The 'Lost Snake Scene'!

All loyal Kongoisseurs know about the "lost Spider Scene' from the original 1933 King Kong.  The Lost Spider Scene is the Holy Grail of Kongoisseurs. In the original cut, before its theatrical release, when the hapless crewmen fall from the log spanning the giant gorge, the fall doesn't kill them.  Instead, they land in mud in the bottom.  Then, some hideous giant spiders come scrambling out of caves and fall upon the screaming crewmen.  (The scene remains in the novelization by Delos W. Lovelace.)  Understandably, the filmmakers decided the scene was too horrific.  They felt it basically stopped the entire show, interfering with the roller-coaster ride they were aiming for.  So, they left it on the editing room floor.  And ever since, movie fans have lamented the loss of the Spider Scene, which, like sightings of Elvis, is reportedly recovered from time to time found tucked away in somebody's attic -- only to have the report turn out to be bogus.  Instead, fans have had to be content with the odd production drawing left over from the original storyboard or grainy production stills. 

When the 1976 remake of King Kong hit theatres, several small and not very crucial scenes were left out for various reasons.  A few years later, those scenes were restored and the "long version" -- 45 minutes longer -- was shown twice on NBC.  That "long version" has become the ultimate collectiible among fans of The '76.  Since  Paramount, for some inexplicable reason, didn't include the long version in its DVD release, and no official release of that version has ever been made, it only exists in pirated versions, traded over the Internet among fans. (Note: a French version 2-disc DVD is now available which includes most, though NOT all, the deleted scenes. It's available online from dvdrama.)

Which brings us to the "lost Snake Scene".

Just prior to the theatrical release of The '76,  the legendary monster movie magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, published an issue featuring a remarkably detailed summary of the as yet unreleased King Kong 1976.  (Forrest Ackerman,  the magazine's editor, made it clear that he was firmly against any remake, especially one that eschewed stop motion SFX.  I can't help but feel he would never have given away the entire screenplay of an unreleased movie, but for his disdain for the whole project.)  That summary was based on an early draft of Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s screenplay, as it had existed at the end of 1975.  Fully a year had passed since then.  Nonetheless, that summary was remarkably close to the version that ultimately made it to the theatres that Christmas of '76.

With one notable difference...

After Dwan has been carried off by Kong, Jack leads the crewmen into the jungle, determined to rescue her and also to plant seismic charges to map the geological structure of the island.  In the released version, the rescuers don't encounter any trouble until they meet up with Kong while trying to cross the log over the gorge.  But in the summary in Famous Monsters this is what we find prior to the log scene:

The search party continues thru the next day.  Most of the men believe Kong had long since destroyed the girl.  Their imaginations conjure ghastly ways in which the giant ape could have ended her life. 

Suddenly they feel the earth move under their feet.  An earthquake?  No!  Something alive is undulating beneath them -- something scaly and reptilian! 

A huge snake wraps its mammoth coils around one of the sailors, crushing the life from him as the others flee into the jungle in all directions. 

The snake follows for a little distance, gathering others into its huge maw, but eventually gives up the chase...and feasts.

After that, the survivors encounter the log over the gorge.  Later still, Kong battles this same snake when it tries to attack Dwan, just as in the final film.

A frequent criticism of The '76 was that it lacked the dinosaurs which were such a big part of the 1933 original.  As well, there was always something awkward about the sudden appearance of the giant snake in the full-moon wedding scene.  Until then, there had been no suggestion there might be other giant animals on Skull Island.  We can see that in the original screenplay, both those weaknesses would have been at least partly remedied.  The question then is -- how far did they get with this scene before dropping it?

The lost snake scene doesn't appear in the published screenplay, nor was it "restored" when Paramount broadcast the long version with 45 minutes of extra footage.  Chances are it never made it off the pages of that original screenplay.

On the other hand, it is well known how much trouble the filmmakers had with their giant snake when
filming the fight between the snake and Kong.   Isn't it possible that the filmmakers may have lensed the snake scene but left it on the cutting room floor because they felt the special effects just weren't working?   If so, it may still be out there somewhere, a Holy Grail for fans of The '76.

And, if not, it's still fun to imagine what might have been...

(Composite depicting imaginary 'Lost Snake Scene' by Jeffrey Blair Latta)

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