Friday, December 9, 2005

KING KONG ESCAPES

While the KING KONG television cartoon was still airing, Rankin-Bass approached Toho Studios about co-producing a live-action version of the cartoon for theatrical release.

After a false start (which became GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, with the Big G stepping into the King's role), the collaboration resulted in the highly entertaining feature, KING KONG ESCAPES (KINGUKONGU NO GYAKUSHU, 1967).

The evil Doctor Who (Eisei Amamoto, voiced by Paul Frees) has built a robotic Mechani-Kong to mine the radioactive Element X in the Arctic. When his gorillabot breaks down, he heads for Mondo Island to recruit the real thing. It's up to U.N. Peacekeeepers Cmdr. Nelson (Rhodes Reason, VOODOO ISLAND), Susan Watson (Linda Miller) and Jiro Nimura (Akira Takarada) to rescue the big ape and foil the sinister scientist's evil schemes.

Loosely based on the TV cartoon, but minus the intrepid Bond family, KING KONG ESCAPES is great Saturday afternoon matinee escapism, with a fun comic book-styled plot, lots of explosive destruction, great miniature work, and a rousing score. A man in a monkey suit once again plays Kong, but the costume is a marked improvement over the suit used in the previous Toho Kong film. The head and face are somewhat more cartoony, but at least resemble a gorilla. Mechani-Kong is just plain cool.

Never before released on home video in the U.S., Universal's new DVD is greatly appreciated. The widescreen, 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer is gorgeous, showing very little wear or damage. Colors are bright and stable, and the detail is extraordinary. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio track is sharp and clear of distortion. Like KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, Universal has not seen fit to include any extras, but that's okay. The price is right, and this long-desired disk looks and sounds great.

BUY: King Kong Escapes