King Kong (1976): Collector’s Edition [2 Blu-Ray]

Now seems around the perfect time and climate to remind movie geeks that in 1976 there was a large scale remake of “King Kong.” And it’s definitely a remake. That is the best thing I can say about it at the end of the day. It’s not great like the original, but it’s not bloated like the 2005 remake, so the mileage varies with director John Guillermin’s treatment of the 1933 classic. After many years without much of a release for the fans, Scream Factory finally offers up a pretty stellar Blu-Ray bound to compliment any fan’s collection, and might even serve as a great chaser for “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

When a research ship is sent to explore an island thought to be rich in oil, paleontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) sneaks aboard, having heard strange rumors about the island. En route, the crew rescues Dwan (Jessica Lange), the sole survivor of a shipwreck. When they arrive, they find native people living in fear of a monster called Kong. The natives kidnap Dwan and sacrifice her to what turns out to be an enormous ape. Dwan is eventually rescued, and the ape captured for a gala exhibit.

There’s a lot to be said about 1976’s “King Kong” (I have vague memories of watching it on network TV as a child) that could likely inspire a good podcast. Director Gillermin definitely delivers something different and very much of its time, dodging all the racial stereotypes and injects a more environmentally conscious narrative that sees poor King Kong becoming the victim of us humans. For movie geeks that support remakes trying something new, the Dino de Laurentiis fueled “King Kong” definitely offers just that. Everything staged with different set pieces and there’s the humanizing of King Kong that the original movie didn’t really do much of.

The movie is primarily an interesting showcase for the master Rick Baker, who does everything he can to bring King Kong to life. This is tough considering in 1976 we were a long way off from delivering convincing giant monster movies (stop motion was slowly being phased out). Baker, nevertheless offers up a slew of methods including animatronics, men in suits, and green screen, and while its aged as well as store bought cheese, it adds to the admirable ambition for such a cheesy reworking.

Scream Factory includes the original two hour theatrical version as well as the very rare three hour television version of “King Kong.” This version includes new footage that has very rarely ever been seen or featured in home physical releases, and should serve as a treat for hardcore fans that want more narrative and a more epic aesthetic.

Disc 1 features two audio commentaries with Ray Morton and master Rick Baker. On Top Of The World is a twelve minute discussion with production manager Brian Frankish and assistant director David McGiffert, both of whom reflect on their journey with the film and some of the triumphs and dangers making the film. When The Monkey Dies Everybody Cries is a fourteen minutes zoom call with production assistants Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thaler who were known as “messengers” in the credits back then, and discuss how they made their way to Hollywood and go through all the weird odds and ends that happened to them during the production of the film.

Maybe In Their Wildest Dreams is a five minute talk with Sculptor Steve Varner who shares stories about the 40 foot Kong used in the movie and the giant hand as well as stories about Carlo Rambaldi. Something’s Haywire is six minutes with Actor Jack O’Halloran, via a beach background on his zoom call, who reflects on the long shoot. He reveals that he is not a fan of director Guillerman but praises Jessica Lange. From Space To Apes talks with Photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan, formerly of aerospace who discusses the blue screen/composite work. There’s A Fog Bank Out There includes Second Unit Director Bill Kronick, who reflects on his work and being “stunned” upon seeing Jessica Lange and filming her the first time.

There are two Theatrical Trailers, Television Spots, Radio Spots, and Image Galleries including Movie Stills, Posters and Lobby Cards, Behind the Scenes, and Newspaper Ads. Disc two includes the hour long 2016 King Kong Panel Discussion From The Aero Theater as moderated by author Ray Morton and featuring Jack O’Halloran, Richard H. Kline, Rick Baker, Martha de Laurentiis and Richard Kraft. Finally, there’s the Easter Egg of the NBC Promos advertising the world television premiere of the two night “King Kong” event.