Friday, December 9, 2005

KING KONG

"He was the mystery and the magic in their lives. In a year, that'll be an island of burnt-out drunks."

I'm going to put my reputation (such as it is) on the line here and publicly state for the record that Dino DeLaurentis and John Guillermin's KING KONG (1976) is not as bad as everyone says it is.

The film retells the story of the 1933 movie, updating it to 1976. The screenplay includes references to the mid-Seventies energy crisis, the rising concern over the environment, "dope," and even DEEP THROAT! A young Rick Baker plays Kong in a remarkable ape suit, but unfortunately the process work is so bad that his achievement is severely undermined. John Barry's score for the film, however, is outstanding and memorable, and Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange both give very good performances, no matter how badly their characters are written.

Paramount has just re-released the movie on DVD with hideous new cover art (probably because the earlier edition used the original poster art, which prominently featured the World Trade Center towers), but otherwise identical to the earlier release. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is nearly flawless (although the high resolution does sometimes render optical elements translucent), and the 5.1 Surround sound track is full and robust. The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer, and that brought back some memories.

The 1976 KING KONG is not a classic. It's not even a particularly good movie. But I would argue that there's a lot in there to appreciate, and for those of us who remember the era, it's a pretty good time capsule of what the world was like in the mid-Seventies.

BUY: King Kong