King Kong Escapes is basically a live-action Saturday Morning cartoon show. (Remember those?) Which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the movie was a co-production between Toho Studios and Rankin/Bass to tie in with with latter’s Saturday morning cartoon, The King Kong Show. The movie is silly, light, colorful, filled with gadgets and gizmos, and designed to target 7–12 year-old boys. It works as exactly what it is. I imagine that director Ishiro Honda was a bit frustrated with it, since this sort of comic-book fantasy didn’t allow his more humanist interests to surface, but VFX director Eiji Tsubaraya sure got to run riot with the effects, which, aside from Kong, also feature Mechani-Kong (the giant robot that would inspire Mechagodzilla), the dinosaur Gorosaurus, a sea serpent, a super-sub, a flying all-terrain vehicle, and an underground Arctic base. The effects are plentiful, and with the exception of some iffy optical work, always pleasurable to watch.
The recent Blu-ray only contains the version that Universal released in the U.S., with dubbing for the Japanese actors. This is not as detrimental for King Kong Escapes compared to many kaiju films, because two of the leads, Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller, are English-speakers who spoke their own language on set. Linda Miller ended up dubbed by another English-speaking actress, but her lips still match. As a bonus, Paul Frees dubs the villain, Dr. Who (no relation), played by Eisei Amamoto. It’s always great hearing Paul Frees dub anything. However, the dubbed version does injure the performances of the other leads, Akira Takarada (who becomes Linda Miller’s love interest) and Mie Hama as the very sexy femme fatale spy Madame X. This was the same year that Mie Hama appeared as Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice, and she’s far more sultry here. She also undergoes a costume change every two minutes through a parade of great ‘60s fashions.