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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 

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 


 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 #1. Posted on June 27, 2007, 03:16:44 AM by Inyarear
Well, OK, the log-rolling scene does make it look like this movie's a bit hokey. I don't see why anyone would hate it, though. I mean, there's a kind of humor in repetition, and this certainly had some humor to it that way, intentional or otherwise.

King Kong: Grrr!

Guy falling off log: Aaaaaaaaah!

King Kong: Grrr!

Guy falling off log: Aaaaaaaaah!

King Kong: Grrr!

Guy falling off log: Aaaaaaaaah!
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #2. Posted on June 27, 2007, 08:13:01 AM by Greenhornet
I was in the air force when I saw this one. Everybody LAUGHED at the "tragic" ending! BounceGiggle
Why did they bother to have a cast? That jerk hippie did almost EVRYTHING as the origonal cast!
In the theaters, hippie-boy cheered when the chopper hit the building. In the TV version, this was eith cut out or they have him cheering when the guys with the flame-throwers got crushed. BUT since the torch-men were on the roof of the tower hippie-boy was on, he couldn't possible see that happen!

De Laurentiis, BITE ME! TongueOut
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #3. Posted on June 27, 2007, 09:17:08 AM by Trevor
Thanks for the great review, Koosh.  Thumbup

You brought back a childhood memory for me: I was nine when I saw this and I remember bawling my eyes out when Kong bit the pavement.

I agree, this film was unfairly panned: IMO, it was better than the original and miles better than the sequel.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #4. Posted on June 27, 2007, 12:21:37 PM by onionhead
A rather enjoyable outing, though I remember it dragging a bit--I was just 14 at the time.  I am not the only one, however, that thought Peter Jackson's remake  was         s     l    o    w.  I give a well-deserved nod to Rick Baker's ape-up, but I still prefer Willis O'Brien's stop-motion monkey shenanigans.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #5. Posted on June 27, 2007, 09:10:24 PM by Torgo
Jessica Lange was quite the babe back in the day. She looks even better in the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice (though you have to put up with Nicholson in the buff as well in that).

The 1976 version has its quirky charms at times, I'll give it that, but overall it just doesn't do anyting for me.

and I also didn't have any problems with the Peter Jackson version. 
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #6. Posted on June 28, 2007, 06:49:58 AM by Snivelly
I loved the Peter Jackson version.  The first section which everyone complains about as being "too slow" is important for the character development of all the major players except Kong, and the movie isn't just about him.  But then I do have a real soft spot for movies set during the Depression, don't ask me why.

I also loved the 1976 version though, and I thought the original was goofy.  Not just for the special effects, which were pretty standard for the time, the original just never resonated with me.
Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #7. Posted on June 28, 2007, 05:59:51 PM by PaulieB
Sorry, I absolutely despise this and the horrendous sequel, King Kong Lives.  I was under the impression only Dino thought highly of his wretched version of a monster classic. It's just utterly putrid. The effects are awful, the modernisation of the film is diabolical, it's just bad,bad, BAD!
In fact the nicest thing I can say about it is that it is better than KKLives but to be fair, a film of a dog turd being rolled around a tumble dryer would be more entertaining. It's not good bad, it's just garbage.

Re: King Kong (1976)
Reply #8. Posted on June 29, 2007, 05:53:18 AM by Happenstance
"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.

Beautiful John Barry score. (Like there's any other kind of John Barry score?)
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