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on February 3, 2005
Firstly, I'd like to dispel a misconception that many "reviewers" here onsite are promoting: that the 1976 verison of "King Kong" was a notorious financial flop. This is simply not the case.

King Kong (1976)was a huge hit back in the seventies--I know because I was there, I saw the frenzy, I remember the crowded theaters. It cost $24 million and made $60 in 1977 dollars, only a little less than the highly regarded blockbuster "Jaws" made a couple of years earlier. Calling the film a commercial "flop" is not just inaccurate--it is a statement that borders on stupid.

Now, admittedly, it also had a huge pr campaign, which undoubtedly helped it garner a lot of that dough, but there was a lot more to the flick than just the hype.

While the commercial success of the film is a matter of indisputible record, its artistic success is a matter of personal opinion. I happen to think this is one of the best pop films of the Seventies--and there are a lot more folks out there who agree with me than you think.

Many people rag on the film for not being reverential to the original, ignoring that fact that "being reverential" was the antitheseis of what the 70s were about. Kong 76 could have probably been an even bigger hit than it was if the filmmakers had played it safe and hadn't gone out of their way to make a film so stubbornly odd. I mean this thing stomps over a gigantic swath of styles: panoramic spectacle, high adventure, pathos, romance, social commentary, absurdist comedy, thrills, and occasionally outright goofiness--all comprised in a slyly satiric package designed to tweak the noses of Kong purists. Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s ("Papillon ") screenplay is all over the place when it comes to style and tone, borrowing from whatever and whenever, almost as though it had been patched together from several different treatments--yet it still remains incredibly tight in terms of interesting, well-drawn, consistent characters, witty dialog, exploration of theme, and the forward momentum of the plot. King Kong 76 is a great example of anarchic postmodernism being perfectly wed to the staunch formalism of good storytelling. A contemporary example of this approach would be Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films.

The direction by veteran John Guillermin was absolutely fearless, pushing each of Semple's concepts to its limit, even at the risk of seeming silly. And he had a great cast to work with, especially young Jessica Lange in her first film role. Unfortunately, Jessica played the role of the vivacious, childlike, kinda dimwitted bubblehead blonde Dwan so incredibly well that most people wrote her off, assuming she was just a dumb blonde playing herself. But in actuality it is a bravura performance, one of the best in her career, and certainly a more individual, more fully-realized character performance than we get in most movies these days.

As big a hit as the disco era Kong was, however, there were a lot of people who were put off because they weren't expecting anything as freewheeling and insane as what they were given. They weren't expecting weirdness and satire. They weren't expecting to see Kong blowing a hot, wet blonde dry after a dip in a lake (metaphors anyone?), a scene simultaneously erotic and ridiculous. They weren't expecting to see the captured Kong turned in to a corporate shill--is there any scene in mainstream 70s cinema more surrealistically satiric than that of Kong being presented to the masses encased in a thirty story replica of a gasoline pump? They also were not expecting to see a big budget adventure film with a downer ending--the romantic leads ending up emotionally separated by their experiences instead of united. And they didn't expect to feel bad when the monster died.

So I put it to you all that not only was the 1976 Kong a financial success, it was also an artistic success. But you can't watch it as a remake of a classic film. It is no more a remake of the 1933 King Kong than Quentin's Kill Bill is a remake of Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter's Revenge. Watch the film for what it is, not what you think it should have been, or what you wanted it to be, and you will be better able to appreciate its cracked brilliance.
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on August 2, 2004
I'll admit this film holds extra appeal for me. That's because it made a King-sized impression when I first saw it in a darkened theatre in Massapequa Park, Long Island at seven years of age. I still remember the anticipation leading up to the first big "reveal" of Kong: The sounds of heavy foot-falls and the downing of trees as the giant gorilla approaches the primitive altar where Jessica Lange stands tethered with vines as the sacrificial bride. The score grows louder as torch-holding natives chant atop heavily fortressed walls ("Kong!, Kong!..."). Finally, he emerges in full view and beats his chest as the ominous score goes suddenly, eerily quiet. Lange looks up from her drug-induced stupor, her swimmy eyes now focusing, sobering with fear...and screams!

