King Kong

1976

King Kong

Critics Consensus

King Kong represents a significant visual upgrade over the original, but falls short of its classic predecessor in virtually every other respect.

51%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 37

31%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 57,579
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Movie Info

Famed producer Dino De Laurentiis tries to steal the thunder from Jaws, then the top-grossing film of all-time, in this big budget remake of King Kong. (De Laurentiis related his tactics to Tom Snyder: "When Jaws dies, nobody cries. When Kong dies, they all cry.") Updated to the 1970s, the original Robert Armstrong character is now Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), a big-shot oil magnate from Petrox Oil, looking for new petroleum deposits on a recently discovered Pacific island. Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) is a counter-culture paleontologist, stowing away on Wilson's ship, who warns that they are headed for "Skull Island," where prehistoric monsters still live and roam free. Also along for the ride is Dwan (Jessica Lange, in her film debut), a down-on-her-luck starlet, shipwrecked in the ocean after the sinking of a yacht. She really becomes down-on-her-luck when the group lands on the island and a giant ape, Kong, takes a shine to her. Kong kidnaps her and Dwan takes umbrage when the ape tries to remove her clothes by shouting, "You male chauvinist ape!" But Prescott comes to her aid and rescues her from the gorilla's big mits. Wilson, seeing money to be made on Kong, locks him in the cargo hold of his ship and transports him to New York City. Once there, Kong manages to escape and wreak havoc upon the beleaguered town, before being compelled to climb up the World Trade Center for sanctuary.

Cast

Jeff Bridges
as Jack Prescott
Charles Grodin
as Fred Wilson
John Randolph
as Capt. Ross
Jack O'Halloran
as Joe Perko
Ed Lauter
as Carnahan
Mario Gallo
as Timmons
John Agar
as City Official
Keny Long
as Ape Masked Man in Dance
Wayne Heffley
as Air Force Colonel
John Lone
as Chinese Cook
Garry Walberg
as Army General
Sid Conrad
as Petrox Chairman
Rick Baker
as King Kong
Todd Baker
as Shea Stadium Spectator (uncredited)
George Whiteman
as Army Helicopter Pilot
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News & Interviews for King Kong

Critic Reviews for King Kong

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (18)

  • The special effects are marvelous, the good-humored script is comic-bookish without being excessively campy, and there are two excellent performances

    Mar 14, 2017 | Full Review…
  • It's madness to try to remake a myth, but even so, John Guillermin's jokey, low-camp film seems awfully inadequate.

    Mar 14, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Faithful in substantial degree not only to the letter but also the spirit of the 1933 classic for RKO, this $22 million-plus version neatly balances superb special effects with solid dramatic credibility.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The results of this technological bonanza are pretty mixed.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    David Pirie

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • What sort, exactly, is this movie?

    May 9, 2005
  • Common wisdom contends that Dino De Laurentiis' big-budget remake of Merian C. Cooper's classic 1933 film, King Kong, is a bad movie. And, viewed from a certain perspective, perhaps it is, but it's also a lot of fun.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for King Kong

