Thursday, 30 April 2009

King Kong

Movie Review: King Kong

Year of Release: 1976
Country of Origin: USA
Director: John Guillermin
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange

Plot outline: An oil exploration expedition comes to an isolated island and encounters a colossal giant gorilla (IMDb).

The director and the writer display real affection for old-time movie magic and nonsense that come through in spite of an elaborate physical production. Especially effective are the opening sections that lay out - with a respectful gravity that is truly comic - the scientific mumbo jumbo that softens us for the make-believe to come: a team of oil experts from a cartel named Petrox sets out to find a mysterious uncharted island that is perpetually enclosed in a cloud of carbon dioxide, indicating that the earth beneath is a virtually bottomless reservoir of petroleum. It may well be that we don't need such explanations. Part of the appeal of King Kong today, as it was in 1933, is based on the wish to believe that there may still be places in this planet unpenetrated by Petrox, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Sony and the likes. The movie builds well to Kong's initial appearance, after we are almost an hour into the story, when he comes clomping out of the jungle to claim his monthly sacrifice, who is not, of course, Fay Wray, but Jessica Lange who plays a would-be actress named Dwan. Though Dwan sets Kong's heart aflame, she's more likely to set everyone else's teeth on edge. What sort, exactly, is this movie? It's a series of big, foolish but entertaining spectacle scenes, such as the natives of that uncharted island prancing around, doing pagan fertility dances. It's the sight of the mighty Kong picking up Dwan in the palm of his hand and washing her off under a jungle waterfall, then fiddling curiously with her bra. It's Kong going amok in New York City, looking for Dwan, grabbing up a subway car and rattling it like a gourd, then trudging south to the World Trade Center, where he ultimately meets his fate. Nevertheless, Kong's last fight with army helicopters is beautifully (and bloodily) done, the setting trivializes it. There are other actors in the movie beside Miss Lange. They include very good actors such as Jeff Bridges (as a professor of primate paleontology from Princeton) and Charles Grodin (as a vicious, ambitious Petrox executive), but they are supporting characters to the various pieces of machinery (and one man in an ape suit) that portray Kong in his changing moods. The movie includes some vulgar language, some partial nudity, some violence at the end, and some intimations of unrealizable bestiality that small children everywhere will recognize as simple friendliness. (NYT)

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars

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