King Kong (1976)
|King Kong films|
The most exciting original motion picture event of all time.
King Kong is a 1976 Italian/American giant monster film produced by the Dino De Laurentiis Corporation and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and a remake of the 1933 film of the same name. It was released to American theaters on December 17, 1976.
This remake of the iconic classic updates the setting to the then-present 1970s and replaces Carl Denham's film crew with an oil expedition to a previously uncharted island led by the ambitious Fred Wilson. Wilson's expedition picks up a stowaway primatologist named Jack Prescott, who is intent on researching a huge anthropoid held in legend to inhabit the same island the oil company seeks to survey. They also rescue castwaway Dwan, who becomes romantically involved with Jack. When the Petrox Explorer reaches the island, the natives kidnap Dwan and sacrifice her to Kong, their 50 foot ape god. Jack and mebers of the crew pursue Kong into the jungle to save Dwan, but many meet their ends in a confrontation with Kong. While Prescott manages to rescue Dwan, the greedy Wilson decides to capture Kong and bring him to New York City, which leads to Kong escaping and climbing to the top of the World Trade Center with Dwan. This culminates in an update of the classic climax of the 1933 original, with Kong facing down attack helicopters atop the North Tower.
Fred Wilson, an executive in the Petrox Oil Corporation, organizes an expedition to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean covered in a huge fog blanket, which he believes hides a gigantic underground oil reservoir. Before the expedition's ship, the Petrox Explorer, leaves, primate paleontologist Jack Prescott bribes a guard and stows away on the ship. After the Explorer sets sail, Wilson informs the ship's crew about their destination. During this briefing, Prescott reveals himself and talks about various records of ships that traveled to the same island, speaking of a gigantic ape-like creature that lives on "the beach of the skull." Wilson asks Prescott who he is, and Prescott introduces himself as a primate paleontologist who wants to see the island for himself. Wilson believes Prescott is a spy from a rival oil company and orders him locked up. While Prescott is escorted to his cell, he sees a life raft floating in the open ocean. The raft is brought on board the Explorer, with only a single unconscious female occupant. The castaway is taken into a cabin, while Wilson performs a background check on Prescott and learns he is indeed who he says he is. Wilson allows Prescott to be freed, but appoints him as the expedition's official photographer. The castaway awakens and tells Wilson and Prescott and introduces herself as Dwan (spelled this way so it can "sound more notable") and says she was an aspiring actress on a director's yacht which suddenly exploded. Since the Explorer is already too far from port, it is decided for Dwan to stay on the expedition. Over the rest of the voyage, Dwan forms a close friendship with Prescott.
When the Explorer finally enters the fog blanket, it comes upon the fabled island. A landing party is organized, and Dwan convinces Wilson to bring her along. As the party explores the interior of the island, it comes upon a gigantic wall. Wilson states that the island is uninhabited and that the wall must be ancient, but Prescott says the wall looks well-maintained and that there is a tribe of natives living behind it, hiding from something. The party passes through the wall and comes upon a ceremony being performed by the natives. The witch doctor becomes enraged that the ceremony has been interrupted, but upon seeing Dwan offers to purchase her so she can be used as a sacrifice to their god, Kong. Wilson refuses and the party returns to the Explorer, scaring the natives off with their rifles. Determined to acquire the oil on the island, Wilson plans to return at a later time. That night, natives sneak onto the boat and kidnap and drug Dwan, then bring her back to the village. Dwan is decorated in ceremonial jewels and tied to a pedestal outside the wall, where Kong emerges from the jungle and grabs her, taking her off into the jungle. When Dwan's kidnapping is discovered, the crew comes back ashore and storms the village, only to see that something huge has carried off Dwan. Wilson sets up a base camp on the beach, while Prescott and a group of men follow Kong into the jungle. While on the beach, Wilson learns that the oil on the island is worthless and must wait thousands of years more before it is usable. Unwilling to return to his superiors empty-handed, Wilson concocts a scheme to capture Kong and bring him back to the United States as a marketing gimmick for Petrox.
