The Legend of King Kong
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In 1975, Universal became interested in doing a remake of the original 1933 King Kong, due to the character's recent surge in popularity. This would also be a great next step to follow up on the projected success of their film, Jaws, which was currently in the final stages of production. Universal approached RKO Pictures, offering them $200,000 plus five percent of the film's net profits. Although there was no written contract, Universal was confident that they received verbal approval from RKO. However, they would soon learn that RKO also signed a deal with Dino De Laurentiis and Paramount Pictures to produce a remake of the film with a tentative release date of 1976.
Universal proceeded to sue both Paramount and RKO for the rights to King Kong, claiming that they had a previous oral agreement with RKO to produce their own remake; however, RKO denied such a deal. However, during the legal debate, Universal realized the copyright to the original film's novelization by Delos W. Lovelace's copyright had lapsed. This meant that while the film itself was still under RKO copyright, the plot as depicted in the novel was now in the public domain. Counting on this claim to go through, Universal announced they would start filming The Legend of King Kong on January 5, 1976, using the novel as a template, aiming to release the film in the fall. By getting the film into production so quickly, Universal hoped it would pressure Paramount and De Laurentiis to give up production on their film.
Universal hired Academy Award-winning screenwriter Bo Goldman to write the screenplay for the film, and hired the relatively unknown but acclaimed Joseph Sargent to direct. Special effects artist Jim Danforth offered to produce the effects for the film using stop-motion animation like in the original film, but Universal worried that it would be far too expensive and planned to have Kong be portrayed by a man in a suit, like he was in King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. They also intended to very closely follow the 1933 film, using the same characters, creatures, and general plot of the original film, even keeping it set in 1933.
Eventually, a federal judge ruled that Paramount did in fact have the rights to produce a remake of King Kong, and that RKO had exclusive rights to the 1933 film. This forced Universal to abandon its plans for The Legend of King Kong. However, the judge also ruled that the character rights to Kong belonged to the estate of Merian C. Cooper, and they were subsequently transferred to his son Richard, who then sold them to Universal. After Paramount and De Laurentiis' rights to King Kong expired, Universal revived the project and hired director Peter Jackson to direct a new remake in the late 1990s, though the releases and subsequent poor receptions of Mighty Joe Young and GODZILLA in 1998 convinced them to postpone the project. Universal and Jackson finally released their remake in December 2005.
The Legend of King Kong would have differentiated itself from the original 1933 film by mostly substituting the various dinosaur inhabitants of Skull Island with both lesser known prehistoric animals and purely fictional creations. However, the film would have also featured a Triceratops, dubbed "Triclonius" in production art, and an unusually aggressive Parasaurolophus.
- King Kong
- Centipede Creature
- Giant Amphibian
- Giant Vulture
- Pit Scorpions
- "Reptilian Eel"
- Triceratops / "Triclonius"
- Universal hoped their quick production of The Legend of King Kong would make De Laurentiis hesitant to film King Kong, but it instead convinced him to complete casting and begin filming for the film months earlier. Makeup artist and stuntman Rick Baker, who designed and portrayed Kong in Paramount's film, later said he regretted not having enough time to design the King Kong suit due to the accelerated production on the film.
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