scratched. If on the other hand you can’t handle spotty modeling, shoddy production values and downright frightening dental hygiene, then “King Kong Escapes” should probably not be placed on your summon-the-monkey list. Personally, I think that anyone who can’t have some fun on this ride probably hates amusement parks, doesn’t snicker at fart noises, and thinks that “Avatar” was the best movie ever because it made the most money. I may not know why “King Kong Escapes” was made or even what it is really supposed to be about, but I know a Mr. Nofunpants when I meet one. And if you can’t enjoy this kooky Kong then I’m afraid my friend, you need to put a little joy in your trousers.



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