07 November 2011

KING KONG ESCAPES/1967/ISHIRO HONDA/MIE HAMA

KING KONG ESCAPES

1967/Director: Ishirô Honda/ Writer: Takeshi Kimura

Cast: Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Akira Takarada, Eisei Amamoto


I was lucky that before all my BT download problems began a month or so back I downloaded a batch of classic Toho kaiju films. Kaiju is the term for Japanese monster films, and in particular those wonderful ones with guys in rubber suits judo flipping one another all over Tokyo. I was pleasantly surprised with King Kong Escapes, the 2nd King Kong film from Toho after King vs Godzilla. It has all the trademarks of a great Toho kaiju film and was directed by Ishiro Honda, who turned out some of the beast monster films for Toho. One thing that makes this Toho monster film a little more enjoyable than some is the drama between the human being is better than usual.

First there is the crew of the US Explorer. Led by all American he man Commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason) and his 2nd in command Jiro Nomure (played by Toho standard Akira Takarada) the submarine must make an emergency landing near Mondo Island, home of none other than King Kong. They ashore with head of the medical department Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller) who earlier got the crew to shape up by warning them she had plenty of castor oil to administer. In no time they encounter Kong who gets himself into a kung fu style brawl with Gorosaurus. Of course Kong falls for the blond Lt. and get all dreamy eyes looking at her. But she just speaks English very loudly and slowly and orders him over and over, “Put me down Kong. Down! Put me down!”, and he does.

There is of course an evil element to the film, as there always is in a good Toho film. Usually some sinister, secret organization (usually led by aliens) is up to no good and they either need to employ or eliminate one or more of the kaijin. In this case the bas guys are led by Dr. Who (not that one) played by Eisei Amamoto, who has developed a gigantic Mecha-Kong to excavate all the Element X he desires so he can then sell it to the highest bidder and they can construct enough nuclear weapons to bully the combined powers of the US and the USSR. He is in serious negotiations with the mysterious Madame X (Mie Hama) who is from some unknown Asian country. The country is never named and it is comical at times how the script avoids identifying the rogue nation, that we can assume is either commie China or North Korea (remember this is 1967). Mecha-Kong can not endure the effects of Element X and shuts down and so dr. Who falls back on Plan B, kidnapping the real King Kong to excavate the mineral. Exactly why humans and human machines cannot be used is never explained.

Kong is kidnapped and soon Dr. Who has Commander Nelson on his tail, along with the UN. In these old Toho films the UN seemed to have unlimited power. In some scenes just by saying “I’m with the UN” a person is given charge of entire military units. Nelson winds and his friends wind up at the North Pole, where Who’s headquarters are, and soon wins over the “oriental Mata Hari” with little effort, simply by laying back on the sofa and acting rude and arrogant seems to make her weak. She suddenly abandons all her plans for herself and “her country” and sets the good guys free, and of course is offed by Dr Who.

Kong escapes slave labor and swims back to Tokyo and of course Mecha-Kong arrives alter and they have it out on Tokyo Tower. There are lots of fun bits in this film and all the actors ham it up and have a great time. The real center piece is Kong’s horrible costume. The mask appears to be made of nothing but papier-mâché and in a couple scenes when Kong runs it is just hilarious. His fingers never seem to move and his eye lids look like window blinds opening and closing. Mecha-Kong looks pretty darn good and the monster battles in the film are above average. Mie Hama is so very cute and she and Dr Who add a James Bond element to the film and Mie would star in 1967’s Bond flick You Only Live Twice as the coquettish secret agent Kissy Suzuki. If you are not a fan of Toho monsters move along, but if you are and have not seen this one yet then please do. I doubt you will be disappointed. I have about a dozen more Toho monster films to throw at you so stay tuned. Sadly I was not able to get a copy of Ishiro Honda’s Rodan and going to see if that is available from a Rapidshare site. I watched Ghidrah last night and the Rodan in it looked different, more chickenish than I recall. This calls for some serious research.


Some valuable trivia from the marvelous website Monster Island News:

1. The voice of Susan Watson is not that of the American actress, Linda Miller, who played her in the film. The voice you hear is actually Julie Bennett who's voice track was dubbed into the film.
2. The film is actually a "live-action" version of the King Kong animated series that was very popular in Japan in 1966. Most fans believe that the film is a sequel to King Kong vs Godzilla which was produced in 1962, however it was never intended to be connected to that film in any way.
3. King Kong was intended to be the star of the film Ebirah: Horror of the Deep that was produced a year earlier. Toho studios had a rough time securing the rights for Kong prior to production so Godzilla was substituted at the last minute.
4. Toho had a long running love affair with King Kong. Their most famous monster, Godzilla, was first envisioned as a giant fire-breathing gorilla. Although the studio was able to secure the rights from Universal Studios for two films many more attempts were made to feature the monster. The above mentioned Ebirah and a remake or King Kong vs Godzilla in 1991 most notably King Kong Escapes, released in Japan as Kingu Kongu no Gyakush, (literally "King Kong's Counterattack"), is a Japanese/American tokusatsu film. A co-production from Toho and Rankin/Bass, it was released in Japan in 1967, and in the United States by Universal Studios the following year.
5. The film was an adaptation of episodes of Rankin/Bass and Toei Animation's The King Kong Show cartoon series. As with King Kong vs. Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya served as director of special effects.












This is some information on the lovely Mie Hama that I copied and pasted fromIMDB in order to just expedite the publishing of this post as I am  really tired right now:

Mie Hama
Mie Hama was born in Tokyo, Japan on November 20, 1943. She first started out working as a bus fare collector. While working, she was spotted by producer Tomoyuki Tanaka , and was soon employed at Toho Studios. She appeared in a bevy of drama and sci-fi films, including Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (1962), where she became the Giant Ape's "Damsel in Distress." She is probably best known in Western Cinema as Bond girl Kissy Suzuki, starring alongside actor Sean Connery in the 007 film You Only Live Twice (1967). That same year, Kingu Kongu no gyakushû (1967) was released, thus, she portrayed the spellbinding "Bond-girlish" villainess Madamn Piranha. Her extended wardrobe and enchanted bed chambers contributed to the film's "James Bond-ish" atmosphere. In addition, Hama would sometimes be referred to as "Funny Face," due to her appearances in Japan's "Crazy Cats" movies.

She became of the most popular actresses in Japan's "Golden Age" of Cinema, but has done little acting when Japan's cinema world experienced severe financial problems. However, she did return to appear in a few films in the 1970s and 1980s, and she is seen, most recently, working as an active environmentalist.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Oliver Chu

Trivia

Because of illness during filming, Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki) was doubled in a diving scene (in "You Only Live Twice") by no less than Diane Cilento - Sean Connery's wife at the time.

Had actually appeared in almost 70 movies before she got married to 007 in You Only Live Twice.

The first Asian woman to appear in Playboy.

Was the first Asian Bond girl.

Has been called the Japanese Brigitte Bardot.

Her first name is pronounced "Mee-yay."

When producers for "You Only Live Twice" warned Mie that because she wasn't learning English quickly enough, she was going to be fired from the film, she solemnly told them that, because of her shame, she would then commit ritual suicide. Whether she was bluffing or not, the producers decided not to risk it, and she was kept on the film.


3 comments:

E. Yan said...

This robo king kong is incredible, thanks for sharing.

Bill D. Courtney said...

Yes, He is a cool looking robot Kong. I see you have a movie fashion blog. Good luck there.

Petroglyph said...

Saw this movie when I was around 5 years old... pretty scary then...pretty wild finally finding a movie few knew about!
I knew I hadn't just imagined it...but then; who did??? WHO did!

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