I don’t have a clever title for this one, it’s about King Kong

The late 1970s was a period in film comparable to the present day: Hollywood developed a fixation on geek culture, turning out comic book movies and remakes of older sci-fi productions, while Lucas and Spielberg created new versions of well-worn pulp forms. Part of the leading edge of this trend was Dino DeLaurentiis’ 1976 King Kong.

Time Magazine cover

I do not set out to be an iconoclast, I really don’t. I don’t particularly enjoy being the contrarian, and my life would be simplified if I didn’t have to argue all the time in defense of the things I like. But for whatever reason I end up in love with movies everyone else is determined to slag off. And if that leaves me alone in the support of things like Three’s a Crowd, Passionate Plumber, Popeye, or Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster, well I’m not about to abandon a loved one.

I may not be alone in my love for the 1976 King Kong, but I’m not convinced its fans would fill a stadium. In the book Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film, writer Robert A. Crick set out to articulate a defense of the film, but spent most of his chapter deriding it’s flaws. Crick seemed to get the “guilty” part just fine but missed the “pleasures.”

I got into an email argument with Tim Lucas back in 2006, kicked off by the Peter Jackson version, which helped me come to grips with the nature of my preference for the 1976 version.

Uh oh, did I just admit say that aloud? Did I just admit in public that I actually like the tawdry, tacky, disco-era remake better than the elegant, pioneering artistry of the original? I’m sure I’ll be made to pay for that (but I knew I couldn’t last out the year with the most controversial thing I wrote for this blog being my oh no he ditnt suggestion that some of William Haines’ comedy doesn’t date well).

The original

There are three attributes of the original King Kong that deserve to be clarified:

One. It is inarguably an accomplishment of special effects artistry without peer. Some of the effects may seem quaint or imperfect from a 21st century perspective, but that is beside the point–to paraphrase something David Tennant once said about classic Doctor Who, it isn’t that you can sometimes see the flaws in the effects, but that after all these decades you’re still looking.

King Kong

In fact, the vast majority of the 1933′s effects remain jaw-dropping, almost 80 years after the fact. The winter 2006 issue of Science and Technology could write without irony or qualification that King Kong is “the greatest special effects movie.”

This leads us directly to number two–

Two. The dominant tone of the 1933 film is one of wonder. This attitude appears in two layers–the first being the level of the film’s text. The characters are in awe at what they encounter, and their experiences open their eyes and minds about the world in which they live.
The other is a metatextual layer, in which the audience watching the film experiences a similar awe–the impossible visions so masterfully realized by the filmmakers induce a sensation in the viewer akin to actually encountering a real giant beast.

I don’t have a complaint about either of these attributes. My problem with the original King Kong is the conflict these two characteristics have with the third:

Three. Carl Denham’s exploitation of Kong goes unpunished, and is even celebrated.

Denham

Denham comes to Skull Island and finds something rare and precious–so he takes it. A lot of pain and suffering results from this. There are deaths and extensive property damage. But Denham, surveying the wreckage and Kong’s bullet-ridden corpse, shrugs it off with a blithe “Beauty killed the beast.”

Say what? This jack wipe kidnaps an endangered species from it’s natural habitat, hauls the poor thing into a hostile and alien environment where it’s natural instincts cause it to become hunted by aircraft fitted with machine guns, and he has the audacity to say the poor critter brought this on himself by having a sweet spot for a pretty blonde?

It is true that in the sequel, Son of Kong, Denham is filled with remorse and the target of class action lawsuits. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with this film. As the Flight of the Conchords sang, The day after my birthday is not my birthday.

I’ve heard some people argue that it is to King Kong‘s credit that it doesn’t force down the viewers’ throats a given interpretation, and thoughtfully leaves up the individual audience member to evaluate whether Denham was the ultimate bad guy.

