Movie Name: King Kong
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date(s): December 17, 1976
MPAA Rating: PG
A search for oil by an oil executive named Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) leads to a venture to an uncharted island. With a crew including a stowaway photographer named Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) and a rescued castaway named Dwan (Jessica Lange). When Wilson discovers giant animals inhabit the island, Dwan is kidnapped by an ape named Kong. A rescue of Dwan leads to the capture of Kong, and a decision by Wilson to take him back to New York City…as King Kong…but nature can’t be contained!
Directed by John Guillermin and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, King Kong was a big budget and big money making film. The movie received mixed to positive reviews and won an award for Best Special Effects (shared with Logan’s Run). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
I grew up with this version of King Kong. I can remember it airing for the first time (or one of the first times) on television and not getting to see all of it…I believe they split it over two nights. I have fond memories of this, but realize that it isn’t the best film. It is long and overdone, but I still have fun watching it.
The movie’s acting is better than the original. It marked the film premiere of Jessica Lange (and she received a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut). The original film has a very classic, stodgy acting pretty indicative to early films that only converted to talking a few years before its 1933 release. Here, the acting is more natural, but the presentation just isn’t as strong.
Despite the big money push, this version of King Kong doesn’t have the charm of the original film. This movie threw all it could at King Kong. There was a giant scale model (which ended up barely being used) for shots, but King Kong ended up often being just in a monkey suit…but at least it was designed by effects master Rick Baker and Kong was voiced by Optimus Prime himself Peter Cullen. The promise of the poster of King Kong dramatically straddling the World Trade Center wasn’t realized with a much smaller King Kong in the film…but it was a cool poster.
King Kong’s 1976 outing is impressive, but just not as fun as the original. It is interesting to see the original, see this movie, and then see the 2005 version just to see how the film evolved over time. Every version of King Kong gets me in the end when King Kong falls…This version of King Kong was followed up in 1986 with King Kong Lives.