Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Day 67: King Kong (1976)

So, I hope I'm not wrong here, but that was the giant snake from Conan, right? I only ask because both movies were Dino De Laurentiis productions and they looked awfully similar. Maybe it's a venerated line of fake snakes, like the Barrymores, or siblings, like Donny & Marie.

The thing is, aside from Kong, there was only one monster on Skull Island in this version of King Kong, and it was a giant snake. It's weird because, though much time is spent on the island, nothing actually seems to be happening. Jessica Lange spends a lot of time in Kong's hand (I got so sick of seeing that thing) gets washed and blown on by him, he pokes her, she shouts at him, and that's about it. At least in the original, Fay Wray and Kong had a sort-of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on as she depended on him for her survival.

Though, I give the movie many points for trying to answer the question of why Kong would want a human lady friend in the first place. That it goes for the most literal of answers (sex, duh) results in my subtracting most of the points. It does lead to a moment in which Charles Grodin, referring to the fifty-foot ape, tells Jessica Lange, "He was going to rape you," but perhaps the reason that Kong wants human females isn't a question that needs to be answered, literally or not. It's certainly a lot more primal when it's unexplained, a lot more interesting, and allows me to have conversations with my girlfriend where we debate as to whether Kong likes these women as pets or flowers. The movie also does well to show difficulties in transporting Kong to America, but what does it matter since we're all waiting for him to stand on a skyscraper anyway?

This is a vulgar movie, a loud and trashy junk film, with too many fun, dumb elements to kick to the curb, but one that far overstays its welcome in its 134 minute running time. The movie is paced like it was made by snails, despite the fact that there's a lot of screaming, yelling, and crashing going on, and, thus, one can only imagine that these were coked up snails, having just done a line off of a hot snail's slime trail. There's definitely a weird Vietnam hippy-counterculture vs. Nixon voter symbolism-thing going on in the script, but the movie is so unwieldy and everything in it is so muddled, any intended Chayefsky-esque satire is lost amidst the roaring.

The worst, most unfortunate part of the film is the way it handles Kong. I don’t give a rat's ass about how "real" effects seem, or that I can see wires or composite lines. None of that really matters to me as long as the effects are placed within the fabric of the movie well. Despite the fact that the face is well articulated and Kong's personality comes through, the full bodied Kong is uninteresting to watch, held down by his technology, sluggish in responding to anything. Kong's lethargy here is a stark contrast to the vitality and joie de vivre that the original Kong exhibited, and, wouldn't you know it, this typifies the difference between the two films.

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