As the previously mentioned essay by Crick puts it (and remember, this is supposed to be a defense of the 1976 version):

“Perhaps the moviemakers hoped that, by saying nothing about Denham’s lack of shame–as well as Ann’s and Jack’s–viewers might be prompted to discuss the matter on their way home from the theater. Perhaps the plan was that audiences, if offered no clear moral perspective from the filmmakers, would attempt to correct the matter themselves with ideas of their own. . . Somewhat regrettably, semple’s ‘always leave ‘em wanting less’ script leaves no such openings, removing all doubt as to how audiences are expected to think.’

I object to this argument on two grounds.

The first problem is that the 1933 film hails from a period when Hollywood felt it a moral imperative to ensure that onscreen crime was not seen to pay: even sympathetic criminals had to suffer for their misdeeds. This is technically a Pre-Code film, and as such could have exhibited a looser set of moral standards than if it came out a couple of years later, but even Pre-Code films punished their criminal (anti)heroes. Pre-Code films that were too outré to pass muster in the era of Code enforcement were suppressed, forgotten until recently–yet King Kong stayed in rotation and availability all along.

In other words, while I may feel very strongly that the character of Kong does not deserve what happens to him and that Denham is in the wrong for causing this tragedy, the Hollywood Morals Police never saw this as a story about Kong’s victimization at the hands of a selfish exploitative bastard.

My second objection to the argument that the original indirectly condemns Denham’s actions is that the filmmakers–Ernst Schoedsack, Merian Cooper, and Edgar Wallace–were real-life analogues of Denham. These men were adventurers, hunters–or at least wanna bes–and almost certainly projected aspects of themselves into Denham. If you could go back in time and ask them if Denham was the villain of the piece, they’d have laughed at you and said it was just a well-intentioned escapade that got out of control. Things happen.

Beauty killing a beast

I don’t argue that the 1933 King Kong is ruined by the self-serving “Beauty killed the beast” excuses. At worst it constitutes an opportunity for improvement, rather than a flaw. But to find a chink of any kind in the armor of an otherwise exemplary piece of cinema provides the avenue by which to justify a remake. If you’re going to remake a classic film, you need to bring something new to the party.

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The 1976 version is a 1970s film. It has taken the basic story of King Kong and brought into a cinematic culture of paranoia and cynicism. There is no sense of wonder in this version, but a pervasive atmosphere of alienation.

As was noted in Crick’s comment above, the Denham role in the 1976 version is an oil company executive named Fred Wilson, played by Charles Grodin, and unambiguously depicted as the villain.

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The 70s-disaffection applied to all the characters. The blonde this time is aspiring actress Dwan, played by Jessica Lange.

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She plays the role with a ditzy airhead vapidity that was misidentified by some reviewers as Lange’s own poor acting. Lange’s subsequent work–Oscar-winning and Oscar-worthy–puts the lie to that. She was tasked with portraying a particular kind of solipsistic person, and her emotional disconnection is consistent with the role.

Jeff Bridges’ bearded hippie professor is the ostensible hero–a significant change from the third-wheel character that existed in the original. He’s the voice of conscience about treating Kong humanely. . . Except when he’s not. He has none of the emotional connection to Kong that Dwan has, he accepts Wilson’s money to sell out his principles (even if only briefly), and his cheering on Kong’s killing of military pilots is understandable but unseemly. As “heroes” go, he’s insufferable and unsympathetic.

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Ah, but that’s the thing. He’s not the hero, Kong is. Kong is easily the most human, the most engaging and sympathetic of the characters. He’s doomed to face a tragic Fate, and so it’s only fitting that the human leads would end up traumatized by these events, torn apart and unable to find solace even in each other. It makes for a grim ending, but one that feels more appropriate to the material. Nobody’s going to utter “Beauty killed the beast” in this one. They wouldn’t dare.

Making Kong the emotional center of the movie puts the burden on special effects wizard Rick Baker to perform like a genuine actor. A similar burden sat on animator Willis O’Brien’s shoulders in 1933, but Baker is King Kong. This is man in a suit stuff, just like Godzilla.

And boy have Godzilla fans made hay of that over the years. The effects team on Kong took home an Oscar for this work, using techniques that earned Godzilla movies only scorn.

