Director: John Guillermin
I remember watching the 1976 version of King Kong on television when I was younger and always thinking it was such an awesome spectacle of a movie, so fun to see on TV when it happened to be on and I happened to have nothing to do. I also remember the thrill of watching the 2005 version in theatres, how big it was and how full of action; it was definitely an event. Unfortunately, watching the 2005 one some years later, it doesn’t hold up; bad acting, bad CGI, a fake, lifeless force driving the action, just not a good film. I was afraid that the 1976 one would fall the same way, not live up to expectations, just, basically, look dumb. Well, I need not have been worried; the classic remains a classic, and it shows what real, hard-working movie-making can get you.
An oil company heads toward a mysterious island that isn’t officially known; some sailors have written about it, some aircraft have glimpsed it, but until now no one has been sure if there’s anything behind that strange wall of mist in the middle of the ocean. They hope to strike black gold and get rich, but scientist (and stowaway) Jack Prescott hopes to find something more; unique animal life. Along the way, they encounter a shipwreck with one survivor, the beautiful young actress Dwan (like Dawn, but… Dwan). Together, they all embark upon a journey of discovery amid the lush island, until they come across a stories-high wall keeping an ancient people from a gigantic creature, who they both love and hate, both worship and fear.
This is the classic Kong story you’re used to; island, people, wall, ape, takes the girl, gets captured, climbs high in NYC, you know the tale. The 2005 version veered around a bit, exhibited poor acting, and relied too heavily on terrible technology that only looked good on the big screen. Well, trust an antique to get it right and still be working well all these years later. The 1976 version does everything smartly, at least as far as it can. The story is simple, the acting is solid, and the practical effects are incredible, among the best you will see, as long as you can accept the ape suit and the time period. This is how it’s “supposed” to look; real, raw, tangible, terrifying, cool. CGI just messes everything up, tricks us into watching but doesn’t give us anything in return; the real mechanisms of cinema are what we really want to see and what we trust. This King Kong is fun, frightening, epic, cruel, just so full of a ton of great movie moments that you won’t quickly forget.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