KING KONG (1976) 

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Jeff Bridges
Charles Grodin
Jessica Lange
John Randolph
Rene Auberjonois
Julius Harris
Jack O'Halloran
Dennis Fimple
Ed Lauter
Jorge Moreno
Mario Gallo

John Guillerman



Time: 134 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Adventure/Horror/Sci-Fi

Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

Without a doubt, this update is one of the worst remakes and most painful viewing experiences I've had in a very, very long time. Fondly remembering my childhood where I watched the Saturday afternoon "Creature Feature" and became familiar with fantastic beings like Kong and Godzilla, I sat back on a recent lazy weekend to enjoy what I hoped would be an exciting modern retelling of that classic monkey tale. Boy, was I surprised. I don't know what was worse, the over-acting, the hokey dialogue, the wafer thin plot or the pathetic special effects. How Lange got hired again after her performance here is a miracle. Granted it was her first movie and it can't have been easy acting opposite an animatronic ape; however, if I was a member of the crew who brought her to that island, I would have left her there. Believe me, the fact that she was the sole woman on the boat is the only reason they retrieved her self-absorbed, stupid, superficial, yet shapely ass.

Bridges doesn't fair much better. Not quite the powerful leading man he was to become in the 80s and 90s, he at least gets to take the high road, being both Romeo and rescuer to Lange and the only human looking out for Kong's best interests. He's hairy and puffy, sweet and cynical and the only person you give a damn about here. Grodin is the evil oil man whose initial get-rich-quick scheme – which was to drill Skull Island for the black gold – is pushed aside once he realizes the gold mine he's found in the gigantic ape. The fact that the island's oil won't be ready for human consumption for several hundred more years also plays into his rash decision. He decides to remove Kong from his native habitat and bring him back to New York for display, a move none of the others seem all to happy about considering many of them died at Kong's hand while rescuing Lange. For her part, she seems to have forgiven Kong his lustful kidnapping exploits and is excited at the prospect of finally receiving her place in the spotlight – even if she has to share it with a giant monkey.

"There is a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape."

The story becomes ever more stupid, if that's possible, once they reach the Big Apple. It turns out that Kong is a country boy at heart and is none to pleased with his visit to the city. All he wants is some alone time with the girl of his dreams. Angered by the pressing crowd and flashing bulbs he breaks free and ravages the city to find Lange, who took off when things started to go awry. This he does fairly quickly considering this is his first time navigating the mean streets of Manhattan. Bridges turns his back for two seconds to get Lange a drink and the monkey steals his girl, yet again. She's no longer scared of Kong, just tired of his manhandling her, like an ex-lover who refuses to take the hint that things are over. She's kind of flattered by his devotion to her and realizes, once the military becomes involved – somebody's got to stop this crazy ape – that his life is in her hands. As long as he holds on to her, they refuse to shoot at him. However, in the end, he proves he's a gentleman at heart (despite the almost constant leering) and places her out of harm's way, regardless of the consequences to himself.

Inter-species relationships rarely end happily and in Kong's case prove fatal. I'm sure, after all the special times they spent together, he would not want to live without his blonde sweetheart, so perhaps his fate was merciful after all. Yes, that evaluation is silly, but so is this entire movie. Kong is too human, going after Lange like a frat boy set loose in a sorority house. It's all well and good to show that he has a sensitive and intelligent side, but this film goes too far. He's a creature who had very little contact with humans, so where did he learn his gentile mannerisms? Of course he would be captivated by Lange's blond beauty, since it's something new to his world. However, as an animal, we should get the impression that he's as likely to eat her as bathe her. The original film has the right tone. Kong goes after Faye Wray because she's the only person who's done him no harm. She's his possession as well as a comfort and companion in a strange new world. This Kong is too one-dimensional, never creating abject fear or outright compassion.

Along those same lines, the effects used to create him are painfully fake. A man in a monkey suit would have been more convincing than the animatronics employed here. Kong looked more realistic in the original version and that film is over 70 years old. He fits better in his environment than the computer-generated HULK, but not by much. It's no wonder Lange puts in such a poor performance. She's sitting in a giant hand and even she can't believe it's real. The only good thing to come out of this movie is the King Kong ride at Universal Studios in Florida. It generates more excitement in 15 minutes than this whole film does over two hours. The final denouement on the now demolished World Trade Center towers is disconcerting and makes this disaster of filmmaking seem even more trivial than it might otherwise merit. Even fans of Bridges or Lange will be hard pressed to find anything redeemable about this effort – with the exception of Lange's barely there costumes.

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