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KING KONG (1976) - 3 Slimes
Rated PG
Copyright 1976 Dino De Laurentiis Company
Reviewed by Kooshmeister on 26 June 2007

The Characters:  

  • Dwan - Jessica Lange! Her name used to be "Dawn," but she changed it to Dwan for reasons never really gone into. Found adrift in a life raft.
  • Jack Prescott - Jeff Bridges! Jack is a primate paleontologist, and a scruffy hippie-ish one at that. Pines for Dwan but finds intense competition from a giant ape.
  • Fred Wilson - Charles Grodin! Abrasive, greedy, and outright stupid executive of the almighty Petrox Corporation. Squashed.
  • Captain Ross - John Randolph! The wise old captain of the Petrox Explorer.
  • First Mate Carnahan - Ed Lauter! Co-leads the rescue party with Jack. Does a fatal bellyflop off a log bridge and into a deep chasm.
  • Roy Bagley - Rene Auberjonois! Roy is (apparently) a geologist and is the only person in the world Fred Wilson can be considered friends with.
  • Joe Perko, Boan, Sunfish, Garcia, and Timmons - Some of the ship's crew. Most of them die.
  • King Kong - Rick Baker! The real star of the movie, a giant gorilla with a real short temper. Machine-gunned by army helicopters, he swan-dives off the Twin Towers.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

The Petrox Corporation has learned that there may be oil fields on a newly-discovered island somewhere in the South Pacific, an island eternally wreathed in fog and concealed from view for hundreds of years. It was only found by accident, when a N.A.S.A. spy satellite went off course and photographed it by mistake (how's that for a coinky-dink?). Petrox executive Fred Wilson spearheads an expedition to the island to search for the oil, in order for Petrox to get ahead of its competitors in the current (at the time anyway) Oil Crisis. Unknown to anyone, though, primate paleontologist and Princeton professor Jack Prescott has stowed away aboard their ship, the Petrox Explorer, and he has very different reasons for wanting to visit the island, as he reveals when he makes his presence known during a speech Wilson is giving about the island to the ship's crew. It seems that Wilson's island may not be as undiscovered as he thinks, as Jack recounts a variety of prior discoveries of the island by various other countries throughout the years, all of which have been hushed up. He is aware, though, of a cryptic message written on the life boat of one of the ships that ran aground there: "From thy wedding to the beast who touches heaven, lady, God preserve thee."

As interesting as Jack's stories are, Wilson becomes very angry when he discovers he is a stowaway. Proving to be an extremely paranoid fellow, Wilson believes Jack is actually a spy from a rival oil company and orders him locked up in the brig. But while Jack is being forcibly escorted thus by a pair of sailors, he happens to glance and sees something on the horizon which turns out to be a life raft containing Dwan, a beautiful woman in an evening gown. She is unconscious, so the crew brings her aboard and put her in Captain Ross' cabin. Since no one else has any medical experience, Wilson lets Jack out of the clink and agrees to let him be a part of the expedition after all, if he'll try and help Dwan. He does, and when she comes to, she tells her story. Turns out she's an aspiring actress who was aboard a friend's yacht when a storm hit. As far as she knows, she's the sole survivor. The journey to the island continues, with Dwan and Jack becoming fast friends and starting to fall in love, etc., and then, finally, we arrive at the dang island and Jack, Dwan, and Wilson lead a landing party ashore. They quickly discover some pools of what might be oil, and meet the natives living on the island; the chief, wearing a gorilla costume, sees Dwan and tries to buy her from the Petrox party. When Wilson refuses, the natives attack the group, but are driven back by gunfire. The landing party retreats to the ship.

As in the original, the natives won't take no for an answer and that night they sneak out to the Petrox Explorer and kidnap Dwan, although one of them accidentally drops his bracelet. When Jack finds said jewelry on the deck of the ship and Dwan is nowhere to be seen, he quickly realizes what happened and alerts the others. A rescue operation is mounted. Meanwhile, Dwan, dressed in native ceremonial attire, is tied between two pillars on the other side of a gigantic wall that separates the native village from the rest of the island. This goes about the way you'd expect: King Kong, played here by special effects guru Rick Baker in suit (but a good one, no matter what anyone says), takes Dwan away. Jack takes First Mate Carnahan and some of the Petrox Explorer's crew and sets off into the jungle after Kong to try and save Dwan. Ironically, she may not actually need saving, as it turns out. Despite a rocky start where she keeps trying to run away, enraging Kong, she and Kong soon become fast friends and he even gives her a bath by holding her underneath a waterfall. Jack, Carnahan, and their party catch up to Kong at a gorge bridged by a huge fallen log. Kong rolls the log, sending Carnahan and the men to their deaths, but Jack survives and continues after Kong.