This is one of the great cinematic sequences of my personal memory bank.

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September 11, 2001 came in all its horror and loss. Some days later, I found myself thinking of this movie, which features the World Trade Center prominently. This was one of only a few movies to cast the Towers in such a prominent role up to that point, and they provided a scale grand enough to fuel our imaginations for the task at hand - bringing Kong to life. During that September, I ordered the DVD so I could see the towers once again as they were meant to be seen, at a time when they stood tall with promise - over-sized symbols of over-sized American optimism.

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Sure the movie has its flaws, and many of the effects aren't effective anymore, but if you enter in as a willing participant, many charms await. The film features the talents of Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and Charles Grodin. The cinematography is rich with vast hawaiian vistas. Rick Baker, the make-up wunderkind behind Gorillas in the Mist and Planet of the Apes ('01), added a sympathetic dimension to Kong in his performance (he was the guy in the suit). The movie gives sufficient emphasis to character, while patiently building anticipation for the final act. And the soundtrack! It features a John Barry score that is dark, grand, and memorable. Today, on DVD, it makes for a terrific home theatre experience.

If you, too, were one of the kids who were awed by Kong's cinematic advent thirty years ago, you'll get a nostalgic thrill from this disc. Enjoy.
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on May 14, 2005
This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid (I was 2 when it came out), and I was a little scared to watch it again, thanks to its reputation as a disaster.

However, I found the movie to be fairly good. I can certainly see why I loved it as a pre-teen. The decision to have Kong be so obviously infatuated with Jessica Lange is a strange one, for sure, and leads to a lot of scenes that involve Kong glaring at Lange and widening his eyes like the world's biggest pervert (literally, one supposes). He even tries to remove her top at one point, and while that may seem like a natural enough desire given the inescapable fact that Jessica Lange was, in 1976, hotter than broiled charcoal, I'm not sure it is believable from a ten-story-tall gorilla.

I always like seeing Jeff Bridges, and he's pretty good in this movie. Charles Grodin is pretty good, also, playing an oil prospector who will do anything to salvage his professional reputation. The music by John Barry is just what you'd expect from late-'70s Barry; that is, it sounds like James Bond music. Since I really like Barry Bond music (no baseball or steroid jokes, please), this is fine by me.

The special effects aren't too special by today's standards, but I've got to think that they were pretty fine in 1976. Keep in mind that this was before both "Star Wars" (which revolutionized effects in general) and "Superman" (which revolutionized blue screen effects specifically), and I think the blue screen and matte painting work looks good, considering. The gigantic Kong robot at the end is a piece a crap, though, and is wisely held to about half a second of screen time. The frequently employed huge robotic arm is better, although it moves very slowly, whereas the actor playing Kong moves with precisely the fluidity and grace that one would expect from a gorilla; hence, when the film cuts to the robot arm, it is extremely obvious.

Best of all, I was surprised to discover that the movie was actually about something. It works on two levels at once: (1) Kong as a metaphor for the environment, with his death as a metaphor for how industrial society was/is literally killing nature; and (2) Kong as a metaphor for post-'60s promiscuity.

That last one needs some explaining. Lange's character, Dwan (she changed it from Dawn to sound more distinctive; it sounds like she's getting called Juan for most of the movie, which makes me chuckle), is apparently a good-hearted but naive girl who runs about as wild as it's possible for a woman to run. She is shipwrecked at sea on her way to star in a movie in Hong Kong; the implication is that it's an, um, adult film. Dwan doesn't want anything to do with this, but the implication is that she's a wild enough girl that someone could justifiably THINK she would want to be in that sort of movie. I'm inferring a lot here, but I think the inferrances work.

