Sunday, 27 March 2016
King Kong [1976 version] (3 Stars)
After watching two films about Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre this week, I thought I would watch another film about those famous landmark buildings. The only other film I have in my collection is the 1976 version of "King Kong". In the other two versions (1933 and 2005) Kong climbs the Empire State Building, but in the 1976 version he climbed the recently completed World Trade Center. The film poster shows him standing with one foot on each tower, but he isn't that big in the film. The most he could do was jump from one roof to the other.
When this film was shown in the cinemas it was a big commercial success. In retrospect it's been recognised as a poor quality film. The problem isn't with the special effects, which were adequate for the 1970's and a big improvement on the capabilities of 1933. The problem is that the story was rewritten, and the new screenplay was far inferior. Instead of an expedition to make a film it's a journey to hunt for oil. There's still an actress in this film, played by Jessica Lange in her first film, but she's found adrift at sea in a lifeboat. She's so shallow and ditzy that she's annoying.
Another problem is that the poignancy of the romantic feelings between the ape and the actress are lost. Instead, Kong seems driven by sexual lust. Just look at his wild eyes when he looks at her.
He manages to pull off her top for a fraction of a second. I doubt audiences could enjoy this when the film was in the cinemas, but now that we have DVDs we can pause the film to see what made Kong's eyes so wild.
Peter Jackson showed how it should be done when he remade "King Kong" in 2005. He kept as close as possible to the original story, adding a few details but taking nothing away. Best of all, Peter Jackson set his new version in the 1930's. I admit that it was cute seeing the World Trade Center in the 1976 version, but apart from that the atmosphere was spoilt by setting it in the modern era.
Jeff Bridges challenged Jessica Lange to my favourite game, Backgammon. It seems like he was having trouble concentrating.