He's able to whisk Dwan away when Kong becomes preoccupied fighting with a giant python (which was originally supposed to appear earlier and attack Jack and Carnahan's party, but the scene got cut). Kong kills the snake and chases after the two lovebirds, determined to reclaim Dwan. But what none of them know, however, is that in the meantime, Wilson has been up to no good. You see, the "oil" seen earlier turned out to be no good, and, faced with the utter failure of the expedition, Wilson has hatched a maniacal scheme to capture Kong and use him as Petrox's mascot. So when Kong chases Dwan and Jack back to the village, they accidentally lead the big ape right into Wilson's trap and Kong is subdued by a buttload of chloroform. Following a tense and awkward return trip to the States, Kong is put on display at Shea Stadium in New York City, during which Dwan participates in a phony re-enactment of the native ritual from the island, and is "offered" to the chained Kong. Needless to say, Kong very shortly thereafter escapes, causing a panic. He kills Wilson by stomping on him, destroys an elevated train, and eventually recaptures Dwan. The army is called in, and they pursue Kong to the World Trade Center. Boxed in with nowhere else to go, Kong, Dwan in hand, climbs up one of the Twin Towers...

I'm one of this movie's few fans; I'll go ahead and say that. King Kong 1976 is a movie that I feel is often unjustly panned by people. I first saw the movie in the early 90s (I'm unsure precisely when) and I remember being initially disappointed that there were no dinosaurs, only a hokey giant python. However about two years ago I was inspired to revisit the film when I read online all the really awful things everyone says about it. I remembered being upset about no dinosaurs, but that was my only problem with the movie. Surely it couldn't be as bad as everyone said it was. Luckily the local video store had it for rent and I gave it another whirl as soon as I got home. I found it to be a little slow in parts with some hammy acting, but otherwise surprisingly not that bad. Since then, I've become a defender of the film whenever people start going off on it, and I have never, ever understood the sheer hatred people seem to have for it.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • An island can remain undiscovered for hundreds of years, if properly hidden by perpetual fog.
  • Excess carbon dioxide is caused by giant gorilla breath
  • Horoscopes really work!
  • Never shoot at a giant ape while standing on a log bridge over a bottomless chasm.
  • Giant apes are naturally attracted to blonde human women.
  • Anything certified by the New York City government is worthless.
  • Chloroform gas clouds only affect giant apes.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 46 mins - So, is Dwan drugged or what?
  • 47 mins - Okay, Ape Mask Guy is really freaking me out...
  • 53 mins - The big reveal, Kong does his thing.
  • 69 mins - Boy, I hope for her sake his breath doesn't stink.
  • 74 mins - White sailors die; token black sailor lives.
  • 81 mins - Kong, you perv!
  • 90 mins - So why isn't the chloroform knocking them all out?
  • 104 mins - "Great was the fear and trembling?" Oy...
  • 117 mins - Hey, it's John Agar!

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

FileDialog
Green Music Note kingkongd1.wav Captain: "You know, I've got to admit, for a New York desk guy, you've got a lot of guys."
Fred: "Guts, hell! I sold this one to the board. If that island doesn't produce huge, I'll be wiping windshields."
Green Music Note kingkongd2.wav Fred: "Ah! God!"
Jack: "You all right?"
Fred: "Just fell in a God damn hole."
Jack: "No you didn't."
Fred: "What do you mean I didn't? Look at me!"
Jack: "You're not in a hole. That's a footprint."
Green Music Note kingkongd3.wav Jack: "Listen, there is a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape!"
Green Music Note kingkongd4.wav Radar Operator: "Radar update: monkey plotted 1800 yards West by Northwest, heading zero-eight-niner, velocity two two miles per hour. Estimated monkey time to your position: five minutes or less."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 

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 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipkingkongd1.mpg - 3.0m
Jack is hiding out on a ledge as Kong rolls the rest of the rescue party off of the log. I hope that my last words are not, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" (Does that count as more than one word?)

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Comments:Write CommentPages: 1 [2] 3
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #9. Posted on June 29, 2007, 11:26:47 AM by crawlfan
When I got on the site and read it, I honestly thought Andrew wrote it (just with a lack of humor).

I was raised on those giant monster movies, and this one held itself as one of my favorites.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #10. Posted on June 29, 2007, 03:00:20 PM by akiratubo
This movie has some bright spots -- that is, the two or three spots in the movie where something actually happens.  In the '33 original, there was stuff happening from the time Kong showed up to the time he fell off the Empire State Building.  In this one, nothing happens for a while.  Kong shows up.  Nothing happens for a while.  Kong knocks some guys off a log.  Nothing happens for a while.  Kong pretends to wrestle a rubber snake he keeps around to impress the ladies.  Nothing happens for a while.  Kong stands around and gets pasted by choppers.  The end.  (I don't count Kong casually strolling into a hole full of dry ice vapor as something happening.)

You know, I hate Jack Prescott.  Kong killing soldiers and smashing a helicopter I can deal with; he's just an animal defending himself.  However, there are several reasons Jack Prescott should not be cheering when Kong does it!

