Monday, June 3, 2024

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Clyde’s Movie Palace Takes a Look Back at Imitation of Life (1959). KLEENEX AVAILABLE FOR FREE IN THE LOBBY.

It’s hard to believe that Director Douglas Sirk’s remake of Imitation of Life (first filmed in 1934 and based on the 1933 Fannie Hurst novel) was once thought of as nothing more than a high-class soap opera. I thought of it that way once, but that opinion went out the door quite a while back. The film is now considered a masterpiece by many, and I have to concur with that opinion.

Imitation of Life, along with the 1934 version, have both been inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry as being historically or aesthetically significant and recommended for preservation by those holding the best elements for that film. In this case, that would be Universal, who released both films as a two-movie set on Bluray. In addition, Criterion has released the 1934 version as well. Whether we’ll ever see a 4k release is debatable, but this film would surely benefit from it. Are you there, Kino Lorber?

Our movie begins in 1947 at a crowded Coney Island beach in New York City where a distraught mother, Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), searches frantically for her not so lost daughter Suzie (played at age 6 by Terry Burnham). Here, she bumps into her future love interest, freelance photographer Steve Archer (John Gavin), who directs her to a police officer for help.

Suzie has found herself a playmate, Sarah Jane (played at age 8 by Karin Dicker). They are being watched over and fed hot dogs by Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), a black woman. When Lora arrives, the two children run off to play together while Lora and Annie chat and get to know each other.

Lora: Sarah Jane’s a lovely child. How long have you taken care of her?
Annie: All her life.
Lora: I wish I had someone to look after Suzie.
Annie: A maid to live in? Someone to take care of your little girl. A strong healthy settled-down woman who eats like a bird and doesn’t care if she gets no time off and will work really cheap.
Lora: Well, yes if one exists. Oh, someday!
Annie: How about today? I’m available.
Lora: You?
Annie: Me. Annie Johnson
Lora: You mean you’d consider leaving that lovely little girl?
Annie: Oh, I wouldn’t be leaving her. My baby goes where I go.
Lora: (Incredulously) Sarah Jane, is your child?
Annie: Yes, ma’am, it surprises most people. Sarah Jane favors her daddy. He was practically white. Left before she was born. Seems to me, Miss Meredith, I’m just right for you. You wouldn’t have to pay no wages. Just let me come and do for you!
Lora: I couldn’t do that. I’d have to pay you but can’t now.     


Sara Jane is my child 0002Sara Jane is my child 0003Sara Jane is my child 0004

And if you thought that was that, you know very little about Basic Movie Plots 101.

When Sarah Jane starts crying that she and her mother don’t have a home, Lora relents and says, “Annie Johnson and Sarah Jane, Come on down!”      
No Place to go 0001No Place to go 0002No Place to go 0003No Place to go 0004No Place to go 0005
As for Photographer Steve, romance will soon follow once he acquires Lora and Suzie’s home address.

Lora reminds Annie that their presence in her apartment is a one-night-only engagement meaning the arrangement will continue for quite a while.

Suzie offers Sarah Jane a black doll to play with that she happens to have in her collection, but she’ll have none of that shit. She wants the white doll that is Suzie’s favorite; thus, the movie wastes no time telling us that Sarah isn’t tuned into this whole business of being black. Sarah Jane, who was crying over not having any place to live just a short while ago, is also not too keen on living in a back room off the kitchen. At the ripe old age of eight, she’s tired of being relegated to back rooms and has seen enough of them.

It doesn’t take long for Lora to realize that a live-in maid who works practically for nothing but a place to sleep and a meal now and then is damn convenient. And here you thought slavery had ended in the 1800’s. Not that Annie or Lora would ever classify their relationship as such. Eventually, it works out for both parties financially, but not necessarily as an improvement to their mother/daughter relationships.

Lora and Steve hook up romantically when he delivers the pictures of Suzie and Sarah Jane that he took at the beach. While Steve and Lora are at lunch, she learns that agent Alan Loomis (Robert Alda) is casting a new play and manages to finagle her way into an interview. It goes well at first, but Loomis sees through Lora’s act but still wants her as a client, which requires her to do certain immoral things. Welcome to Hollywood Whoredom, Lora Meredith. Come on down!

But Lora, being of sound mind and moral principles, turns Loomis down without even thinking twice about it, sheds his mink coat, and heads out the door.

All this while Annie has been addressing Lora’s envelopes for her, making a deal with the landlord on the rent, which includes getting ten dollars off for cleaning the stairwell and laundering a persnickety man’s clothes for him while the two kids are in school. Annie runs this show, and Lora is the one along for the ride while she weeps over Loomis, making her feel cheap. Yet, inexplicably, or maybe out of necessity, Loomis remains Lora’s agent throughout her up-and-coming career. It’s a clue as to what many actresses were and, in some cases, still are subjected to in order to establish a film or Broadway career.

Agent 0001Agent 0002Agent 0003Agent 0004Agent 0005Agent 0006Agent 0007Agent 0008Agent 0009Agent 0010
Steve, just like every insecure Republican Male in 2023, wants Lora to forget about being a Broadway actress to become his housewife, clean, cook, do the dishes, draw the bath, have babies, bring him a beer, and draw his bath. Bye-bye, Steve.