Meanwhile, Kong sets Dwan down in a clearing and looks at her. Dwan believes Kong is going to kill her and begs for her life. To Dwan's surprise, Kong is amused and calmed by Dwan's sweet-talk, and she soon learns he means her no harm. Kong takes Dwan to a waterfall and holds her under it, cleaning the mud off of her. Prescott and the team begin to get closer to Kong, and come upon a fallen log spanning a deep chasm. As they try to cross, Kong emerges from the jungle and sees them. Kong grabs the log and tosses it into the pit, sending the entire team to their deaths except for Prescott and another man named Boan. Prescott tells Boan to go back to the village while he continues pursuing Kong. By nightfall, Kong brings Dwan to his mountain lair, where he prepares to undress his "bride." However, a giant snake appears and tries to eat Dwan. Kong attacks the snake, but it constricts itself around him. Jack arrives at the lair and reunites with Dwan while Kong is occupied. Dwan and Prescott stop briefly to watch Kong's struggle, but upon seeing Prescott with her Kong becomes enraged. Kong grabs the snake's jaws and tears them apart, killing it. Jack and Dwan jump into the water below and swim back to the village, where Wilson and his team have set up a trap for Kong. Kong chases them to the village and smashes through the wall, only to fall into a pit filled with chloroform, knocking him unconscious. The natives surround their fallen god and bow, as Wilson prepares to transport Kong back to New York.
Kong is loaded in the Explorer's cargo hold, where he is fed with tons of fruit. Both Dwan and Jack are upset at Kong's treatment, while Kong himself grows increasingly distressed throughout the voyage. One day, Dwan accidentally falls into the cargo hold, only for Kong to catch her. The captain orders the hold to be flooded after Dwan is rescued, but Kong becomes calm and allows Dwan to climb back out. The rest of the voyage goes relatively smoothly, and Kong is prepared to be put on display in New York. Wilson tries to convince Prescott and Dwan to be present at Kong's exhibition, but Prescott refuses and states he will start a fund to return Kong to his home. Kong, bound with chrome steel and with a giant crown placed on his head, is put on display in front of a huge crowd. When reporters try to take photographs of Dwan, Kong becomes agitated and breaks free of his binds, trampling the crowd, including Wilson. Dwan runs away and finds Prescott, and the two of them cross the Queensboro Bridge to escape from Kong. Kong simply walks across the water and approaches Manhattan, desperately searching for Dwan. Dwan and Jack hide in an abandoned bar, where Prescott sees the World Trade Center, realizing it bears a remarkable resemblance to Kong's lair on the island. Prescott calls the Mayor's office, telling them to allow Kong to climb to the top of the World Trade Center where he can be safely captured. While Prescott makes the call, Kong finds the bar and grabs Dwan, carrying her off to the World Trade Center.
