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Film / King Kong (1976)

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An original motion picture. You read that right!
The 1976 remake of King Kong, directed by John Guillermin and produced by Dino De Laurentiis.

The story remains largely the same as in the 1933 original, but the characters and situations are changed: instead of a filmmaker seeking an exciting movie locale, an amoral oil executive (Charles Grodin) is seeking an uncharted island (hidden by a perpetual fog bank) where he hopes to find an enormous untapped deposit of crude. The requisite blonde, Dwan (Jessica Lange), is encountered at sea, adrift in a lifeboat, the sole survivor of a yacht explosion; and The Hero is a stowaway anthropologist (Jeff Bridges). The rest of the film plays out more or less as the previous version, albeit with a somewhat more realistic depiction of the natives and with fewer island hazards (the only oversized animals featured are Kong and a snake). The oil exec, upset to learn that the island's crude is unfit for refining, decides to "bring home the big one" in a very literal sense; when the hero brings Dwan back from Kong's clutches, Kong is captured and brought to New York in a gaudy publicity stunt. Kong misinterprets the intentions of pushy photographers, and the story goes on from there.

This film differs from the 1933 version in another, very important aspect that has influenced many later tellings of the story: the relationship between Kong and "his" girl. Fay Wray's Ann was treated as nothing more than a kidnapping victim, a prize for Kong. Dwan, on the other hand, is given several extended scenes—on the island, on the ship back to the United States, and in New York—actually forming a bizarre sort of bond with the big guy. And when Kong climbs to the top of the (then newly-constructed) Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and is attacked by the military, Dwan is right there, trying to be a human shield for him. But to no avail...

A sequel, King Kong Lives, followed... ten years later.

