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Even though there had been three other Kong films since the 1933 version earned its place as `The Eighth Wonder of the World' - Son of Kong, King Kong Vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes - it's King Kong in its 1976 incarnation that became the poster boy for bad remakes, a reputation it's never really managed to shake off in the intervening decades.

Due to confusion over the rights, there were actually two rival productions at the starting gate in 1975. In one corner was Paramount with its modern-day Dino de Laurentiis production, in the other Universal's planned rival Senssurround version The Legend of King Kong, set in the 1930s from a script by Oscar-winner Bo Goldman and to be directed by Joseph Sergeant with stop-motion effects by Jim Danforth. After much bickering and posturing from both sides, De Laurentiis won the race and Universal withdrew, and the rest is infamy. The film was given a huge publicity campaign, a massive amount of merchandising - along with ice lollies, bubblegum, coke glasses, board games, model kits, you could even get tufts of Kong's hair with every pair of Sedgfield jeans, not to mention an unauthorised autobiography of the great ape, My Side - and even grabbed the cover of Time magazine. It didn't take long for the backlash to hit: critics loathed it and it failed to live up to the unrealistic expectations that it would be bigger than Jaws, making its then-impressive and very profitable $90m gross seem rather underwhelming. It didn't help that Dino's choice of tagline for a remake was `The most exciting original motion picture event of all time,' which was just asking for trouble for a remake. Yet taken away from the inevitable disappointment of its massive hype and comparisons with the original, it's a bit more substantial than its given credit for.

It certainly isn't the turkey everyone seems to remember - or at least not when Jessica Lange is offscreen, which sadly isn't nearly often enough. It's a wonder her career ever survived her Marilyn-without-the-intellect impersonation, all exaggerated breathy mannerisms and inane dialog ("Did you ever meet anyone whose life was saved by Deep Throat?" - relax, she means the movie). Just as everyone assumed she really was that dumb at the time rather than just playing dumb, many people took the film's knowing humor for unintentional comedy. Despite some bad jokes ("What do you think took her, some guy in a monkey suit?"), Lorenzo Semple Jr's script is smarter than it's been given credit for, quite effectively updating the story to reflect the 70s concerns of rapacious and indifferent corporations, a worldwide energy crisis and cynical politicians. With the movie business in decline it's now a multinational petrol company in search of oil that captures Kong for its new corporate logo while his last stand is relocated from the Empire State Building to the World Trade Centre - which in the 1970s carried very different associations than it does today - for more than mere reasons of scale: this Kong dies because of big business. Even the replacement of biplanes with helicopter gunships shooting him bloodily to pieces evokes Vietnam.

At the same time there's a softening of Kong himself, no longer a rampaging beast but one simply trying to survive after being taken out of his element, but, curiously, in its efforts to make Kong more sympathetic (no native villages destroyed here, with Jeff Bridges' palaeontologist, almost as hairy as Rick Baker's Kong himself, constantly on hand to protect his reputation and attempt to stop him taking the big drop) it just ends up diminishing him. There is genuine pathos along with a revulsion for humanity in his last moments as his heartbeat fades while photographers climb over his body for a better shot. Unlike the original, throughout the characters are aware of their actions and its consequences but go ahead anyway, ending up, in typical 70s fashion, left in their own private hells. That does tend to make the film at times a preachy examination of ethics and exploitation rather than a great adventure story, with a lot less action and a lot more talk this time round.

But while it packs considerably less into its 132 minutes than the original did in its 99, and wastes too much time on Lange instead of the big guy, parts of it are surprisingly well directed with an impressive epic scale by John Guillermin, there's a fine John Barry score and a decent human cast, including Charles Grodin, John Randolph, Ed Lauter, Rene Auberjonois, Julius Harris, Jack O'Halloran and monster movie veteran John Agar. You can even spot John Lone, who would make a memorable ape man himself a few years later in Iceman, in the background in a few scenes. But pride of place among them goes to Rick Baker, whose contribution is simply `acknowledged' in the end credits but gives an impressively communicative performance as Kong, aided immensely by Carlo Rambaldi's pioneering use of electronics to make the face more expressive that more than compensated for the hugely expensive giant 40-ft robot Kong that didn't do much and only features in a few seconds of footage (though it was worth millions in free publicity for the film). It may be a man in a suit rather than the groundbreaking stop-motion animation of the original, but it's a helluva good suit. The rest of the special effects are variable at best - often excellent, but frequently suffering from less than seamless bluescreen work and all-too obvious studio sets and miniatures.

