King Kong Week: King Kong (1976)
Over a decade ago, I had a strange professional experience. The editor on a book I wrote about a classic British science-fiction TV series marked out in red ink every single reference I made in my text to the 1976 version of King Kong.
In Surabaya, primate researcher Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridge) sneaks aboard the Petrox Explorer as it prepares to set sail for a mysterious destination. As Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), executive for Petrox Oil explains, he has discovered in the Pacific what he believes is an uninhabited island hidden behind a perpetual fogbank. Satellite footage suggests the island could be a rich source of oil.
Leaving behind the context of the 1930s and the Great Depression, King Kong (1976) is truly a remake with a modern spin. The film revolves around the Energy Crisis of the 1970s, particularly the 1973 Oil Crisis.
|Menaced, literally, by Big Oil.|
|Kong comes to America...in an oil tanker.|
In the remade Kong, Dwan also fits into the leitmotif about exploitation. She is an aspiring actress who desires, more than anything, to be famous. Her experience on Skull Island with Kong is Dwan’s ticket to fame, and she realizes it. Dwan is, in essence, seduced by the possibility of being a “star” and so betrays Kong…the beast who protected her and sheltered her in a dangerous jungle. By contrast, Prescott possesses the wherewithal to detect Wilson’s exploitation of Kong, and he terms the whole affair a “grotesque farce.”
|Dwan is ready for her close-up?|
|Jack realizes that she will always be a fame-seeker|
|The press is her boyfriend now...and she knows it.|
|..at last, to this.|
King Kong’s final scenes, atop the Twin Towers, are also pretty terrible in terms of visuals. In part this is so because of blue screen and rear projection work that fails to maintain, in proper ratio, the size of Kong and the size of the attacking helicopters. It’s also a matter of the lighting of the various component parts of the scene. The night-shots of the helicopters and night sky look washed out and dim compared to the footage of Kong.