On the heels of its initial theatrical release, with the
experience fresh in their minds and the wall of critical opposition not
yet set in stone, Famous Monsters of
Filmland Magazine published a sampling of the letters received
from readers in response to seeing King
Kong 1976 for the first
time. The magazine's legendary editor, Forrest J.
Ackerman, had long made it clear how he felt about the entire idea of
remaking Kong, especially Kong without Willis O'Brien stop-motion
effects, a position which only
hardened once the movie came out.
Nonetheless, professional that he was, Forry put aside his
bias. Where he might have easily weighted his choices in
favour of those who hated the movie, instead, a count reveals that more
than half the letters were favourable. Alas, to Forry, this was
enough. He explained that he felt, for the $24 million De
Laurentiis lavished on Kong, better
(read: stop-motion) filmmakers could have made an "infinitely superior"
remake instead of "half our readers loving the new Kong and half hating
it." Wow, tough crowd!
Disagree with him though we may, we owe Forry a debt of gratitude for publishing those letters, without which we would not be able to look back and catch at least a glimpse of the view from street level.
So, it is January 1977. Snow is thick on the
streets. At the newstand, you buy the latest copy of Famous Monsters, a Basil Gogos painting of Lon
Chaney Sr. in fright make-up on the cover and an ad for the early version
iconic John Berkey Kong poster on the back. The subheading
article about the old Outer Limits inside, but that isn't what
caught your eye. Another subheading did that: "King Kong
While we applaud Forry for publishing a representative
sample of letters both pro and con, we here at Kingdom Kong feel no
such compulsion. For nearly three decades we've heard from the
nay side. Let's turn the clock back, and see the world that might
have been, that was
. Let's hear from the other side...
|Grey Boozell: "One of the best films I have ever
seen. Altho nothing can compare to the stupendous 1933 version, I
still think that there's something to be said for the Dino
production. The movie used many of the same elements which made
the 1933 version such a great classic. Mr. De Laurentiis gave
Kong the same type of feeling that RKO's Kong captured so many years
ago. He kept Kong from becoming just a mindless monster (à
"Overall, I feel that the work of Dino De Lauentiis should not be scoffed at as a cheap remake but looked on as a complement to the great 1933 masterpiece."
Bill Hart: "My wife and I loved the new King Kong. We have seen the original, which we liked very much, but we feel the new version is far more realistic & has greater emotional content. Any further coverage you give this film will be greatly appreciated."
Douglas D. Seifert: "Great! Rick Baker as Kong is great, the plot is good, acting above average and special effects wonderful. I am a Kongophile to the greatest extent and I say that without a doubt King Kong by Dino De Laurentiis is the fantasy movie event of the century."
Sgt. John L. Jacobs: "It was better than I thought it would be but not as good as I'd hoped for. One thing I particularly did not like was the way Kong was made to walk. He didn't walk like an ape but like a man; erect is not natural for any ape. Some of Kong's facial expressions were down-right pitiful.
"I'd like to point out some good things about the movie. One scene I was really pleased with was when Kong was smashing his way thru the ancient gate on the island. Also, the eyes of Kong were what a gorilla's eyes should've looked like."
Steve Harm: "Really amazing. The acting and capture of Kong was super. And when Kong mutilated the helicopter atop the World Trade Towers the whole audience cheered."
David Bullbear: "A masterpiece of special effects and the best movie all year I have seen. The 40-foot robot was flawless and Kong's final stand atop the World Trade Center was the best scene in the movie. The miniatures and Kong's rampage thru New York were perfect. King Kong will be a classic for the next 440-years plus."
John Walsh: "I loved every minute of it."
Terry Gray: "Re: Kong 76. It works, albeit with some detractions. We can remember that Dracula (1931) too suffered from lack of continuity when Freund's visuals gave way to the stilted London sequences. In Kong 76 the special effects worked. The musical score, tho not a classic, was professional & enjoyable. The humor was perhaps no cornier tha some of the original dialogue. Grodin was perfect. Not by any means a great acting job but it was obvious that he enjoyed doing the picture. His enthusiasm showed. Bridges' timing was off the whole picture. He perhaps didn't give a hoot about the picture; it seemed that way. The editing was smooth. The audience I saw it with enjoyed the picture. The eroticism was tasteful, the ending perhaps gratuitously violent. Too much so for my 6-year-old, anyway; ditto for the PG language, tho maybe I'm over reacting. In many ways, I dare to say, Kong 76 surpasses the original. Waiting for the flak."