  • Nov 20, 2015
    A very dull remake of the 1933 classic of the same name. While the original movie may not have been perfect either, it at least had a nostalgic and lively adventurous atmosphere that this remake is severely lacking. The plot is essentially a somehow less-plausible version of the original with not enough variation or added depth to be interesting. The acting is okay all around, but far from the best of each cast member's career. Charles Grodin mostly hams it up while Jeff Bridges gives a decent performance despite some of the film's awful dialogue. However, the worst of the lot is Jessica Lange, who gives arguably one of the worst debut performances by a future Oscar-winner ever. Seriously, I'm surprised she still found work after this film, especially since she has some of the worst lines in the movie (Ex. Have you ever met someone whose life has been saved by Deep Throat?) . Just like the original, the main attraction is the special effects. However, the quality of the effects is a bit of a mixed bag. The Kong suit looks pretty good for the most part and the animatronic face gives way to intriguing new levels of expression for the titanic ape monster. The artificial jungle sets look pretty fake even for the time and the complete absence of dinosaurs is very disappointing. The only other monster we see in this movie is a laughably plastic-looking giant snake. Overall, an average bit of 70's disaster cheese that has not aged well and seems to have been long forgotten.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2014
    An exceptional remake that reintroduces the King to a new generation, Dino De Laurentiis' King Kong is a thrilling action/adventure film. While on an expedition to a mysterious island shrouding in cloud cover, the Petrox Oil Company discovers Kong, a 40-foot ape worshiped as a god by the island inhabitants. Starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and Rene Auberjonois, and introducing Jessica Lange in her film debut, the casting is rather impressive; Bridges in particular gives an extraordinary performance. And while the special effects have aged, they work well enough and create a captivating vision. The action sequences are also quite good, especially the climactic battle at the World Trade Center. Full of thrills and excitement, King Kong is wildly entertaining.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 05, 2010
    He climbs the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State Building. That makes this worthy of the 1 star.
    James A Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2010
    It's a re-imagining of a classic film about a giant ape and stars the guy from "Tron", with the aforementioned giant ape being voiced by Optimus Prime and the producer being the guy who produced "Dune". Okay, now that's just too much sci-fi, even though "Dune" came out years after this film, in 1984, and "Tron" was two years before that, in '82, around the time Jeff Bridges thought of giving handsome a try. It's never too hard to tell its him, and yet Jeff Bridges has still got to be one of the most transformative faces out there, because now-a-days, he's looking pretty rough, and yet before he was handsome, he looked even messier. Seriously, for a while there, I thought Peter Cullen was voicing him, and it doesn't help that Jeff Bridges would prove formidable against Cullen in a "Deep-Voice-Off". Come to think of it, I would love to hear Peter Cullen, Jeff Bridges and Michael Clark Duncan to all talk at the same time and create some kind of bizarre, low-pitch "Brrrrrrr", because with those many deep voices fusing, words aren't likely to make it out alive. Oh man, that moment would be so amazingly awkward, though probably not quite as awkward as looking at this film today and seeing how they moved the climactic final battle - which involves explosions and crashing flying vehicles - from the Empire State Building to the World Trade Center. I love how this is supposed to be a relatively newer retelling of the classic tale, and yet it's all but more outdated than ever, and not just when it comes to portraying places that really did end up having to deal with hairy, destructive maniacs that couldn't have a woman. Something uncomfortably dated about this film is its message, and not in its subject matter, but its portrayal, because there's only so much subtlety in this film's deconstruction of the disruptive of the environment. As if their changing the adventurers from a filmmaking crew to a crew for an oil company, as well as their tacking on Jeff Bridges as a borderline hippy of an environmental scientist isn't blatant enough, the Charles Grodin character is so exaggerated as this Forget-the-Environment-I-Want-Mine type of bad guy. It's unsubtle approaches like those that telegraph this film's message to the point of making it seem like propaganda, which isn't to say that these aren't messages worth spreading, but there are times where the message takes over the film, and yet, the essence and details of the message are less explored than the broad, blatant fact. The film's portrayals of its message have grown dated over the years, as have other should-be subtleties in this film, and yet, the dated aspects are the least of the film's problems. Even for its time, the story is conventional, and I'm most certainly not just saying that because this is a "remake", seeing as this film is, in fact, a re-imaginging that really changes a lot of things in the original classic, yet those changes aren't terribly refreshing, even in the '70s. Characters and storylines are familiar, and that slows down the momentum of the film enough without the help of the loose editing, slow spots and, yes, even a palpable level of pretense as this film tries to remain faithful to the classic, yet, in some aspects, better. Well, ladies and gentlemen, as much as it agonizes me to say this, although this film isn't as respectable as the classic, I think that it might be more enjoyable; to a certain degree, of course, because even though this film isn't nearly as fresh as its source material, there's still much entertainment and - dare I say it - more depth in some area, regardless of the limits in subtlety, which isn't to say that the film is enjoyable from a technical standpoint. Speaking of dated aspects, the special effects are so outdated, it's absurd, yet they still have their charm about them, particularly the Kong effect. Rick Baker is a legend in the makeup department; emphasis on legend, because this Kong suit is so old it's just barely buyable by today's standards, yet Baker still puts plenty of emotion, not just as designer of the suit, but as operator of the suit, making you believe in the character as the monstrosity that it is, with a little bit of help from Peter Cullen, even if it is a bit chuckle worthy that they paid an undoubtedly large sum of money for everyone's favorite trailer/robot voice just for him to screech, roar and grunt to the point of coughing up blood. Of course, what's refreshing about this film is how it plants more genuineness in Kong; maybe not to the extent Peter Jackson did later on in 2005 - even though this not-too-convincing Kong looks like the human that it all but became in Jackson's version -, but enough for you to find the emotional resonance that was absent in the original, and it really pumps this film was additional compellingness. What further supplements this film's enjoyability is, of course, the broader scope and looser story that may get a little too loose, to the point of being a bit slow, yet, on the whole, things are bigger and leaner enough for us to have more mediation on the scenario, creating a strong sensation of consequence and drama that was far from absent in the original, but seems more intense here. The story becomes more and more of an epic with each incarnation, and while this isn't the sweeping, massive thrill ride that Pete Jackson introduced, there's more life, scale and overall entertainment value in this film, making it, from a substance standpoint, more enjoyable, even if this is substance that we're all familiar with. There's more intrigue, and it's further carried by our two leads, Jeff Bridges and then-newcomer Jessica Lange, neither of whom are knocking out of the park, yet they still have chemistry with both each other and the rest of the cast - including Kong himself -, and it's chemistry that is, if nothing else, charming. However, when more drama and intensity comes into play, our leads' presence is right up there with the writing and dazzling technical value as one of the key elements that keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, and help in making this film an undeniably enjoyable epic. At the end of the day, the film's dated, unsubtle and sometimes overbearing portrayal of its sometimes message is the least of its problems, being more than beat out by conventions, slow spots and even pretense, which isn't to say that this film doesn't have to right to pat itself on the back, for although its style is also a bit dated, it remains effective as both impressive technical value and supported to the broader, livlier storyline that is further supplemented by charismatic leads and depth in almost all the right places of story, leaving John Guillermin's and Dino De Laurentiis's re-imagining of "King Kong" to stand as an ultimately rewarding and thoroughly entertaining thrill ride. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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