Tag Archives: Mie Hama

King Kong Escapes (1967, Honda Ishirô)

Despite lacking special effects and a phoned in score from Ifukube Akira (reusing his previous Godzilla themes to various effect), King Kong Escapes has quite a bit of charm to it. The film opens with Kong enthusiasts–really, they’re sitting around drawing pictures of him–Rhodes Reason and Takarada Akira. They’re U.N. submarine guys; U.N. submarines, patrolling the globe, is a thing in Escapes’s reality. Along with a female ship’s doctor, played by Linda Miller, who later in the film screams at the sight of blood. It’s like they forgot she was supposed to be a doctor.

Anyway, the film opens with them and isn’t particularly great. Those lacking effects are imaginative–they have a hovercraft–but there’s just something off about the trio. All the chemistry is between Takarada and Miller, which is great, only for some reason Miller’s always hugging Reason. It’s even established later on Takarada and Miller are a couple. So clearly Toho (and co-producers Rankin/Bass) didn’t think the world was ready for a Japanese guy and a white girl. Sorry, getting ahead once again.

Once the U.N. submarine is established, the action goes to the bad guys and the bad guys are awesome. One of the bad guys is evil scientist, Dr. Who (Amamoto Hideyo), who wears a cape and all of his henchmen have, if not capes, something approximately capes. It’s very, very weird and Amamoto plays it for all its worth. He’s working for beautiful foreign agent, Hama Mie–she’s not Japanese, not Chinese, but from some unidentified Asian nation with enough money to fund Amamoto building a giant King Kong robot. Mechani-Kong. They need a giant robot Kong for mining radioactive materials. The movie spends like fifteen minutes on it, the need for Kong (or Kong facsimiles) to mine. Hama plays it all straight, Amamoto chews through every bit of scenery he can. Somehow, it’s a magic combination. They’re both fantastic throughout the film.

When the action gets back to the U.N. submarine, it’s when they just happen to have to stop at Kong’s island. Escapes’s Kong suit conveys this sad and lonely giant ape. He’s got big, soulful, sad eyes and dejected body language. Some of that dejected body language is because the suit’s terrible, disproportionate and haphazardly detailed enough editor Fujii Ryôhei spends most of his time just trying to cover for the suit looking bad. Lots of questionable cuts, just because the head on the suit often doesn’t match the suit.

Once they’re on the island, director Honda does a bunch of homage to the 1933 King Kong, which is pretty cool. The effects are bad, seeing an adorable King Kong violently defend Miller against the Tyrannosaurus Rex stand-in is jarring, but the location shooting is excellent (and too short) and Honda’s homage is neat.

After the island, there’s a significant lull as Reason makes an address to the U.N. only to be sent right back to the island. Before they get there, Amamoto and his goons go to capture Kong in an amazing action sequence with helicopters and gas bombs and so on. The miniatures are okay, the suit is weak, Honda’s direction is phenomenal.

Eventually the bad guys capture the good guys–and Hama starts having a change of heart because Reason is so hot, but he doesn’t make the goo-goo eyes at her. While it is a bit of a plot hole, Kimura Takeshi’s script has a lot of nonsense going on. It does ruin the one chance to humanize Reason, who’s otherwise a stiff. Amamoto can’t even give his scenes with Reason much of a pulse.

Of course there’s a fight between the two Kongs–in Tokyo, on the Tokyo Tower, amid another Kong ’33 homage from Honda with Takarada as Bruce Cabot and Miller as Fay Wray. It’s all rather well-executed, regardless of the suits. The city and military miniatures are fine. In fact, the big fight scene could’ve easily gone on a bit longer. Escapes just needed a better budget. Honda was ready to do this one.

And Reason needs to go. Or at least be less of a stiff.

Takarada and Miller are both more appealing than good. Outside their chaste romance, they’re just around to make Reason seem important.

King Kong Escapes is goofy, the suits are silly, and Ifukube’s score disappoints (though the revised Godzilla 1954 music for Kong and Miller’s love theme is great). It’s still all right, thanks to Honda taking it so seriously. And Hama and Amamoto. Especially Hama and Amamoto.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Fujii Ryôhei; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Rhodes Reason (Commander Carl Nelson), Linda Miller (Lieutenant Susan Watson), Takarada Akira (Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura), Hama Mie (Madame Piranha), and Amamoto Hideyo (Dr. Who).


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King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962, Honda Ishirô)

I thought movies about giant monsters fighting were supposed to be exciting, but apparently not. I haven’t seen King Kong vs. Godzilla in maybe fifteen years and now, this time, I watched the original Japanese version. Frighteningly, it’s only seven minutes longer, so I imagine the Americanized version is boring too. The main problem with the film is its stupidity. It’s supposed to be a comedy, except Honda Ishiro’s direction doesn’t take humor into account. Honda’s direction doesn’t take a lot of things into account–like coverage or shot continuity, but whatever. He visibly doesn’t know how to shoot for 2.35:1 here, filling the middle of the frame with action; the film is VHS safe twenty-five years before anyone else was worried about it.

To compensate, there’s a lot of stuff with the lame people in the story. A pharmaceutical company captures King Kong to be their corporate mascot and there’s all these people who run around–with high level military access apparently–and they’re mostly useless. The boss, who’s doing a Groucho Marx impression, is mildly amusing, but the lead is real broad. The romantic male lead (interested in the lead’s sister), played by Sahara Kenji is actually all right. So is Hirata Akihiko (who died in the original Godzilla, playing a different scientist). He’s actually the funniest, walking around, spouting off useless commentary. The scenes where people bet on the outcome of the fight are lame.

I couldn’t tell what was wrong with the movie until I realized no one got hurt. Both King Kong and Godzilla destroy trains, but there are no victims. They destroy houses, they stomp things… no one gets hurt. The tone isn’t light, it’s stupid.

Another technical problems involve the music–it’s terrible, especially when Honda fills the running time with montages of Godzilla trap preparation–and the sound design. The sound design’s just incompetent.

No movie called King Kong vs. Godzilla was going to be good, but there’s usually something amusing about Godzilla movies (from my cursory reading, it seems like the dubbed, Americanized version might be a cleaner cut). Honda’s repeated failures throughout really make the original Godzilla even more of an achievement (and shock).

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shinichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Kaneko Reiko; music by Ifukube Akira; production designers, Abe Teruaki and Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takashima Tadao (Osamu), Sahara Kenji (Kazuo), Fujiki Yu (Kinsaburo), Arishima Ichiro (Tako), Tazaki Jun (General Shinzo), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Shigezawa), Hama Mie (Fumiko), Wakabayashi Akiko (Tamiye), Negishi Akemi (Dancing Girl) and Omura Senkichi (Konno).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | GODZILLA, PART ONE: SHOWA.