Mechani-Kong (メカニコング Mekanikongu)
FIRST APPEARS IN:
In cartoon form – The King Kong Show, Episode 9, 1966
In live-action form – King Kong Escapes, 1967
– blindingly bright torch-eyes
– detachable hypno-headpiece
– a deceptively friendly face
– a belt of bombs
– fainting at the sign of “Element X”
– tower climbing
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) is not one of my favourite Godzilla films. It is, however, one of the most flat-out fun entries in the series (not to mention its initial popularity is pretty much the reason we have been blessed with so many Godzilla sequels). Toho’s vision of King Kong is both hilarious and awesome – I certainly need to dedicate an article to him in the future. Sadly, the Japanese King Kong would only make one more appearance: 1967’s King Kong Escapes. While we only have this sole return to the big screen, we can be thankful that it is one of Toho’s best kaijū films outside of the Godzilla franchise. In fact, it is an even more entertaining film than King Kong vs. Godzilla. We get a fantastic villain (Dr. Hu, confusingly referred to as “Dr. Who” in some subtitles), an appearance from underrated monster Gorosaurus who is viciously dispatched by King Kong, adequate and likeable heroes and, of course, the return of King Kong. But easily the best feature of King Kong Escapes is King Kong’s primary opponent, Mechani-Kong.
The source material for King Kong Escapes is not King Kong vs. Godzilla, as one would assume (I know I did), but in fact The King Kong Show, a cartoon series from the mid-60s. Both Dr. Hu and Mechani-Kong appeared in this animated series, but I think it’s safe to say, Toho took liberties in recreating them for King Kong Escapes:
I should point out that King Kong Escapes came years before Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). Mechani-Kong can be seen as a sort of prototype for the great Mechagodzilla, my personal favourite Godzilla foe, which is perhaps that is why I’m so drawn to Mechani-Kong. The characters have obvious similarities in their design, but, appearance aside, they are different beasts. The Mechagodzilla of the 70s was an aggressive and psychotic adversary with far more personality than you would expect his programming would allow. Mechani-Kong, on the other hand, is very much a machine – a remote controlled robot merely responding to Dr. Hu’s commands. While I love Mechagodzilla’s delirious viciousness, the more straightforward approach to Mechani-Kong works brilliantly when machine tees off against the pure animal that is King Kong.
It would have been nice to see Mechani-Kong return to the big screen, but really, the concept of a robotic Kong fighting the real thing is probably too insane to pull off twice. (That said, the original Mechagodzilla managed it.) Even the way he is introduced in King Kong Escapes is completely absurd. Dr. Hu madly builds Mechani-Kong out of a weird obsession with King Kong. Mechani-Kong is apparently built to be exactly the same as King Kong (Hu hysterically bases his design off some rather crude drawings from someone who’s never seen King Kong – see below). He claims that Mechani-Kong is the perfect machine to tunnel into the ground and extract the Element X (material used for making weapons… or something) underneath their base. Yeah, supposedly King Kong is really good at digging?! Dr. Hu’s source of finance sums it up quite well – Dr. Hu merely has built an expensive toy. And boy, am I glad he did.