Ultimately this is a Kong for the 70s rather than one for the ages, and in many ways much more a time capsule of its era than the 1933 original. It was never going to be too hard for Peter Jackson to top this, but take it on its own terms and it often works surprisingly well.

As is Amazon's wont, they've put the reviews for the various different versions together. Sadly, the UK DVD is a little too dark in places - a big problem come the night-time finale. The only extras are the original trailer and a stills gallery. The French two-disc DVD fares rather better, including some negligible deleted scenes with non-removeable French subtitles, trailer, stills gallery and an impressive booklet (even if many of its stills are from Dino's sequel, King Kong Lives).

StudioCanal's French and Australian Blu-ray offers a decent 2.35:1 transfer, though there is some image fluctuation that's particularly noticeable in the first third of the film (though nowhere near as bad as on their Highlander Blu-ray). The main extra is a 22-minute featurette Making Kong dating from 2005 and obviously cashing in on Jackson's remake, which works better as a critical analysis of the more political 70s tone of the remake than an account of its making. Rich Cline is good on the themes but poor on the facts - he claims that De Laurentiis kept the methods used to portray the star a secret, yet the 40-foot robot that didn't work was right at the centre of the film's massive publicity campaign while extensive clips from a 1976 TV interview with Rick Baker about his work in the suit contradict him even further. Nor is it accurate to say that it was the veteran producer's first really big budget picture (what about Waterloo, The Bible the Beginning or Barabbas?), while M. J. Simpson's pure children's television dumbed-down discussion of the special effects uses a still of Ray Harryhausen animating The 7th Voyage of Sinbad for Willis O. Brien. Nor is there any mention of the race to beat the rival remake. Also included are the original trailer and 8 deleted scenes (though two more from the French DVD are missing), mostly extended scenes, including longer versions of the fight with the snake and Kong breaking through the wall as well as a brief bit of additional mayhem in New York as he smashes a very obvious model car into a building.
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on 9 July 2011
King Kong 1976 is a fantastic movie and one I have watched many times. The film features a great cast with Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin and the beautiful Jessica Lange. John Barry delivers one of his best ever scores and the direction of the film is excellent. The story is expertly updated to the 1970s, changing details of the original films plot in a believable way. There is less horror in this remake but the romance is played out better and all the characters get fuller parts.
The closing moments of the film are a supreme example of fantastic movie making. Kong lies at the bottom of the World Trade Centre after his fall and the press pour around his dying body, but they soon lose focus on Kong and go straight to Jessica Lange, who despite her traumatic experience(shaking and crying) still seems to love the limelight, camera bulbs flashing in her face. She doesn't fight the press to go to Jeff Bridges. He seems to decide not to go to Her. Meanwhile the once proud Ape lies there. You feel sorry for Kong even more than in the original and the romance between the two leads that was so strong, by the end seems in doubt. Theres alot of detail to each scene, great direction with a marvelous john Barry score to add to the emotion. Again in this remake it is 'Beauty that killed the beast'. Poor King Kong.
King Kong 1976 has some controversy over its special effects, but I personally don't have a problem with it. It's certainly more convincing than alot of the awful CGI you often see in modern films. Plus this remake is more focused on the emotions and motivations of the cast and King Kong than special effects. Huge action and monster battles was more the motivation of Peter Jacksons 2005 effort.
A rare remake that works as well as the original.
P.S. A sequal to this film followed called King Kong Lives. It's no where near as good but is worth a look as it has the same director as King Kong 76, John Guillermin. Although as the title of this sequal suggests it does ruin the effect of Kongs final moments in King Kong 76.
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on 29 August 2016
Back In 1976 producer Dino De Laurentiis remake of The 1933 original King Kong was one of The most anticipated movies awaiting release by The movie going public. Laurentiis Team and writers had updated The story for a Then more modern audience. Gone was The original character big game Hunter and movie producer Carl Denham from The original movie keeping in with The current Trend at The Time The producers Had our intrepid explores in search of oil. Thus The explorers stumbling onto an island encountering natives protecting something on The other side of The island were still intact from The original. Although still relatively new at The Time The lead in The movie was given To Jeff Bridges as a free lance photographer assigned To The oil company. An important role in a movie like This The female lead went To The Then unknown Jessica Lange. The Anne Darrow character from The original was gone and Lange's character simply went under The name Dwan. some nice Hats off To The original movie were added The famous bronte log sequence with Kong shaking sailors of a Giant tree log and The Great Ape's battle with a Giant snake was olso added. The whole movie particularly The search and island scenes were beautifully filmed and a beautiful music score was added by The Great John Barry. Jessica Lange was no Fay Wray Though was simply stunning in whole of The scenes she was featured in. Kong 76 was released To mixed reviews from The critics at The Time. Though it's fair To say over The years it as now Gained The reputation of a Cult movie classic The Peter Jackson overblown CGI remake was still Decades away. This Blu ray release is probarbly The best version going at The moment Even Kong's second's Act if you like when The ape is brought back To New York were all filmed as night Time scenes These now show up Quite well on The HD Transfer Extras include a vintage making of The movie The original film Trailer and a commentary on The movie by Director John Guillermin make This release an essential purchase for any movie collection Five stars.
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on 18 August 2013
I Grew up watching this film on VHS back in the early 80'S and i've learnt to love it over the past 20 years
so in my opinion it is a classic and i still enjoy watching it
it was first released on widescreen DVD back in 2001 by universal which i have, no extras at all just the film
the picture quality and audio was Good, better than the VHS quality

