Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kingukongu no gyakushu / King Kong Escapes (1967)

For the studios thirty-fifth anniversary, Toho would team up with Rankin Bass to produce a live-action version of their popular animated TV series. Director Ishiro Honda would jump at a chance to work on a tribute to the 1933 film, "King Kong", which had been a major inspiration to him. (Kong was also the inspiration for Gojira as well.) The script, written by Kaoru Mabuchi, would draw on several major elements from the cartoon, including thr location of Mondo Island, the Robot Kong, and the evil Dr. Who. Once again Eiji Tsuburaya was called upon to create the intricate miniatures and special effects. As in "King Kong vs Godzilla", the Kong costume was created to make the monster look friendly and like able. In fact a leftover suite from KK vs G was used for scenes filmed in Toho's famed water tank. Rankin Bass kept a close eye on the goings on in Japan and elements had to be approved before being filmed. The whole production would end up as on of the studios most polished films.

An evil pair, Dr.Who and Madame Piranha, have developed a mechanical replica of King Kong to dig for a highly radioactive mineral in the area of the North Pole. They soon discover that their replica is not cut out for the job and soon go on a quest for the real deal. They use the young and lovely Susan Miller to trap the monster and take him back to the mines. Of course Kong escapes and heads for Japan. They always head for Japan. Who and his henchmen activate the Robot Kong and set sail to recapture Kong. The Mech-Kong kidnaps Miller and takes her to the top of Tokyo Tower as bait. The two Kong's do battle and the Robot and his masters are destroyed by the rampage that is King Kong. Kong then wastes little time heading back home.

The film 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 movie makers 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..."

Kingukongu no gyakushu (1967)
AKA: King Kong Escapes (1968), King Kong Strikes Again (1967), King Kong's Counterattack (1967), The Revenge of King Kong (1967) King Kong Escapes (1967)

Directed By: Ishiro Honda
Written By: Takeshi Kimura

Cast:
Rhodes Reason as Commander Carl Nelson
Mie Hama as Madame Piranha
Linda Miller as Lieutenant Susan Watson
Akira Takarada as Jiro Nomura
Eisei Amamoto as Dr. Who
Andrew Hughes as Reporter
Haruo Nakajima as Kingukongu
Hiroshi Sekita as Mekanikongu
Runtime: 104 Minutes Japan / 96 Minutes USA
Color: Color
Sound: Mono
Released: July 22, 1967
Trivia
1. The voice of Susan Watson is not that of the American actress, Linda Miller, who played her in the film. The voice you hear is actually Julie Bennett who's voice track was dubbed into the film.
2. The film is actually a "live-action" version of the King Kong animated series that was very popular in Japan in 1966. Most fans believe that the film is a sequel to King Kong vs Godzilla which was produced in 1962, however it was never intended to be connected to that film in any way.
3. King Kong was intended to be the star of the film Ebirah: Horror of the Deep that was produced a year earlier. Toho studios had a rough time securing the rights for Kong prior to production so Godzilla was substituted at the last minute.
4. Toho had a long running love affair with King Kong. Their most famous monster, Godzilla, was first envisioned as a giant fire-breathing gorilla. Although the studio was able to secure the rights from Universal Studios for two films many more attempts were made to feature the monster. The above mentioned Ebirah and a remake or King Kong vs Godzilla in 1991 most notably

King Kong Escapes, released in Japan as Kingu Kongu no Gyakush, (literally "King Kong's Counterattack"), is a Japanese/American tokusatsu film. A co-production from Toho and Rankin/Bass, it was released in Japan in 1967, and in the United States by Universal Studios the following year.

The film was an adaptation of episodes of Rankin/Bass and Toei Animation's The King Kong Show cartoon series. As with King Kong vs. Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya served as director of special effects.

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