Special effects are a curious thing. People act like the point of special effects is to generate authentic seeming images, to be judged on their realism, but history shows that people actually respond to effects in culturally informed ways.

I remember seeing the 1976 film in its original run. Nobody giggled, no excuses were needed. The Oscar was given in good faith to a film that genuinely in its day felt like an accomplishment. It no longer generates that kind of respect, but the images themselves haven’t changed. Whatever objective measure of realism they ever had is still there in the same measure. These effects didn’t become less realistic over time–but our (pop-) cultural benchmark of what we call realism has shifted.

Give it a couple of decades and revisit the 2006 King Kong, and see if hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of CGI still look “realistic.”

Soundtrack

James Barry’s score to King Kong has remained my favorite movie soundtrack of all time. I’ve worn out two vinyl albums and now have a fine imported CD to savor. I might be unduly favorable towards the film just because of my admiration of the Barry score.

Another reason I may be favorable towards the film is nostalgia. When I say I remember seeing it on its first run, I was six. It was one of my earliest movie-going memories, and one deeply intertwined with my memories of my mother.  It is a cherished fragment of happy days. I may simply be incapable of reviewing the film with objectivity.

Viewmaster

I am reluctant to air that possibility, because it sounds defensive. I believe I am reviewing the film with objectivity, and that even with jaundiced eyes this 1979s cynical take on King Kong is a solid piece of entertainment.

Nostalgia does play a role in this aspect of the film, though:

The filmmakers cleverly concoct a reason for Kong to climb to the top of a skyscraper–it looks like the scraggly rocks of his home island, so scaling it feels natural to him. And so, he ascends the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Movie poster

In the movie posters he is seen to straddle both towers at once, which is way out of scale to his actual size in the film itself but an evocative image that effectively sells the film. The poster was so iconic, it inspired imitators–like Godzilla and Megalon on the twin towers, to promote a film set entirely in Japan.

Godzilla vs Megalon

Movie monsters were drawn to those towers, but never damaged them. The towers still stand at the end of Kong’s rampage, and as mentioned Godzilla never even got close to them. It took real life monsters to change New York’s skyline.

One last moment of nostalgic remembrance, with your indulgence. The photo below I took of my wife Julie almost exactly ten years ago.

September 2011

54 Responses I don’t have a clever title for this one, it’s about King Kong
Posted By John Armstrong : September 10, 2011 8:47 am

I don’t know if I come down with you in the final judgement call, but you make excellent points.

But there’s one that’s missing, or at least that could be fleshed out a bit more: the racial overtones to the original version. I can’t look back and hear “beauty killed the beast” as anything but “he got what he deserved for looking at a white woman”. The movie as a whole seems to say “we went to that place and brought back that sort of people and now they’re causing all sorts of trouble (chasing our women) and need to be put down or gotten rid of.”

Posted By John Armstrong : September 10, 2011 8:47 am

I don’t know if I come down with you in the final judgement call, but you make excellent points.

But there’s one that’s missing, or at least that could be fleshed out a bit more: the racial overtones to the original version. I can’t look back and hear “beauty killed the beast” as anything but “he got what he deserved for looking at a white woman”. The movie as a whole seems to say “we went to that place and brought back that sort of people and now they’re causing all sorts of trouble (chasing our women) and need to be put down or gotten rid of.”

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:33 am

Yeah, that’s one of the interesting (if meandering) points that Tarantino brings up in Inglourious Basterds- Kong works exceedingly, depressingly well as a colonial allegory, and the fact that the movie seems to miss a lot of those implications is certainly not to its credit.

I don’t prefer the ’76 Kong, but I do prefer Schoedsack’s similar-in-many-ways The Most Dangerous Game- it’s not nearly as remarkable for its special effects, but its moral acuity seems much better, particularly for an adaptation of a story that could very easily be made into a fascist parable.

Kong is a sort of amazing adventure story, but for me at least I can’t take a totally uncritical adventure story of that stripe any more than I can read an Allen Quartermain story and not think about the colonialist implications. I can and do still enjoy it enormously, but it’s always going to seem at best naive and at worst outrightly cruel to me.

