Release Date(s)1976 (November 4, 2020)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures/StudioCanal (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C-
[Editor’s Note: This Blu-ray release is strictly Region B.]
What seemed like heresy in 1976 eventually became a model for big budget studio remakes in the future: doing the same thing but with slightly different variables. The Dino De Laurentiis production of King Kong certainly follows that model. The characters have different names and come from different backgrounds and the film’s final minutes are in a different location, but it’s the same deal as last time. In the story, business tycoon Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) heads for a remote island where mass quantites of crude oil can be obtained, and stowaways Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) and Dwan (Jessica Lange) are along for the ride. Upon reaching the island, the natives take Dwan hostage and offer her as a sacrifice to Kong, and after the big guy falls in love with her (awkward), she escapes with the help of Jack. Realizing that the ape is worth more than the oil, Wilson manages to capture it and bring it back to civilization. Kong then cuts loose and snatches up Dwan again, climbing atop the World Trade Center, but with tragic consequences.
So a group of people wind up on an uncharted island, an oversized ape takes a woman hostage and must be rescued, the ape is caught and brought back to the real world, and the results are disastrous. Outside of Kong’s appearances in other Japanese monster movies, as well as the recent “Monsterverse,” the core storyline hasn't changed much. The effects are less charming than they were in 1933. They’re technically better since special effects technology had advanced in forty-three years, but a stop-motion character replaced by a man in a suit just doesn’t have the same impact. The characters are also less interesting. They’re no less thinly drawn, but there’s nothing appealing about them to make them worth rooting for. One certainly cannot argue that this version of King Kong’s greatest asset is its star attraction, driven by the design and execution of Carlo Rambaldi, Glen Robinson, and Rick Baker, but the final product is not as satisfying.
Umbrella Entertainment re-releases their Region B Blu-ray of King Kong after an out-of-print absense. It’s sourced from an older high definition master, one that doesn’t particularly hold up that well. Despite that, it’s still a natural presentation with high levels of grain, albeit chunky, and decent levels of detail. The color palette is nicely varied, in both the jungle and city settings. Blacks are nowhere near deep and brightness and contrast levels could use adustment. It’s also a stable presentation with only mild speckling and scratches leftover.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with no subtitle options. The presentation doesn’t really service the surround speakers all that much. Dialogue exchanges are discernable and John Barry’s score has plenty of heft, but sound effects are a tad lacking. It’s quite a boisterous soundtrack as well, louder than most as a volume adjustment might be in order. The track is also free of hiss, crackle, and dropouts.
The following extras are included, all in 50i (PAL):
- Making Kong (22:18)
- Deleted Scenes (8 in all – 13:51)
- Trailer (2:24)
The Making Kong segment is very low resolution as it dates back a couple of decades and features film critic and journalist Rich Cline and monster movie journalist M.J. Simpson speaking about the film, as well as the other Kong films up to that point in time. The Deleted Scenes are sourced from the TV version of the film. Missing from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases the world over is an image gallery and a couple of additional deleted scenes.
The 1976 King Kong definitely has merit. It isn’t a total mess, but it’s not as mysterious, enthralling, or endearing as the original. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is currently the best, and one of the few, availability options on home video. One can’t help but wonder if a million mile service for the film is somewhere on the horizon. Until then, this upgrade will certainly suffice.
- Tim Salmons