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King Kong is a 1976 American motion picture produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by John Guillermin. It is a remake of the 1933 classic King Kong, about how a giant ape is captured and imported to New York Citymarker for exhibition.

The remake's screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on the original movie story written by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, which had been adapted into the 1933 screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose. It starred Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and Jessica Lange, in her first movie role, playing a part similar to the one made famous in the original by Fay Wray.

Plot summary

The remake differs from the original in several major story details. It is set in modern times, and instead of a film production crew, King Kong's world is invaded by a petroleum corporation’s exploratory team. Fred Wilson (Grodin), an executive of the Petrox Oil Company, forms the expedition based on infrared imagery which reveals a previously undiscovered Indian Oceanmarker island hidden by a permanent cloud bank; Wilson believes the island has a huge depository of oil, and has promised his bosses he will come back with “the big one.” Jack Prescott (Bridges), a primate paleontologist, sneaks onto the expedition’s enormous vessel en route and attempts to warn the team against completing its mission, citing an ominous final message about "the roar of the greatest beast" from previous doomed explorers. Wilson orders Prescott locked up, claiming that he is really a spy from a rival corporation. However, while being led below deck, Prescott spots a small life raft in the ocean and convinces members of the crew to search the raft. On board is the beautiful Dwan (Lange) who states her name is really Dawn but spelled to make it more notable. Prescott’s medical experience enables him to perform a cursory exam of Dwan, who, after awakening, tells Prescott that she is a wannabe actress who was aboard a director's yacht which suddenly exploded, apparently killing everybody except for her. During the ship’s ongoing voyage, Prescott and Dwan become attracted to each other.

Once arriving at the island, the team soon discovers a primitive tribe of natives who live within the confines of a gigantic wall, built to protect them from a mysterious god known as Kong. The team quickly finds that while there is a large deposit of oil, it is of such low quality that is unusable. The natives kidnap Dwan, drug her, and attempt to use her as a sacrifice to Kong, tying her to an altar outside of their walled village and chanting ominously the word “Kong” over and over again. The captive Dwan begins to scream in horror as something gigantic slowly approaches, crashing loudly through the jungle trees until it reveals itself as a monumental ape standing triumphantly over her, who then grabs her and departs back into the jungle. Although an awesome and terrifying sight, the soft hearted Kong quickly becomes tamed by Dwan, whose rambling sweet talk calms and fascinates the monstrous beast.

In the meantime, Prescott and First Mate Carnahan (Ed Lauter) lead a rescue mission to save Dwan. Kong takes Dwan back to a waterfall. He washes her, and then uses a great gust of his warm breath for a blow-dry. Prescott, Carnahan, and their party have the misfortune of catching up to Kong while crossing a log bridge spanning an abyss, and Kong rolls the huge log, sending Carnahan and the rest of the sailors falling to their deaths. Prescott and Boan are the only ones to survive. Kong then takes Dwan to his lair. Just as he slowly begins to undress his "bride", a giant snake appears and attacks the pair. Prescott finds Dwan, and as a battle of the beasts ensues, they escape. Kong rips the jaw of the snake open, causing blood and flesh to expose. Kong then chases the pair back to the native village, only to fall into a hole and be smothered with chloroform.

Without any of the promised new oil, Wilson decides to transport Kong to America as a promotional gimmick for his company. Brought back aboard an oil tanker, Kong is fed with wooden crates filled with fruit, and kept in the dark. When they finally reach New York, Kong is put on display in a beauty and the beast farce, bound in chains with a big crown on his head, and exhibited to the masses. Finally being mobbed by reporters, and exposed to dozens of bright camera flashes, the unhappy ape goes berserk, breaking his chains and terrorizing the city in an orgy of destruction. Wilson trips while running away and Kong steps on him, killing him instantly. The ape also destroys a subway train. Prescott and Dwan flee across the Queensboro Bridgemarker across the water to Manhattan; since apes can't swim they think that they are safe. However, because of his great size Kong is large enough to simply walk across the Hudson River. They stop at an abandoned bar so that Jack can call the military and tell them where Kong is headed. Before he walks into the bar he gazes up at the World Trade Centermarker and has a Dejavu (he says he's "seen that view before"). While in the bar Jack decides before he calls the military he needs a drink. While talking to Dwan he realizes "where" he's seen the view before. He storms outside and takes a second look. He is shocked to see the World Trade Center looks almost identical to two large rocks in Kongs native habitat. He then immidiantly calls the military and tells them to let Kong climb to the top of the Trade Center. Kong locates Dwan and she allows him to take her; he then begins to make his way to the World Trade Centermarker, with Jack and the military in hot pursuit.

