King Kong Escapes, like Frankenstein vs. Baragon, was a joint effort between Japan and America. Fresh off his battle with Godzilla, TOHO was eager to use Kong in another feature. This movie is unique in many ways. It has a rather small Japanese presence, since two of the main actors are American and it barely takes place in the city. (In fact, it only takes place in Tokyo in the exciting climax.) This would technically be the fourth ever King Kong movie. It's what you get when Director Ishiro Honda grabs the 1933 classic and remakes it Godzilla style.
The story starts out in a submarine. Two scientists are studying papers of a giant ape, known as the King Kong legend of Mondo Island. They didn't plan on going, but after an iceberg falls on the sub, they're forced to land there. Kong awakens to the screams of a woman about to gulped by a dinosaur called Gorosaurus. Later Kong heads to the city where he'll have to battle his mechanic double built by the evil Dr. Hu, Mechani Kong, Apparently this is based on an old cartoon called The King Kong Show. Not many people are going to know that unless they visit the Wiki. (Now I'm quite interested in that toon.) From the start with Akira Ifukube's familiar theme, you can tell this is going to be a good movie. It has heart, it's fun, and you never feel like you want it to end. It's pretty much everything Peter Jackson's remake wasn't.
The main characters are Commander Carl Nelson, Susan Watson, and Jiro Nomura. The first two are American, while the latter is Japanese portrayed by famous Godzilla actor Akira Takarada. Nelson is portrayed by Rhodes Reason. He's a pretty solid character people will like. The most interesting of the three is definitely Susan, portrayed by Linda Miller. Her child-like voice and demeanor was pretty unique, and sometimes unintentionally funny. (Try to hold back from laughing in when she shouts, "Kong! King Kong!") The relationship between her and the title character is established nicely. Dr. Hu, portrayed by Hideyo Amamoto, is the antagonist. His look is a bit cartoonish, (then again it is based on a cartoon) but he succeeds in being a pretty entertaining villain. One of his highlights is when he shoots down the native. The other 'villain' is Mandame Piranha, portrayed by Mie Hama. (She was in the 007 film, You Only Live Twice.) She is very interesting right from the start, being the true leader but later has a change of heart. She is definitely one of the best characters in the whole thing.
The interesting thing about King Kong is that he's not a villain at all and is very human-like. This being a TOHO kaiju movie, they know how to handle monsters whether they created them or not. Despite being a giant gorilla, Kong expresses great emotion, even more so than the human cast. Suitmation will always be able to show that better than CGI. Admittedly, the Kong suit isn't as good as the one featured in King Kong vs. Godzilla. The factor tying this into the Godzilla-verse is Gorosaurus. TOHO could have gone the easy route and just put in a generic Tyrannosaurus/Allosaurus/V-Rex like all the other Kong movies did, but they made their own monster. (Which then appeared a year in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.) Gorosaurus just looks good and his 'kangaroo kick is pretty cool. The fight between him and Kong was definitely a highlight. It's a shame he didn't get to do anything after DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.
The main antagonist for King Kong however is Mechani Kong, a robot dublimate. It's a pretty fantastic creation, it looks amazing forty-six years later. The climax in the city with it and Kong was pretty exciting. And also without the Robot Kong it's quite possible we would have never gotten a Mechagodzilla! All of these scenes are accompanied by Akira Ifukube's wonderful soundtrack. One of the themes that plays throughout the film you'll recognize from the early Godzilla movies.
Overall, King Kong Escapes is definitely the most fun Kong movie. With good characters, a classic evil villain, and giant monster/robot fights, it's a must see for any kaiju or Kong fan.