Film Review: King Kong (dir by John Guillermin)


The 1976 remake of King Kong is the version of the great ape’s story that no one ever seems to want to talk about.

Everyone, of course, continues to appreciate the original King Kong from 1933, with its charmingly dated but still somewhat effective special effects. The Japanese King Kong films have their fans, even if it still annoys me that two endings were made for the original King Kong vs. Godzilla. The Peter Jackson-directed remake from 2005 had many admirers, including me. The monsterverse Kong certainly has many fans, as is indicated by the fact that Godzilla vs Kong is the first box office hit of the post-pandemic era. King Kong is a beloved character and yet the 1976 version of his story never seem to get as much attention as all the others.

Some of that, of course, is because the 1976 version of King Kong is often described as not being very good. It tells the same basic story as the first King Kong but there’s a few key differences. The expedition to the hidden island is no longer made up of a film crew. Instead, everyone has a separate backstory that doesn’t really make much sense. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) is an energy company executive who is looking for a new source of oil. Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) is a long-haired hippie environmentalist type who stows away on Wilson’s ship. Prescott apparently thinks that there’s some sort of ancient primate living on the island. Meanwhile, Dwan (future great actress Jessica Lange, making her film debut) is an aspiring actress who is discovered in a life raft, floating out in the middle of the ocean. It turns out that Dwan (that’s not a typo, that’s her name) has escaped from the yacht of a sleazy film producer. Nobody on the ship seems to be surprised when Dwan suddenly shows up in her life raft and Dwan doesn’t seem to have any hesitation about accompanying a bunch of strangers to previously unexplored island. That’s the type of film this is.

After a considerable amount of time, during which Dwan falls in love with Jack and Fred spends a lot of time looking generally annoyed, the island is discovered. As you can already guess, Dwan is kidnapped by the island’s natives, and she’s rescued by a giant ape who falls in love with her after she punches him in the nose and says, “Put me down, you male chauvinist pig ape!” In some shots, Kong is obviously a man in a rubber suit. In others, he’s just as obviously an animatronic model. Unfortunately, the animatronic version of Kong sometimes appears to kind of be leering whenever he looks down at Dwan in the palm of his hand, which bring a definite element of ickiness to a few of the scenes in which Kong carries Dwan across the island.

I would have started praying too.

Eventually, just as in the original film, Kong ends up a prisoner in New York. This time, when he escapes, grabs Dwan, and goes on a rampage, he ends up climbing the Two Towers. This leads to scenes of helicopters and fighter planes all firing at the Two Towers, which is a bit difficult to watch today. I remember a few years ago, one of our local stations actually broadcast this version of King Kong on September 11th and it definitely did not feel right.

The 1976 version of King Kong was a hit at the box office and was nominated for three Academy Awards. It won the the award for Best Visual Effects, sharing the Oscar with Logan’s Run. That said, King Kong wasn’t exactly popular with critics, either at the time of its release or today. To a certain extent, it’s understandable why this version of King Kong is so frequently criticized. The script takes a deliberately campy approach to material that, in order to have any real emotional impact, needs to be played straight regardless of how silly the story might seem. Charles Grodin never seems to be sure whether the film is a drama or a comedy. Jeff Bridges is likable but a bit too naturally mellow for his role. Jessica Lange made her film debut in King Kong, famously beating out Meryl Streep for the role. Despite the fact that the film was a box office hit, the reviews of Lange’s performance were so negative that she didn’t work for three years after appearing in the film. (She spent that time studying acting. She went on to win a Tony, two Oscars, and three Emmys so take that, critics.)

And yet, I kind of like this version of King Kong. When taken on its own very silly terms (and not as a remake of a legitimate classic), it’s definitely entertaining. Even the fact that Grodin, Bridges, and Lange are all miscast kind of works to the film’s advantage. You can’t help but appreciate that all three of them are trying so hard to be convincing in roles that they shouldn’t have been playing. For all the criticism of Jessica Lange’s performance, she actually does as well as anyone could with some of the dialogue that she gets stuck with. It’s not easy to pull off a scene where you explain to a giant ape that the relationship is never going to work because you’re a city girl and he’s a …. well, he’s a giant ape. But Lange manages to deliver the lines without laughing and that couldn’t have been easy. Lange’s then-inexperience is obvious whenever she’s having to react to or interact with the other actors but she does fine when she’s having to talk to a guy in a rubber suit or a big animatronic head. (Let’s see Meryl Streep pull that off.) Though it seems to take forever for Kong to actually get captured, the film picks up once he’s transported to New York. If you can look past the awkwardness of how the film uses the Twin Towers, the scenes of Kong rampaging through the city have an over-the-top grandeur that’s both ludicrous and compelling. By the time he reaches the top of the World Trade Center, you will totally be on his side. That’s the way it should be.

