• King Kong (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: October 2nd, 2020.
    Director: John Guillermin
    Cast: Charles Grodin, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lang, John Randolph, Rene Auberjonois, Julius Harris, Jack O'Halloran
    Year: 1976
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    King Kong – Movie Review:

    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.

    King Kong – Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment releases King Kong in a 2.35.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with the feature taking up 22.7GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Generally speaking, the picture quality here is good, improving quite a bit over past DVD editions of the film in terms of detail and color reproduction. There are a couple of spots (when fog gets heavy, explosions appear on screen or things get very dark), where some obvious compression artifacts pop up but otherwise there isn’t much to gripe about here at all. The image is always nice and clean, showing no noticeable print damage at all. This isn’t reference quality but it looks pretty nice.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The 5.1 mix is solid, using the surround channels effectively during action scenes, while keeping most of the dialogue up front and center in the mix. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note here, and the levels are balanced well.

    Making Kong is a twenty-two-minute featurette which is hosted by film journalist Rich Klein. It covers De Laurentiis’ work, the importance and influence of the original film from 1933, the themes and ideas that the movie toys with, the morality of its message, the political climate in which the picture was made, the contributions of the cast and crew and plenty more. Lots of clips and archival photos used throughout this piece, it's quite interesting.

    We also get a theatrical trailer for the feature as well as approximately fourteen-minutes of deleted scenes (some of which includes more with the giant snake!) in addition to menus and chapter selection.

    King Kong – 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. Umbrella’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds decent and has some nice extras too. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized King Kong Blu-ray screen caps!