KING KONG —-the first remake of the 1933 classic, done on a big scale, this 1976 try doesn’t measure up to the original, but it has enough amusements on its own if you don’t blindly bow to ‘purists’ placing the first film on equal footing with the Magna Carta.
Aside from coming up against a legend, the main faults of this version are its length (too long at 134 minutes), a disappointingly short stay on Skull Island, and some dull dilly-dallying between the humans. The script took a tongue-in-cheek approach, and generally scores, as the earnest tone from the 30s wouldn’t have gone over in the 70s (a few more years and the perfect blend was achieved in 2005).
Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin ham it amusingly, and Ed Lauter deadpans to a tee. Jessica Lange is gorgeous, and handled her part with humor, but that wasn’t enough for cat-nasty reviewers, who were quite cruel to her. C’mon, folks, she’s playing against a giant ape! She took it to heart, and didn’t appear in another movie for three years. Those same critics who said she’d never be anything but a has-been model had to swallow their drivel in 1982, when she scored a double-homer with Tootsie and Frances.
As for Mr. Kong, it’s a mixed bag (of fur). The big model (40 feet high, weighing over six tons) moves badly, and KK isn’t allowed to battle dinosaurs (cheat!), but the Rick Baker makeup for the closer shots works, and some of the man-in-suit process shots come off , especially with the great sound effects and beautiful sets. John Barry’s score conveys proper awe and tragedy. Despite the press snubs, it was a hit, the 9th biggest that year (lots of publicity for the $24,000,000 production) and brought in close to $80,000,000. Grabbed the Visual Effects Oscar and nominations for Cinematography and Sound.
Directed by the combative John Guillerman, featuring John Randolph, Rene Auberjonois, Julius Harris, Jack O’Halloran and John Agar. Not anything close to great, but better than its poor reputation.