Friday, June 27, 2008
KING KONG '76
Maybe it's because of the episode about giant snakes that ran on MONSTERQUEST the other night. Or maybe it's because the family and I visited Universal Studios Hollywood mere DAYS after the fire that destroyed the "Kongfrontation" part of the tour ride, so now the kids won't ever know what's it like to have a life-sized Kong menace them. Whatever the case, I've been thinking about the 1976 version of KING KONG a lot lately, and I'm no longer going to hide in the closet: I love it. I think it's the SECOND best KONG film made, a lesser film to the original, but still lots of fun. When the film saw release in 1976, I was seven years old, and it had not been very long since I'd seen the original KONG on television. I was the right age to experience the media hype, to see the promo poster and wait breathlessly for the film to finally get into theaters. When it did, the disappointment I felt by the absence of dinosaurs was outweighed by the delight I took in the sheer spectacle of the film. Besides, there was that giant snake scene . . .
Watching the film as an adult, I'm still taken by some of the film's compositions, some of which have a certain beauty that the Peter Jackson remake failed to achieve. Granted, Jackson's film has stunning visual moments, but nothing like what we see in the shot of Kong's body framed by an orange sky. It lacks realism in the same gorgeous way that many Toho films do.
Then there's Dwan, a name I still can't used to. Jessica Lange's character bumbles around and lacks the grace of Fay Wray or the air of tragedy surrounding Naomi Watts' character. But the rapport she has with Kong manages to convince despite the often sloppy dialogue in the script. Plus, we have those priceless leering facial expressions of Kong, which, I swear, seem modeled on the expressions made by 70s porn actors.
Today, the climax on top of the Twin Towers has a particular resonance, thanks to 9/11, but even without that national tragedy, I still find Kong's death moving. So there you have it. As for KING KONG LIVES--that's another story.