REVIEW: King Kong (1976)

I’ve been recording several movies on my DVR, so I figured I’d review them also. This is part 1 of 2 of the “Night of the Apes” on AMC.
Summary: America’s bicentennial brought about many things. One thing people would rather forget about that historic year is the modern remake of one of the classic films, ,King Kong. Remaking a classic film is alright, but modernizing something like Kong probably isn’t the best idea.

Instead of trying to find the island to film a movie on it, they’re an oil company that thinks the island has a huge reserve of oil. Instead of bringing Kong back as a sideshow attraction, they bring him back to represent the power of their oil company. And instead of getting shot by biplanes on top of the Empire State Building, poor Kong is minigunned by helicopters while on top of the World Trade Center after jumping from one tower to the other. Honest exploitation for the sake of exploitation is replaced by eeeeeeevil oil companies trying to destroy nature. You’d think it was made today.

Thoughts: This movie is pretty corny. Half of the lines before they get to the island are stuff about “what could go wrong?” or “I feel like we’re going to run into something big.” The best line is after Kong takes the girl and knocks down all of the trees in his way: “What do you think did this, a man in an ape suit?”

You see, the most interesting thing about this movie is the misinformation given about it before it was released. The original plan was to build a 40-foot mechanical Kong and use it for everything. They started building it then realized that it would be impossible to balance and move, so they scrapped that idea. The thing is they never told the public that they couldn’t do it. They ended up building a 40-foot Kong that could flex its fingers and open its mouth a little for the escape in New York scene, the scene with hundreds of extras pulled from the general population. For all the world knew, they used that 40-foot mechanical Kong the whole time. And thats the trick. The producer (Dino De Laurentiis, producer of many cheesy horror movies including, but not limited to, Army of Darkness) knew that no one would believe that he found a 40-foot ape, but he might be able to convince them that he built a 40-foot mechanical one. This created the sense of belief in the reality of it, instead of “It’s only a model.” Aside from the escape in New York scene, they built mechanical arms and feet. Every other shot was a pretty much uncredited Rick Baker (awesome makeup guy) in an ape suit. (The full story is here).

Other than the mechanical hands, which are pretty impressive, the only redeemable part of this movie is a scruffy looking Jeff Bridges as the human male lead. He seems to be the only one not told to ham it up, and even he has a hard time. Acting against greenscreen before Star Wars Episode IV was even released had to have been hard. Did any of the actors know that they could even pull it off?

Overall: Corny, silly, but fun to see if only to make fun of it.


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