King Kong Escapes (Japan 1967)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/23/16
Director: Ishiro Honda
Music: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Akira Takarada, Paul Frees

A delightfully goofy monster movie from Rankin/Bass and Toho Pictures. The sinister Dr. Who is building a robotic replica of King Kong in order to mine Element X at the North Pole. Presumably, the Chinese government is backing the operation so that they can become the world's greatest nuclear superpower. When the robot fails to do the job due to radiation exposure, Dr. Who decides to capture the real King Kong and hypnotize him into extracting the precious Element X. This culminates in a battle between Kong and Mechakong in the streets of Tokyo for some reason, and the two of them eventually duke it out while climbing the Tokyo Tower. Naturally, Kong falls for a blonde American girl named Susan Watson (Linda Miller), and her feminine charms override the mad scientist's hypnotic suggestions. Charismatic Rhodes Reason (Rex Reason's younger brother) and handsome Akira Takarada are the good guys from the United Nations who are assigned to the Kong case, while the wickedly seductive Madame X (Mie Hama) steals the show as Dr. Who's client.

The plot is absurd and the dialog is outrageous, but everything is taken very seriously. Rhodes Reason gives an impressively strong and convincing performance and Akira Takarada is quite dashing. Linda Miller is as cute as a rabbit, but her acting is weak and her dubbing is hilariously awful. Mie Hama makes a wonderful villain and is effortlessly glamorous throughout. She's simply delightful to watch. As you would expect from director Ishiro Honda, the miniature work is marvelous, although the Kong suit looks overly silly. Akira Ifukube's music score is highly derivative of his "Godzilla" work, and may actually be lifted straight out of another film. The dubbing is on par with similar films, and it's amusing to hear Paul Frees as the voice of Dr. Who. It's not a Toho masterpiece by any means, but it's an enjoyable diversion nonetheless.