Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Movie Review: "King Kong" (1976)

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Movie"King Kong"
Director: John Guillermin
Year: 1976
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

An oil company ventures to a hidden island, which they believe holds massive, untapped deposits of oil. Upon arriving, they don't find much usable oil, but they do find a giant ape the natives call Kong.

"King Kong" 1976 is directed by John Guillermin and is a remake of the 1933 classic of the same name. This version bears some similarities to the original, only this time around, the reason people are coming to the island is in pursuit of oil, not for the filming of a motion picture. It stars Charles Grodin as Fred Wilson, the head of Petrox oil company's expedition, Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott, a graduate student of anthropology who stowed away on the ship, and Jessica Lange in her very first film role as an aspiring actress named Dwan, and no, that's not a typo, her name is Dwan because as she puts it, "it's like Dawn, but more interesting." Besides being a modernized account of this story and the changing of a few characters and motivations, the rest of the movie is about the same as the original. Dwan is sacrificed to Kong, Jack saves her, and Fred looks to capitalize on making an attraction out of the giant ape creature they find on Skull Island.

The original Kong was a groundbreaking film when it came to its technical and special effects aspects. It combined stop-motion animation with live action, creating a fun and effective creature feature. One would expect and hope that in 43 years, Hollywood would have and could have made improvements in technology and in film-making techniques so there could be more modern, better looking special effects to aid this kind of story. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In this version, Kong is essentially made up of a guy dressed up in a gorilla costume trouncing across some miniatures, a technique that had been using for decades in the "Godzilla" films. Sure, the mask itself is a bit more sophisticated and is able to give Kong a few facial expressions. No problem, right? Wrong again! These expressions are often those of a lecherous pervert as Kong ogles Jessica Lange regularly throughout the movie in a disturbing, twisted sort of way. John Guillermin has managed to make the King of Skull Island into a bit of a creeper, not a creepy and/or effective beast. The action is also not as intense and falls far short of the original outside of the gratuitously, bloody finale atop the World Trade Center, though these final moments even manage to be far less convincing than what was done over forty years prior. The acting is fine, and the picture is saved by Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin. Jessica Lange plays the typical damsel in distress as she does her best to channel her inner Marilyn Monroe.

Though it does have its moments of intensity, overall, 1976's "King Kong" winds up feeling like a cheap, poorly paced knockoff of a much better, more pioneering older movie with far too many sexist, perverted glances given because of Kong's terrible costume and subsequent facial expressions.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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