King Kong Lives

“King Kong Lives” is really a beautiful meditation on how the powerful
bonds of love can lead to the triumph of two stunt-men in ape suits and
mechanical heads over the United States military. Well, maybe
stunt-women, at least as applies to Queen Kong, a powerful beauty that
happens to catch the eye of a certain King of the Apes. Director John
Guillermin, apparently fulfilling some deal with Satan, thrust this
ludicrous sequel upon an unsuspecting American public ten years after
assault on all that is good about cinema, the most unnecessary re-make
of all time, 1976′s “King Kong.” Rejoice, friends, MGM is finally
bringing this blockbuster (which includes the monkey-man burping after
eating a plastic alligator) to DVD in September.

Keep in mind while we’re going over the plot that none of this
is made up, and legendary producer Dino De Laurentis actually thought it
was worth pouring some serious scratch into. It turns out, the film
begins, that after the army blew the Kongster off the top of the Empire
State building, a crack team from the primate department of a
prestigious, fictional university has been holding the beast in hopes of
getting it some sort of blood transfusion. Just as the heart surgeon
(Linda Hamilton) declares that without a miracle the King will leave the
building, we cut to Africa, where a thrill-seeking adventurer (do these
people exist?) happens upon a female Kong, just in time to save the big
guy’s life!

Yea for modern medicine and giant monkey-libidos, for no sooner
is Kong up on his big feet, his heart not-yet healed, willing to destroy
half the community because he can, uh, smell the female. Guillermin and
Laurentis set us this pheromone-crazed Kong as so randy he can break
through steal just to get a glimpse of his perspective mate. I can’t
really blame the big ape, if I thought I were the only one of my
species, and I suddenly, after a long year of being plucked from my
natural habitat and shot off buildings, I met (smelled) the first girl
I’d ever known, I may be a little amorous myself. However, bummer of
bummers, “King Kong Lives” is only rated PG-13, leaving all the
ape-lovin’ to the imagination. Instead, we get a fairly domestic
“Will-you-please-pick-(presumably)-giant-fleas-off-of
my-shoulder”-scene.

Meanwhile, Hamilton and the adventurer (Brian Kerwin) pursue the
apes and hate each other. Whoops, looks like after a couple of
arguments they realize he’s not a rouge and she’s not as frigid as he
thought! I smell love further up the evolutionary ladder! Soon the
military, lead by character actor John Ashton, is determined to catch
the Kongs before they procreate and start collecting welfare. However,
after catching the female, the big guy falls into the water and cracks
his giant head open. “Not even your Kong could survive that” says
Ashton. Is he right? Could this be the end? Are there still 45
minutes left in the movie? Doesn’t Ashton know the title?

“King Kong Lives” is a rare treat, in that it is so bad it is
great. The ’76 remake was bad and offensive, bastardizing one of the
greatest monsters in film history. This one leaves the sacred alone and
delves so far into serious 1980s-giant-monster-movie camp that it’s a
shame the actors don’t seem to get it. Hamilton takes her monkey-doctor
so seriously you start to question her sanity, and Kerwin seems to
believe that he’s an up-and-coming Indiana Jones, all snark and charm
(well, he tries). The monkey heads probably looked state-of-the-art at
the time, clearly electronic but with full articulation. Every time we
get a long shot of the apes, however, they are clearly people in suits,
which adds to the inept hilarity.

“King Kong Lives” is not a good movie, and 20th Century Fox
wastes no money on it, releasing it with no special features, unless you
count scene selection. Not even a trailer, which would no doubt have
added to the laughs. Picture and sound are fine, Dolby Digital and the
whole deal, but really, does anyone care? I can’t recommend this as a
film, but I personally will watch it again, and probably place it next
to “Manos: The Hands of Fate” and “Plan 9 from Outer Space” on my DVD
shelf.

 

Official Score