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:33 am

Yeah, that’s one of the interesting (if meandering) points that Tarantino brings up in Inglourious Basterds- Kong works exceedingly, depressingly well as a colonial allegory, and the fact that the movie seems to miss a lot of those implications is certainly not to its credit.

I don’t prefer the ’76 Kong, but I do prefer Schoedsack’s similar-in-many-ways The Most Dangerous Game- it’s not nearly as remarkable for its special effects, but its moral acuity seems much better, particularly for an adaptation of a story that could very easily be made into a fascist parable.

Kong is a sort of amazing adventure story, but for me at least I can’t take a totally uncritical adventure story of that stripe any more than I can read an Allen Quartermain story and not think about the colonialist implications. I can and do still enjoy it enormously, but it’s always going to seem at best naive and at worst outrightly cruel to me.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 10:46 am

My earliest moviewatching memory, indeed, my earliest memory is seeing the 1976 King Kong in the theater. I was two years old. I got Raisinets and threw up. I still equate this version with vomit.

I have considered revisiting it over the years. Maybe now I will watch it with fresh eyes, unclouded by vomit.

In defense of the 2005 version, the effects are fantastic with the exception of the brontosaurus (brachiosaurus) chase. That’s a mess. Kong however, is a fantastic effect. The 1933 version needs no defense.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 10:46 am

My earliest moviewatching memory, indeed, my earliest memory is seeing the 1976 King Kong in the theater. I was two years old. I got Raisinets and threw up. I still equate this version with vomit.

I have considered revisiting it over the years. Maybe now I will watch it with fresh eyes, unclouded by vomit.

In defense of the 2005 version, the effects are fantastic with the exception of the brontosaurus (brachiosaurus) chase. That’s a mess. Kong however, is a fantastic effect. The 1933 version needs no defense.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 10:50 am

Merian C. Cooper was from where I live, Jacksonville, Florida. There are no historical markers or anything relating this information in the city. You would think that the city would want to celebrate the co-creator of Kong in some small way.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 10:50 am

Merian C. Cooper was from where I live, Jacksonville, Florida. There are no historical markers or anything relating this information in the city. You would think that the city would want to celebrate the co-creator of Kong in some small way.

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:52 am

I think the Andy Serkis mocap thing works pretty well, and the effects in Lord of the Rings held up much better than most 2001 CGI- largely because Jackson knows to use a mix of miniatures and forced perspective and what have you, and not just to rely on computers for everything. I haven’t seen his King Kong since it came out, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t still seem fairly visually compelling.

One of the things with his Kong that I don’t the other two were actually trying for is that Kong feels like an actual gorilla in that movie- he moves like one, his weight is balanced like one, he seems to have real gorilla reactions, etc. It’s a valid choice, but I find the more stylized ’33 and ’76 Kongs more interesting- I mean, what’s more remarkable, a giant but otherwise normal gorilla, or some sort of pagan animal god king?

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:52 am

I think the Andy Serkis mocap thing works pretty well, and the effects in Lord of the Rings held up much better than most 2001 CGI- largely because Jackson knows to use a mix of miniatures and forced perspective and what have you, and not just to rely on computers for everything. I haven’t seen his King Kong since it came out, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t still seem fairly visually compelling.

One of the things with his Kong that I don’t the other two were actually trying for is that Kong feels like an actual gorilla in that movie- he moves like one, his weight is balanced like one, he seems to have real gorilla reactions, etc. It’s a valid choice, but I find the more stylized ’33 and ’76 Kongs more interesting- I mean, what’s more remarkable, a giant but otherwise normal gorilla, or some sort of pagan animal god king?

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:58 am

Have you ever read anything about Cooper’s life, Duke? It’s pretty fascinating- the man did like a million different things, flying in wars and running RKO and all sorts of stuff. You’d like him, he was a fanatical anti-Communist.