and then when i found out that Universal were releasing it on blu-ray i knew i had to buy it
it was released on blu-ray in the U.K. and Australia 2009 but i only bought it couple years ago so i was very lucky to get myself a copy when i did
cause according to amazon uk this film is not available on blu-ray anymore for some reason, looks like it's been deleted by Universal
so it is anybody's guess if this classic 1976 version will be released on blu-ray again which is very disapointing from a fans point of view
you'll have to try buy it on Ebay if you desperatly want a copy.

about this blu-ray release
Picture quality is superb much better quality than the 2001 dvd release, beautiful widescreen, crystal clear picture with black bars at bottom and top of screen
the 2001 dvd release did not have the black bars
the sound quality is very Good surround sound, universal gave the same treatment to this King kong blu-ray release as they did to Jaws blu-ray release
definitely worth the money
and for the first time, there is special features/extras for this blu-ray release
there is a new making of featurette that only goes for 25mins, no interviews with Jeff bridges or Jessica lange
there's not even an interview with Rick baker or Director John Guillerman who has passed away by now i think.

for a big fan of this 1976 version the featurette is very interesting anyway
the Movie critic being interviewed talks about Dino De Laurentis, making of the film during 1976, there is mention of Jessica Lange and Jeff bridges etc
and some rare footage of Rick baker interview from 1976 which i've seen on you tube, interview on you tube is longer

there are Deleted scenes aswell, some of the Deleted scenes are actually Extended scenes by extra couple minutes of few scenes in the Theatrical version
one of the Deleted scenes is Kong fighting the big snake which goes for a minute longer than the Theatrical version
which i prefer, the extended scene is more interesting
and the rest of the Deleted scenes are lost footage filmed for the TV broadcast of King Kong
the TV broadcast ran for 3 hrs max on U.S. TV back in 1978 1 year after the film was released in cinemas
i was able to buy a bootleg copy of the 3 hr version few years ago from a U.S. seller and the footage i got was rough direct from TV
the copy i got was Digital remastered footage from Theatrical release DVD included with the TV footage, but i can't complain cause the tv footage is very rare to get now
so i was very lucky to get it.
the TV version of King kong has never been officially released on DVD ever and who knows if it will be released on DVD
so don't hold your breath waiting that's for sure

anyway this Blu-ray release of the 1976 version has fantastic picture and audio better than the dvd release
if amazon uk don't have it anymore then maybe it has been deleted i don't know
you'll have try buy it on Ebay if your desperate to buy it.
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on 28 December 2015
I still love this version of King Kong, as it was the first I ever saw in a cinema as a small child. This region 2 disc has good image and sound, and there are some deleted scenes which were used in the U.S. televised version of the film back in the late 1970's.
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on 26 March 2003
The 1976 remake of RKO's classic 1933 King Kong was a widley anticipated cinematic event. Billed as the film to knock Jaws off its best selling perch. As with Jaws the production of this monkey movie hit many snags aloung the way, including the technical problems with a full scale 40 foot Kong (which only appears for seconds on screen). Unlike Jaws, the film never really recoverd from its problems. What you end up with is a slightly messy, rather mean looking production. Everyone knows the story, which is basically identical to the original, people travel to an island, capture huge beast, beast falls in love with a blonde, take him to New York, monkey goes nuts in the city, only this time climbs the trade towers rather than the empire state building. The message of environmental rape is there to see, the captures of Kong travel to the island to discover oil, but instead take a much bigger natural trophy - Kong. This works, but the overtly sexual overtones (which were suggested rather than shown in the original) and campy approach spoil the film's initial mass scale. And ironically, it is the film's 'green screen' background effects of New York during the finale that really let it down, the original worked much better with simple stop motion techniques. The film will special effects will work much better on DVD than VHS. Not a patch on the 30's monster flick, but well worth the watch, if only for Jeff Bridges' beard and the very sexy Jessica Lange, who has the helpless blonde woman routine down to a T!
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on 3 June 2008
The 1976 KONG is surely amongst the most derided high-profile movies in cinematic history, and my own personal view is that the legend had to be filmed at least ONCE with the 'man-in-a-suit' approach, if nothing else to see the strengths and weaknesses in this technique.