With the National Guard pursuing him, Kong climbs the South Tower and reaches the top. There, he is attacked by soldiers wielding flamethrowers, much to Prescott's dismay. Kong managed to jump to the North Tower, where he throws a gasoline tank at the soldiers, killing them in a fiery explosion. Ignoring Prescott's request to capture Kong with nets, the military sends in helicopters with mounted machine guns to kill him. Realizing the incoming threat, Kong sets Dwan down and holds her back. Dwan begs for Kong to pick her back up, hoping the military will not fire if he is holding her. Kong smiles at Dwan and turns away, facing the helicopters head-on. The helicopters open fire, riddling Kong with machine gun fire. Despite his grievous injuries, Kong managed to destroy two choppers. Eventually, the machine gun fire is too much, and Kong falls over, bleeding profusely. Sobbing, Dwan approaches Kong. Breathing heavily, Kong rolls off the roof of the North Tower and plummets onto the plaza below. Minutes later, reporters and onlookers have surrounded Kong, while Dwan approaches him. Kong looks at his love one last time before his heart stops beating. Mobbed by reporters, Dwan bursts into tears and calls for Jack, who is trying to reach her through the crowds.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by John Guillermin
- Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
- Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
- Music by John Barry
- Cinematography by Richard H. Kline
- Edited by Ralph E. Winters
- Production design by Mario Chiari, Dale Hennesy
- Assistant directing by Nathan Haggard, Pat Kehoe, William Kronick, David McGiffert, Kurt Neumann
- Special effects by Carlo Rambaldi, Glen Robinson, Frank Van der Veer, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott
- Charles Grodin as Fred Wilson
- Jessica Lange as Dwan
- John Randolph as Captain Ross
- Rene Auberjonois as Bagley
- Julius Harris as Boan
- Jack O'Halloran as Joe Perko
- Dennis Fimple as Sunfish
- Ed Lauter as Carnahan
- Jorge Moreno as Garcia
- Mario Gallo as Timmons
- John Lone as Chinese Cook
- Garry Walberg as Army General
- John Agar as City Official
- Keny Long as Ape Masked Man
- Sid Conrad as Petrox Chairman
- George Whiteman as Army Helicopter Pilot
- Wayne Heffley as Air Force Colonel
- Rick Baker as King Kong
- Peter Cullen as King Kong (voice; uncredited)
Weapons, vehicles, and races
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The idea of a remake of King Kong had been considered as early as 1952, when Merian C. Cooper and Willis O'Brien planned to produce a remake of their film titled The Eighth Wonder, making use of improved stop-motion techniques and technology. The film never came to fruition, though Kong went on to appear in two films produced by Japanese studio Toho in the 1960s.
British Studio Hammer Films, famous for its remakes of classic 1930s monster films, approached RKO Pictures in the late 1960s to attempt to procure the rights to Kong for its own remake of the 1933 film, but was denied.
In the 1970s, Kong's popularity was spiking in the public eye, and it was only a matter of time until a Hollywood studio got the idea to remake the film. Producer Dino De Laurentiis shared the idea with the president of Gulf & Western, Paramount Pictures' parent company, Charles Bludhorn. After some further clarification on if the rights were available, Paramount Pictures managed to sign a contract with RKO in order to produce their remake. After finalizing the agreement, the film was projected to release in December 1976. Things were running smoothly, until Universal Pictures objected to this on the basis that RKO had previously made an oral agreement to allow it to produce a remake of the film. Universal filed a lawsuit against RKO and Paramount for the rights to King Kong, all while beginning pre-production on their own remake, The Legend of King Kong, also scheduled for a 1976 release. Universal expected this would cause De Laurentiis to abandon his remake, but it instead prompted him to rush the film into production, confident in his written contract over Universal's verbal agreement. When the lawsuit was settled, Universal purchased the rights to Kong from Richard Cooper, son of Kong's creator Merian C. Cooper. However, the court ruled that De Laurentiis and Paramount did have the right to produce their remake, prompting Universal to abandon its plans for the time being.
Due to the accelerated production, Rick Baker lamented that he and Carlo Rambaldi were unable to properly design the King Kong costume. Baker gave all the credit to the suit's passable appearance to Carlo Rambaldi and his technicians and to Richard H. Kline's cinematography. Rambaldi also constructed a life-size King Kong animatronic that stood around 40 feet tall and weighed 6.5 tons. The animatronic cost $1.7 million, but did not function properly and was relegated to a few brief shots in the film totaling only a few seconds.
- Main article: King Kong (1976 film)/Gallery.
- Main article: King Kong (1976 film soundtrack).
- France - September 8, 1976
- United States - December 17, 1976
- Spain - December 17, 1976 [view poster]
- Japan - December 18, 1976 [view poster]
- Portugal - December 16, 1977 [view poster]
Despite often being called a financial flop, King Kong was actually a sizable financial success, earning Paramount Pictures over triple its budget. King Kong had a budget of approximately $24 million and ended up with a worldwide gross of $90.6 million. According to The Numbers, King Kong was the third-highest grossing film of 1976, behind Rocky and To Fly! According to Variety, King Kong went on to be the fifth-highest grossing film of 1977 as well.
