Sunday, May 15, 2016

At Flashbak: King Kong Hype, 1976 Style.

This week at Flashbak, I recall an event 40 years in the past…the hype surrounding the remake of King Kong.

“Lest anyone think that movie hype is a creation of the 21st century and modern Hollywood studios, today I wish to call your attention to the incredible age and specifics of King Kong Mania: the marketing and promotion surrounding the mid-1970s Dino De Laurentiis remake of the 1933 giant ape movie.

The year was 1976 -- exactly forty years ago -- and America was celebrating its bicentennial.  Jaws (1975) was a huge blockbuster, and Star Wars was still a year off.

And then came Kong. The new movie had a distinctive tag-line too.  “There is still only one King Kong,” it insisted.

The movie starred a very young Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, and Charles Grodin, and the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. updated for the disco decade the classic movie’s story-line.  Now, Kong was discovered by an oil expedition, not a movie crew.  That discovery occurred not during the Great Depression, but in the age of the Energy Crisis, and Kong battled helicopters instead of biplanes.  He also selected as his last-stand the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State Building.

King Kong’s arrival in movie theaters was only a piece of the overall marketing strategy.  Time Magazine, in October of 1976, featured a cover story to the film, which promised “Here Comes King Kong,” and then the merchandise began to hit toy stores.

Ideal licensed and released a King Kong board game, while Burger Chef released, in time for the movie’s premiere, a selection of drinking glasses.

Meanwhile, King Kong plush toys, lunch boxes, trading cards, and GAF Viewmaster discs also hit the market. Mego -- a truly great toy company of the decade -- even produced some toys that today are ultra-rare, if not impossible to find.

King Kong Mania got so big actually, that the newest Toho Godzilla movie, Godzilla vs. Megalon got a rip-off poster showcasing Godzilla (the real king of monsters…) and his kaiju nemesis perched atop the Twin Towers.

In the movie, Godzilla never got near the United States….”

Continue reading at Flashbak.

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