Initially, the '76 approach pleased some casual KONG viewers who didn't care for the 'jerkiness' inherent in the non-blurring '33 KONG. True fantasy film buffs however, much prefer the all-out fantasy world of the original KONG, with it's multiple monsters, wholly-rounded 'LOST WORLD', and of prime importance, the fact that KONG most definately WASN'T a 'guy in an apesuit'.

The 1976 remake wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that so much money was lavished on it; reportedly, this was 24 million dollars [to put this into perspective, 'STAR WARS'---in production around the same time---came in at around 10 million, and pointed to the future of film-making infinitely more than this KONG did----and 1974's 'LAND that TIME FORGOT' pulled in a fairly decent monster-fest for a paltry 750, 000.]

The biggest waste of this KONG'S budget was squandered on hype and publicity, which included a full-scale 50-foot high 'all-functioning ' KONG robot that was to appear in the bulk of the upcoming film, ---and this included hoisting the steel construction to the summit of the WORLD TRADE CENTRE for fiming!!-----this ROBOT alone cost in the region of 2M, and was so ineffective, it appears fleetingly, [to even less impact than the feeble, but more entertaining'QUEEN KONG'] in but 2 or 3 quick shots.

Presumably,the film-makers reasoned the publicity value justified this cost, but the tragedy remains that this 2M could have easily funded the entire special effects budget for UNIVERSALS' stop-motion KONG [a colour period piece set in the 30s that was in the running until DINO DE LAURENTIS and PARAMOUNT won out here].

Looking at the '76 KONG now, the biggest mystery is where all the money went: it certainly isn't on the screen; sure, PETER JACKSON'S version cost a 21st-CENTURY fortune, but sheer spectacle and grandeur onscreen proves that the money was used effectively.

One or two nice scenes/shots in this mid-monkey KONG include the waterfall sequence, an evocative shot as KONG holds DWAN at ground-level WTC, and close-ups including the very effective full-scale hydraulic hands, which still impress.

Low points [there are many] include overtly fake-looking miniature jungle settings, a truly feeble battle between KONG and an unconvincing giant snake [this footage is unevenly matched with surrounding film of LANGE and BRIDGES], and a particularly grotesque sequence introducing the poorly-concieved NEW YORK 'unveiling of KONG' to the public.

To compound the film's terminal, unsurmountable problems, the 'live-action' characters [other than RICK BAKER'S KONG!] , notably BRIDGES and GRODIN, are unsympathetic, unlovable characters, although the obvious attractions of the then-young LANGE will provide some diversion for many red-blooded male viewers.

The 'WORLD TRADE CENTER' finale is brutally-executed [in more ways than one] with special effects that are more reminiscent of mid-1970s chromakey TV image seperation.

The mobile KONG facial features are fairly impressive, however [utilizing inner cables and pulleys] and up the level from the static monkey-masks of the 1960s TOHO KONGS. [this element has rescued this review from being a 2-star affair].

