Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Long Live the King

Karen: I like the 1976 version of King Kong. There, I said it. I know, it's cheesy as all heck, but it's another movie that I will stop and watch just about any time I see it on the TV. I'm sure a lot of that is pure nostalgia -this film came out the year I turned 12, and I was already a fan of the original Kong. I even had two King Kong posters in my room at that time: one showing the original, and the other the "Twin Towers" 76 Kong.

Karen: I'm also a huge admirer of Rick Baker, and I think his Kong suit is pretty sweet. He'd go on to do even better apes but this one worked for me. I also get a kick out of the terrible Kong robot used in (I think) only one part of the film, when Kong is on display in New York. That thing is just awful, stiff and totally unconvincing. The fact that Dino DeLaurentis tried to convince everyone that the robot was used for all the Kong scenes is so laughable, but hey, that was DeLaurentis for you.

Karen: I thought Jeff Bridges was OK, and Jessica Lange annoyed me. But Kong was great. I'll be honest here: I'd rather watch this than Peter Jackson's bloated Kong film.


William said...

The '76 King Kong movie was a quality remake. I always liked it. For it's time it was actually incredible.

The only part I thought was a little stupid was that Jessica Lange's character was named "Dwan" instead of "Dawn". I guess DeLaurentis thought that Dwan sounded more modern, edgy and cool or some such as that.

The end was pretty depressing, made even more so these days because it takes place on the WTC. Makes it kind of watch without feeling doubly bummed out afterwards.

William said...

Sorry, that last line was supposed to read...

"Makes it kind of HARD TO watch without feeling doubly bummed out afterwards."

david_b said...

The Kong movies were alright. I actually preferred 1949's 'Mighty Joe Young', it just seemed more basic a story and easier to relate to than the gigantic Kong and all his sequels.

Jessica Lange was definitely easy on the eyes, and the flick held my interest. It definitely catapulted DeLaurentis in the stratospheric-expensive movie producer category having earlier doing many smaller films like Serpico, Shootist, Barbarella, then later Flash Gordon.

I'd rank it one of his best flicks.

Steve Does Comics said...

The 1976 King Kong is great fun and Jessica Lange looks fantastic, so I can forgive it anything. I agree with Karen about rather watching it than the Peter Jackson version which seems to have no reason for existing.

Of course, for giant ape action, nothing can top the majesty of King Kong vs Godzilla.

Anonymous said...

It's been years since I've seen either version, but I remember liking the 1976 one as a kid...even though it scared the hell out of me at the time. I used to have nightmares about giant apes attacking me.

The best thing about Peter Jackson's version was when Kong beat the crap out of the dinosaurs...they should've just done a whole movie of that.

I also liked King Kong vs. Godzilla, but I was disappointed with the "nobody wins" ending...I wanted Kong to win!

Mike W.

Karen said...

Steve, as much as I enjoyed King Kong Vs. Godzilla, the Toho Kong always looked horrible to me, more like a burn victim than a gorilla!I'm still shocked that they couldn't make a better looking gorilla suit. Particularly when they made such great faces for Gaira and Sanda, the Gargantuas. Gee, I'm really geeking out here.

I used to have a book that was about the making of the 76 Kong and it went into great detail over Baker's frustration with DeLaurentis.I can't recall the title but it was a good read.

Anthony said...

I seem to be in the minority here but I really enjoyed Peter Jackson's King Kong. I love the original and it is probably one of my favorite films. It still holds up even in this age of the mega-blockbuster movie. I even liked the 1976 version and Kongfrontation at Universal. Above my desk as I type is a Ken Kelly print of the 1976 Kong that I purchased from Ken almost 10 years ago at a New York convention.

Getting back to the Peter Jackson version. Yes it is somewhat bloated. Was it over an hour before we got to the island ? Definitely could have used some editing. That's why there are director's cut on DVD. I also own the extended version with the Piranhadon scene. Jackson's version was more like King Kong meets Indiana Jones. He tried to make it more of a roller coaster ride. If the original had one Brontosarus, we'll have a herd, one T.rex ... well you get the idea. Despite this, and the bronto scene was waaay over the top, I felt that Jackson's love of the material shone through. Perhaps too much. Sometimes fans don't know when to pull back from that enthusiasm. Again, despite all this there were many moments I really enjoyed in the film. The aforementioned Piranhadon, the V. rex scenes, all the Kong scenes with Andy Serkis motion capture. I loved Kong jumping up to hit the bi-plane. Peter Jackson's Skull Island was a fully realized dangerous place much like the Skull Island of the original.

