King Kong (1976) (1976)
PG Dir: John Guillermin | Paramount | 134 min.

Review By: Christopher Bligh | January 28th, 2012

Plot: What’s it about?

If the decade of the seventies rang nostalgic for the fifties, none rang so true on the big screen to bring back some classics in a modern day fashion. Films like The Front Page, Lost Horizon, M and even The Maltese Falcon had it’s share of being updated but none held a candle to an enormous undertaking at a bigger present day updating that evokes a ninth wonder of the world that a decade later spawned a sequel and got a more truer improved version a few months ago. It’s big, it’s huge, it’s one hell of a beast, I give you…….KONG!!!!

The country is going through an energy crisis and Petrox is at the bottom of the big time gas companies. In Fred Wilson’s (Charles Grodin) eyes, he feels he’s got his eye on a big break on an “untouched” island that looks identical from many years past and according to a spy plane, is fluent in what he’s looking for. Meanwhile on this mission, a stowaway named Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) gives his insight on the matter and together they check it out along with a stranded actress at sea named Dwan (Jessica Lange). What they find are natives with a normal ritual and a big wall. It’s after an abduction of Dwan that leads them to notice the behemoth that answers to the chant of Kong who takes a liking to Dwan and who raises the interest of Wilson in terms of the “big one”.

In the file of “what were they thinking”, this was one project that had problems and a rushed schedule to meet a capitalizing release date from the gorilla right down on. There are moments in this film and overall the film is entertaining thanks to some hookable moments and the presence of Lange and Bridges. Both bring the film some weight that handled nicely.

It’s also a well shot movie but like most updatings of a classic, it suffers from comparison and being a product of its time. The effects look obvious and the appearance of a man in a suit is more apparant as the film goes on. What starts out as a promising first part starts to suffer little by little as the film goes on. A viewer knows the movie is in trouble when the company refers to a fad of the time (Petrox) and for the record I never had one. Also, the natives are there for just a few scenes (played wonderfully by the Great Pumpkin Grimace Lookalike Players) and then there in no man’s land for the rest. At least the recent film gave some effective scenes with the natives and other activities on the island along with a better constructed first act of development.

Any film that takes the title of the film literally, especially when the film changes locale to NYC, should re-evaluate the script and the ridiculousness. Granted it’s a guilty pleasure and I enjoyed it for the fun of it for it had some interesting choices on the demise of Kong but there’s a lot of obvious rear projection, even in the widescreen format and the change of venue with the finale of the piece dates the film even more (It still amazes me how they found room for a sequel to this movie in the eighties with the same producer director but no one from the original).


Video: How does it look?

King Kong is given the anamorphic widescreen treatment in 2.35:1 and for what it’s worth, Paramount does a good job with the transfer as there are specks here and there and a few print flaws but not as many as one would expect. The print is kept in good condition and the nominated cinematography is utilized very nicely until it’s dipped into Kong land and New York City where the sets and the scenery look cheaper than expected for a big undertaking. Other than that, the picture quality remains decent within the blacks and brighter points of the film and the overall look is displayed satisfactorily.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track gives the roars some decent justice despite the age of the track and the sound limitations of the time, this track holds together nicely, not to any extent that a recent movie does but managable and worthy of it’s nomination in this category. The balance of dialogue and the intriguing John Barry score fit together well with the dialogue set in the center and the score fit in all channels nicely balanced with the film itself. From a scene with a heartbeat to the fracas on the isle of Kong, there was not much need for the volume to be raised to understand everything but all in all a good track. This disc also has a English Dolby Surround and French Mono track along with English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The only extra is the film’s theatrical trailer in widescreen form and it’s a hoot in itself and a fun extra. Now if only the scenes that were just shown on television were included in that expanded or deleted form or even the hint of the bubble gum cards or a present day look from the ones involved with the project, there would be some worthy extras. Not even during it’s reissue with the red cover was anything added, just a few other stills on the back cover.

King Kong is a worthy seventies attempt to update the big beast with the lovely beauty and the DVD displays it very well but if the extras were on the level of the transfer, it would be a remarkable improvement but alas the enjoyment of a guilty pleasure has an equally amusing trailer and thats good but hopefully expanded on more at a later time.

Disc Features
  • (2.35:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Audio: Dolby Digital
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 1 Disc Set
King Kong (1976)