• King Kong

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: June 7th, 2017.
    Director: John Guillermin
    Cast: Charles Grodin, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lang, John Randolph, Rene Auberjonois, Julius Harris, Jack O'Halloran
    Year: 1976

    The Movie:

    This 1976 take on the classic story, directed by John Guillermin for producer Dino De Laurentiis, begins when Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), the man in charge at Petrox Oil, puts together an expedition to head out to a newly discovered island in the South Pacific in search of gas reserves. What he doesn’t know but soon learns is that there’s a stowaway on his ship in the form of Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges). He’s a paleontologist who knows that their destination, Skull Island, is believed to still contain a very vibrant and unique ecosystem consisting not just of the flora and fauna you’d expect, but also, reportedly at least, some prehistoric beasts. Along for the ride is an actress named Dwan (Jessica Lange) whose career has seen better days. Rescued from a raft on the way to the island, she’s hoping her experiences on this trip will give her the break she needs to get things back on track.

    The expedition lands on the shore and soon enough make their way inland. Of course, it doesn’t take long Prescott to be proven right when the group come face to face with the island’s most famous resident, a giant ape referred to as Kong. Eventually the mammoth beast kidnaps Dwan leaving Prescott to save her. At the same time, Wilson sees an opportunity to make a whole lot of money. When he manages to get the ape into a trap, he brings Kong back to New York City by boat, where, after being put on display, he goes on a rampage…

    Nominated for two Oscars (and one of them for the effects work done by Carlo Rambaldi and Rick Baker), this take on King Kong works quite well. The cast are all fine in their respective role and do a decent enough job with what they’ve been given. Bridges in particular is quite likeable here, his character contrasts nicely with Grodin’s exceptionally greedy oil tycoon in interesting ways. Lange isn’t given as much to do dramatically as the other leads but she’s solid in her part and she plays the ‘beauty’ to Kong’s beast rather well.

    Really though, as you’d guess, the real reason to seek this film out is the effects work. King Kong and the other denizens of Skull Island get quite a bit of screen time in this picture, and it’s a blast seeing Kong take on some of the island’s other inhabitants (no dinosaurs unfortunately but we do get a pretty cool giant snake). Of course, in the latter half of the picture the big ape goes solo, at least as far as the monsters in the movie go. Once he’s in New York, all eyes are on him as he tears through various Manhattan landmarks and winds up atop the World Trade Center buildings for the picture’s big finish.

    This one doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it plays things fairly close to the 1933 original. If it doesn’t really improve on that film it stills manages to present a uniquely seventies feeling take on the classic story, complete with plenty of action and some excellent pre-CGI effects work.


    Umbrella Entertainment releases King Kong in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks pretty good, though which is not without some issues. Some mild compression artifacts show up now and then and shadow detail is a bit shaky. There are some shots that look softer than others – an issue with how it was shot, most likely – but detail overall probably could have been better even by DVD standards. Still, if the movie deserves a properly high definition release, this is at least a perfectly acceptable way to watch it until that happens.

    Audio options are provided in English language Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo tracks. Both options sound fine and offer clean, clear dialogue. The stereo mix is obviously the more authentic of the two options, while the 5.1 obviously spreads things out a bit – mostly just score placement and effects, keeping the dialogue more or less up front.

    Extras are slim here, but we do get a theatrical trailer for the feature as well as approximately four minutes of deleted scenes (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, some of which includes more with the giant snake!) in addition to menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The 1976 version of King Kong has a bad reputation, but honestly the movie was and still is a whole lot of fun. It might not best the original but it offers up its own take on the classic story, some impressive set pieces, a solid cast and some seriously interesting, if clearly dated, effects work. In a perfect world we’d have been given a Blu-ray release. That didn’t happen and until it does, Umbrella’s DVD release is a perfectly fine way to enjoy the picture.