Friday, February 10, 2006

King Kong Escapes

King Kong Escapes was one of the first giant monster movies to infect my young mind. It and Destroy All Monsters were shown during Channel 38's (or was it 9, or 11?) "monster week." Those two films are probably responsible for my fascination with giant monster movies and kaiju in particular.

To my pre-adolescent self, there was nothing more fascinating than the giant mechanical monster known as MechaniKong. He looked like the famed giant ape, but was metal head to toe. In the movie, both he and King Kong fight a T-Rex -- at least I thought it was a T-Rex, it turned out to be a Gorosaurus, a creation of Toho. There was a lot to love in this film.

Now, it's been released in a two-pack with King Kong Vs. Godzilla. I can still see what affected me as a youth, but the movie really pales in comparison to the rest of the Toho canon, and certainly with other Kong movies.

The film was actually a sequel to a 1960s Rankin-Bass cartoon, which has recently been released on DVD. I've never seen that series, so I can't comment on how the two compare.

The good: The movie is filled with neat ideas. There's a sleek submarine that the heroes patrol the waters with. There's MechaniKong, of course. The mechanical monster would later be the inspiration for MechaGodzilla. There's a crazed evil leader, that "international Judas" Doctor Who, and a conflicted agent of a unnamed Asian country. There's a mysterious Element X that could power the world, or lead to its destruction. There's electronic mind control devices. There's an Arctic command center.

And despite all these things, the movie is just not very good. Nothing in the movie is left for the viewer to figure out when a lump of exposition can be used instead. The building of MechaniKong makes no sense. It's built to dig up Element X. But it is immediately shorted out by that element. Shouldn't that have been tested before you spent millions on building a mechanical monster? Seems like a waste of resources. And for that matter, is building a giant mechanical ape any way to run an excavation site?

Logic aside, the movie just seems listless. Things happen and there's the occasional giant monster battle, but they all seem rather boring. The effects have their moments, but are generally poor. This movie came out between Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster (initially intended to be a King Kong film) and Son of Godzilla, films that are generally considered to be the start of G's downward trend. If you look at the effects, particularly the tropical island settings, those two films are much better than some of what's seen here.

Still, the absurdity of the film is fun and I still love MechaniKong. If only Toho could bring it back. King Kong Escapes is really only for giant monster movie completists.

Image found at KensForce.

Technorati Tags: , ,

No comments: