Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cult Movie Review: 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. 

As explanation, the editor opined that such a “bomb” could not be discussed as part of legitimate King Kong history.  If I needed to refer to King Kong, then the 1933 film would do just fine.

This anecdote reveals two things.

First, it exposes how editors can impress their own viewpoints and biases on a manuscript. 

Secondly -- and more relevantly for this review --  this story suggests the depth of hatred the Dino De Laurentiis King Kong remake has aroused over the long decades since it premiered.  The film is apparently not only “a bomb,” but it should actually be erased from the history books and our collective cultural memory.  You…can’t…even…write…about…it.

As you may have guessed, I disagree with the questionable conventional wisdom that King Kong (1976) is a bomb, and one unworthy of debate, examination, and analysis.

In the first case, the film grossed over eighty million dollars worldwide on a budget of twenty-four million dollars, with a marketing budget of fifteen million.  King Kong thus cleared its budget and turned a nifty profit, especially in 1970s terms.  In fact, the remake had approximately the same opening weekend gross as Jaws (1975), about seven million dollars. 

So financially speaking, King Kong was definitively not a bomb. The industry expectation recounted in various articles of the day (including in Time Magazine) established that the film should gross between fifty and one hundred million dollars.  Receipts landed just about in the middle of that ballpark, with eighty million.

And in terms of critical response, was King Kong really a bomb?

Critic Pauline Kael certainly didn’t think so.  She wrote in The New Yorker that the new King Kong was a “romantic adventure fantasy – colossal, silly, touching” and even termed it an “absurdist love story.”

Meanwhile, Time Magazine called the film a “confidently conceived, exuberantly executed work of popular movie art.”  

Roger Ebert also praised the film (and gave it “thumbs up” rating) during a 1976 episode of Sneak 
Previews.  Also, the periodical America noted that “in making a comment on the tragedy of the human spirit in an industrialist age, it [the film] speaks directly to and about its audience.”

So while the film undeniably received many negative reviews, it might be more accurate to state that 1976 Kong was controversial, or faced mixed critical reactions.  Those who declared that King Kong was a “bomb” were primarily die-hard fans of the original 1933 film, and members of the protean genre press (the same class that also, incidentally, savaged Space:1999 [1975 – 1977]).

Considering this dynamic and the timing of the film's release, King Kong may actually represent the occasion of the very first “remake” fan war.  As is the case with all remakes, I can see both sides of the debate, but elect to take each remake on a case-by-case basis. Some remakes are worthy and interesting and others...are not.

In the case of King Kong, there are indeed some fascinating aspects of the film to remember and praise.  It’s true that the special effects in the latter half of this Oscar-winning film are an absolute mess, especially in the film’s bungled finale atop the World Trade Center.  And one can only cringe at the craven attempts to sell the man-in-the-monkey suit (Rick Baker) scenes as featuring a giant Kong robot.  Yikes...

Yet -- warts and all -- this King Kong speaks to the 1970s as trenchantly as the original Kong spoke to audiences of the 1930s.   The film contextualizes Kong as an exploited natural resource, as a metaphor for the 1970s Energy Crisis and America’s dependency on petroleum.  And secondly, on a far more personal level, the film comments on the pursuit of fame and its consequences in our modern culture.

I grew up with the 1970s King Kong and thus possess great nostalgic affection for the film.  I’ll be covering 1976 “Kong Mania” here tomorrow afternoon, in my weekly Memory Bank piece, for example.  But childhood affection for it or not, I maintain King Kong is not the “bomb” -- either financially or creatively -- that conventional wisdom has so often suggested.

“Ah, the power of it. Ah, the superpower! Hail to the power! Hail to the power of Kong! And Petrox!” 

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.

En route to this remote destination, the Petrox Explorer rescues the lone survivor of a yacht explosion, the gorgeous would-be movie star, Dwan (Jessica Lange).  And upon reaching the island, Jack, Fred and Dwan learn that it is indeed inhabited.  The natives who dwell there cower behind a huge wall in fear of a God called Kong,” in actuality a colossal gorilla.

By night, Dwan is abducted by the natives and transformed into a “bride” or human sacrifice for Kong.  But as Dwan soon learns, the giant gorilla is not a dangerous enemy, but a valiant and loyal protector.  The men from the Petrox Explorer set out to rescue Dwan from Kong even as Fred learns that there is no gusher on the island…no oil.  So as to spare his professional reputation and save his job, Wilson decides to capture Kong and bring him back to civilization as a “commercial” for Petrox.

After Kong is captured and brought to New York City, the regal ape breaks free and causes chaos in Manhattan.  Finding Dwan again, Kong carries her to the top of the Twin Towers.  Before long, helicopters armed with machine guns close in for the kill…

“Well, here's to the big one…” 

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. 

As you may recall, that incident occurred when OPEC slashed oil production by five percent and then increased prices dramatically, something on the order of seventy percent.  The Arab organization used this so-called “oil weapon” to protest the U.S. government’s support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.  

At home, American consumers were soon urged not to be “fuelish” about consumption, and to conserve gasoline.  The embargo was lifted, finally, when the Nixon Administration negotiated an Israeli withdrawal from Sinai.

But the OPEC incident revealed to many Americans the heretofore un-excavated nexus between government action, international relationships, oil companies, and fossil fuel.  If America was to become truly energy independent -- and avoid a repeat Energy Crisis in the process -- it would need to discover and dig up new sources of petroleum.

King Kong (1976) is explicitly about this quest, and the mighty Kong himself stands in -- literally, in one case -- for petroleum; for a precious and exploitable natural resource. 

In the specific scene I mention, Kong is rolled out before an American audience in Manhattan…ensconced inside a giant Petrox gas tank.  It would be foolish to deny the potent symbolism of this imagery. An audience stands in awe of a giant container of gasoline, the very life-line to its twentieth century life-style of leisure and consumption.

But underneath that tank is...what, precisely?

A monster that -- if set free – could threaten or destroy everything in our modern world, here symbolized by the Big Apple

If one stops to consider that the ownership and control of foreign oil has been the precipitating cause of global conflicts on several occasions, one may begin to detect the underlying context of this Kong remake.  The race to possess and control oil could lead not to a world of plenty, but to destruction and chaos.  We try to control oil (or Kong), but look what happens?

Furthering the symbolism, Kong is brought to America inside the vast cargo hold of an oil super tanker, a fact which also visually equates the ape with petroleum, a valuable resource taken from a foreign locale and made to serve American interests.

In the original film, Kong was “the eighth wonder of the world,” an amazing spectacle captured to relieve the boredom and anxiety of a people enmeshed in an economic depression.  

In the 1976 remake, Kong is literally a mascot, a “commercial” (in the words of the script) for an oil company hoping to beat its corporate competition to larger profits.  In fact, a literal comparison is made between Kong and the famous Exxon campaign “put a tiger in your tank.” Only here the royal and regal natural power is embodied by a primate rather than a feline.

In toto, the “Kong as natural resource” angle of the remake works surprisingly well.  Wilson is described aptly in the film as an “environmental rapist” and Prescott worries about what will happen to the island culture once it is bereft of the “energy” (in this case creative and spiritual energy…) that Kong’s presence provides it. Kong is “the juice,” in other words, that powers every aspect of their lives, from organized religion to national security.  When Kong taken from them….does their culture die? What does it run on?

As Richard Eder wrote in The New York Times the impulse to explore, to discover, to bring back something that you’ve discovered - [that which we found in the first King Kong] is now replaced by simple greed – the greed of the oil company representative Fred Wilson, to find a gusher.”

In the same vein, the film is veritably loaded with references to Gulf, Shell and Exxon.  And Skull Island itself is termed in dialogue a “huge tank just waiting for us to twist the top off.”  

The idea expressed, then, is that of out-of-control oil companies hoping to sustain our 20th century life style.  In support of this endeavor, they can travel anywhere in the world, claim natural resources as their own property, and in the process destroy the natural beauty and even the people of those terrains.  The excuse?  “There’s a national energy crisis!,” as Wilson says. 

In charting this dynamic, the remake of King Kong evokes a far more cynical and troubled world than the one dramatized in the original 1930s film.  If the original film is a fairy tale of mythic proportions, the remake is, by contrast, a cautionary tale about a world running out of gas, creatively, spiritually and in terms of natural resources.  It’s a world that hopes to latch onto anything “new,” and exploit it for its monetary value even if that “new” thing is destroyed in the process. Going even further, the decision for Kong to climb the World Trade Center -- a representation of western economic and global powers -- is symbolic in some sense too.  As Time Magazine opined, the film might be seen as a "projection of Western fears of what might happen if the Third World should develop its potential power and fight back."

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.” 

But Dwan can’t see or acknowledge the truth fully because she is obsessed with herself, and with fame. 

This idea is woven nimbly into the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.  Early on, we learn that the character changed her name from Dawn to Dwan in order to make it “more memorable,” a sign of the character’s true aspiration to be a celebrity. 

And when Kong is captured, and feeling morose about his captivity, Dwan tells the great beast not to worry, that he’s “going to America to be a star.”  This line also suggests that for Dwan, fame is the highest achievement in our culture. 

Finally, Dwan can’t risk rebelling against Fred’s wishes for her, or else, as Wilson says, “I promise you'll never get another booking in your life. You'll end up tap-dancing at Rotary clubs. This threat of public obscurity keeps Dwan in place as a team member in the “grotesque farce.”  Dwan rarely asks if Kong’s imprisonment and loss of freedom – his exploitation – is an acceptable price for her media super stardom. 

One of the primary reasons I appreciate the artistry of the 1970s King Kong involves the clever blocking and staging of the final scene at the foot of the twin towers.   

Kong is dead and Dwan stands before the cameras at his side, playing up her sadness and tears for maximum press impact.  Prescott attempts to approach Dwan through the crowd of photographers, to rescue her from the paparazzi (just as Kong did earlier, at his unveiling in Manhattan). But then Jack stops short.  A dark expression crosses his face as he recognizes that Dwan is exactly where she wants to be: at the center of attention

The blocking and reaction shot (from Bridges) represent a visual way of establishing a philosophical line of dialogue from the original film, but one not included in the remake.

It was not the planes (or helicopters in this case) that killed Kong.  It was Beauty who killed the Beast.

As the scene continues, the photographers grow so aggressive that even the attention-hungry Dwan looks legitimately disturbed and menaced by their actions.  But both of her dedicated protectors – Kong and Prescott – are now gone.  As flash bulbs explode all around her, Dwan looks dismayed, but the implication is clear.  This is the bed she made for herself, and now she must lie in it

Importantly, Prescott has witnessed another man -- Kong -- destroyed attempting to “protect” Dwan from that which she actively seeks – attention -- and so he, finally, makes a different decision.  He leaves Dwan to the tender mercies of the press.  Thus we leave King Kong on a deliberately down-beat note. There is no happy ending to be found.

For Dwan, it’s be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.  For Jack, it's his realization that everything for Dawn – even the death of Kong – is a thing to be used to further fame and fortune.

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.
In the years since King Kong premiered, we have, as a nation, descended much deeper into this kind of craven celebrity culture, where truly unworthy people become famous for fifteen minutes for participation in a tragedy, a trauma or a scandal.  King Kong is an early commentary on this facet of modern life, granting Dwan her fifteen minutes of fame at the expense, literally, of a king among animals.  Kong had no concern but to protect Dwan, and was (innocently) unaware that she could not reciprocate emotionally.  In essence, Kong is exploited twice in the film: first by Wilson (as a natural resource) and secondly by Dwan (as a gateway to fame and celebrity).   This depth in terms of narrative strikes me as being more than enough meat for a "monster" movie.

In terms of forging a hypnotic spell, King Kong is quite an intoxicating picture, at least in its first hour or so.  Real locations (in Hawaii, I believe) provide awe-inspiring natural vistas.  There are some shots featured here that are so gorgeous, so unimaginable on a visual scale, that they literally prove jaw-dropping.  One lengthy “zoom out” from a tight shot in a natural canyon suggests a scale far beyond our capability to fully process.  Such visuals seem that much more amazing for having been lensed in the age before digital effects and CGI.  It’s absolutely appropriate that the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

About mid-way through King Kong, the film transitions from real life locations to studio sets that, alas reek of sound-stage fakery. Yet the transition -- while jarring -- may work thematically. In other words, the island seems to turn “uglier” and more claustrophobic as Fred Wilson’s motives for it (and its inhabitants) also turn ugly  As man grows dominant (and Kong comes nearer to man's world), the visuals take a turn for the desolate and despairing.

At first, the island is a place of unfettered beauty and innocence – God’s hand on Earth.  But then, technological, 20th century man shows up to put a stamp on it, and the land itself seems to change, revealing a craggy, hard-edged, ugly and ominous side.  By the time we’ve gotten to Kong’s smoky, desolate lair, Skull Island looks as though it could be a harsh, crater-filled landscape on the moon, or perhaps Mars.  And then, of course, the movie takes us to a REAL jungle...New York City.

From this...

...to this...

...to this...

...to this...

..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.

And yet, in the final analysis, I can forgive the special effects lapses of King Kong because I feel the film attempts to imbue the “monster movie” form with a new sense of social relevance. King Kong’s game is to ask questions about how, in modern times, we steal from nature and often destroy nature for our own selfish purposes.  The Dwan and Wilson characters represent two sides of that particular coin.  They are indeed selfish and foolish (or is it "fuelish?").

It ought to be noted, as well, that the 1970s King Kong is the first version of the material to suggest more than a rudimentary monster/victim dynamic between Kong and his would-be bride.  This is an important element also featured in the Jackson remake of 2005.  Here, in one of the film’s best and most poetic scenes, Kong takes Dwan -- now covered in mud -- to bathe under a natural waterfall.  

The moment is magical (and erotic, strangely...) not merely because of Jessica Lange’s extreme and ravishing physical beauty, but because of Kong’s gentleness and yes, even sweetness.  I don’t know that either of those qualities could be ascribed to the 1933 version of this “monster” character.  This Kong seems a lot more humane and less violent than his predecessor.  The waterfall scene is supported brilliantly, I should add, by the late John Barry's lush and romantic score, which -- accompanying the visuals -- practically causes swooning.  In lyrical, visually ravishing moments such as this, it's awful hard to totally hate this production of Kong.

Yet if the end game is to hate all over King Kong (1976), there’s obviously plenty to latch onto too.  No stop-motion effects, weak optical-effects in the last half, and a script that probably features too many in-jokes about “male chauvinist pig apes,”the Empire State Building” and the like.  And yet, for all its obvious failings, it must also be said that this (sentimental) Kong wears its heart on its sleeve.

Or as Pauline Kael astutely noted, “I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a movie that was a comic-strip great romance in the way this one is… it’s a joke that can make you cry.”


  1. Well, if it's better than the 2005 version, I'll give it a try, but I think I have to forget that one, first. Sometimes I wonder why I'm being such a jerk. maybe because they deserve it. ha! ha! Talk about hating a movie...

    1. Hi J.J.

      Well, the 1976 King Kong at least has the advantage of possessing a sense of humor about itself. That may help you enjoy it more than the 2005 version...


