King Kong Escapes Blu-ray Review
If you’re wondering, What exactly does King Kong escape from? Wasn’t he shot up by airplanes until he died and fell 103 stories?, be aware that KING KONG ESCAPES isn’t a sequel to 1933’s KING KONG, but is instead linked more directly with the cartoon THE KING KONG SHOW. For those unfamiliar with that show (which lasted three seasons), its basic premise found Kong befriending a young boy named Bobby, because it was the 1960s and a lot of drugs were being issued back then.
While aboard a submarine somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, United States naval officer Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason, who appeared on the 1960s series BUS STOP) shows one of his assistants, Susan (Linda Miller, the forgotten sci-fi B movie THE GREEN SLIME), drawings of the legendary Kong, who Nelson estimates stands nearly 60 feet tall. Meanwhile, copies of the sketches have fallen into the grips of Dr. Who (Eisei Amamoto, who fans of Japanese cinema may know better as Hideyo Amamoto), who ventures to the North Pole with a mechanical Kong in search of Element X, a rare element that will allow Japan to “gain nuclear domination of the universe.” Unfortunately for Dr. Who, his creation quickly succumbs to the element’s radioactivity—and so he’ll have to find the real thing on the island of Mondo. This sets up the inevitable confrontation between King Kong and Mechani-Kong that the poster promises.
But first, Kong will square off against a dinosaur known as Gorosaurus (who would next appear in 1968’s DESTROY ALL MONSTERS), who made the mistake of trying to eat Susan, the object of the ape’s affection (see: Darrow, A.). The battle is exactly what fans would expect: two men in costumes pounding on each other, fixing headlocks, landing dropkicks and doing backwards rolls until they can’t breathe any longer. (King Kong is played by Haruo Nakajima, who played Godzilla around a dozen times throughout his career; both Gorosaurus and Mechani-Kong are played by Yû Sekida, who was also involved in various GODZILLA movies.)
Much of the fun of movies like KING KONG ESCAPES comes from the complete phoniness. We expect set pieces to wobble on accident, blue screen effects to be obvious, helicopters to look like they were purchased from a toy store and shots of submarines to appear as if they were filmed in a bathtub—and if any hint of professionalism squeaked its way into the production, it would harm the entire experience for the audience.
Adding to the amusement are the constant plays on the most famous of the KONG movies, all of which come off as C-level stand-ins: there is the Kong/dinosaur fight, but it feels adlibbed and like the actors were only given one take; there is the kidnapping of Kong, but he’s used to dig up craters and not for financial gain; there is the “love interest,” but her screams pale in comparison to Faye Wray’s; there is the showdown at the national landmark, but it’s Tokyo Tower instead of the Empire State Building. It’s like the studio was desperate not to get sued, even though they had rights to the character.
KING KONG ESCAPES is a collaboration between Toho and Rankin/Bass, the two studios that brought you every GODZILLA movie imaginable and RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, respectively.
KING KONG ESCAPES BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. While there is a noticeable layer of grain and the initial print has suffered some damage, Universal has still cleaned up the overall image and presented KING KONG ESCAPES in a passable transfer that features strong colors and some nice details. Also out on Blu-ray the same day is KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono. Subtitles in English and French. The dialogue is clear and the sound effects are clean, but the overall transfer is fairly flat and without depth.
There are no special features on this release.