I have tried to be as fair and honest as possible in this writing, and urge younger KONG fans who have not seen this film to at least view it ONCE, ---at the very least, it will give enthusiasts a greater appreciation of the superior visions of the 1933 and 2005 KONGS.
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on 12 August 2016
I loved this one years ago and bought it out of nostalgia. Unfortunately I think it did not age so well, except for the marvellous Jessica Lange of course. The latest King Kong version with Naomi Watts is much more fun to watch but that's not a fair comparison.
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This is one of the first movies I ever remember seeing in a theatre – the only thing I remember about the experience, though, is the fact that the film broke; I'm not sure we ever even got to see the end of the thing. Had I been a little older, I no doubt would have remembered much more about Dino De Laurentiis' infamous remake of the 1933 classic: the oftentimes horrible special effects, the weirdness of several aspects of the story, and the effectively sad ending (had I been a good bit older, I'm sure I also would have remembered how hot that new girl on the block, Jessica Lange, was). This film has some of the worst projection screen shots I've ever seen; every single shot of Jessica in the hopelessly artificial gorilla's hand, to take just one example, is ridiculously fake. The special effects of this film are among the cheesiest I've ever seen (which is in contrast to those of the 1933 original King Kong, which still amaze me). Then there's the script itself, which does find its way into some pretty weird areas. And Jeff Bridges may be even hairier than the ape. Fortunately, though, the film does succeed (thanks largely to the close-up shots of Kong's dramatic performance) in generating loads of sympathy for the ape and thus pulling off the ending as the great tragedy that it was and is. King Kong, in both its 1933 and 1976 incarnations, is a very sad film.
Forget about making a movie on Skull Island. In this version of the film, it is the prospect of huge oil reserves that first draws outsiders to the island – a team of Petrox oil company people led by Fred Wilson (Charles Groden). Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a scientist, stows away onboard because he wants to study the animal life on the island. As for the blonde bombshell that will be the Beauty for Kong's Beast, Dwan (Jessica Lange) is found floating aboard an empty raft in the middle of the ocean. Everyone is surprised to find a group of natives living on the island, but Jack must have some kind of extrasensory perception because he figures out much too easily that the natives worship a gigantic living ape god and sacrifice maidens to it for their own protection. The natives kidnap Dwan from the ship, hand her over to Kong, and you pretty much know what happens from there. It is unfortunate, of course, that the climax of the film takes place at the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building, but the Twin Towers were new at the time and offered a stunning backdrop for the final confrontation between Kong and man.
I suppose we're all clear on the fact that King Kong is not the monster in the story; he's a victim – a victim of extreme exploitation in this 1976 version. Wilson only wants to use Kong to make himself rich, and he actually reveals him to the world from behind a gigantic gas pump (one of several incredibly strange images in this film). Thankfully, Kong makes this guy pay this time around. It's painful to see the big guy brought so low in the end, though. Kong is easy to sympathize with – he's just another poor sap destroyed by love. He's a lonely guy doing his own thing back home, and then this gorgeous blonde shows up right in front of his eyes. It's love at first sight, and he does everything he can think of to impress the girl, yet she just keeps running away. He keeps chasing her until he winds up humiliated and helpless, with thousands of eyes staring at him in his moment of defeat. Still, after moping around and feeling sorry for himself for awhile, he rises again and makes another bold attempt to win the girl back, but that only ends in total disaster. And, of course, the girl then figures out that she sort of loves the guy after all, but it's too late to do him a lick of good. I don't know about you, but that sounds kind of familiar to me.
This film is not in the same league as the 1933 original (it's not even close), but it is worth seeing. Kong is a unique monster character whose story always manages to touch the heart, even in an overblown, frankly weird adaptation such as this one. Plus, it's unintentionally amusing – especially in terms of the not so special effects.
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on 15 April 2012
Dino De Laurentiis' remake of the original hairy monster movie features remarkable special effects by Rick Baker. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), head of an oil drilling expedition to the remote island of Micronesia, discovers a stow-away on his ship, Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a zoologist in search of a prehistoric creature fabled to exist on the island. Off the coast of Micronesia, they rescue Dwan (Jessica Lange), a beautiful woman shipwrecked in the treacherous seas. On the island the expedition witness a mysterious ritual to a strange beast called Kong. They soon realise that Kong is the gigantic ape that Prescott is searching for.
WHAT CAN I SAY King Kong: The Legend Reborn The production is smooth, the photography impressive, the locations superb and the story and characters engaging. But a fantasy adventure stands and falls by the suspension of disbelief achieved at the crucial moment.
People seem to jump on the old' bandwagon when bashing Kong '76.
This film has dared to be different. we are taking '76 .I'd say it was quite an achievement..
The main character, the giant ape, actually has a heart, and his character is built up so much that in the final scenes with Kong fighting for his life at the top the World Trade Centre you will feel for him and It's not that bad!!!
The real monster in this movie is not King Kong, but human greed and ambition. This is ever so clear
But the film has its virtues none more so then the fine performances by Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin in an unusual villainous role.Lange is great and quite stunningly beautiful And let's not forget the beautiful musical score by John Barry.
You Can't go wrong with this version... don't believe the negative hype ...
why you may ask?
because It has a witty and poignant script and good performances. Comparing it to the two other major Kong films is never a good idea Maybe not the equal of the original?
but how could it be?
It does well enough in its own behalf. and looked at in isolation it has it's own merits, if you are willing to see them and ignore the rough edges..
then you will start to see how ((King Kong: The Legend Reborn))
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