The first significant remake of King Kong was updated to present day and even had the titular blonde babe utter this dialogue to her hairy, overgrown captor: “You goddamn chauvinist pig ape!”
The names have been changed, perhaps to protect the guilty, but a guilty pleasure it is (much like director John Guillermin’s later camp-fest, Sheena) nonetheless. Ann Darrow is now Dwan (“Like Dawn, but I switched the ‘a’ and the ‘w’,” she says, proving that she can least spell monosyllabic words), a literally washed-up actress played by Jessica Lange; impresario Carl Denham is now called Fred Wilson, and he’s an oily oil tycoon played by Charles Grodin; and Jack Driscoll is Jack Prescott, a long-haired, bearded environmentalist by Jeff Bridges in his pre-“Dude” days. Kong is still king (wearing a crown and all — I kid you not) but he’s no longer a rabbit-fur covered claymation creation, he’s special effects man Rick Baker in a gorilla suit.
Much of the film is the same as the 1933 classic we know and love — the three human protagonists wind up on Skull Island, Kong takes the blonde for his bride (“He tried to rape you, Dwan!” Jack later says), the blonde screams a lot, loses articles of clothing, is rescued, and the beast is finally conquered and taken back to New York to be put on display for the paying masses. Kong goes ape and paints the town red with blood.
A couple of major differences are the exclusion of the dinosaurs on Skull Island (Baker could only wear so many costumes, I guess), and the swapping of the Empire State Building for the World Trade Center (the twin towers resemble the altar where Dwan was tied and left for Kong). While there was a bit of strange sexual fascination with Ann on Kong’s part in the original, the ’76 version seems to make the attraction mutual — when Dwan gets wet, Kong blow-dries her and rather than passing out from what must be a fetid breath, she looks positively orgasmic.
King Kong is silly. The dialogue is often hilarious (“Oh, come on Kong,” Dwan says, “Forget about me. This thing’s just never going to work.”). Many of the scenes are beyond cheesy (there’s even a musical montage!). Kong’s red eye balls and white sclera are more creepy than scary (and his hands look like latex).
There’s no arguing King Kong remake is definitely second banana — but it’s not without its monkey-shines. A fun, spirited creature feature without a dull moment, it’s definitely worth a peek.
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Staci Layne Wilson
To read Staci's "King Kong" movie reviews for Horror.com click the year 2005 - 1976 - 1933
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