T.W. Meade: "I certainly am glad Mr. De Laurentiis did not listen to all of those who said a remake would be a disaster. In my opinion the new King Kong was fantastic. The special effects were superb. There was nothing phony or embarrassingly obvious about them. I think the scene when Kong allows Dwan to shower under the waterfall and then dries her with his breath is destined to become a classic. It was very amusing & very touching. I did not care for the bloodiness of the ending until I heard Mr. De Laurentiis on the Tomorrow Show (December 20th) describe Kong's death as an execution. Saying there was a message in it, of what man is doing to all the beautiful animals of the world. Let us just hope that all the right people get the message."
Bob Statzer: "The best science fiction film since King Kong (1933). The original Kong is the best fantasy film around with the new film coming in second. The facial expressions of Kong & his actions in this new film are really touching. The audience in the theater went wild when Kong crushed the helicopters; everyone stood up & cheered & applauded. You could feel the audience's emotions thruout the film, especially at the end; you could feel the sympathy the audience had for Kong."
Eugene Greenbeck: "Superior to the original. Kong much more human. Not just a monster. After knocking the men off the log, Kong searches for Jeff Bridges. Washing Dwan off after his doll got dirty, then blow-drying her! Heading for the buildings that resembled home; jumping to the next tower when the men with the flamethrowers burnt him, then throwing things at them to kill them. It goes on & on. The character that Fay Wray portrayed in '33 screamed too much. The exclusion of transporting the King to New York in the RKO original was a big mistake. Paramount knew what could be done with this and they did a great job. King Kong himself came across almost 100% real-looking with his varied facial expressions. The relation in size to Kong & his surroundings was much better than the 1933 classic.
"I fully expected the audience to laugh and ridicule the movie. This was not the case; not a snicker did I hear. Everyone took the movie seriously and walked out glassy-eyed & bummed out after Kong's death. Getting this kind of reaction nowadays out of a movie is stupendous in itself. King Kong 1977 thoroughly satisfied me as it did many people."
Colleen Hayden: "Well, you can stop holding your breath. The new Kong is a hit -- with me at any rate. It is doubtful that it will reach the classic stature of the '33 version -- and no one should try to compare the two. Look at the recent version. Gone are the marvelous dinosaurs, the marvelous stop-motion techniques of W. O'Brien. The one remaining monster aside from Kong is the giant snake. Intact is the log-over-the-precipice sequence; the natives who kidnap the blond for the wedding march; the ambitious exploiters (in this case a major oil co. looking for a new "gusher" on the island) and of course the abortive fiasco campaign in New York. Leave us not forget the Twin Towers that replace the Empire State Building as Kong's Waterloo.
"So what has this film to offer? First we have a clever updating of the original story, surprisingly wry, tongue-in-cheek--dialogue in place of the corn of 30's version, added dimension (as well as new names for the characters). As for the blond, Dwan, she is probably more vapid, more brainless than the original Ann Darrow. I'm still trying to decide whether or not Dwan would have been better off screaming her head off thru most of the film instead of spouting such "eloquent" euphemisms as "I'm Libra... what's your sign? I'll bet you're an Aries..." or "Kong, this isn't going to work, you & me..." Added to the fact is that she is a giddy, shapely "starlet". I suspect women libbers in the film industry today will be up in arms about this before long. Dwan has one thing to her credit: her growing sympathy for Kong, a sympathy everyone in the audience feels for the "big ape".
"And what of King Kong? Thanks to clever mechanics -- and Rick Baker's excellent artwork (let's hear it for Baker!) -- we have a "beast" whose facial expressions alter from childish delight to puzzlement to anguish to helpless rage. His movements are easily coordinated, not stiff and mechanized. So lovable & endearing are the human qualities of Kong that we feel a helpless rage at the cruel usage he is subjected to. By the time the helicopters are blasting Kong off the towers, the theater-goers were quite willing to blast the copters. As I said before, compared to the original, M.C. Cooper can rest easily in his grave. By itself, however, the new Kong is great entertainment."
Dr. Livingston: "There will never be another Frankenstein like the Karloff version. There will never be another Dracula like the original Lugosi Dracula. And there will never be another Kong like the fantastic O'Brien creation. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the sequels & remakes of these films! Especially the new Dino Kong. It's not the original but, to me at least, it is a classic in its own right!"
Rob Skir: "I have just seen Dino De Laurentiis' King Kong. I have no doubt that it will be 1976-77's greatest hit. It was FANTASTIC!!!! How do you feel about it?"