This first KING KONG remake from 1976 pushes the limits of the physical FX capabilities of the time, boasting an impressive and convincing Kong realized as a costumed character rather than the claymation that preceded it or the computerized beast that would follow decades later. The costume and animatronic face bring the legend to life, drawing empathy from the audience in its emotive eyes and gestures. While the FX hold up well now 30 years later, the limitations of working strictly in camera are also apparent in many scenes and missing footage; the epic battle between Kong and the dinosaurs has been compromised and replaced by a cheap rubber snake, and some of the arm movements edited over the green-screening don't match the body movement. Even so, the make-up work is incredible for the time. This version of the story finds an oil miner setting off to a mysterious island in search of the next motherload, when he discovers a stowaway Paleontologist on board that has sneaked on ship to find proof of a mythical ape that may inhabit the island. Along the way, they come across a stranded raft carrying a beautiful aspiring actress, and from there the party sets off to discover the giant ape that would later terrorize New York once the team decides it is more profitable to bring home than the oil they originally sought after. While Bridges and Grodin can be over the top at times, each of the players in the film offer strong performances that show some semblance of the original while distinguishing themselves as unique characters. Newcomer Lange is quirky and innocent, but is able to garner the audience's sympathy for the beast through their mutual affection by the end of the picture. The film is technically proficient in nearly every respect, with superior costuming, set design, and cinematography, but while it is an entertaining effort, it does not have the same strength or impact as the original film. It is a very good effort, and it has aged pretty well, so it is sure to appeal to any fans of the giant ape.
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