A little while ago I posted about Polish film posters, idiosyncratic reductions of films into deceptively simple iconography. They often changed the tone that the advertisers might have wanted to convey. While searching for something else, I just stumbled across this Polish poster for 1968’s King Kong Escapes! (released in its native Japan as King Kong no Gyakushū) at an excellent website, Wrong Side of the Art. It’s a sinister, imposing beauty, miles away from the bright monster squabbles of the film itself and other posters. Check out the US release poster, with its rash promises of gargantuan spectacle, reassuring you that there will be a fight between a big ape and his robot clone (in case you were worried). It’s like a Wrestlemania poster, but with more believable characters – the draw for the potential audience is in finding out who wins the battle:
This from the New York Times review from 11th July 1968:
The Toho moviemakers are quite good in building miniature sets, but much of the process photography—matching the miniatures with the full-scale shots—is just bad. The English language dialogue that comes out of the mouths of the Japanese actors could well be Urdu, and the plotting is hopelessly primitive, although it is littered with found symbols, most of which have to do with a (perhaps Hiroshima-inspired) national death wish.
Really unforgivable, however, is what has been done to King Kong himself. The great, dignified, 80-foot ape-hero of the 1934 Hollywood classic has been turned into a spineless, grovelling Uncle Tom in the community of prehistoric beasts. At the direction of the simpering blonde heroine, he destroys the world domination plans of some Chinese Communist agents, pining all the while for a love that—for quite obvious reasons—cannot be.
I haven’t seen King Kong Escapes since I was maybe eight years old, and even that recollection is a hazy one: how am I supposed to remember which big-ape smackdown I was enthralled by after all these years? But the Polish poster speaks to my memory of it, with Kong as a pathetic figure hunched over from the pain and stress of being a big monster in a little-people world, instead of the second poster’s depiction of a prize-fighting badass. But this may be a product of my fallible memory, or a willful reconstruction of the film in my mind that makes it seem like it resembled the poster I admire more. Movie posters are usually designed to pre-fabricate the film n our minds, to incite expctations or hide deficiencies or show unresolved events which, it is promised, will be resolved during the film itself (who will win that fight, for instance?). But, like other forms of merchandise and publicity material, they might also help us to (mis-)remember a film, or to rebuild gaps in the narrative with our own imagination or preferred interpretation. There’s only one way to test the reliability or otherwise of my recollections – I’ve just ordered DVDs of King Kong vs Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. I’ll treat myself to a kaiju eiga double bill over the Easter break, and report back to readers of Spectacular Attractions in due course.