This re-make of King Kong saw an oil company searching for black gold, the hottest commodity of the '70s and for Kong's demise, the twin towers of the World Trade Center replaced the Empire State Building in the original version.
The film took a tongue-in-cheek, campy attitude one minute, a serious one the next, making audiences uncertain as to the film's intent.
Instead of the miniature stop-motion animation invented by Willis O'Brien, this new Kong used a combination of effects to achieve what O'Brien had done on a tabletop back in the pioneering days of 1933. First there was makeup man Rick Baker in a monkey suit with five different facially expressive masks, depending on Kong's mood. Then there was a 40-foot-high mechanical ape weighing six-and-a-half tons, capable of wiggling his arm, rolling his neck, twitching his ears, rotating his hips, and smiling. There was also a hydraulically operated arm with a hand six feet across in which the gentle giant holds and caresses Ms. Lange. The genius behind this mechanical miracle was Carlo Rambaldi, who would go on to become one of the most sought-after effects men in Hollywood, later working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.
Employees of the Empire State Building expressed their displeasure at the producers' decision to stage the remake's climax at the World Trade Center by picketing the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building dressed in monkey suits.
The 40-foot Kong was constructed with a 3.5-ton aluminum frame, covered with rubber and 1,012 pounds of Argentinian horse tails, sewn into place individually. Its insides were comprised of 3,100 feet of hydraulic hose and 4,500 feet of electrical wiring. It was controlled by 20 operators and cost a total of $1.7 million.
The full-sized mechanical arms were suspended from a crane in order to extend and lift Jessica Lange 30 to 40 feet in the air.
Four ape suits were created and worn by Rick Baker and realistically depicted the appropriate
musculature beneath the fur through a special under-suit with silicone-filled muscles. The hands of the costume used animatronic extensions, again controlled by operators off set, so as to give Kong appropriately gorilla-like long limbs.
Federico De Laurentiis, son of Dino De Laurentiis and executive producer for the film, extensively photographed a gorilla named Bum at a local zoo, and the photos were used for the basis of Kong.
As both a personal thank-you to the crew and a promotional tool, Dino De Laurentiis had 500 polyresin and wood Kong maquettes created, costing him $200 each.
In a 2008 interview with David Letterman Meryl Streep revealed that she auditioned for the role of Dwan but was turned down by Dino De Laurentiis as being 'ugly'. He did this in Italian not knowing that Meryl Streep understood Italian.
Sure, this King Kong remake is loaded with flaws, but, in many ways, they add to the campy charm. De Laurentiis' Kong may not be a grand, glorious modernization of a classic tale, but it's two-plus hours of big-scale, occasionally-foolish entertainment. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli of Reel Views.
The real auteurs of this "King Kong" are not the producers, the director or the writer, but Carlo Rambaldi, Glen Robinson and Rick Baker, who are credited with having been responsible for designing, constructing and engineering the mechanisms.Reviewed by: Vincent Canby of The New York Times.
Bad script and acting ruin a classic story. Parents need to know that kids will see some sexually-charged scenes and violence. Scantily clad natives thrust suggestively during a ritual. We get a fleeting glimpse of breasts. Kong's in love with his female hostage and, as hard as it is to believe, some of their scenes together are erotically charged. Kong tears the jaw off a fake-looking giant snake. The shootout finale goes overboard on squirting blood. Reviewed by: Common Sense Media.