The Curator of Schlock #53 by Jeff Shuster
(Ape of the Week: King Kong)
Don’t get too excited. This isn’t the 1933 King Kong, but the 1976 remake. Oh yes. Dino De Laurentis got his mitts on King Kong way before Peter Jackson. For some reason, I had been blissfully ignorant of this motion picture growing up, only having seen the 1933 classic. However, when your Curator of Schlock is hunting for ape movies, he may sometimes venture to Netflix and try his luck.
The movie poster for King Kong advertises that the remake is “The most exciting original motion picture of all time.” It’s already been established that this movie is a remake so how original can it be? Well, instead of a filmmaker forming a dangerous expedition to make a movie, we have an oil executive named Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) who believes that there’s a long lost island in the Indian Ocean that has an ocean of oil underneath it. Joining him on this journey is stowaway Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a college professor type and simian studier who believes the increased co2 emissions from the island come from a strange animal that was written about by old explorers before the Vatican put the kibosh on that kind of thought.
So is the movie exciting? There’s a lot of facial hair in this motion picture, but I consider it more disturbing than exciting. Charles Grodin’s mustache is okay, but Jeff Bridges beard is a bit of rat’s nest. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were rodents living in that thing. (This was ages before he was The Dude.) Jessica Lange shows up in a life raft so I would say that’s pretty exciting. Lang plays an actress named Dwan, whose life was saved when she refused to watch Deep Throat with the director of a film she was auditioning for. I guess the yacht she was on blew up, but since she was on deck instead of below watching that dirty movie, she managed to get into one of the life rafts just in time. Yeah, the story is suspect, but the movie doesn’t give us any other explanation.
They make it to the lost island where Wilson mounts an expedition for the hidden oil. What they find instead are a bunch of restless natives who worship some god named Kong and when they take one look at Dwan, they know they have the perfect sacrifice. They manage to kidnap her off of Wilson’s oil tanker, tie her up in front of the big wooden doors, and wouldn’t you know it, Kong is a gigantic gorilla! You know, this isn’t sounding so original after all.
I guess I should talk a bit about the special effects. This is where my inner snob would say nothing beats stop motion animation. Still, the effects in this King Kong are okay. Granted King Kong looks a bit like a guy jumping around in a gorilla suit half of the time.
The other half he looks like an audio-animatronic from a theme park ride. Many critics have labeled this remake as a prime example of schlock. I suppose the scene where Kong blow-dries Dwan’s hair with his breath doesn’t do much in the movie’s defense.
Is this the most exciting original motion picture of all time? I’m sure someone thinks so.
Five Things I Learned from King Kong
Movie posters lie.
Charles Grodin is unrecognizable with a mustache.
Jessica Lange proves that glamour was alive and well in the 1970s.
Giant snakes are scarier than giant gorillas.
Giant gorillas don’t make useful oil company mascots.