Tropes for 1976 remake

  • Adaptational Villainy: Fred Wilson replaces Carl Denham from the original movie as the man who exploits Kong for profit. Unlike Denham, he is an oil executive rather than a movie director, and his motivation for going to Skull Island is to seek the massive oil the island is believed to possess. In addition, Wilson is killed by Kong when he escapes, which serves him right for abusing the poor ape. Denham doesn't suffer such a fate in the original film or the 2005 remake.
  • Adapted Out: The film removes all of the dinosaurs and most of the other giant animals, only keeping Kong and adding a giant snake.
  • Artistic License Physics: With the square/cube law, if a fifty foot high gorilla were possible, Kong would weigh close to eighty tons. No way the roof of the World Trade Center could have supported a load like that, he would have crashed straight through and plummeted all way to the foundation the minute he stepped onto it.
  • Asshole Victim: Fred Wilson, because with his selfish exploitation of a distraught and stressed ape for money, nobody's going to mourn him when Kong crushes Wilson in revenge when he escapes.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the end, Dwan does become world-famous as she always dreamed of being, but it comes at the expense of Kong's life. Just after Kong expires, the press swarms her and all she can do is helplessly scream out to Jack, who can't reach her because of the huge crowd.
  • Behemoth Battle: Surprisingly downplayed compared to other works in the franchise (where Kong usually wrestles dinosaurs and other reptilian creatures), but there is a fight between a giant constrictor snake and Kong.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted; Boan, the sole black dude in the rescue party that sets out to save Dwan, is the only one besides Prescott to survive the encounter with Kong at the log bridge.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Kong's death sequence definitely is more gory than the original film's — the poor beast doesn't get a few little holes, he's Overdrawn at the Blood Bank.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Subverted, while Dwan (unlike Ann) has short hair, it's not all that boyish.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Charles Grodin shouts every other line.
  • Climbing Climax: Sorry, the Empire State Building will no longer do.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Charles Grodin's character Fred Wilson.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • As seen in the poster Kong is big enough to straddle the twin towers of the World Trade Center and crush an F-16 in one hand. He's nowhere near that big in the film.
    • Also the poster's tagline "The most exciting original motion picture event of all time." How exciting it is may be YMMV, but there's no way a remake can be considered an "original motion picture event."
  • Crowd Panic: When Kong busts free in NYC.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle One 50 foot tall ape versus a squad of attack choppers armed with frickin' mini-guns. Didn't end too well for the ape.
  • Dada Ad: In-Universe example with Kong's New York premiere. Given that he entered the stadium disguised as a giant Petrox gas pump, one could presume that this whole thing was a stealth ad for Wilson's oil company; while on the island, Wilson even references Exxon's famous "tiger in your tank" ad campaign, clearly intending to top it with Kong.
    Wilson: ALL HAIL THE POWER OF KONG! [sotto voce] And Petrox!
  • The Ditz: Dwan is a bit of one.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • Wilson is stunned when his geologist breaks it to him that the massive oil fields he expected to find won't be ready to be used for at least 10,000 years. As Wilson is rocked at how much money he wasted on this, the man laughs that "you shouldn't have told New York you were bringing in the big one." Wilson whispers, "the Big One," as he realizes how Kong will be an even bigger prize for his bosses than oil.
    • Prescott keeps seeing the Twin Towers in New York and thinking "I've seen that somewhere before..." Eventually he realizes that the buildings resemble a pair of obelisk-like rock towers back on the island, and deduces that Kong will go there thinking it's his home.
  • Expy: Fred Wilson is obviously based off Carl Denham in the original film. He also qualifies as Corrupted Character Copy, since he's far greedier and has fewer redeeming qualities than Denham.
  • Fanservice: Dwan getting undressed by Kong, to the point we actually see her bare breasts for a few minutes.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in the film, Wilson stumbles into the hole made by Kong's footprint. At the end of the film, he stumbles on the ground just before being crushed by Kong's actual foot. His pose is similar in both instances.
  • Gatling Good: Kong is taken down not by biplanes with machine guns, but by helicopters armed with miniguns. Kong is shredded. It is not an easy scene to watch. Interestingly, this movie is probably the first time most moviegoers saw a gatling gun in action, aside from Rooster Cogburn, which featured the early hand-cranked version. After this, they probably didn't want to see it again.
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: Guess who, once he starts in on his rampage. In particular, this is how Wilson meets his demise.
  • Giant Footprint Reveal: Fred Wilson falls into a large hole in the ground, which turns out to be a giant ape's footprint.
  • Go Through Me: During the climactic rooftop confrontation, Dwan repeatedly tries to get Kong to pick her up, to prevent the attack choppers from firing. Kong is having none of it.
  • Gorn: Kong's death, as well as the death of the giant snake. Kong rips apart its jaw.
  • The Great Serpent: Taking the place of the Meat-Eater dinosaur and Elasmosaurus he fought in the original, Kong has a tussle with an enormous boa constrictor.
  • Hand Sliding Down the Glass: Played with. Kong is captured when a pit is dug in front of the door to the giant wall. The pit is filled with gas and camouflaged with branches. Kong breaks through the gate and falls into the pit, succumbing to the gas. His final scene is his hand rising slowly out of the gas pit, only to sink back down as the gas overcomes him.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Much sexier than the 1933 original, which is to be expected given the film was no longer restrained by the rules of the Hays Code like the orginal was. This is most prevalent with Dwan, a full on Ms. Fanservice with a shower scene showing off her (blurred) nude body followed immediately by a Modesty Towel, and later on gets partially stripped by Kong, with her breasts on full display for a few minutes.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Giant sex-crazed ape chasing after you? Just beg your boyfriend to take you into a bar and buy you a drink. No way that plan could go wrong.note 
    • Then there's the helicopter pilots during the film's climax. Instead of hovering out of reach where they can shoot Kong from a safe distance, they fly right up to him and get swatted into the North Tower.
  • Jawbreaker: King Kong does this more in this film than in the original.
  • Kill It with Fire: During the climax at the World Trade Center, a couple of soldiers (acting against orders) show up with a flamethrower and use it against Kong in an attempt to carry out the trope. King retaliates by throwing a couple of pieces of stuff at them, culminating in tossing a fuel tank that successfully carries out the trope when it explodes and burns them up.
  • Landmark of Lore: The cover image depicts where the film ultimately ends, the twin towers of the then-new World Trade Center.
  • Made of Explodium: Rampaging through the city, Kong picks up an electrically powered subway car and tosses it from the trestle, making it explode dramatically.
  • Merchandising the Monster: See characters bringing Kong, who at this point has contributed to the death of uncounted people on his island, back to the US for entertainment purposes.
  • Modesty Towel: After a shower Dwan grabs a towel but rather than wrap up in it she holds it against her front, given the audience a clear view of her naked profile.
  • Ms. Fanservice: When Dwan is sacrificed to Kong, she is dressed in a native garb that shows her legs and bare back. And the Waterfall Shower scene causes the native garb to emphasize on her form, and to top it off, her breasts get exposed temporarily due to Kong ripping off her top, when gets emphasized when she gets rescued.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: As in the original, Kong buys it like this. Unlike the original, he gets it from multiple miniguns blazing away non-stop for several minutes, spewing enough blood to give the rooftop of the World Trade Center a full coat of paint.
  • My Nayme Is ...Dwan.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The subway cars that Kong picks up are miniature models. Also, when Kong picks up the first car of the train, the wire holding it up is visible.
  • People in Hairy Suits: This and King Kong Lives are the only two American-made official Kong films to use men in ape suits. The closeups of Kong lifting Dwan in one of his hands, however, are giant hydraulic gorilla arms. There is also the full-sized King Kong robot, which is also visible for two brief shots in full when Kong breaks loose during the NYC presentation scene.
  • Punny Name: Petrox. Just remember it's The '70s and say it out loud a couple times.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: A life-size fifty-foot animatronic King Kong was created for the film, eating away a huge portion of the budget (it was also a near-complete failure since it moved like it was... lifeless and mechanically).
  • Shower Scene: Dwan gets a rather steamy one on the journey to Skull Island where the shower in question has only a clear shower curtain, leaving Dwan's naked body blurred but otherwise on full display.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: There may have been no dinosaurs, but there is a giant boa, which acts as a Composite Character between the Pteranodon (a reptile which distracts King Kong from Ann, allowing Jack to rescue her), the Elasmosaur/serpent (the elongated monster he fights upon entering Skull Mountain) and the Meat-Eater (he kills the boa by ripping its jaws apart, just like the tyrannosaur) from the original film.
  • Time Skip: Averted; unlike all the other versions, this one shows the actual process of getting Kong to New York City (in an oil tanker).
  • Tomboyness Upgrade: Downplayed, this movie's version of Ann, the character Dwan, has short hair and is a little more assertive compared to Fay Wray's Ann from the 1939 movie, she's still traditionally feminine.
  • Waterfall Shower: Kong gives one to Dwan. (It also appears in the animated musical adaptation The Mighty Kong.)
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: Wilson's reason for going to the island is that he's convinced it has massive amounts of untapped oil and other minerals. He's delighted when he learns there is a huge oil field worth millions of barrels and wires his bosses he's "bringing in the Big One." It's only then his geologist informs him that the oil is raw and "needs a little cooking" and won't be ready to be excavated for at least 10,000 years.
  • Your Size May Vary: While Kong's size tends to fluctuate a little bit in the actual film, it's taken to ludicrous extremes on the poster, where he's depicted as being big enough to straddle the gap between the Twin Towers (138 feet at the two closest points). This has the humorous side-effect of making Dwan look about 15 feet tall).


Video Example(s):


King Kong vs. Anaconda

King Kong confronts a massive anaconda to protect Dwan

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrimateVersusReptile

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