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“There’s a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape.” – the line for King Kong (1976) illustrates the odd tone to the high-profile, big-budget creature feature remake. Dino De Laurentiis’ monstrous epic provides fans with a U.S. man-in-suit Kaiju turn at the furry beast with a young Rick Baker in the ape suit. Let the fun begin! The Black Saint and Doc Rotten tackle another groovy horror film from the 1970s. Joining the grue-crew is Gruesome Magazine contributor Jeff Mohr.
Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 47 — King Kong (1976)
Joining Santos, Doc, and Jeff is the host of Decades of Horror 1980s and co-host of Horror News Radio Thomas Mariani who immediate jumps into how Dino De Laurentiis presents Kong himself. The giant gorilla is seen ogling Dwan played by Jessica Lange in a questionable manner that deserves the description in the show’s opener “some gigantic turned-on ape.” While there’s always been a connection between Kong and Anne Darrow (from the ’33 picture), the way they treat his attraction to Dwan is far less appealing than intended, for certain. Kong’s motivation is all over the place as the Grue-Crew struggle to find good things to say about the 1976 rendition of this classic monster from the movies. The film was highly promoted upon its release in December of 1976 as Doc, Jeff, and Santos all remember, but the film failed to live up to the hype. While Doc and Jeff admit liking the film now more than prior, the film still disappoints in a huge Hollywood blockbuster-gone-wrong way.
John Guillermin (from The Towering Inferno) directs the film which stars Charles Grodin, Jeff Bridges, and Jessica Lange in lead roles. Rick Baker’s Kong is superimposed into many shots with noticeable matte outlines giving the high production and low-grade sheen. While the ape costume itself is noteworthy, the integration of the effects into the film often fail their efforts. The huge mechanical King, which was all the rage in the promos and press at the time, is barely seen in the film, perhaps for the better. The film’s tone dances between serious and satire – or, at least, feels like satire, regardless of original intention. According to Thomas, Grodin acts with his teeth in an amazing fashion while Bridges likely filled the large pit to capture Kong with smoke all on his own. Yeah, man. Prepare for Kong: Skull Island with this look back to a classic – or not so classic – King Kong adventure from 1976.
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3 Replies to “King Kong (1976) — Episode 47 — Decades of Horror 1970s”
Great episode. I saw this movie when in the theater when it first came out. As a six year old I loved it. It was when I viewed it again as an adult that I became aware of it’s many, many, many shortcomings.
Regarding Rick Baker in the Kong suit. There was a lot of conflict between Rick Baker and the director. Rick wanted Kong to “knuckle-walk” like a real ape but John Guillermin insisted that he walk erect like a human. Rick wanted a lot of different things for the character of Kong but was constantly met with resistance from the director. It was not a peasant experience for Rick.
Much of this story is in “Men, Makeup, and Monsters” by by Tony Timpone. There is also some info at the link below.
Thanks for the feedback. Man, I think the “knuckle-walk” idea would have improved things greatly.
One more thing. The studio want to promote the movie as using a giant robot for all of the Kong scenes. When the press visited the set they told Rick their promotional plans and told him not to say anything. Rick, in full ape costume, said “Guys, I’m in an ape costume. What am I supposed to say?”
The press saw some footage from the movie then later they saw the unfinished version of the actual giant robot sitting in pieces in a warehouse but the press wanted to see the actual working robot that they saw in the footage. Needless to say the jig was up. That movie was a mess.
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