  2. As I've mentioned in a previous comment, I really like the 1976 version of King Kong. While everyone I know hated it, I was able to see the attempt to create a sympathetic character in Kong. The attempts to update the story to the 1970's oil crisis was very smart and gave the whole production the thematic cohesiveness lacking in the original.

    Don't get me wrong. The original is still the champ of the Kong films and the original Kong is certainly a sympathetic character but the 1933 version spoke to other themes than the 1976 version did. Yet both films play up man's potential to tamper, exploit and destroy things that have value beyond what Western civilization can get out of it. The mistake of Peter Jackson's remake was to bring it back to the 1930's. The strength of the 1976 version was to remake the story as a relevant fable for the mid 1970's.

    As always John, you've done a beautiful job at getting at the heart of this overlooked film.

    1. Hi Pierre,

      I agree with you that the 1976 Kong deserves some credit for updating the story to make it relevant to the times, and also for introducing the character/plot element of a sympathetic Kong. This is a big change from the 1933 original.

      At the time of its release, I was bowled over by the visuals in the 2005 King Kong, but over time, my appreciation for it has diminished somewhat. I feel it boasts the same problem as most of Jackson's work: a lack of discipline regarding editing, run-time, etc. His movies tend to be overlong and over-edited in my opinion. I agree with you as well that the film (the 2005 version) made a mistake going back to the 1930s. Period sci-fi/fantasy films rarely work...

      Great comment, my friend!


  3. Really great review! Those who were not around to see the movie when it came out will probably not understand the impact that it had at the time. Relevance was of great importance to movie makers back then and this movie definitely tried to take an old classic and make it relevant to the times. The surreal shot of Jessica Lang standing in front of that giant gas pump could have come from the movie version of Tommy.

    Another thing that struck me was when Kong is swatting down the jet places and Jeff Bridges is actually cheering Kong on, even as human beings are plunging to their deaths. His loyalty to the animals over humans is clear. I don't think any hero in a movie today would be allowed to do such an un-PC thing, but it was completely true to his character. In other words, there was no clear hero; just people who had their own agendas.

    By comparison, Peter Jackson's remake is more in line with today's sensibility: Let's cash in on a recognizable franchise and load it down with lots of special effects and (sometimes pointless) action. Who cares if the only point in doing it is to make lots of money?

    1. Neal,

      You make some excellent points here about the 1976 Kong attempting to make a statement, a relevant one at that. You're absolutely right about Jessica Lange being menaced by the gas pump...a surreal and LOADED image, to be certain. And I'm glad you brought up Prescott's advocacy for Kong, and total support of the ape (even over the soldiers in the helicopter). That would be defiantly anti-PC today, and would never happen.

      I really enjoyed Peter Jackson's remake when I first saw it, but as I noted above, I appreciate it less and less each year, because I feel it really doesn't mean anything, or convey anything of importance. Some of the settings are amazing, but even the effects have not worn well.

      Excellent thoughts...


  4. Very underrated film... much better than Peter Jackson's bloated and overblown version.

    1. Hi Filip,

      I agree with you that the 1976 King Kong is deeply underrated, and the adjectives you use to describe the 2005 remake are appropriate too: bloated and overblown. That movie needs about an hour cut out (and all of it with Jack Black as Denham).


  5. Give me this over PJ's over bloated Jack Black fest anyday of the week.

    1. Hi David,

      Agreed! My favorite character in the 1933 film is Denham -- warts and wall. I can't stand the character in the 2005 remake. Jack Black is a lot of things, but he's not a serious actor, that's for sure. Terrible casting...


  6. I have mixed feelings about the 'King Kong' films. I find both the 1933 version and the 1976 version so filled with racist symbolism that as a college educated African American male, they are today almost unwatchable. Kong, forcibly taken from his overseas home in chains by white males, taken by ship, paraded in front of the American populace for entertainment, eventually rebelling against his situation, breaks his chains, and is ultimately put down violently by law and order. The natives obsessive worship of Wray/Lange even offering 6 of the chief's wives for one white female. Even Kong was smitten by Wray/Lange, both representing standard racist myth of the black male’s exaggerated sexual potency, and the notion of his insatiable desire for white women. There are, of course, other symobolism represented in both films, but the racial over and under tones for me is in your face and impossible for me to ignore.

