Since establishing this King Kong '76 fan site something like two years ago, I have received many letters from fans of the film. Some wrote to compliment the site, for which I am eternally grateful (and keep those letters coming, Kongoisseurs!). Others wrote with specific questions, asking, for example, whether I knew how to get their paws on the three hour extended version. But all wrote for one main reason -- because they had spent the last twenty-some years thinking they were virtually alone in their appreciation of King Kong '76. I hope, if my site has accomplished anything, it has shown that (in the tagline from another block buster of the seventies), WE ARE NOT ALONE! King Kong '76 was a huge success when it first came out, and it remains a success lo these many years later in the hearts and minds of those who remember.
Anyway, having said that,
I recently received a letter from a fan which so perfectly captured the
spirit and enthusiasm, the nostalgia and wistful memories of that Christmas
so many years ago, that I just had to ask the author for permission to
post it here at Kingdom Kong. Permission was kindly granted, and
so here it is. Thanks goes to RD Heath and you can reach him at email@example.com.
A google search for the 76 Kong on DVD led me to your fine site. My compliments on your tastes in movies, giant gorillas and very talented, beautiful blonde actresses.
I too as a boy, all of 11 then and fast going on 12, was captivated by this fine and unjustly underrated film. Unknowingly, as I walked into the old Center theater, that hallowed repository of so many glorious memories which sadly no longer stands, I was on my way to my first big adolescent crush courtesy of Jessica Lange's fine performance as Dwan. I came for the beast but, like him, got ensnared by the beauty. Then found myself manfully fighting back the tears at the end, as I held the hand of my gently weeping Mother.
For you and I the timing of that film could not have been better. We were just old enough to appreciate most of its subtleties, yet young enough still to be captivated by the magic...by the epic grandeur, by magnificent cinematography and, for the time, groundbreaking effects, by the playful humor and tragic, almost bitter sweet ending. We could easily overlook its minor flaws and even today, over a quarter century later, still do.
But, alas, the very timing that worked so much in our favor, proved a foe to our Kong and his charming blind date. Just a year earlier, in '75, another blockbuster monster flick, Jaws, hit the big screens. Then, as you pointed out, only months later (though to our young calendars it seemed more like years) Star Wars came along.
So not only did our Kong have to battle helicopter gunships, flame throwers, and the ghost of Willis O'Brien's rabbit fur covered metal puppet, he had to contend with the greatest of all white sharks and the galactic empire!
As sadly inevitable as his final fall from the Trade Center, our mighty Kong was reduced, in the eyes of many, to mere monkey meat, sandwiched between two other cinematic giants. But for us, our Kong, will always be their equal. For he is indeed OUR Kong...let the other generations have THEIR Kong clutching a hysterically screaming, writhing Fay (Who did literally go apeshit). We'll take our Kong gently cradling Jessica as he dries her off. (As you suggest perhaps it was the humanizing of the monster as well as the heroine that most critics along with many audience members couldn't handle..but thankfully we could).
Our Kong embodied our own early adolescent fears, hopes and awkwardness, mightier even than our own newly raging hormones yet ultimately as frail, confused and vulnerable as his weeping bride.
Then came 9/11/2001, and for nearly a year our Kong was forced into exile merely by the fact that the World Trade Center was the only location on Manhattan Island which most closely resembled his natural habitat on Skull Island. His fictional demise there was thought to be too much of a reminder of the real tragedy...even as the media barraged us with images of it every chance they got. So now our Kong must battle terrorists and the horrible memories they created. But in this battle, at least with me, he will prevail, for whenever I see the 76 Kong, which is much more a retelling than a remake, I don't think of the events of 9-11, but instead hearken back to the old Center theater, to that magical time and place and the movies which made them so. The building is gone but the sweet memories endure, along with my abiding crush on Jessica Lange.
Thanks for sharing yours with me and for allowing me to share mine.