Dwan's dilemma is choosing between "stardom" and Jack (Jeff Bridges); I see this as a choice between promiscuity and monogamy. Ultimately, she chooses stardom over Jack. Kong functions, then, as a stand-in for Dwan's libido, or instincts, or desires, or id, or whatever. At the end, when Kong meets his inevitable demise, Dwan all of a sudden wants very badly to be consoled by Jack, but standing between them is a sea of photgraphers, snapping away merrily at the hugest corpse on record while Dwan shouts Jack's name into the rising tide of voices.

The end of the film, unsurprisingly, is brutally sad, and in that sense, it is totally in keeping with the era in which it was made. Interestingly, the finale is similar to the finale of 1976's Oscar-winning "Rocky," in which Rocky is shouting for Adrian across a sea of photographers. The future is rosier for those two than it appears to be for Jack and Dwan, and that picture is more upbeat (and far better) than this one, but it's interesting to note, nonetheless.

The focus on Dwan's morality makes me wonder if the movie can be seen as anti-feminist. Since Jack isn't putting a great deal of pressure on Dwan to change - simply letting her know that they have a future if she DOES change - maybe it isn't. I'm no expert on the subject, but I know enough to be able to say that it's worth consideration. Either way, the movie serves nicely as a transition point between the promiscuity of the '60s and '70s and the more conservative (in image, at least) '80s.

This may all be giving too much credit to a movie that is not by any means a masterpiece. But I don't think it's a crapsterpiece, either. I'd happily buy a special edition if they ever issue one.

By the way, the picture and sound on this DVD are fairly good for a bare-bones release of a thirty-year-old movie.
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on March 4, 2015
I Grew up watching this 1976 version KING KONG in the early 80'S, i loved the film
and then it was released on DVD back in 2002 with only a Theatrical trailer
and now on blu-ray by Universal France with an all new High Definition transfer in 2:35:1 widescreen
this new blu-ray of 76' KONG is from Universal France, not American release
and Universal french really made the effort on the picture quality for a film that's 35 years old now
the picture quality looks very sharp & clean nice bright colours, much better quality than the old DVD release
Universal made the effort with the sound quality aswell a new 5.1 Master audio mix sounds really Good
the 5.1 Master track really Boosts John Barry's music score so well, sounds fantastic

the special visual effects with the enourmously tall Ape are amazing, back in 1976 the special effects in this film were revolutionary
some scenes had Rick baker dressed in an Ape suit and other scenes had specially made mechanical arms
made by special effects man Carlo rambaldi
to look like Apes Hands especially in closeups of Jessica Lange being held by the Ape's hand
i still think the effects still Hold up today compared to extremely advanced computer Generated imagery
but it is matter of opinion really
for me personally watching the special effects scenes with the Ape still look really Good, convincing
little bit cheesy but i still enjoy a kick out of the special effects
again it's matter of opinion

Universal have also produced retrospect featurette for this blu-ray called MAKING KONG (23mins)
Unfortunately no new interviews with Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Charles Grodin or Director John Guillerman
Movie critic & American Journalist Rick Cline is interviewed about the making of Kong, no subtitles interview is English
he talks about executive producer Dino de Laurentis & Director John Guillerman
Jeff Bridges & Jessica lange, Charles Grodin
he talks about the Difference between the 1993 version & this 1976 version
he talks about the 1978 TV broadcast and the Deleted scenes, very Detailed 23mins that's for sure
there is only about 5mins archive interview with Rick baker from 1975 towards the end of this 23mins featurette
talking about him being in an Apes suit for the film
there is also Deleted scenes on this blu-ray about 14mins of Deleted scenes
all of these scenes are from the 1978 TV broadcast of King Kong
the TV broadcast was extended to 170mins which includes the Deleted scenes & commercials
some of the Deleted scenes are extended scenes of scenes from the Theatrical version
one extended scene is where Kong is fighting the Giant snake there is more footage of them brawling
and other extended scenes aswell
these Deleted scenes have been given a new HD transfer aswell, same treatment as the Theatrical version