In the climax, Kong climbs the South Tower of the World Trade Center. After being attacked by men with flame throwers while standing on the roof, Kong flees by leaping across to the North Tower. Later, he is attacked by helicopters while Dwan is trying to stop them. The fatally injured Kong falls from the roof to the World Trade Center plaza, where he dies from his injuries. Dwan cries and is bombarded by a sea of photographers for the New York Daily News. She desperately wants to be hugged by Jack (this is becuase she is heartbroken that Kong is dead, and that she has been through so much excitement). The crowd is so big though that Dwan can't even get close to Jack. She stands still and is photographed relentlessly by reporters while Kong lay dead in a pool of blood and broken concrete. She cries until the credits role.

Dwan played by Jessica Lange



Despite lacking the critical reception of the 1933 original and the more faithful 2005 version, King Kong was commercially successful, earning Paramount Pictures back over triple its budget. The film ended up at #5 on Variety's chart of the top domestic (U.S.) moneymakers of 1977. (The film was released in December 1976 and therefore earned the majority of its money during the early part of 1977.) The film made approximately $80 million worldwide on a $24 million budget.

While the film received mostly mixed responses from critics at the time of its initial release, especially from fans of the original King Kong, it did obtain positive reviews from several prominent critics. Pauline Kael in The New Yorker, Richard Schickel in Time, Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, and 'Murf' in Variety, among others, responded favorably to the film's pathos and (often campy) sense of humor. Kael, in particular, truly loved the film, noting "I don't think I've ever before seen a movie that was a comic-strip great romance in the way this one is — it's a joke that can make you cry." The performances by Bridges and Grodin were generally well regarded, and even the film's detractors found Richard H. Kline's Academy Award-nominated cinematography and John Barry's musical score noteworthy.

Currently, critical response to King Kong continues to be mixed. Of the 24 reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes regarding the title, 54% reflect negative reactions. According to Entertainment Tonight's Leonard Maltin, the film "...has great potential; yet it dispels all the mythic, larger-than-life qualities of the original with idiotic characters and campy approach."

The movie's success and notoriety helped launch the career of Jessica Lange, although she reportedly received some negative publicity regarding her debut performance that, according to film reviewer Marshall Fine, "almost destroyed her career".

Although Lange won the Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female for Kong, she did not appear in another film for three years and spent that time training intensively in acting.

Other notable actors in the cast, some in early roles, include Rene Auberjonois (Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Boston Legal), Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law), Jack O'Halloran (Superman, Superman II, Dragnet) and Joe Piscopo.

The film received an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, an award it shared with Logan's Run (1976).

King Kong found new and sustained life on television. NBC bought the rights to air the movie and it was a rating success. NBC paid De Laurentiis $19.5 million for the rights to two showings over five years; the highest amount any network had ever paid for a film at that time. This led De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (with Canadian distribution by Paramount) to make a sequel called King Kong Lives (1986), starring Linda Hamilton. Unlike the 1976 remake, the sequel was a commercial failure.

DVD Release

Momentum Pictures released this film on DVD in 2001 on the Region 2 label with a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer. This has now been deleted according to the online retailer site Zavvi. Optimum Releasing has confirmed a new re-release of this film on Region 2 with deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer from the previous issue. There are only 2 deleted scenes on the DVD. This is the extended scene of the brawl between Kong and the Snake. The other scene is the demise of Wilson at the New York unveiling of Kong.

Extended television version

When King Kong made its network TV debut on NBC in 1978, a number of scenes deleted from the theatrical version were reinstated to make the film longer. Most fans of the remake agree that the extended version of the film works much better than the original truncated release. This version also features several changes to the John Barry score, including entirely alternate cues in places that no music existed in the theatrical version, as well as several different edits of cues. This may actually indicate that the version was an early workprint of the film, before it went through its final editing stages. While this is the first of the Kong films to have an extended cut, the second one is the 2005 remake of King Kong. The deleted/extended scenes are not yet released on DVD but 5, 9 and 10 have been included as extras in the deleted scene section on the current Region 2 DVD release. The newly added sequences included:

  1. A lengthy scene in a Surubaya bar showing Prescott drugging a Petrox crewman. This explains the plot point mentioned later about Prescott wearing a Petrox crew jersey.
  2. A scene of Joe and Boan playing cards and being interrupted by a Captain Ross on the loudspeaker calling all hands to assemble in the mess room. Boan wisecracking about Petrox bought by Howard Hughes and working for the CIA.
  3. A scene of Prescott locked in his room, filmed through a porthole as he asks for something to eat.
  4. A scene of Garcia spying on Dwan while she's showering, by being held by his ankles over the side of the ship so he can peer through the porthole. Jack happens by, and tickles Timmons until he drops Garcia.
  5. An extended scene of the first landing on the island, featuring extended shots during travel through the fog bank. This scene also features alternate never-before-heard music cues by John Barry.
  6. An extended scene of the first confrontation with the Natives at the wall -- shots are lengthened and dialogue is overlapped & repeated here which again indicates a "workprint cut" of the feature.
  7. A scene in which Dwan is reading a book and smoking a cigarette and happens by the sonar scope -- noticing the red "blip" on the island, which is of course Kong.
  8. Extended shots of the Natives paddling through the fog towards the ship and also after they kidnap Dwan.
  9. A scene showing the crew watching an old movie on TV.
  10. Extended shots of the Natives and the Native Chief dancing before a drugged Dwan.
  11. New shots of the Natives oiling up the bolt of the gate.
  12. A scene in which the radar observer notices Kong on the scope and phones Wilson.
  13. A scene of Roy Bagley observing the oil-like substance under a microscope, he starts to laugh hysterically, swigs some wine and calls for a boat to take him ashore.
  14. A scene of Kong walking up towards the log when the crew is on it.
  15. Extended shots of Petrox crewman recovering air-drop packages.
  16. An extended shot of Kong walking into his domain.
  17. A longer battle between Kong and the gigantic snake, ends with an alternate take of Kong killing the snake and pounding his chest.
  18. Extended footage of Kong chasing Jack and Dwan, including a shot where Kong pauses to sniff the air and locate Dwan's scent and another where Dwan collapses and tells Jack she can't make it and "have a drink for me at the Brown Derby!"
  19. Extended footage of Kong breaking through the gate.
  20. Extended shots of the Natives coming out of hiding to witness Kong in the chloroform pit.
  21. Extended shots of Kong getting cranky in the tank and also sniffing Dwan's handkerchief which falls across him when Jack and her are making-out up on deck.
  22. A shot of Dwan saying, "Oh God he's hurting himself!" as they hear him pounding the walls after Jack takes her back to his cabin.
  23. Extended shots of Dwan leaving Jack; Kong going nuts in the oil tank and causing various destruction.
  24. Before Jack enters Dwan's dressing room he is confronted by a security guard.
  25. Additional dialogue between Dwan and Wilson.
  26. Additional shots of the helicopter above the Kong premiere; the parade and audience members.
  27. During Kong's rampage a Petrox head executive tells Wilson he's fired.
  28. After Kong steps on Wilson, the camera pulls back to reveal that all that's left in Kong's footprint is Wilson's hat.This shot was from the original script where Wilson was not stomped by Kong, only his hat.
  29. A scene of Dwan and Jack talking and running down a street trying to hot-wire a car.
  30. A scene of a car running in front of Kong, Kong picks it up and throws it against a building, where it explodes.
  31. A longer scene of Kong attacking the elevated train.
  32. A longer scene of Kong hiding from search helicopters at the East River waterfront.
  33. Additional dialogue between Jack and Dwan in the bar. This includes some critical dialogue that explains why Jack and Dwan don't end up together at the end of the film since Jack says that if Kong is killed, then neither of them would ever be able to look each other in the face again.
  34. Two brief, additional clips of the military guarding the Queensboro Bridge.
  35. An alternate, extended scene of Kong destroying the power station.
  36. A longer scene of the City Official concurring with military advisors at City Hall, including a general telling the official they don't have time to get Prescott's head examined, and another advisor telling the official that standing around won't get him votes.
  37. Extended scene of Kong peering in the window at Dwan in the bar.
  38. A short scene of a military official ordering jet fighters to be aborted and choppers sent in instead.
  39. A scene of Jack stealing a discarded ten-speed bike and racing after Kong down a New York street.
  40. Three short clips of Kong lumbering down Wall Street with Dwan in hand.
  41. A brief clip of the helicopter gunships taking off.
  42. An extended scene of Kong climbing the World Trade Center and pausing to rest a moment about halfway up.