Posted By Tom S : September 10, 2011 10:58 am

Have you ever read anything about Cooper’s life, Duke? It’s pretty fascinating- the man did like a million different things, flying in wars and running RKO and all sorts of stuff. You’d like him, he was a fanatical anti-Communist.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:00 am

Good question, Tom. I’m not sure. That Kong was amazing in 2005 though. And he was worshipped by the Skull Islanders too. Man, they were creepy.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:00 am

Good question, Tom. I’m not sure. That Kong was amazing in 2005 though. And he was worshipped by the Skull Islanders too. Man, they were creepy.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:03 am

I watched the documentary about Cooper on the original King Kong DVD. He and Schoedsack were really interesting, adventurous characters. I also owe Cooper a debt of gratitude for producing The Searchers.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:03 am

I watched the documentary about Cooper on the original King Kong DVD. He and Schoedsack were really interesting, adventurous characters. I also owe Cooper a debt of gratitude for producing The Searchers.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:04 am

And I do hate them Commies.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 10, 2011 11:04 am

And I do hate them Commies.

Posted By CherieP : September 10, 2011 9:00 pm

Hi davidkalat

I agree wholeheartedly with your defense of the 70s version and applaud your courage for speaking out. It really did get a drubbing on first release, but I’ve always been a closet admirer. The DVD I own is great to look at, and I just wonder where the 1976 remake was filmed, because I love pretty scenery, so I don’t have to bother about the moral implications of enjoying something.

Posted By CherieP : September 10, 2011 9:00 pm

Hi davidkalat

I agree wholeheartedly with your defense of the 70s version and applaud your courage for speaking out. It really did get a drubbing on first release, but I’ve always been a closet admirer. The DVD I own is great to look at, and I just wonder where the 1976 remake was filmed, because I love pretty scenery, so I don’t have to bother about the moral implications of enjoying something.

Posted By Medusa Morlock : September 10, 2011 9:28 pm

Thank you for sharing that photo of your wife. How many memories are wrapped up in that for you, we all wonder? Really almost exactly a decade…wow.

I remember very well the hoopla in L.A. connected with the filming of the 1976 Kong movie, as there was an open call for extras for a big crowd scene. I didn’t go, but it must have been a crazy time.

I will have to catch this version again soon. I certainly have loved the original for years and years. It was a fact that as TV programmers in the late 1970s, we certainly wanted to be the station that had “King Kong” in our movie library, as it still got more-than-respectable ratings when it played. (As it happened the Metromedia station had it, not us.)

There’s enough room for all of the versions, it looks like!

Posted By Medusa Morlock : September 10, 2011 9:28 pm

Thank you for sharing that photo of your wife. How many memories are wrapped up in that for you, we all wonder? Really almost exactly a decade…wow.

I remember very well the hoopla in L.A. connected with the filming of the 1976 Kong movie, as there was an open call for extras for a big crowd scene. I didn’t go, but it must have been a crazy time.

I will have to catch this version again soon. I certainly have loved the original for years and years. It was a fact that as TV programmers in the late 1970s, we certainly wanted to be the station that had “King Kong” in our movie library, as it still got more-than-respectable ratings when it played. (As it happened the Metromedia station had it, not us.)

There’s enough room for all of the versions, it looks like!

Posted By Joe Thompson : September 11, 2011 1:23 pm

Mad Magazine did an excellent parody of the 1976 Kong.

Posted By Joe Thompson : September 11, 2011 1:23 pm

Mad Magazine did an excellent parody of the 1976 Kong.

Posted By Eric Hall : September 11, 2011 2:29 pm

Mr. Kalat once again you have made me think. I seriously enjoy your often atypical but seriously informed opinion. You have a very sociological way of looking at films, at least it seems to me, and I’ve watched scores of them that I may have never glanced at on my own after reading your work. I had the pleasure of shaking your hand at G-Fest a couple of years ago but I’m glad you are far bigger than just that scene. Not sure I agree here but you can bet I’m going to be watching the ’76 version again soon!
Keep up the good work, and thanks!

