February 27, 2006

We Three Kongs, part 2 (1976)

Here is the second installment of my three-part King Kong comparison. The '76 film is by far the worst of the three, and this post will likely follow suit. The first entry is here, and the third is here (that link will work once the third entry is posted, if I do this right).

King Kong (1976), dir. John Guillermin (tellingly produced by Dino De Laurentiis)

Four minutes in, and I have absolutely no idea what is going on.

We're "introducing" Jessica Lange, and is that Jeff Bridges?!

The crew is going to the mystery island to drill for oil in the '76 film, not to make a movie (like they are in the other two). In light of the 1973 energy crisis, this was a topical change made by Guillermin, et al-- one that would be just as topical had Jackson stuck with it for the 2005 version. Not that that would be a good idea.

Lange's character washes up to the crew's boat on a life raft--the lone survivor of an exploded yacht--because she refused to watch Deep Throat. I'm not making this up; we're off to an outstanding start.

There is no excuse for high-rise jeans ever having been in fashion.

The guy playing the captain (the late John Randolph) is positively chewing the scenery.

Of Lange, Wray, and Watts, Lange shows the most skin. Nice work, Dino.

Someone thought they were being clever when they figured that they could just build a huge ape hand for the closeups of Lange, and then just use a guy in an ape suit (on a set of miniatures) for the rest of the shots. They weren't.

Self-referential humor rears its head: after Kong crashes through the trees, unseen, Bridge's character says, "who the hell do you think went through there, some guy in an ape suit?"

When Petrox (the film's fictitious oil company) wheels out Kong in NYC, his cage is modeled after a gigantic gas pump. I would have loved to be in the production designer's office when they came up with that one, if not for the secondhand smoke.

One cannot possibly write anything about a 70s-era American film without making some sort of marijuana reference, as I just did.

It's unsettling to think that Kongologically, the twin towers were only viable for the '76 Kong to climb, as they were not yet built in 1933, and destroyed prior to 2005.

In the end, Bridges' character aptly describes the '76 Kong film itself when he describes the displaying of the caged ape as a "grotesque farce."

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