Adding to my enjoyment of the film was the wonderful World of Kong book which was published prior to the film that was done by Wetr Workshop. It discussed Kong's origin, his long war with the rexes and how Kong was the last survivor of his species. It also described a shrinking island which was slowly being reclaimed by the sea much like in Son Of Kong. As the landmass above water decreased the battle for survival becomes that much more desperate and brutal.

And Karen I remember reading somewhere that one of the reasons for the look of the Kong suit was Toho's decision ( Not sure if it was Honda, Tanaka or Tsuburaya )to make Kong more of a buffoon. They wanted to make a lighter kid friendly film that painted a picture of a sympathetic Kong. Could that have something to do with the deal with RKO to use Kong ? Perhaps they didn't want their guy portrayed as a villain opposite Godzilla. It seems to have worked in terms of ticket sales because I believe for many years King Kong vs. Godzilla retained its title as most tickets sold for a Godzilla film.

Doug said...

RE: the Jackson version.

The beauty of the DVD and scene selections is that I only watch the butt-kicking parts. All that pre-stuff... not so much.

I saw the 1976 Kong in the theaters. I thought it was an able reimagining of the classic.

And like Karen, the Kong/Godzilla tussle was hit and miss on many levels, but as we've said -- that's all we had back then!!


vancouver mark said...

My first exposure to King Kong was a bit different, the mid-60's Saturday morning cartoon, when I was about six or so. It ranked with Johnny Quest as my weekly favorite.

I saw the KK/Godzilla movie a few years later, and also thought the monkey suit looked ridiculous. I rooted passionately for Godzilla all through it.

Then I finally saw the original, a rarity among old classics in that it didn't disappoint. I still find sequences like the brontosaurus chilling, even though even as a ten-year-old I indignantly protested that no bronto would act like that.

I was sixteen when the remake came out, and liked it in many ways. But the Bridges and Lange characters rang rather false to me, and the whole mid-70's feel with denim, long windblown hair, and rather simplistic environmental message felt a bit dated even in 1976. And there weren't nearly enough monsters, the one giant snake just didn't do it for me.

The Peter Jackson movie... certainly had lots of dinos and monsters, and some great visuals. But I found the characters even less interesting than the '76 version. And through the whole movie I had my usual feeling of bland indifference to the computer animated effects, something I never feel with the claymation effects of the old original.

Edo Bosnar said...

Not the biggest Kong fan: to this day, I haven't seen the original, a situation that should be rectified. Otherwise, I thought the 1976 version was just o.k. I've actually never seen the whole thing - I only ever watched it on TV, usually coming in about a half-hour from the start. Kind of the same for the Jackson version: I stumbled onto it while channel surfing recently, right during a big battle with some dinosaurs. As soon as that was over, I lost interest and switched the channel.
As for King Kong vs. Godzilla, I'm with vancouver mark: I was so rooting for Godzilla, and even as a kid I hated the movie for suggesting that Kong stood a chance in that fight. My ideal version would have lasted less than 5 minutes: Kong pounds his chest and roars, Godzilla burns him to a crisp, then flicks away the cinders with his tail and stomps off to ravage Tokyo or whatever.

J.A. Morris said...

I don't care much for the remake, but it was a big part of my youth. I had this odd Kong/WTC toy and played with it every day:
And here's a commercial for the toy:

Here's a very "Bronze Age" memory:

I didn't see this Kong in the theater, but I clearly remember the first time it aired on TV over 2 nights. Part 2 was telecast during NBC's 'Big Event', they cut into it to show the live press conference announcing the signing of the Camp David Accords!
Here's the intro for that broadcast:

One thing that always blows my mind when I watch this movie. Jessica Lange is terrible here, it's amazing that she became such a great actress in the 80s and still does good work today.

I prefer the Peter Jackson version, but I agree that it's bloated. But of course neither is anywhere near as good as the 1933 film.


Notting like such a classic as the Deno King Kong turd made the 1970's ?It was the movie everyone made fun of from comics-remember the stupid Fantastic Four movie,being made in one of the FF comics,where Ben Grimm is King Kong like and one his shoulders was some blond bimbo playing sue to everywhere else,talking how the stupid,giant kong robot never worked,the bonnie and clyde like shooting of kong at the end,the terrible,inaccurate movie poster.Not like that ?
There"s two Good King Kong movies_the original and the Peter Jackson one>Nuff Said


Sorry,i mean Dino.You know<it funny that it took a few generations for the DeLaurentis family to find their true calling food,not movies.
Dino spent money on a giant Kong robot_having never heard of all the trouble Speilberg had with Bruce the Shark.

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