Posted By Eric Hall : September 11, 2011 2:29 pm

Mr. Kalat once again you have made me think. I seriously enjoy your often atypical but seriously informed opinion. You have a very sociological way of looking at films, at least it seems to me, and I’ve watched scores of them that I may have never glanced at on my own after reading your work. I had the pleasure of shaking your hand at G-Fest a couple of years ago but I’m glad you are far bigger than just that scene. Not sure I agree here but you can bet I’m going to be watching the ’76 version again soon!
Keep up the good work, and thanks!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 11, 2011 11:57 pm

She plays the role with a ditzy airhead vapidity that was misidentified by some reviewers as Lange’s own poor acting. Lange’s subsequent work–Oscar-winning and Oscar-worthy–puts the lie to that.

Oh no it doesn’t. Look, I love acting, hell, I studied theatre and spent years on the stage but Lange? Good? Jessica Lange has two speeds. Two. Hysterical screaming (Frances) and “I look like I’m high on pot and am looking twenty yards past the actor I’m doing this scene with” (Tootsie, King Kong, most everything else). Sorry, Lange is awful, Oscars or not. And she’s awful in this.

Here’s a review of the movie from the other side by Roderick Heath at his site, This Island Rod. In it, he links to my appreciation post of Charles Grodin who I love in this.

And there is a lot I love in this one too, David, don’t get me wrong. I own a copy, the score is a favorite of mine as well and the opening always gives me chills. I dearly wish they’d used stop-motion again for this or at least had Rick Baker, after designing such a wonderful costume, walk like an ape rather than upright the whole film. But the suit, seriously, it’s awesome. I just prefer the choppy look of stop-motion, it has an other worldly feel to it that gets me all giddy when watching a sci-fi, action adventure or fantasy movie.

But I’ll always prefer the original.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 11, 2011 11:57 pm

She plays the role with a ditzy airhead vapidity that was misidentified by some reviewers as Lange’s own poor acting. Lange’s subsequent work–Oscar-winning and Oscar-worthy–puts the lie to that.

Oh no it doesn’t. Look, I love acting, hell, I studied theatre and spent years on the stage but Lange? Good? Jessica Lange has two speeds. Two. Hysterical screaming (Frances) and “I look like I’m high on pot and am looking twenty yards past the actor I’m doing this scene with” (Tootsie, King Kong, most everything else). Sorry, Lange is awful, Oscars or not. And she’s awful in this.

Here’s a review of the movie from the other side by Roderick Heath at his site, This Island Rod. In it, he links to my appreciation post of Charles Grodin who I love in this.

And there is a lot I love in this one too, David, don’t get me wrong. I own a copy, the score is a favorite of mine as well and the opening always gives me chills. I dearly wish they’d used stop-motion again for this or at least had Rick Baker, after designing such a wonderful costume, walk like an ape rather than upright the whole film. But the suit, seriously, it’s awesome. I just prefer the choppy look of stop-motion, it has an other worldly feel to it that gets me all giddy when watching a sci-fi, action adventure or fantasy movie.

But I’ll always prefer the original.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 12, 2011 12:43 am

Oh, Greg. You just wanyted us to read your post on another blog. Just kidding. You’re right though. Jessica Lange is pretty bad in it, but she looks quite sexy. I think that’s what they were going for. Realistic portrayal? Not so much.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 12, 2011 12:43 am

Oh, Greg. You just wanyted us to read your post on another blog. Just kidding. You’re right though. Jessica Lange is pretty bad in it, but she looks quite sexy. I think that’s what they were going for. Realistic portrayal? Not so much.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 1:18 am

Lange’s Tamora in Julie Taymore’s Titus was a really fascinating piece of characterization, though definitely on the scenery-chewing side (if you haven’t seen it, doing anything but devouring the backdrop would be out of place in any good production of Titus Andronicus, much less one by Julie Taymore.) I don’t think she’s consistently great, but I certainly don’t think she’s an awful actress.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 1:18 am

Lange’s Tamora in Julie Taymore’s Titus was a really fascinating piece of characterization, though definitely on the scenery-chewing side (if you haven’t seen it, doing anything but devouring the backdrop would be out of place in any good production of Titus Andronicus, much less one by Julie Taymore.) I don’t think she’s consistently great, but I certainly don’t think she’s an awful actress.