This remake of King Kong is deeply, deeply silly but, sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

A rivalry begins in the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer


Back in 1986, Optimus Prime muttered 6 six words to Megatron that would sear itself into the minds of kids for a generation.

“One shall stand, One shall fall.”

And here we are, 30 years later, still using that phrase, or something like it. as Godzilla vs. Kong  offers the tagline “One Will Fall”.

After 3 mega movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island & Godzilla: King of the Monsters), we’re finally ready for a kaiju matchup of truly epic proportions. Godzilla vs Kong pairs the two legendary monsters against each other, though for what reasons, we’re not entirely sure. Neither side wishes to concede, and the battle looks like it’s going to be both in the water and on land. From the newly released trailer, it looks like Kong’s the current hero. The returning characters of Mark and Madison Russell (Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown) from Godzilla: King of the Monsters seem to feel that something’s wrong with our atomic breath spewing hero. Dr. Chen (Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is also on hand to help. After saving the world twice, why would he suddenly turn on mankind? I’m not sure I like the idea of Godzilla being a villain in all this, but they have to have a reason to fight, I suppose.

While it doesn’t look like anyone returns from Kong: Skull Island, we still have Kong and some supporting characters in Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2), Jessica Henwick (Underwater), Eiza Gonzalez (Bloodshot), Danai Gurira (Black Panther), and Lance Reddick (John Wick 3 – Parabellum).

Godzilla vs. Kong is due in IMAX and on HBO Max on March 26th, 2021.

In Memoriam: René Auberjonois (1940-2019)


René Auberjonois passed away today at the age of 79, If you picked a decade between the 70’s and today, people would remember him for different things. In the 70’s, Auberjonois played the weasely Clayton Endicott III on Benson, starring Robert Guillaume, and his character was often the butt of many jokes. He also played a role in the 70’s remake of King Kong, along with The Eyes of Laura Mars, directed by John Guillermin. In the late eighties, he voiced the Chef in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, who tried to cook poor Sebastian.

The 90’s and 2000’s may be where Auberjonois had the most impact. There are a number of memorials pouring in from Star Trek fans. Many Star Trek fans knew him as Odo, the shape shifting Security Officer on board Deep Space Nine. Odo was one of the coolest characters in Star Trek lore, in my opinion, even better than the Borg. Odo’s serious nature and gruff style was a departure from the roles I was used to seeing him in.  Auberjonois never failed to keep a little humor going thoughout.

In 2004, Auberjonois joined David Kelley’s Boston Legal with fellow Star Trek star, William Shatner. As Paul Lewiston, his character acted as the straight man among the madness at Crane, Poole and Schmidt. He had some great appearances on the show for 5 seasons, in particular an arc that had him dealing with a drug addicted daughter.

He’ll be missed.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday Fay Wray!


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking. Today is the birthday of 1930s Scream Queen Fay Wray (1907-2004), and since it’s so close to Halloween season (can’t wait!!), here are 4 Shots From The Horror Films of the fabulous Fay Wray!!

The Most Dangerous Game (1932; D: Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Shoedsack)

The Vampire Bat (1933; D: Frank R. Strayer)

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933; D: Michael Curtiz)

King Kong (1933; D: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Shoedsack)

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1930s


1937 Oscar Banquet

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1930s.

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale)

Henry Frankenstein may have created life and revolutionized the horror genre but his creation got absolutely no love from the Academy.  Starting a very long history of snubbing successful horror films, the Academy failed to nominate Frankenstein for Best Picture.  Not even Boris Karloff got a nomination!  Fortunately, the public recognized what the Academy failed to see and Frankenstein remains a classic film.

Scarface (1932, dir by Howard Hawks)

Gangster films may have been all the rage with the public in the 1930s but the Academy felt different.  Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and Scarface may have excited audiences but none of them received much love from the Academy.  It was hard to decide which gangster film to specifically use for this post.  In the end, I went with Scarface because of George Raft and his sexy way with a coin.

King Kong (1933, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack)

King Kong thrilled audiences, impressed critics, made a ton of money, and has gone on to influence just about every monster film made since.  It received zero Oscar nominations.

My Man Godfrey (1936, dir by Gregory La Cava)

My Man Godfrey, one of the best of the screwball comedies of the 1930s, received a total of 6 Oscar nominations.  It was nominated in all four of the acting categories.  It was nominated for best screenplay.  It was nominated for best director.  However, it was not nominated for Best Picture.  (My Man Godfrey is the first and, as of this writing, only film to receive four acting nominations without also receiving a nomination for best picture.)  Best Picture that year would go to The Great Ziegfield, which, like My Man Godfrey, starred William Powell.