although there is no official U.S. release of Kong 76 this french release is region AB anyway
you can select English language from the Language menu
so if you have the old DVD release of King kong, scrap it
and time to upgrade & get this new Blu-ray version which has new retrospect making of featurette
has new Deleted scenes added & the Theatrical trailer
you can still buy a copy from amazon there's still some listing from $24 and up
so it is very expensive but worth the money for sure
5 stars, based on brand new HD transfer/new 5.1 Master audio mix & a new making of featurette
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on April 7, 2015
Thrilled to see that this overseas-issue BD plays wonderfully on US hardware. Many language options and the English edition is excellent. Nice extras and a crisp, vivid blu-ray image. Coming out in 1976, this film got an undeserved bad rap. The only real blockbuster to date was Jaws, so everyone ripped Dino De Laurentiis a new one for daring a remake. But this is a big, well-cast and exciting feature. I thrilled to it as a lad and it holds up great as vintage seventies pasta with plenty of cheese. The finale atop the towers of the World Trade Center is eerie now in a way no one could have ever predicted. Towering Inferno helmer John Guillerman directs and Kong rampages to a rousing John Barry score. Universal should make this more widely available, but until they do, don't let this excellent disc slip through your fingers. A great find!
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on July 18, 2015
This was the first remake of the classic 1933 film and Dino De Laurentiis does it on a grand scale. Introducing Jessica Lang in her first film and in the Faye Wray role. She's even somewhat dressed as Wray's character Anne in the original film. Kong here is not CGI as in Peter Jackson's recent film and is in fact a guy in gorilla suit with a mechanical hand and face as stand ins. All-in-all, quite convincing except in some HD scenes where the high definition betrays the blue screen background around Kong, Lang, and many backdrops. Also unlike Jackson's Kong, De Laurentiis' film is set in the 70s during the gasoline crisis and unlike either film, Kong's climb is at the World Trade Center and not the Empire State Building. The one really bad mechanical effect is the giant snake that Kong battles on the island - it's pretty hokey. I prefer real sets and effects over CGI and as films go, this one is worth a watch or two. Don't listen for the classic line at the end of the film. It's not there and perhaps it's just a more accurate reflection of the quest for greed and profit that are the real killers here.
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on August 27, 2015
While the first half of the film is reasonably involving, in a cheesy 70s way, and has good production values, this film goes off the cliff when Kong arrives. Amazingly the special effects are much less realistic than the original film from 1932. The use of a guy in a monkey suit as opposed to a stop-action model is a complete failure and unbearably cheesy. Attempts to make Kong more sympathetic by focusing on his face are laughable. The original Kong was more expressive and interesting as a monster who knew what he wanted. Having said that, this is better than Peter Jackson's over-CGI'd 2003 catastrophe.
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on August 17, 2015
This is my favorite King Kong movie. Jeff Bridges is great. Jessica Lange absolutely stunning. and Charles Grodin, a much underrated actor, perfect for the role he played. When the movie was initially released in 1976, I was struck by how realistic the giant ape appeared to be and the variety of human-like emotional expressions displayed on its face. This is definitely one of those movies I plan to watch again and again.
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on February 1, 2004
I love King Kong. I Like King Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla(dispite the ending), and I want to see King Kong Escapes(a movie that's not on amazon but the soundtrack is). When I saw this movie I was bored out of my mind. They did nothing on Skull Island but having a fight with a giant snake for 15 seconds(I'm not joking) and a girl flirting with a gorilla that looks like he just kissed Ethen(a kid at my school and it means the ape looks like wax). The bummer is, there's no dinosaurs or humoungus plane fights! I gave this monstrosity a 2 because one it followsthe origenal plot and two, it's better than King Kong Returns.
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on July 21, 2015
When made, this was the preeminent Kong movie and still great fun to watch. The movie made Jessica Lang a star and rightfully so. It was a wonderful trip in the "go-back machine" to watch this movie on a big screen in HD. The special effects do show their age compared to what we have today, but still, pretty good. I loved it.
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