King Kong 1976 – A precursor to 2017?

kong6The 70s remake of King Kong hasn’t dated well.  The thing I like about the original Universal monster movies is that they are pretty much all rewatchable to this day.  However, this one doesn’t fall into the same category, and it’s riddled with modernizing attempts that seem cheap and schlocky.  Still, it has some charm and there’s some great cinematography across a beautiful landscape, before it peters out at the end, amongst bright lights and ugly acting.

kong1Most critics gave King Kong ’76 a pass back in the day, but then took a step back and realized how flawed it was.  The acting is really bad, except maybe Charles Grodin and Jeff Bridges, who do a job good with the action/adventure script.  It’s Jessica Lange who hams it up and stinks up the joint.  This was her very first movie, and most of the time, she’s half-naked, can’t stand up straight, or goes too far over-the-top with her idiotic part.  Jessica Lange overcame this terrible, terrible part and became a great actress.  You can tell from this movie how hard she probably had to work.

The plot of this movie pretty much follows the original, except for a few doses of modern-day subtext, like that about oil or native oppression.  Grodin’s expedition is not about seeking the ultimate myth, because he plays an oil-baron wanna-be, some dope out for cash.  So when he finds out he can’t do diddly squat with the black stuff found on Skull Island, he brings back Kong instead, for a quick buck.  Makes sense, I guess.

The action in this movie is bad but part of the ride.  Kong wrestles with a plastic snake at one point, and that’s supposed to be your monster versus monster segment required for every giant monster movie.  In Godzilla, it’s other giant monsters.  In Peter Jackson’s outing, it’s insects and bats and other island life out to bloat the run-time.  There’s plenty in Jackson’s movie to get excited about, but he likes throwing Kong’s world on-screen, which makes that movie way too long.  Kong ’76 seems to be about the right length, but it too is obsessed with delivering the sights and sounds of Kong’s world.

kong4The effects in Kong ’76 are uneven at best.  The “man in a suit” would look worse were it not for good camera-work on the island, but when Kong gets to the city, the suit really looks terrible.  No trees to hide behind I guess.  There are plenty of matte lines to go around and other effects look really fake.  The movie sells itself on the spectacle and Jessica Lange’s body, which was on the cover of most magazines back in the day.  It worked, obviously.  Even though Kong 2017 looks to have better acting and a better spectacle, does it have the charm?  I guess we’ll have to find out March 13.  

There has been some magazine coverage of Skull Island.  CQ had Tom Hiddleston.  Where’s Brie Larson?  Unlike Lange, I don’t see Brie Larson on the cover of any magazines.  Most magazines featuring a story about Skull Island have the CGI Kong on the cover instead, like SFX magazine.  That’s pretty interesting.  Are you telling me you’re trying to charm me with CGI?  You can see what they’re trying to sell us here.  The spectacle again, kinda like Jurassic Park without the whimsical charm.

Overall, this movie is awful but has good pace and good spectacle.  The acting needs help,  except for the parts with Jeff Bridges in it, which aren’t plentiful enough.  The camera-work really is good and hides a lot of the flaws.  The island looks great and story is decent enough, for what it is.  Skull Island (2017) looks to do some of the same things, with effects, camera-work, and atmosphere.  Hopefully, there’s a little charm in there somewhere.