Eventually, through a bit of luck, Lora gets a supporting role in a play by writer David Edwards (Dan O’Herlihy). After rave reviews, Lora becomes his permanent comedy star, like the Lucille Ball of Broadway. It is strongly suggested that she also becomes Edward’s lover during this time.

Eleven years and eleven plays later, things have changed quite a bit for Lora, Annie, and Suzie (now sixteen and played by Sandra Dee). But not necessarily for Sarah Jane (now eighteen and played by Susan Kohner). It’s a best-of-times, worst-of-times scenario.

Because of her Broadway success, Lora has all the material things one could ask for and bestow upon her daughter simultaneously. She doesn’t have a good relationship with Suzie, who spends much of her time away at boarding school, only seeing her mother on rare occasions when she can get away from her plays. Sarah Jane, who is more of an adult now, is still struggling to become white, having secretly acquired a white boyfriend. It’s a move that leads to tragic consequences.      
      Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0001Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0002Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0003Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0004Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0005Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0006Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0007Sarah Jane's Boyfriend 0008
Unlike Suzie, who would like more time with Lora, Sarah Jane would like nothing more than to have Annie stay as far away from her and as inconspicuous as possible.

And remember Steve, the photographer? Having mellowed out a bit about the whole male chauvinist housekeeping wife bit, he re-enters just in time to become a companion looking after Suzie while Lora is overseas making a film after she had promised her daughter she was taking time off to spend more time with her. Suzie doesn’t perceive Steve as her designated companion and instead falls in love with him.

I want to tell you all this works out, but I can’t. This movie isn’t some ordinary run-of-the-mill weeper and could just as easily have been titled Tragedy of Life.

While watching Imitation of Life a couple of weeks ago with my wife in our home theater, she turned to me at one crucial point involving Sarah Jane. She said, “Frankly, I don’t blame her. Look at how black people have been treated. If I could escape that, I would do it.”

Despite the insistence of Lora that Annie is her friend and confidante and that she seems content to accept it as just that, she remains Lora’s glorified maid. Without Annie, one could even surmise that Lora may not have had the opportunities her success brings her. Sara Jane, forgetting for the moment that the only reason she has the things she does is because of Lora’s success when asked to serve Lora’s dinner guests, Sara Jane does so as if she’s Prissy in Gone With the Wind. But this “act” comes when Lora and Annie want to fix her up with nice black boys, sons of chauffeurs, butlers, gardeners, and maids.
House Maid 0002House Maid 0004House Maid 0008House Maid 0005House Maid 0006House Maid 0007
Sarah Jane’s struggle to be identified as white is painful to sit through, not because she wants to, but to her, it’s a way of survival, to escape the reality of racism and segregation. To no longer be looked at as inferior. We feel her pain and struggles in scenes where Sarah Jane’s race is discovered. One has to wonder, however, if the audiences of the 50’s understood that. Many of them, including some critics, considered the film nothing more than a soap-operish tear-jerker. But now, over 60 years later, Imitation of Life is regarded as a masterpiece of race commentary. In 2015, BBC Online named the film the 37th greatest American movie ever made, based on a survey of film critics.

Copy of Imitationof Life AdThe acting, with the exception of John Gavin, is impeccable. Gavin is as wooden as a ventriloquist’s dummy but he’s not in the movie enough for you to care. Both Kohner and Moore received Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Neither won, but either/or deserved to. Kohner did win a Golden Globe in that category, however. But let’s not trivialize Lana Turner’s contributions either. She was never better at portraying the glamour queen, helped by Sirk and Producer Ross Hunter giving her lavish clothes befitting of Broadway royalty.

Have things changed in all these years? Some. But the underlying systemic racism is still here.

We have one political party, the GOP, running on the idea of how white you can be. During the Obama Presidency, the same political party would claim he was not really black at all while at the same time insisting he wasn’t even born in the United States.

During the Obama years, I had a discusion with one family member regarding the Obama presidency, pointing out many facts she didn’t care to be aware of. At the end of the conversation, she responded, “I don’t care. I just hate Obama.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why or why this country would continue to give power to White Supremacists like Trump and DeSantis while making it a crime to teach about racism in schools and, as in the case of DeSantis and friends, proclaiming that slavery was one big happy beneficially good time for black people.

By the film’s end, Lora’s struggles and problems with Suzie seem almost trivial. Director Douglas Sirk masterfully moves that story to the background to focus on Annie and Sarah Jane. When the film was finished, Sirk returned to his native Germany, never to direct another feature film, having had his fill of the Hollywood machinery:

I never regarded my pictures as very much to be proud of, except in this, the craft, the style. And in movies you must be a gambler. To produce films is to gamble. A director in Hollywood in my time couldn’t do what he wanted to do.

