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King Kong (1976): Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

Not even a strong cast can save the 1976 “King Kong” remake.

The Plot: Fred Wilson is leading an expedition vessel bound for a mysterious island with the hopes of finding oil amid the energy crisis. A paleontologist/photographer named Jack stows away on the ship but he has no interest in oil. He has other interests on the island. Jack isn’t the only member to join the expedition after the crew come across a raft with a stunning young woman named Dwan (who is the lone survivor of a yacht explosion). Eventually, the vessel reaches its expedition where they, of course, find the titular giant ape. Suddenly, the prospect of oil becomes a lot less enticing as Fred has his eye on a bigger prize in Kong. As for Kong, he becomes infatuated with Dwan which might lead to his downfall.

I’ll say upfront that I think 1933’s “King Kong” is one of the greatest movies of all-time. Not only has it stood the test of time, but it shows what cinema could be all those years again. There have been many Kong films made since. Some of them have been duds while others have been fun cinematic spectacles. 1976’s “King Kong” isn’t one of the finer efforts.

Although it will no doubt have appeal to Kong fans, Kaiju aficionados, and nostalgic individuals, director John Guillermin’s “King Kong” is a rather uninspired remake. It lacks the spectacle, adventure, and heart of the 1933 original and instead tries to coast on its allegedly grand special effects. Given that “Jaws” came out a year prior and “Star Wars” the following year, Kong’s award winning effects looked positively antiquated even then. They even pale to the complex and emotive stop-motion effects from that of the 1933 version. Most of the time you’re just seeing a guy in a suit, giant hands or very few shots of a giant mechanical Kong. The blue/green screen, cheap sets, and giant rubber snake aren’t exactly convincing effects either. Granted, effects aren’t everything, but ‘Kong’ tries to make them the centerpiece and it doesn’t work. 

The script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. deviates from the original story but not in any significant way. The energy crisis angle is underdeveloped and the played up connection between Dwan and Kong veers into camp territory (that cheesy blowdry scene…yikes). There’s nothing subtle about this movie and so much of the writing feels forced for the sake of convenience.

The saving grace here is the cast that features Charles Grodin, Jeff Bridges, Rene Auberjonois, and Jessica Lange in her movie debut. The always reliable Jeff Bridges does the best he can to lead the movie even though he has little to work with. Grodin plays a great slimeball as the opportunistic Fred. Lange lights up the screen as Dwan. It was clear even here that a star was born.

Note: This Blu-ray set contains the theatrical cut and the extended 182 minute TV cut. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The hi-def print is satisfactory although some of the night scenes appear a little overly fuzzy.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? From John Barry’s score to the action scenes, this 5.1 track does not disappoint. 

Extras:
* Theatrical trailer, TV spots and Radio spots
* Image galleries
* New individual interviews with second unit director Bill Kronick, sculptor Steve Varner, photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan, actor Jack O’Halloran, messengers Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thaler, and production manager Brian Frankish and assistant director David McGiffert.* 68 minute “King Kong” Panel Discussion From The Aero Theater from 2016 featuring various cast and crew members.

May 15, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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