King Kong (1976) / Adventure-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and language
Running time: 134 min.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Charles Grodin, John Randolph, Rene Auberjonois, Corbin Bernsen (cameo), Joe Piscopo (cameo)
Director: John Guillermin
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr. (based on the 1933 screenplay by James Creelman and Ruth Rose)
The plot: Petrox, a major gasoline corporation, sends an expedition to an uncharted island obscured under a thick fog to try to find out if there's a wealth of oil there. What they find instead is a huge gorilla, six times the size of a normal ape, which they decide to take back to the States to gain publicity for Petrox. Problems arise when the ape gets loose and begins to destroy the city.
1976's King Kong is a bubble-headed, but still entertaining, remake of the 1933 classic. This might rank as one of the most uneven movies ever made, ranging from exceptionally good to downright awful, with special effects at times both impressive and laughable. The actors do what they can, although the dialogue is painful, especially when it goes for forced laughs, which happens far too frequently for a film meant to be a tragedy. Worse, Kong looks like what he is -- a guy in a gorilla suit.
There are enough effective scenes here to think that a good film might have been made with some selective editing, as there are at least a half hour of needless, painful to watch scenes that do nothing but detract from the story. The filmmakers are at least is successful in evoking sympathy for the poor beast, enough to make the ending remain effective, although the film as a whole aims so low, they've squandered an opportunity for a remake to surpass the original. At least it made a star out of Jessica Lange (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tootsie).
-- Remade again in 2005.
©2001 Vince Leo