The film score, composed and conducted by John Barry, was released on CD by both Mask and FSM in 2005. It is noticeably incomplete, however, missing at least two major cues from the film, notably the log rolling sequence, several extensions of cues already present on the soundtrack, and small restatements of the main theme. Otherwise, the track listing is as follows on both CDs:

  1. "The Opening"
  2. "Maybe My Luck Has Changed"
  3. "Arrival on the Island"
  4. "Sacrifice" / "Hail to the King"
  5. "Arthusa"
  6. "Full Moon Domain / Beauty Is a Beast"
  7. "Breakout to Captivity"
  8. "Incomprehensible Captivity"
  9. "Kong Hits the Big Apple"
  10. "Blackout in New York" / "How About Buying Me a Drink"
  11. "Climb to Skull Island"
  12. "The End Is at Hand"
  13. "The End"


  • According to King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon, director John Guillermin, known to have had outbursts from time to time on the set, got into a public shouting match with executive producer Federico De Laurentiis (son of producer Dino De Laurentiis). After the incident, Dino De Laurentiis was reported to have threatened to fire Guillermin if he did not start treating the cast and crew better.
  • On one of the nights of filming Kong's death at the World Trade Centermarker, over 30,000 people showed up at the site to be extra for the scene. Although the crowd was well behaved, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (owner of the World Trade Center complex) became concerned that the weight of so many people would cause the plaza to collapse, and ordered the producers to shut down the filming. However, the film makers had already got the shot they wanted of the large crowd rushing toward Kong's body. They returned to the site days later to finish filming the scene, with a much smaller crowd of paid extras.
  • According to King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon, Rick Baker, who designed the ape suit along with Carlo Rambaldi, was extremely disappointed in the final suit, which he felt wasn't at all convincing. He gives all the credit for its passable appearance to cinematographer Richard H. Kline.
  • According to King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon, the only time that the collaboration of Rick Baker and Carlo Rambaldi went smoothly was during the design of the mechanical Kong mask. Baker's design and Rambaldi's cable work combined to give Kong's face a wide range of expression that was responsible for much of the film's emotional impact. Baker gave much of the credit for its effectiveness to Rambaldi and his mechanics.
  • According to the Internet Movie Database, seven different masks were created by Carlo Rambaldi, and molded by Rick Baker to convey various emotions. Separate masks were necessary as there were too many cables and mechanics required for all the expressions to fit in one single mask. The masks were composed of a plastic skull over which were placed artificial muscle groups activated by cables which entered the costume through Kong's feet, with the outer latex skins molded by Baker placed over the top. The masks used hydraulics to provide movement, so much like the mechanical Kong and hands, the facial expressions were controlled by the team of operators working off-set with the control boards. To complete the look of a gorilla, Baker wore contact lenses so his eyes would resemble those of a gorilla.
  • Carlo Rambaldi's mechanical Kong was 40 ft (12 m) tall and weighed 6½ tons. It cost $1.7 million, and is the largest mechanical creature ever built. Despite months of preparation, the final device proved to be impossible to operate convincingly, and is only seen in a series of brief shots totalling less than 15 seconds.
  • The Wall, which was constructed on MGM's Lot 2, was originally designed to be a stone structure, similar to the 1933 version. Director John Guillermin changed it to a wooden structure because it looked more primitive. It was 47 ft (14 m) tall and 500 ft (108 m) long; the total cost was $800,000.
  • Producer Dino De Laurentiis first approached Roman Polanski to direct the picture.
  • According to King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon, to film the scene where the Petrox Explorer finds Dwan in the life raft, Jessica Lange spent hours in a rubber raft in the freezing cold, drenched and wearing only a slinky black dress. Although Lange wasn't aware of it, there were sharks circling the raft the entire time. (Shooting of this scene took place in the channel between Los Angeles and Catalina Island during the last week in January 1976.)
  • Some posters for the movie advertised it as "The most exciting original motion picture event of all time," although it was a remake.


  1. Kong climbed the Empire State Building in the 1933 film. The World Trade Center, completed in 1972, had replaced the Empire State Building as New York's tallest building.
  2. Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (includes listing of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1977 taken from Variety magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9
  3. Bahrenburg (1976): pp.218-228
  4. Bahrenburg (1976): p.204
  5. Bahrenburg (1976): p.118
  6. Bahrenburg (1976): p.19


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