King Kong (1976)
Release year: 1976
Director: John Guillermin
Screenwriter: James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Charles Grodin, John Randolph, Rene Auberjonois, Julius Harris, Jack O’Halloran, Ed Lauter
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Speciel Achievement Award for visuel effects. 2 Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Sound. 1 Golden Globe: Best Actress (Jessica Lange).
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #252, week 16 2019
A petroleum exploration expedition comes to an isolated island along with a shipwrecked girl (Lange) they picked up. Here they encounter a tribe about to perform a ritual. The island people show great interest in the girl, wanting her in their ritual to calm Kong.
The classic tale of the giant ape King Kong has been told several times. In this, the 1976 edition, the movie makers has focused more on the girl and her growing relationship with Jack Prescott which turns into a weird love triangle with the gigantic ape. This means they have cut out parts of the story line where the damsel in distress is in Kong’s world. It seems a strange decision considering the length of the movie could do with more island action and less boat bickering, especially considering the title character doesn’t make an apperance before almost half way through the movie. But when he appears, he is impressive. Though some of the green screen scenes have aged, the scenes involving mechanical parts are still amazing and awe striking. Bridges (Fisher King, 1991) has always been great and is here as well with seventies hair and a charming presence while Grodin (Midnight Run, 1988) is brilliant as the oil hungry executive but much relies on the leading lady of Kong. Here the part as screaming blonde is filled by a beautiful Lange (Tootsie, 1982) in her feature film debut. She looks stunning but the inexperience shows in her tendency to overact. The movie excels the 1933 King Kong in visual effects but is otherwise a lesser movie. Still great though.
For shots of Kong holding Jessica Lange, the filmmakers built giant hydraulic gorilla arms. The hands were six feet across, and the arms weighed 1,650 lbs. (750 kg.) each. They weren’t ready until shooting was well underway. When they were finally built, Dino De Laurentiis was invited to the set to witness a test. He walked into the studio, and a giant arm extended in his direction. Then the middle finger slowly uncurled and extended itself. De Laurentiis broke up. So did the arm; it was frozen, finger up, for a week.
Kong’s vocalizations were recorded by an uncredited Peter Cullen (who also voices Optimus Prime for the Transformer movies), straining his vocal cords so badly that he coughed up blood in the recording studio.
The mechanical King Kong is the largest mechanical creature ever created, towering a little over 40 feet.
Want to watch it yourself? Click the image below:
Picture copyrights: UIP