    That being said, I obviously did not have those interpretations as a 7 yr old kid in 1976 sitting in the theater watching the movie. Thought the beginning was magical and I was entranced all the way through. Today the NYC scenes on the Towers have not aged well at all, but clearly superior to the 1933 film, (which I find literally unwatchable for all sorts of reasons).

    1. Trent,

      Very intriguing and thoughtful comment, my friend.

      There have been, over the decades, many race-based interpretations of the King Kong movie(s), and your comments here are absolutely in line with the conclusions those analyses make.

      I see why you feel as you do. I can't deny that King Kong -- especially the 1933 version -- hits the very notes you have highlighted.

      One of the reasons I so much love the genre film, however, is that it has, historically-speaking, assumed the voice of the disenfranchised or maligned, and made the audience get behind that voice.

      No always in conventional or easily digestible ways.

      We saw it in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a film about slavery and revolt.

      We saw it once more in Willard, again about slaves rebelling against their master.

      And I think we see it again in King Kong, particularly the 1977 version. Kong is a sympathetic character in this film, and a hero as well.

      The vexing problem can come in, as I perceive it, in the overly stereotypical presentations of the disenfranchised in some of these efforts, and the fact that these visions are, largely, created by whites, who may not be particularly sensitive to some aspects of the more harmful racist myths.

      Plus, in all cases, the disenfranchised is also coded visually and thematically as somehow "other than human" -- even bestial -- when the intent -- I suspect -- is to code them merely as "other than the establishment." But that line is easy to blur.

      I believe one possible intent in the original Kong and the remake may be to highlight the (stereotypical) black experience in America, but the message comes out garbled in some instances, if that makes sense.

      The intent may good, in other words, but unspoken/unchallenged, yet still accepted societal stereotypes are still transmitted, hence some conflicted symbolism in the films.

      Excellent thoughts, my friend. It's an issue worth exploring more.


  7. Anonymous8:20 PM

    John you have written a very engaging review of this extremely underrated film. As I read your thoughts on the King Kong(1976) film, I am vividly remembering seeing this movie as a boy in ‘76 with my family. For me this is still the most heartfelt of the three Kong films. Being made and set in the present day of 1976 makes it a permanent part of my boyhood memories, not at all like the (1933) film or (2005) film both set in the 1933. The screen caps of the two vertical parallel pillars on the island and the two vertical Twin Towers skyscrapers are brilliant comparisons of the island and concrete jungles.


  8. Excellent look at this underrated 70s film, John. I daresay it's my second favorite of all the King Kong films. The original being first and Peter Jackson's CGI-fest would be last -- yes, that one is the finest production, on a technical basis, of the lot, but its length and filmmaker's vanity with it just irks me no end. Like the decade that bore it, John Guillermin's film had a lot of heart (rather than Jackson's, and the new century's, seeming earnestness with the latter version). I'd also say it had a better cast and story, too. IIRC, it was an uncredited and obscured Gene Hackman (his eyes were the only facial feature shown) who was one of the military pilots who shoots and kills Kong during the finale. You've written a great reminder that this film needs more appreciation, my friend. BTW, have you seen how scarce and pricey the the Blu-ray of this is going for at Amazon? Thank for this, John.

  9. Thank you so much for your eloquent defense of this extremely underrated film and especially for correcting the continually-made mistake that the film was a box office and critical flop. Certainly, KING KONG 1976 is not a classic on the level of the 1933 original, but, as your piece so wonderfully points out, it's a fascinating film in its own right. I have had the great privilege to interview many of the key people that made KING KONG 76, and they were all sincere in their desire to make a good movie that would both stand on its own and serve as a worthy tribute to the original. In my opinion, they succeeded. Thanks for giving the film its due.