Posted By David Kalat : September 12, 2011 7:39 am

Greg–

I see what you’re saying, but I know several aspiring actresses who all act and sound exactly like Lange’s characterization of Dwan. I can thoroughly imagine any of one of them being grabbed by a giant ape and behaving in exactly the same way (and yes, stoned and staring past the rest of the cast hazily is an *excellent* description of this).

Posted By David Kalat : September 12, 2011 7:39 am

Greg–

I see what you’re saying, but I know several aspiring actresses who all act and sound exactly like Lange’s characterization of Dwan. I can thoroughly imagine any of one of them being grabbed by a giant ape and behaving in exactly the same way (and yes, stoned and staring past the rest of the cast hazily is an *excellent* description of this).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 8:32 am

David, Tom – Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “awful” but I just don’t think she’s very good at all. And I tend towards liking this version of the film much more than the Jackson version which I come close to hating. I linked to the Rod review because he does hate this version, as do so many others, and it’s a good counterpoint.

duke, you don’t know how many posts I’ve written on King Kong. Hell, if you look at my first two here ever, you’ll notice they both mention King Kong. I’m kind of obsessed with it. And it’s been good to me, I won’t lie. [self-promotion alert] Two satirical pieces I did on Cinema Styles, one about the Kong-sized door in the wall and one about Carl Denham’s hilariously bad movie were both featured by Roger Ebert on his twitter feed bringing in more readers than anything else I’ve ever done, so the incentive to keep doing Kong material is always there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 8:32 am

David, Tom – Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “awful” but I just don’t think she’s very good at all. And I tend towards liking this version of the film much more than the Jackson version which I come close to hating. I linked to the Rod review because he does hate this version, as do so many others, and it’s a good counterpoint.

duke, you don’t know how many posts I’ve written on King Kong. Hell, if you look at my first two here ever, you’ll notice they both mention King Kong. I’m kind of obsessed with it. And it’s been good to me, I won’t lie. [self-promotion alert] Two satirical pieces I did on Cinema Styles, one about the Kong-sized door in the wall and one about Carl Denham’s hilariously bad movie were both featured by Roger Ebert on his twitter feed bringing in more readers than anything else I’ve ever done, so the incentive to keep doing Kong material is always there.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 8:38 am

It’s funny, I think there’s a lot of good stuff in the Jackson version, but I have yet to meet someone where it’s their favorite- and I know a guy whose favorite is King Kong Escapes, so it’s not just that everyone prefers the original.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 8:38 am

It’s funny, I think there’s a lot of good stuff in the Jackson version, but I have yet to meet someone where it’s their favorite- and I know a guy whose favorite is King Kong Escapes, so it’s not just that everyone prefers the original.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 12, 2011 10:17 am

Greg- the “Kong-sized door” link worked, but the “hilariously bad movie” link did not. I’ve always thought it weird that they would have a ginormous door too. I always wondered why he didn’t climb over the wall. He’s an ape. They can climb.

There is a lot of good stuff in the Jackson one. My favorite is probably the tyrannosaurus rex fight. It is kind of awesome. I will not defend the casting of Jack Black though.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 12, 2011 10:17 am

Greg- the “Kong-sized door” link worked, but the “hilariously bad movie” link did not. I’ve always thought it weird that they would have a ginormous door too. I always wondered why he didn’t climb over the wall. He’s an ape. They can climb.

