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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Monster > King Kong Lives

King Kong Lives


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: C-



One of the most abused Hollywood characters ever may be King Kong.  Outside of his fate in the original, still great 1933 classic and all the imitators and bizarre revivals, the character became public domain as RKO Studios faded away and no one expected anything of him.  After Toho revived the character with a somewhat Asian look for their stable of giant monsters lead by Godzilla, John Guillermin brought the character back the U.S. soil for the 1976 remake and this belated 1986 sequel, King Kong Lives.


Not a great remake, the 1976 version gave us Jessica Lange’s beauty, but not at her talented best, while Jeff Bridges found himself in another strange project.  That was shot with a big budget at Paramount and actually did some business.  It is now bizarre to see Kong climb The World Trade Center towers, instead of The Empire State Building, based on the idea that he would climb the largest structure in New York.  This sequel repeats the ending of the last film in one of the last pre-home video cases of sequelitis ever seen on the big screen.  That leaves both films haunted with the WTC buildings, one of their rare starring roles before the nightmare events of 9/11/01.


With that opening out of the way, we discover the government has been keeping Kong alive against all odds (but from the bad sets, not at all expense) all these years since and not only wants to give him an artificial heart, but jumps at the chance to have more Kongs when a female Kong suddenly surfaces.  Unfortunately, a terrible script beat both, penned by the otherwise reliable Ronald Shusett and the less-known Steven Pressfield.  Shusett even executive produced.


Brian Kerwin is forgettable as the male lead, while recently established by James Cameron’s first Terminator Linda Hamilton is the new “other” love interest for Kong.  However, they do not have much to do, the Army hunts down what it cannot control and why anyone expected that Kong here would be so sympathetic since he was not even established that well in the 1976 film is dumb.  What’s worse, the film takes the comic route early when character’s celebrating their love of Kong with signs have Fay Wray’s name on them.  That shows how out of control the production was, that there was no serious vision.  At least the first film took itself seriously enough.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is not too good, with the footage from the 1976 film looking better than the rest of the film.  The original was shot with real anamorphic Panavision lenses, as is this sequel, but you would think the set used here were somehow degraded.  The film was issued in old Dolby A-type analog theatrical sound, but Fox offers Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic mixes that both have problems.  The 5.1 is better, but both have warped moments and the distortion form the original film sound cannot be mixed out.  This film was never sonically impressive and no match for the Sensurround used on the first anyhow.  There are no extras here, not even a trailer, which is odd.  Dino De Laurentiis’ brief-lived movie studio De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) hoped this would be a hit, but it instead turned out to be one of the studio’s bombs that sealed the studio’s fate.  Only Michael Mann’s classic Manhunter (1985, reviewed elsewhere on this site) ever got better sound and picture release treatment (70mm Dolby Magnetic Stereo in blow-up prints), but is more typical of what the company sadly came up with.  Of course, De Laurentiis made several comebacks as one of the most successful producers in cinema history and Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson is doing a second big-budget remake of the original film.  What can he possibly do after every revival and Son Of Kong failed?  We’ll see.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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