Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Big Picture: "King Kong" (1976)

Schlocktober Returns!


Lord Slithor said...

Never was crazy about the '76 King Kong. For one thing as you mentioned, Bob: No dinosaur fights. Although I remember Rick Baker getting a lot of kudos for his makeup and performance, even if you said it wasn't one of his better ones.

Also the motivation behind going to Skull/Mondo/whatever island isn't as interesting. Prospecting for oil? Growing up in the '70s, even as a child I was aware of the so-called "energy crunch," but looking back even now, it dates the movie horribly.

Jeff Bridges' and Jessica Lange's performances (the latter of whom kicked-off her movie career with this film) were the only things worth watching. And even then Lange's Dwan (No, that's not a typo. WTF kind of a name was that anyway?) didn't have the same kind of pathos to it that audiences felt with Fay Wray's Ann Darrow in the original.

For all the criticism it gets, and in spite of whatever flaws it had, I still think Peter Jackson's 2005 Kong remake was far superior. Jackson had the good sense at least to keep it a period piece and stick with the original 1930's setting, as well as the dinosaurs. In fact, he even went in the extra mile and did his own take on the infamous "Bottom of the canyon" scene that was cut from the original. And I also loved the relationship between Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow and Andy Serkis' Kong, which beat out the '76 version by a mile. Yeah, I'll take the '05 remake any day.

Timothy said...

@Lord Slithor
Yeah, you have to love the fact that the original 1933 'King Kong' feels less dated than the 1976 remake.

Sssonic said...

The 2005 remake is a grievously flawed piece of work; there is simply no escaping its hoplessly-bloated running time and the many useless subplots that come with it (did we really need a "Heart of Darkness" riff on top of everything else?), and most of the human cast is, at best, passable but nothing to write home about. Comparing it to the '76 remake, though, highlights the many things Peter Jackson didn't just get right, but knocked out of the damned park.

Kong himself is the big one, naturally. Even setting aside how much more versatile CGI (and indeed animation period; the original is still a perfect showcase of the power of stop-motion) is in comparison to man-in-suit, the '76 version isn't even trying; half the time Baker doesn't even go through the trouble of hunching over or walking like anything other than a Dude On A Stroll, and the result is that we're left with a Kong that feels more flagrantly phony, not only than either its predecessor or its successor, but even than Godzilla or any other of Toho's many suit-acted characters.
Jackson's Kong, by contrast, actually one-ups the original, which was believable but only in the abstract. The Kong of '05, however, is entirely believable as an actual Ape, not just in the way it moves or looks (which are both pitch perfect) but the way it relates to the world around it. The relationship that forms between Kong and Ann, unlike the original's one-sided (and more-than-likely racist) version or the '76's woefully wrongheaded stab at a Reciprocal Romance (you haven't seen Absurdly Stupid until you see Jessica Lange talking to a blue-screened Gorilla Suit as if it's a boyfriend she's on her first date with), feels like the kind of relationship a Gorilla might actually form with a human, and it gives the Jackson version a Heart that even the original doesn't quite possess.

The other really smart move Jackson made in contrast to the DeLaurentis version is keeping the story in the 1930's. Every attempt to "modernize" the story the '76 version makes winds up looking hopelessly silly (right down to naming the Big Oil Company that drives most of the plot after the then-trendy Pet Rocks) by virtue of the fact that much of the mentalities that drove the characters in the original "Kong" only really make sense in the time the movie was made.

So if nothing else, let us take the '76 "King Kong" as a good reminder that whatever its flaws, Jackson's remake ultimately understood what made this story tick moreso than the DeLaurentis version. It's pretty faint praise to damn with if the Big Virtue of your film is that it makes other films look better by its failings, but hey, you take what you can get.

Mack James said...

hey bob, i know you're a fan of godzilla and daikaiju and all things monster mash and since it is october i thought you would be the kind of person who would like a video like this


i'm sorry for posting this in the comments but i couldn't find any other way to message this information to you

Unknown said...

it happened, seth mcfarlane got over it