DVD Review: King Kong Escapes

Not a sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla five years earlier, King Kong Escapes is a childish take on the giant ape. It should be though, closely involved with Rankin/Bass Productions animated cartoon series that would follow four years later. All the strange Japanese fun makes this lighthearted approach fun, if completely absurd.

It’s hard to take any film seriously when the main character is a giant ape, let alone one that looks this shoddy. This is the lowest denominator for Toho’s monster shop, a raggedy, ugly, and impossible version of King Kong. The zipper is in plain view anytime you see the monster from behind, and the face is immobile and smiling through the entire film.

Kong’s foe, Mecha Kong, fares better. Obviously inspiring Toho’s chief monster makers years later in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, this robotic Kong is fun to watch, complete with cheesy robotic sounds. The two sides clash after the robot version has trouble mining “element X”, and the real Kong is captured from his island home to give it his best shot.

On Mondo island (changed from both the original Kong film and King Kong vs. Godzilla), there are multiple references to his legacy intended or not, including a battle with a T-Rex that would be known as Gorosaurus in years to come. Kong also struggles with a sea serpent that is similar in style to the awful 1976 Kong remake.

Even with the pathetic suit, the finale of the film, taking place on the top of Tokyo Tower, is exciting. The two beasts clash for quite a while until the winner is decided. Linda Miller plays Kong’s sweetheart this time out, starring in one of her two films (the other being The Green Slime one year later). Oddly, her voice was dubbed for the US release even though her English is fine.

For kids, this is an easygoing romp in the realm of giant monsters. It’s light hearted enough not to scare them, and the gentle Kong causes minimal destruction. For older fans of Toho’s rubber suited classics, this is a sore spot. Deep down though, it’s hard to admit you didn’t find it at least a little entertaining. (** out of *****)

Looking better than it ever has, this stunning, brilliant, and gorgeous transfer exceeds any expectations. The clarity is nothing like someone would expect picking up an obscure Japanese monster movie. Sharpness and colors are beautiful to look at, and with an extra layer of gloss, it becomes even harder to accept the Kong suit. This greatly eclipses the faded and blurry region 2 DVD from Toho. Aside from a few brief moments of obvious compression, this is perfect. (*****)

A basic 2.0 mono audio track provides the dubbing, a little above the standard. Kong’s roar doesn’t push the speakers too far with the treble, and the overall quality is clean. There is no Japanese track disappointingly. Only the English dub is available. (***)

There are no extras, not even the film’s trailer. (No stars)

This would be it for the Japanese spin on King Kong, retired after two films. That didn’t stop other countries from attempting their own, including Hong Kong’s Mighty Peking Man or the overly British Queen Kong. If you think the Kong suit used here is cheap, check out either of those. It can be worse.

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