Classic Intel: King Kong Escapes - DVD Review

With the original film reaching its 80th birthday this year, Ben has set out on a journey to a land that time forgot, watching all of the King Kong films along the way.

'Although not nearly as hideous as he looked when battling Godzilla, Kong is still a bloke in a manky monkey costume.'

The second of Kong’s Toho appearances, co-produced with US company Rankin/Bass, 1967’s King Kong Escapes is to date also the giant ape’s last. Stylistically similar in many ways to the earlier King Kong Vs. Godzilla (although, somewhat confusingly, not a sequel), King Kong Escapes is thankfully a largely more satisfying experience than Kong’s first Japanese outing.

Admittedly, there are still issues here linked to the gimcrack style of kaiju cinema. Although not nearly as hideous as he looked when battling Godzilla, Kong is still a bloke in a manky monkey costume. His nemesis, Mechani-Kong, comes across somewhat better with a pleasingly simplistic yet futuristic look. The final battle between Kong and his robotic adversary however is notably lacklustre after a pleasing build-up, and will likely leave you wanting more. Other creatures that appear throughout do the job though - including Gorosaurus, another Toho monster here in his first film appearance, who is arguably more convincing against Kong than Godzilla ended up being.

If you can buy into the ridiculousness of it all (Mechani-Kong, for example, is constructed at the start of the film as a means to mine a rare radioactive substance known as “Element X”), there’s fun to be had with the film’s story. Kong’s origin is retold once again, this time with perhaps a surprising amount of faithfulness to the 1933 film. There’s even a human love interest for the gigantic gorilla in Linda Miller’s navy lieutenant Susan Watson, joining the ever-growing list of women to pale in comparison to Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow. Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason) is a more straightforward hero than his quasi namesake from the original film, but Reason does well playing things light-heartedly straight and is a pleasing presence on screen throughout.

The antagonists too are enjoyable: Eisei Amamoto as Doctor Who (in no way related to the BBC’s wisecracking timelord) makes for a suitably over-the-top villain, a snaggletoothed hybrid of Count Dracula and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The Bond franchise comparison is in fact quite apt, with the narrative echoing the campier 007 outings a fair amount of the time. Mie Hama’s mysterious Madame X also plays into this mould, beginning as a seemingly straightforward villainess but becoming a much more ambiguous femme fatale as the story wears on. It’s just a shame that her most intriguing plot thread is frustratingly left hanging at the end of the film.

King Kong Escapes certainly has discernible flaws. The story takes too long to get going, and there are patches here and there which become irritatingly unfocused. Along with the low budget Toho-style visual effects, you’ll also have to contend with some distracting sound editing (English-speaking Miller is inexplicably dubbed along with the Japanese cast). But whilst the flaws can’t be ignored, a lot of the time they can be forgiven. Go into King Kong Escapes looking for kitsch, throwaway fun and you’ll more than likely have a good time with it. At the very least, when weighing up Kong’s cinematic adventures in the Orient, this is consistently the superior of the two.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. I commented elsewhere but in general Toho started a remake RKO block production copyright stuff . I do not know how much was filmed , but there is cartoon show King Kong where MGM got a ideal cartoon owners . A James Bond like story , ah ha what screech what ? Linda Miller (Susan) cries out at movies end KONG.......KING KONG Ah Bond James Bond also ship sinking attack by Kong ?

  2. Yes your blog states the Bond connection but other people do not get it . In King Kong vs. Godzilla three things went on at once okay 2 years apart . Japanese version started out strait drama , second unit director died comic humor added . The pharmaceutical Boss . Man who's name I can not spell correctly Sapher something ? came to Toho for American younger audience version much remaking and silly wrestling and Yogi bears sidekick Bo Bo's voice is heard and Black Lagoon tense music and last 2 scenes removed . Girl breast tickle and death scenes .

  3. When 1933 King Kong a new censorship company began the Hayes Office and scenes in original reshot or cut , the restored footage at Kong's turf Ann Darrow's clothing removed long brief breast appearance but someone painted black underwear(do frame by frame) close up slip left shoulder strap torn and lose yet scene met Hayes eyes . Whom knows what cutting room print looked like next the finger feel and tickle plus comic music . Movie speeded up to create tickle watch frame by frame Kong is fondling Ann's breast now to KK vs G Kong is holding the girl in his hand sees the breast heaving . He feels up breast while she is past out then wakes up scene cut to ground top puppet hands tell the story as a finger does above .

    1. Hi "Anonymous", and thanks for your comments. I have to say I've struggled to understand everything you've typed, but I gather you've read at least a few of my King Kong reviews, so I appreciate that. I'll respond to each of your three comments in turn in this one reply.

      I definitely felt KKE had a Roger Moore era Bond feel throughout, which mostly helped to make the whole thing feel fun. As for your question "A James Bond like story, ah ha what screech what?", I only wish I could provide a satisfactory answer.

      Regarding KKvsG, I think you're talking about the many edits the film went through, which I do refer to in the review. I've only seen the US edit, which is the one I reviewed, but I would be interested in seeing the earlier Japanese cut to see if it holds together any better. From what I've read of the Japanese original, it sounds like the story isn't all that different. If it has more "girl breast tickle and death scenes" I'm definitely seeking it out though. Also, didn't spot Boo-Boo Bear anywhere I have to say.

      Regarding the 1933 original, I know it has at times received some retrospective censorship, especially surrounding Fay Wray's at times relatively revealing clothing. I didn't focus on any part of her anatomy more than any other when reviewing the film though, although clearly you did. Maybe I should go back and add a paragraph passing judgement entirely on Wray's boobies. What do you think?

      Anyway, thanks again for your comments and for visiting the site, "Anonymous". Hopefully you'll enjoy my final King Kong review on Jackson's 2005 remake, which should be up soon.

    2. those glitches happen again . I was talking about the news reporters side kick his English voice is the actor that does boo boo's voice . Linda Miller at end of movie cries out Kong King Kong Bond James bond . Fay Wray Boobs scene in long shot cut scene , close up hand holds some cloth up . Re edit long shot only breast covered by tinted in , black underwear blink and you miss it close up reshot version . simply slow down tickle scene , the finger is feeling up Fays breast .KK vs G to clear up breast fondle cut , puppet in Kong's hand getting fondled . The cartoon show is on DVD .Seems like there are glitches , what I type , not all came across . sorry for odd stuff . Oh if time travel via whole universe spectrum , I wish I could take 2005 remake , edit convert to black and white , turn it over to the gentile men that made the original 1933 version .

    3. Kong puts Watson in the tree , look again its a Japanese woman from cancelled footage hair animated red to match Linda Millers . Close up Linda . Meanwhile Kong fights the dinosaur . A few other places RKO remake scenes , a whole 2 minutes . Linda Miller voice is some else . In Japanese version , she reminds the crew of her rank . In U.S. version played down to young audience CASTOR OIL comment .

    4. Kong in both movies slightly different , but it gets hot inside suit , head was designed to be removed quickly so suit actor can cool off . In KK v G a puppet drinks berry juice . The octopus kills three natives and witch doctor . People in the train car and on street under train car die , scene cut in U.S. version , only train car with the girl Kong grabs the he lets drop down , bruises and whiplash .