Kong himself is kind of cool.  I know the reason he walks upright is because they couldn't make it look convincing for Rick Baker to walk on all fours but I like to imagine Kong is supposed to be some kind of giant hominid in this version.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #11. Posted on June 29, 2007, 03:02:55 PM by Racist Melon Farmer
I think the main reason this movie got such lousy reviews was people wanted to hate it even before it was released. Up to then, KK was considered one of the untouchable classics (think: Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, etc) that couldn't and shouldn't be remade. I remember De Laurentiis started taking flak when he began the project, and it didn't let up until after it hit the theaters. It would've had to be the best movie ever to overcome that kind of pre-judgement, but unfortunately it wasn't. I also remember they even did a skit about the situation on SNL, with John Belushi as De Laurentiis, protesting "Hey, when-a Jaws die, nobody-a cry. When-a my Kong dies, EVERYBODY-a cry!" (sorry, I couldn't find a clip of that online; it's a lot funnier than it sounds in writing.)
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #12. Posted on July 09, 2007, 02:35:09 PM by Frank3
There's a multitude of reasons this film fails, many more than I want to go into here, but I'll go over a couple.

Kong in this film isn't a "King!"  In this film Kong doesn't do anything to demonstrate why he should be as worshipped as he is (yes, he's huge, but that's not enough).  When Kong fought dinosaurs in the original, it showed that not only was the island a dangerous place, but that Kong had to be the best to survive; he earned the title of king.  In the '76 version, his title is really based on people's memory of the original.  It doesn't stand on its own.

Something completely absent in this review is the mention of the awful full-size Kong puppet used in about 5 seconds of screen time, when he's presented in the arena in a cage.  That moment pretty much summed up the entire film to me, a big hollow spectacle that fails to impress.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #13. Posted on July 10, 2007, 04:04:56 AM by Kooshmeister
"White sailors die, token black sailor lives."

Oh, for... Given that in 90% of horror/monster movies the token black guy dies horribly (occasionally just tossing his life away to save the white stars, as in the end of Leviathan), this isn't something even the most race-obsessed insecure little white boy should get his panties bunched up over.

Now where did I mention that Boan (the black sailor) surviving was a bad thing? Why does my mentioning it offhand in the "Stuff to watch for" section automatically make you assume I have something against it? Sheesh. The very fact the black guy almost always dies while the white guys live is why I mentioned it in the first place. Besides, no one else does, amazingly. Given how often it goes the other way, you'd think the black guy living while all the white guys swan-dive off the log would get some more attention but I've seen exactly one other review for this movie mention it.


Something completely absent in this review is the mention of the awful full-size Kong puppet used in about 5 seconds of screen time, when he's presented in the arena in a cage.  That moment pretty much summed up the entire film to me, a big hollow spectacle that fails to impress.

You yourself said it's only in there for about five seconds anyway, so I don't see the point in focusing on something that you'll miss if you blink, good or bad, in a review that covers only the basics. I will admit I probably should've at least mentioned it under the "Stuff to watch for" section, but I just generally don't focus much on special effects type stuff, especially if, as you say, it's barely there at all.

EDIT: Having said that, I do have a much longer review for the movie posted somewhere and I think I do mention the robot Kong prop in it. If I don't, feel free to pelt me with sno cones (and no, I don't know why I said "sno cones" XD).
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #14. Posted on July 10, 2007, 04:48:31 PM by HarlotBug3
I remember being 9ish in the late 80s and catching bits of the latter half of this while playing at a friend's house. Even then, that snake made me think almost out loud: "boy I hope this isn't the only other monster here"...but I was struck by the comparatively more realistic monster blood.

This contributes nothing to the subject of the conversation, but I wanted an excuse to say that the author of king kong also wrote that he didn't think of aboriginal africans as people. Regardless the original and latest say nothing about human on human colonialism and everything about human on wildlife/nature colonialism.

I look forward to the day when more black movie-makers seek to make non-'black culture'-targeting movies, and more white movie producers fund them, and we all watch the monster rather than the ethnicity of who he kills. 

In Peter Jackson's version the friendship between the black sailor and the white street urchin was totally plastic and unnecessary, but I saw his move to kill kong up close portray him as the toughest guy on the boat...and I still cried at the end no matter who kong killed.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #15. Posted on July 18, 2007, 11:38:02 AM by Flangepart
I think Baker deserved his recconition for the monkey suit.
Face it, he pulls off a man in suit job well....now, what might he do for Godzilla, eh?
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #16. Posted on March 30, 2011, 05:50:54 PM by petekrug
Glad to see I'm not the only person who loves this movie! OK, I know a lot of people hate it. To them I say, let's agree to disagree.

I suppose one reason many people hate it is because the original is so sacred to them that they think it an insult just to remake it. I don't know what I would've thought had I seen the original first, but this was the first KING KONG movie I ever saw, so I was able to enjoy it on it's own terms. In fact this film and it's sequel (KK Lives) were the only ones my local video store had (WAAAAY back in the mid 1980s) so for awhile I had no idea that this was a remake and that the earlier movie even existed.

As for why there's no dinosaurs, I suppose the filmmakers thought that the idea would be too ridiculous that dinosaurs somehow survived on that one little island when they went extinct on the rest of the planet.
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