King Kong was met with mixed reception from viewers and critics alike upon release. Many criticized it for failing to live up to the original film, and it was often accused of being too campy. Some critics, including Roger Ebert, gave positive reviews to the film, praising the humor and acting. The film launched the career of actress Jessica Lange, who received a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female for her role in the film.
King Kong was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound. The film won the award for Best Visual Effects, sharing it with Logan's Run, on which several of the film's effects crew also worked. Actress Jessica Lange won the Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female for her role as Dwan.
Paramount DVD (1999)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (3.0 and 5.1 Surround) and French (2.0 Mono)
- Special features: Trailer
- Notes: Re-released in 2005 and on a double feature with King Kong (1933).
StudioCanal Blu-ray (2009)
- Region: Various
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (5.1 Surround); dubs vary based on country
- Special features: Rick Baker interview (22 minutes), theatrical trailer, ten deleted scenes (16 minutes)
- Notes: Out of print.
- Region: A
- Discs: 2
- Audio: English (DTS-HD 5.1 and DTS-HD 2.0 stereo)
- Special features: Audio commentary by Ray Morton; interviews with King Kong suit actor and make-up effects artist Rick Baker, actor Jack O'Halloran (6 minutes), assistant director David McGiffert and production manager Brian Frankish (12 minutes), sculptor Jack Varner (6 minutes), second unit director William Kronick (7 minutes), photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan (6 minutes), and production assistants Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thalerv (14 minutes); 2016 panel discussion on the film with author Ray Morton, Jack O'Halloran, Rick Baker, cinematographer Richard H. Kline, manager Richard Kraft, and Martha De Laurentiis (69 minutes); theatrical trailer; TV spots; radio spots; TV spots for the extended version broadcast on NBC; still galleries; exclusive poster
- Notes: Includes the 182-minute television broadcast version of the film.
- Main article: King Kong Lives.
Due to the film's financial success, Dino De Laurentiis tried for years to produce a sequel. Finally, ten years later in 1986, De Laurentiis' production company De Laurentiis Entertainment Group produced a sequel, titled King Kong Lives. This film, however, was a critical and financial failure.
- King Kong was advertised as "The most exciting original motion picture event of all time," despite being a remake.
- Posters for the American release of Godzilla vs. Megalon featured Godzilla and Megalon battling atop the World Trade Center as an attempt to cash-in on this film's release.
- Over 30,000 extras showed up on the second night of filming for the film's ending scene at the World Trade Center Plaza. The filming had to be shut down because the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey worried that the weight of so many people would cause the pavement of the plaza to collapse. The filmmakers managed to get the shots they wanted before the filming was shut down, and a few days later returned with a smaller group of extras to finish the scene.
- This is the only version of King Kong in which Kong climbs the then-newly built World Trade Center at the climax, rather than the Empire State Building. This is due to the fact that at the time this film was made, the World Trade Center's Twin Towers had surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest skyscrapers in New York City.
- King Kong was the first film project for legendary makeup effects artist Rob Bottin. Bottin, famous for his later work on films such as The Thing, RoboCop and Total Recall, served as an uncredited assistant makeup effects technician under his mentor Rick Baker for this film.
- NBC aired an extended 182-minute version of the film on television in 1978. This cut was not released to home video until 2021.
- The publicity and box office success surrounding this film inspired a number of imitators throughout the remainder of the 1970's. These films were often either direct riffs on the King Kong story (Mighty Peking Man, A*P*E, Queen Kong, and Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century), seemingly unrelated fantasy pieces with gorilla elements included (The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth, King Kung-Fu, Bye Bye Monkey, and The Merciful Buddha), or planned but ultimately abandoned productions (Toei and Amicus Films' Kongorilla, Mario Bava's comedy Baby Kong, and the re-release version of The Mighty Gorga).
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