Bringing Up Baby (1938, dir by Howard Hawks)

My Man Godfrey was not the only screwball comedy to be ignored by the Academy.  Bringing Up Baby features Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn at their best.  It also features an absolutely adorable leopard.  Somehow, it was not nominated for best picture.

The Women (1939, dir by George Cukor)

The competition was fierce in 1939.  If you want to know why 1939 is considered to be one of the best years in Academy History, just consider the ten films that actually were nominated for best picture: Dark Victory, Gone With The Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights.  Amazingly, even with that list of nominees, some equally good film went unnominated.  One of those films was The Women.

Based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play, The Women features a witty script, assured direction from George Cukor, and an amazing talented, all-female ensemble cast.  Though the competition was undeniably fierce in 1939, it’s still a shock that this film received not a single nomination.

Up next, in about an hour or so, the 1940s!

Scarface (1932)

A Halloween Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (dir by Jordan Vogt-Roberts)


You may have noticed that, in the title of this post, I specifically referred to Kong: Skull Island as being a Halloween film but not a horror film.

That was very much intentional on my part.  Kong: Skull Island is really not a horror film.  (I think you could argue that the only King Kong film that can legitimately be considered a horror film would be Peter Jackson’s version and that’s just because he tossed in a few scenes that were obviously inspired by the old Italian cannibal films.)  I watched Kong: Skull Island a few months ago and I really can’t say that there was ever a moment where I was scared or even uneasy.  It’s just not that type of film.

At the same time, it is a fantastically fun and entertaining monster movie, one that has a good sense of humor about its own absurdity.  Halloween is not just a time to get scared.  It’s also a time to have fun and, for that reason, Kong: Skull Island is a perfect movie for October.  In fact, I think that it was actually a mistake for Warner Bros. to release the film in March.  They should have released it during the first weekend of October.  It could have provided a counterbalance to all of the depressing films that have been released this month,

Kong: Skull Island is a throwback to the gleefully absurd monster movies of the past.  Just so we don’t miss that point, the film starts with a 1944 prologue before then jumping forward to 1973.  (Significantly, not a single scene takes place in the 21st Century.)  Samuel L. Jackson plays Lt. Col. Preston Packard, the tough, no-nonsense commander of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron.  The Sky Devils are finally on the verge of leaving Vietnam but they’ve been asked to carry out on more mission.  They’ve been asked to fly an expedition over a newly discovered island.  The official story is that they’re going to be mapping the island but everyone knows better than to trust the government.

Kong: Skull Island is very well-cast, which is a good thing because the majority of the characters are thinly written.  Among the civilians in the helicopters: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John Goodman.  Of course, they’re all playing characters but, for the most part, you’ll spend the entire movie thinking of them as being Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John Goodman.  For that matter, you never think of Samuel L. Jackson as being Preston Packard.  He simply is Samuel L. Jackson.  When they eventually discover a castaway living on the island, it doesn’t matter that the man’s “name” is supposedly Hank Marlow.  He’s played by john C. Reilly and that’s who you’ll always think of him as being.   They’re all charismatic actors so you certainly don’t mind watching them but, at the same time, the film understands that the main reason we’re all here is to see the giant gorilla.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t take long for King Kong to show up.  This is not one of those films where things are dragged out in an unnecessary attempt to create suspense.  (After all, the audience already knows that King Kong’s on the island.)  Almost as soon as the helicopters breach the airspace over Skull Island, Kong shows up and starts knocking them out of the sky.  The survivors end up stranded on different parts of the island.

Of course, it’s not just Kong that they have to worry about.  In fact, from the start, the audience is smart enough to know that Kong is actually one of the good monsters.  However, Skull Island is also inhabited by bad monsters, like these giant reptiles that Kong keeps having to fight.

Early on, there’s a scene in America where, in regards to the Watergate scandal, John Goodman says that Washington, D.C. is never going to be more screwed up than it is at that moment.  That line pretty much epitomizes Kong: Skull Island.  It’s a lark with a knowing sense of humor and it is not meant to be taken at all seriously.  At it’s best, Kong: Skull Island satirizes some of the most pompous monster movies of the past.  Whenever someone says something portentous, you can be sure that the film will quickly find a way to puncture the somber mood.

And it’s all terrifically entertaining.  Watch, enjoy, and don’t worry too much about whether or not any of it makes sense.  A trip to Skull Island is a trip worth taking.

Here’s The Final Trailer For Kong: Skull Island!


Sorry, I’m a little bit late in sharing this.