There is a lot of good stuff in the Jackson one. My favorite is probably the tyrannosaurus rex fight. It is kind of awesome. I will not defend the casting of Jack Black though.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 1:55 pm

Duke – Sorry, it’s fixed now. And the climbing thing is, of course, a stunner as well. He can scale sheer cliffs and the Empire State Building but a fifty-foot wall made of wood with multiple footholds? Out of the question.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 1:55 pm

Duke – Sorry, it’s fixed now. And the climbing thing is, of course, a stunner as well. He can scale sheer cliffs and the Empire State Building but a fifty-foot wall made of wood with multiple footholds? Out of the question.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 2:24 pm

I always assumed the villagers had some sort of apocalyptic religious deal going with Kong, and that the wall and the door symbolized man’s relationship to god or something.

Or possibly that Kong himself built the wall. Maybe it was actually him trying to keep the villagers out, and he was only eating the brides in the spirit of hospitality.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2011 2:24 pm

I always assumed the villagers had some sort of apocalyptic religious deal going with Kong, and that the wall and the door symbolized man’s relationship to god or something.

Or possibly that Kong himself built the wall. Maybe it was actually him trying to keep the villagers out, and he was only eating the brides in the spirit of hospitality.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 2:54 pm

The relationship between Kong and the villagers is complex. David should work on a King Kong origin story for all of us to explain it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2011 2:54 pm

The relationship between Kong and the villagers is complex. David should work on a King Kong origin story for all of us to explain it.

Posted By SeeingI : September 13, 2011 10:52 am

I remember seeing this Kong in the theater when I was a little, little tyke. The scene where he fights the snake and tears its jaw off terrified me.

Years later, my family and I were all extras in King Kong Lives (filmed near Knoxville, TN), and spent an enjoyable day running and screaming through a parking lot. Later we saw the film and ran screaming from it, too!

Posted By SeeingI : September 13, 2011 10:52 am

I remember seeing this Kong in the theater when I was a little, little tyke. The scene where he fights the snake and tears its jaw off terrified me.

Years later, my family and I were all extras in King Kong Lives (filmed near Knoxville, TN), and spent an enjoyable day running and screaming through a parking lot. Later we saw the film and ran screaming from it, too!

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 13, 2011 3:23 pm

I did not care very much for the 70′s KING KONG, but it meant a lot to me in other ways. When they were filming by the World Trade Center in New York, I heard they needed extras, so I waited in line for several hours and got to stand by the lifeless hulk that was supposed to be Kong. How could I dream that so many years later, this Icon of New York would be the center of the century’s Greatest Tragedy? I am thankful for the 70′s Kong as, had it not been for that, I would not have gotten to spend so much time by the World Trade Center.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 13, 2011 3:23 pm

I did not care very much for the 70′s KING KONG, but it meant a lot to me in other ways. When they were filming by the World Trade Center in New York, I heard they needed extras, so I waited in line for several hours and got to stand by the lifeless hulk that was supposed to be Kong. How could I dream that so many years later, this Icon of New York would be the center of the century’s Greatest Tragedy? I am thankful for the 70′s Kong as, had it not been for that, I would not have gotten to spend so much time by the World Trade Center.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 14, 2011 2:35 pm

Interesting reading about being an “extra”-The 70′s Kong advertised for extras inthe ending scene and I, of course, was there, waiting in line for hours around the World Trade Center and finally finding a corner to stand in while thousands ogled at the “dead body” of Kong. I am grateful for this experience, though, as it caused me to spend hours at the World Trade Center, never dreaming it would become such a tragic Icon in the Future.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 14, 2011 2:35 pm

Interesting reading about being an “extra”-The 70′s Kong advertised for extras inthe ending scene and I, of course, was there, waiting in line for hours around the World Trade Center and finally finding a corner to stand in while thousands ogled at the “dead body” of Kong. I am grateful for this experience, though, as it caused me to spend hours at the World Trade Center, never dreaming it would become such a tragic Icon in the Future.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 14, 2011 2:37 pm

Indulge me one more time please-I would not have sent in two comments on the same thing, but I thought my first comment had not gone through properely-Won’t do it again!

Posted By Jim Vecchio : September 14, 2011 2:37 pm

Indulge me one more time please-I would not have sent in two comments on the same thing, but I thought my first comment had not gone through properely-Won’t do it again!

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