Saturday, March 11, 2017

Movie Review: King Kong (1976)

A new iteration of the giant ape tormenting humans hit the screen in 1976 with a different, yet similar, storyline. In this edition, an exploratory crew searches for a large oil find. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) runs the expedition betting a lot of money that there would be land amidst a cloud of fog somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. Sneaking aboard the vessel is Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a paleontologist, interested in the rumor surrounding the island. Picking up lost in the ocean is a young actress Dwan (Jessica Lange) who is at first in shock after surviving yacht explosion but determined to join the search crew as they land on the island. 

The group encounters the native people performing a ceremony and chanting "Kong". Like in the original film, the islanders see the golden-haired woman and offer to trade six of their women but the explorers refuse and return to the boat. Dwan is captured and used as the new center of the ceremony. When the beast shows up, it's apparent that they used a monkey suit that is filmed to look large. Kong grabs Dwan and takes her off into the jungle as the explorers mount a rescue led by Jack.

Dwan and Kong begin to form a relationship though Dwan tries to escape several times. The effects don't look terrible when Lange is sitting in the ape's hand but the facial expression of Kong often look ridiculous and whenever they share a screen, it's obviously a screen that she's staring up at. Meanwhile, Fred is convinced he has found oil but when the liquid turns out to not be fuel, he becomes determined to capture the monster using any means necessary. Once again the rescue team tries to traverse a canyon by a fallen tree when Kong shows up to roll them off to their deaths, everyone except Jack who hides on a cliff. 

Kong becomes obsessed with Dwan but when he is attacked by a giant snake, Jack grabs Dwan and they escape. The men on the shore have set up a trap with chloroform that they use as Kong pursues Dwan and Jack smashing down the giant ancient wall used to cage him inside. Frank and the crew capture Kong and stow him aboard the oil tanker with plans to ship him back to New York and profit off of shows. Dwan is now a star but she feels guilty for imprisoning the giant beast, while Jack is outright against taking the animal from its home. The film has an anti-energy company vibe relevant to the 70s calling up the gas crisis and corruption of big oil corporations out for greed. Frank gets his comeuppance when the ape escapes from the "escape-proof" cage and rampages through New York.

The finale has a scene on a rail car that I remember fondly from my childhood trips to Universal Studios with the fire and crashing effects. Jack and Dwan run through the city but stop to get a romantic drink as the military prepares to take down the beast. In this update version, the iconic structures are the twin towers of the World Trade Center and instead of planes, it's helicopter that attack Kong at the top. Kong tragically meets his end by being shot and tumbling off the skyscraper, another animal victim of human cruelty and greed.  

No comments:

Post a Comment