Despite their routinely “out there” plots, most of Toho’s monster output still manage to make a certain amount of sense when judged by their own rules. Oh sure, Aliens, giant crabs, cyborg chicken assassins and a jet sized moth God may sound like the result of 3 straight weeks of unencumbered freebasing but when plonked into their own universe, a perverse sence of logic prevails (unlike rival studio Daiei, whose rival Gamera movies are like main lining LSD through a curly straw). However, one of Toho’s output in the 60’s stands the test of insanity fairly well and that is the thoroughly batshit crazy King Kong Escapes.
The villainous supervillain Dr. Who (no, not that one; although he DOES suspiciously look like a Japanese William Hartnell) is mining for the precious mineral Element-X in the North Pole but his robotic creation, Mechani-Kong, keeps succumbing to the radioactivity in the area. Who, aided by the equally villainous Madam Piranha (these fucking names!), aims to kidnap the original Kong from his home on Mondo Island to continue the mining process but a submarine crew also chasing Kong for research purposes get tangled up in the caper. For a short while the film temporary adapts the original film with the dopey looking Kong falling for a female member of the crew and casually brawling with the kangaroo-legged Gorosaurus like a drunken lout. Escaping from Who’s clutches (Hey! Just like in the title!) Kong swims to Japan to fight his robot double and save the world, or something?….
Whoever hit upon the idea to combine your basic, if sloppy, James Bond spy plot while making your secret agent character a scruffy 60 foot gorilla either deserves an honorary Oscar or an extended stay in a methadone clinic, or perhaps even both. Make no mistake, we are comfortably in so-bad-it’s-good territory here, and enjoyably so. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan director Ishiro Honda is obviously having a hoot here, camping everything up to Kenneth Williams levels and caring not a jot for such paltry things such as common sense or logic.
The laughs, both intentional and otherwise come thick and fast, the Kong suit still looks as shit as it did in King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Mechani-Kong boasts such ineffectual weaponry such as hi-beams in his eyes to temporary blind opponents and the Dr No-ish Who consumes the scenery like Kong consumes bananas. Say what you will, but King Kong Escapes is anything but dull. How could it be when characters go on about “dealing X” when talking about the mysterious element they’re there to mine, or a melancholy Kong learning within 5 minutes that “no means no” despite some men never managing to pick that concept up during their entire lifetime.
Remarkably silly, even for a Kaiju movie, it’s important to remember that this probably was Honda’s intent all along and therefore marks King Kong Escapes as somewhat as a triumph. Ok, maybe I’m pushing it a little, but fun is fun and if the sight of a gassed out Kong being clumsily air-lifted into a waiting ship by his arms and legs doesn’t fill you with giggly glee then what are you doing with your life?