“Who the hell do you think went through there, some guy in an ape suit?”

The Petrox Oil Company is using infrared imagery looking for oil in the Indian Ocean. What they find is a previously undiscovered island surrounded by a permanent cloud bank. Thinking it could contain a huge deposit of oil Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) goes to check it out.

Wilson boards the Petrox Explorer captained by Captain Ross (John Randolph). Unknown by the captain and crew is a stowaway in the form of Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) a primate paleontologist. Prescott believes there are other reasons why there could be a cloud bank. For example animal respiration. Thinking Prescott is a spy for another oil company Wilson orders him locked up.

Before they toss him in the brig Jack sees a raft floating in the ocean. On it is a woman. When she regains consciousness she tells them her name is Dwan and she was on a yacht that exploded. After Prescott confirms Jack’s credentials he makes him the official photographer of the expedition. Sexy fruitcake Dwan on the other hand endears herself to everyone on the ship.

Once they get to the island a team goes ashore to check things out. Dwan talks her way onto the boat. What the team finds is a massive wall. Jacks notes that it has been repaired recently. Wilson maintains that the island is uninhabited. Then they hear the jungle drums. Following the sound they come upon a native ritual.

At first blush it appears to be a marriage ceremony. The natives are chanting Kong. When the natives spot the landing party everything stops. Then the chief sees Dwan. He offers to trade six native women for her. Jack declines. The natives attempt to take her anyway and are frightened away by gun shots over their heads. Jack figures out that the natives were offering a sacrifice to a deity called Kong. Jack believes that Kong is an ape of some kind and, judging by the wall, is of enormous size.

Later that night Dwan is kidnapped, drugged and offered to Kong.

“King Kong” was released in 1976 and was directed by John Guillermin. It is a Dino De Laurentiis production for Paramount Pictures. The film is a horror adventure film. It is, of course, a re-make of the 1933 film of the same name. A sequel called “King Kong Lives” was done in 1986. Instead of just plain greed the greed in this remake has a definite anti-petroleum aspect to it.

Kong was a combination of animatronics, masks, and a guy in a suit. That guy being Rick Baker. The animatronic Kong was 40 feet tall, made with a 3.5-ton aluminum frame and 1,012 pounds of Argentinean horse tails. It cost $1.7 million. It contained 3,100 feet of hydraulic hose with 4,500 feet of electrical wiring and was controlled by 20 operators. Rick Baker created and wore four ape suits for the film. A special under suit with silicone-filled muscles realistically depicted the appropriate musculature beneath the fur. The hands used animatronic extensions, controlled by operators off-set, to give Kong appropriately gorilla-like long limbs.

If you’re going to have a King Kong movie there are certain things you must include in order for it to be a valid Kong movie. First, of course, is the wall, second is offering to Kong of the blond maiden. Third you need a tree bridge for Kong to shuck people off it. All boxes were checked.

The original Kong was just slightly over two hours. The 1996 version is two hours 14 minutes. The television version of the film had an additional 45 minutes added to it bringing the film to three hours. The theatrical version is slightly longer than the original but with fewer monsters for Kong to battle. This film seemed to concentrate more on the relationship between Jack and Dwan then on Dwan and Kong.

The film has been trashed a lot and, when compared to the original, was considered inferior. King Kong is a classic and the original was special for lots of reasons. But that doesn’t mean the re-make is bad. It was a little slow in spots and there were a few issues with the forced perspective but CGI wasn’t around yet and you work with what you’ve got. I would have liked more King Kong and less romance but the film was still entertaining and although not fantastic it was a lot better than people give it the credit for.

Forrest J. Ackerman, Corbin Bernsen, Gary Walberg, John Agar and Joe Piscopo have bit parts in the film.

This was Jessica Lang’s first screen appearance.

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