To be honest, I’m still a little bit surprised to see how many people are excited for Kong: Skull Island.  To me, almost everything that I’ve heard about it pretty much screams, “Summer movie that you will have forgotten about by next fall…”

That said, judging by my twitter timeline, a lot of people are excited about Kong: Skull Island.  And this final trailer certainly looks good.  So, let’s all go see Kong: Skull Island and hope that its box office success will lead to John C. Reilly getting better roles.

6 Trailers That Will Make You Go Ape!


It’s Sunday and that means that it’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!

For this week’s edition, we take a look at some very big monkeys!

A*P*E* (1976)

Konga (1961)

King Kong (1976)

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

King Kong Lives (1986)

Monkey Shines (1988)

What do you think, Emma Nelson?

Damn straight, Emma!  Damn straight.

Guilty Pleasure No. 20: King Kong vs. Godzilla (dir. by Ishirō Honda)


KingKongvGodzilla

With the release of the new American reboot/remake/sequel of the classic 1954 Godzilla by Ishirō Honda, I thought it was high time I shared one of my guiltiest of all film pleasures growing up.

Godzilla and everything kaiju I ate up as a wee lad growing up during the 80’s. There really wasn’t anything on Saturday morning and afternoon tv other than reruns of badly dubbed Japanese monsters flicks and anime. One such film was Ishirō Honda’s very own King Kong vs. Godzilla. Yes, you read that correctly. The King of All Monsters fought the Eight Wonder of the World to decide once and for all who was the greatest giant monster of all-time.

The film itself wasn’t that great when I look back on it. Hell, even I had a sort of understanding even as an 8-year old kid that King Kong vs. Godzilla was a pretty bad film, but I still had a blast watching it. The film lacked in coherent storyline and important themes of man vs. nature and the psychological impact of the two atomic bombings of the US on Japan to end World War II wasn’t at all evident in this monster mash-up.

What the film had was King Kong fighting Godzilla. It was like watching two of the greatest icons of youths of my generation duking it out for our pleasure. It didn’t need to have a story or worry about whether it’s depiction of the natives on King Kong’s island was even remotely racist (it was so racist). All it needed to do was show everyone the very fight they’ve been waiting for. Fans of both monster wouldn’t have to wait forever to see the fight happen. This wasn’t going to be a dream fight never to happen like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

So, while King Kong vs. Godzilla was never one of the good entries in the Godzilla filmography (I think it was probably the worst) it more than made up for being one of the most campiest and entertaining entries in the Big Guy’s decades long history.

If there ever was a film from my youth that needs to be remade it would be King Kong vs. Godzilla and only Guillermo Del Toro should be chosen to direct it.

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart

En Pointe with six more trailers


The grindhouse is like ballet — truly appreciated by only a few blessed and special individuals.  And for those individuals, here’s a picture of my legs…

And, because I really, really love all of you, here’s an added bonus: six more of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers…

1) The Child (1977)

I’ve got this one on DVD, actually.  Considering that it was produced by the notorious Harry Novak, it’s actually fairly entertaining and not just in a “WTF” sorta way.  Still, I have to admit that the main reason I like this trailer is because of that “I don’t have to tell you anything,” line because I used to say that a lot when I was a child (actually, I still say it a lot).  Unfortunately, I never had undead followers to help back up my words.

2) The Children (1980)

Now, admittedly, some claim that I was occasionally a just a tad bit bratty when I was a child.  (The running joke, among my sisters, is that LMB stands for Little Mean Brat.)  However, I was never quite this bad…

3) A*P*E (1976)

Speaking of being bratty…A*P*E was originally entitled The New King Kong until a lawsuit changed the title.  By all reports, A*P*E was meant to be a “serious” film but it was advertised as being a spoof after the film’s distributors saw the final results.  A*P*E shows up on AMC occasionally.

4) Tanya’s Island (1980)

While we’re on the amorous monster front…I haven’t seen this one but it appears to be some sort of Swept Away With Big Foot type of film.  The vibe here is definitely grindhouse pretentious.

5) Mysterious Monsters (1976)

Bigfoot was also one of the stars of Mysterious Monsters, one of the many faux grindhouse/drive-in documentaries of the 70s.

6) Mondo Cane (1963)

And finally, here’s the grindhouse documentary that started them all — the Italian Mondo Cane!  None other than Giovanni Lombardo Radice has described this film as an example of “lingering fascism.”  It also inspired Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust.  Also, much like An Inconvenient Truth, it was nominated for a best original song Oscar.   (Note to self: Write a future post on how much An Inconvenient Truth has in common with Mondo Cane…)

Finally, in conclusion, here’s one final scene from A*P*E