Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ten Statements About....KING KONG ESCAPES! (1967)

"Sometimes, I wanna get you low/yeah. yeah. yeah. like being
"This is Mondo Island, the home of Kong. And in addition to Kong, there are mammoth reptiles living on the island that have long since become extinct on other continents. This island could be called a living museum of the prehistoric age."

1) I know that this is an American/Japanese co-production and that the American half of the money was put up by Rankin-Bass, but damn is it weird hearing main villain Dr. Wu (pronounced 'Who,' so you know the amount of confusion inherent in young Tom when he first watched this movie) sound just like Burgomeister Meisterburger.

2) Boy, if I had to choose between Linda Miller's soppy, whiny Susan and Mie Hama's sultry Madame X, I know who I'd choose to follow.

3) And while we're on the subject of Madame X...I am thoroughly fascinated by how this movie really, really wants to be a spy movie without giving us any details whatsoever. Madame X constantly refers to her country, but never once is said country referenced, even obliquely. There's even this one moment where Rhodes Reason's Carl Nelson rules out a number of countries she can't be from, but is interrupted before revealing which asian nation she does represent. And there's references to Wu's past as a traitor and a criminal with a relationship with Nelson....and yet we never get a sense of what he did.

4) And can we also unequivocally state that Dr. Wu is the single most inept mad scientist ever? He builds Robo-Kong to mine 'element X' without checking to see if the thing is properly insulated against magnetic interference or anything. So he kidnaps the real Kong thinking he'll be able to mine the stuff....except that the glare from the element allows Kong to breaks Wu's hypnotic hold on him. Hell, at one point Wu admits to Madame X the real Kong is better than Robo-Kong! This dude's a total ineffectual tool.
"Of course I am Doctor Who...I stole this cape from Jon
Pertwee himself!"

5) I love how everyone just assumes that Kong is benign, even after the big monkey scoops up Ms. Drippy and starts making faces with his rubber mask. What if, I don't know, Kong decided to eat the woman after picking her up? She'd be more useful in that context....

6) But give this dopey lil' film credit....this thing is paced in such a way that we always get some form of giant monster action before we get bored. Yeah, it might be something like Kong digging in the side of a cave....but hey, Giant Monkey!

7) And since we're on the subject of the Giant Monkey....don't get me wrong; I will always take a man in a suit over a collection of CGI pixels. But watching this beast in the high definition drives home the point that this is one sorry kaiju. The different pieces of the suit don't quite blend together, and the 'concealed' zipper is anything but, as it makes a noticeable raised line in the back.
"Oh, and you should have heard all the puns that Bond putz
would use..."

8) There's a really muddled storyline concerning Susan and Akira Takarada's Jiro. There are intimations that Jiro and Susan are romantically involved, or at least romantically attracted. Hell, Dr. Wu taunts Craig with this fact when he's lowering the temperature of their cell to coerce him into cooperating. And yet, even with all the cues--it's Jiro who saves Susan during the climatic battle between Kong and Robo-Kong, it's Susan who runs into Jiro's arm at a moment's notice--there's this reluctance to pull the trigger. It's as if the Rankin-Bass people were really, really nervouse about the idea of a white woman being an Asian man's girl.

It's even more puzzling given how overt the script plays the attraction of Madame X to Craig....

9) I can't quite accept that the Mei Hama of this film is the same woman who played Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice. Maybe it's because she's acting in her own language, but she's so much more alive and engaging than the mannequin in a white bikini she was in the Bond film.
"Sir!  Rubber Snake off the port bow!"

10) I am utterly fascinated by the way the special effects seem to vary wildly, sometimes from shot to shot. While I can never get past the model-ly goodness of the film, some of the vehicles--especially the rather Thunderbird-esque hovercraft that transports the main trio to and from Mondo Island--are actually quite good, and the destruction scenes in Tokyo are energetic and fun. But then you get that lame-ass fight with the snake in the first act, or the long shots of Robo-Kong on that tower obviously are a toy that's falling off, and the rear projection shots are frequently wince-worthy. Still....

Overall...even with all it's flaws, it's hard to deny that this flick has a dumb energy in its lame spy cliches and crazy concepts. Not necessarily required viewing, but if you want to spend a lazy afternoon and come into it with both eyes open, you may find yourself enjoying this.

1 comment:

  1. Re: #8 -- Cross racial relationships in movies have always been seen as easier to accept by audiences when it's a white male with a fill-in-the-blank female rather than the other way around, even though most interracial relationships are the other way around.