  10. I was a 12year old boy in 76. Thank you for putting into words what I have always felt. I was always embarrassed to admit loving this movie. You have made me understand my love for it more clearly. I have a boy myself now and he has enjoyed all of the Kongs. For whatever reason and with great respect for the original and Jacksons remake, which combined elements of the earlier Kong movies, I still watch Dino D's over and over again. I even listen to John Barry's amazing score while I do my daily commute. I see its many flaws but cannot ignore my fascination with it. A lot of people don't get it. Glad to see that a few of you do. Thanks. Ps Anyone enjoy the guilty pleasures of TOHO productions King Kong escapes & King Kong vs Godzilla? Now those are guilty pleasures!

  11. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I'm a little surprised the author didn't delve more into the Twin Towers as a symbol for David and Nelson, the Rockefellers whose Standard Oil connections helped make the Trade Center possible.

    But, what a lovely piece to be able to point people to. Having not grown up with either Kong, I discovered this one first, and perhaps that is why I do not tear it down to build up the original. I thought, despite the technical challenges of the day, the storytelling was so astounding that it became an instant favorite. So nice not to be alone in that sentiment!

  12. I enjoyed your article: you mention Rick Baker, but there were actually two 'guys in the ape suits', the other being Will Shephard. Will has written a book about his experiences on set. It's called Inside King Kong and has lots of behind-the-scenes photos too. The paperback is UK only, but the book version is available worldwide.

  13. I LOVE THE 1976 VERSION. THAT IS FROM MY GENERATION, PER SE. I WAS 16 WHEN IT PREMIERED. ANOTHER REASON: I actually was there, at the Twin Towers, in summer of 1976 (believe it was June or July); my friend Bill and I walked all of Manhattan from west side to East side (to NBC Tour, and saw IMUS and saw cousin brucie -whom we met, then walked down to the Towers, went to the top of the south tower (years later in the early 1980s, would go to the WINDOWS ON THE WORLD restaurant in the north tower), then when we came back down, we saw the body of KONG on the ground between the two towers, covered by a tarp (I believe I took a photo); rest of the day, we walked back up north of Manhattan, to place FASCINATION game arcade, then back to the west side, to return to Long Island, where we lived, and his father was a sanitation worker for NYC. THAT WAS A GREAT DAY! At least I saw Kong's body per se, and was happy when the movie came out, knowing "I was there"! I love the 1933 original BUT I DO LOVE THE 1976 VERSION ALSO. I am glad Paramount won over Universal at the time, as Universal did not want to modernize the movie, did not want to bring it up-to-date; as I felt Paramount was correct, to bring it into modern day, into the 1970s. PLUS big PLUS: THE TWIN TOWERS, were featured, and played well into the story of Kong. The 2005 version is good, and most prefer that over the 1976 version, but handful of us, have nostalgia for the '76 version, and for good reasons. I just bought the Blu-ray Japanese version of the 1976's king kong. Have not opened yet. I love the John Barry music too. I have the laserdisc, have the cd, and have the dvd, and now have the bluray. Thanks for letting me post this. (*I have had a hard week; 3 people I know died in 1 week, including actor Hugh O'Brian who was a good friend of mine, was to his house). Anyway, thank you. Bye for now.

  14. Robert Johnston11:49 PM

    Thank you for a fair review of one of my favorite movies. You make a lot of good points I never thought of. I've always defended this movie when people bash it. I understand the importance of the original '33 version with the stop motion effects and B & W matte paintings. Because of the time it was made though Kong is just a monster who we are afraid of. In this version and due in part to Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Rick Baker's performance by the end of the movie we find ourselves rooting for Kong. I have the studio Canal version of the blu ray you mention and enjoy watching it when I get a chance. There is also a fan group on social media if you'd like to join.


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