Also known as: Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū, lit. Counterattack of King Kong (Japan)
Release Date: July 22nd, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Kaoru Mabuchi
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Eisei Amamoto
Toho, Rankin-Bass, Universal International, 97 Minutes (Japan), 91 Minutes (USA)
King Kong Escapes is the second and last of the Toho King Kong films. It follows King Kong vs. Godzilla and while it is a sequel of sorts to it, it really is more of a standalone film. For one, there is no mention of the previous movie and Godzilla isn’t anywhere to be found. Although, Gorosaurus makes his first appearance in this picture before going on to be included in the Godzilla franchise. Also, Kong’s rival Mechani-Kong would go on to inspire Mechagodzilla and other robot kaiju in Toho’s future.
Like Son of Kong to King Kong, King Kong Escapes is sort of the goofy yet lovable little brother to its predecessor. It is a highly fun film and it features a lot of adventure and great action but it is fairly hokey, even for a later Shōwa era Toho movie.
The actors are all fairly entertaining in this. This is one of my favorite roles for Mie Hama, who plays a sinister woman looking to have her country control the world by harnessing the power of Element X, as well as Mechani-Kong. Linda Miller plays a total cutie, who is this film’s version of the Fay Wray character, although she isn’t a starlet, she is a military officer. Although, Miller can get annoying at times, like every time she yells, “Put me down, Kong! Put me down!” or “No, Kong!” or just “Kooooong!!!” Eisei Anamoto plays an evil genius named Dr. Who, no relation to the British Doctor Who. Anamoto’s mad scientist is one of my favorite in Toho’s large filmography.
King Kong Escapes takes some of its action cues from the original King Kong. In fact, this is more of Toho’s King Kong remake than King Kong vs. Godzilla. Granted, the film takes huge liberties and is certainly its own thing.
To give an example, the big battle on the island between Kong and Gorosaurus plays out the same as the Kong and tyrannosaurus fight from the original movie. Kong even kills Gorosaurus the same way, ripping his jaw apart. Also, the damsel in distress is protected by Kong and put into a tree for safekeeping.
The final sequence of the film sees Kong and Mechani-Kong climb the famous Tokyo Tower for their final battle. It is a well shot and well orchestrated finale. Plus, the Tokyo Tower has sort of become synonymous with kaiju movies and television, at this point. It was a perfect Tokyo stand-in for the Empire State Building in this picture’s climax.
King Kong Escapes is a great companion piece to Toho’s better known King Kong movie. While Toho made two good films, while they had the rights to the character of Kong, I still feel like they missed the boat. Had they made a Kong film as frequently as a Godzilla film, we could have had a lot of variety: a Kong versus Godzilla rematch, a Kong and Godzilla team-up and even Kong versus some of Godzilla’s famous foes or allies like King Ghidorah or Mothra. Although, I am really happy with the Godzilla movies of that era and more Kong features may have disrupted that or created kaiju fatigue much earlier.