This is truly a great film. I would, as others have, put it on the list of films you must see before you die, and without hesitation, it deserves an A+ rating. Even to this day, I find the ending of this movie a struggle, as just about every man or woman does. Just don’t forget the Kleenex.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Clyde's Movie Palace: King Kong (1976)

King Kong Movie Marquee         Cast of King Kong
"No one cry when Jaws die, But when the monkey die, people gonna cry. Intellectuals gonna love Konk; even film buffs who love the first Konk gonna love ours. Why? Because I no give them crap. I no spend two, three million to do quick business. I spend 24 million on my Konk. I give them quality. I got here a great love story, a great adventure. And she rated PG. For everybody."
- Dino De Laurentiis

King Kong BlurayIf you've never seen a King Kong movie, I have one question: What planet do you hail from, and welcome to Planet Earth. I'm sure many of you have seen Peter Jackson's extravaganza magna opus in 2005. Even more of you may have seen Kong: Skull Island and/or Godzilla vs. Kong. If you're any kind of film buff, you just had to have seen the original 1933 version.

There was King Kong vs. Godzilla brought to you by the good folks at Toho Studios in 1963 so that the mightiest monsters could battle it out in downtown Tokyo. That rubber-suited Kong was bigger, more powerful, clunkier, and uglier than the stop-action King Kong 1933creature of 1933. But by the 21st century, with CGI being the order of the day, and after Stephen Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park, Kong moved with all the grace and fluency of a male ballet dancer. It was alive!

All that aside, in 1976, another big-budget Hollywood production ventured onto Skull Island's King Kong Amusement Park. In 1976 Dino De Laurentiis geared up his extravaganza, which plucked Kong out of the thirties depression and into the gloriously glitzy disco era of the seventies. One early poster of Kong is called Travolta Kong because of Kong's Vinnie Barbarino-style haircut. Pre-production on the film began in King Kong vs. Godzillaearnest in 1974, with Lorenzo Semple writing the script and Producer De Laurentiis doing the PT Barnum bit in promoting his upcoming epic. The race was on for De Laurentiis to beat Universal Studios, who were planning their own Kong film, into the theaters.

One thing that De Laurentiis loved to brag about before the film went into production was that his movie would have a colossal 40-foot working gigantic mechanical monster be the star of his film. The idea certainly stroked my imagination at the time. However, suppose one remembers all of Spielberg's trouble with a mechanical shark that was a dwarf at only twenty-Jackson's King Kongfive feet long. In that case, they'd have been a lot more skeptical about De Laurentiis being able to pull off his exercise in Monster Mechanics 101.

Bruce the Shark had the disadvantage of performing in an ocean of salt water. Still, as far as I knew, Kong didn't have any swimming scenes, and nobody would need a bigger boat, so it may have worked.

I was wrong about the swimming bit, as Kong takes a quick dip in the East River. Still, many people and I should have been warier about giant robots covered with horse hair. There were a lot of naked horses Kong-Skull Islandrunning around in 1976, freezing their asses off in the barn.

The 1.7 million dollars mechanical Kong toy turned out to be a bust of massive proportions. Unlike the shark in Jaws that Spielberg could hide through most of the film, it's hard to find a place to hide a 40-foot mechanical ape, especially when he's the star of your show. More about that fiasco momentarily.

That left Dino to choose one of two alternatives. He could use the stop motion animation process used in the original, and enhanced since then in many a Ray Godzilla vs. Konk
Harryhausen film such as Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans.

Dino went the TOHO Productions route and put a man in an ape suit, much to the chagrin of all the stop-motion supporters. I'll give him this. The man ape looked a helluva lot better in this movie than the one that TOHO put on the screen.

Dino, the Konk Man, hired makeup artist Rick Baker. Baker would eventually win seven Oscars and a slew of Emmys to go along with them in his trophy case. He did not win this one, but Carlo Rambaldi won a special achievement award for visual effects. As for Mechanical Kong, he ended up with about thirty seconds' worth of screen time. It averaged out to about 500,000 dollars a second.

Linearly speaking, the 1976 film doesn't delineate too much from the famous plot line. Girl meets Ape. The Ape gets the girl. Ape loses girl. The Ape takes a trip. The Ape gets the girl back. Ape meets friends in high places, and that's all she wrote.

Here's to the Big OneRadar BlipWiping Windshields

But there were a few changes and wrinkles added here and there. Instead of heading over to Skull Island to film the next great adventure movie, this boat is taking the trip because infrared satellite pictures show that there may be a vast oil deposit lying around waiting to be pumped out of the ground and into your Chevy. This expedition is led by Big Oil Company executive Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), who came into possession of the satellite photos after making a campaign contribution to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Donald Duck
Also on board the Petrox Boating Expedition, is a stowaway, anthropologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges). He got wind of the fact that someone from the Petrox Explorer (the name of the ship owned by the Petrox Oil Company) was buying charts for the area he was interested in exploring because he heard some silly nonsense about a giant ape-like creature. Since Carnival Cruise lines didn't have an excursion going in Jack's direction, he decided to hop on board the Petrox and discuss details about his fare later. After Wilson, being the nice guy he is, checks out Jack's credentials, he decides to let him stay on board and become the official photographer.

Not too much later, a rubber lifeboat is spotted, and conveniently lying inside is Ann Darrow wannabe Dwan (Jessica Lange). There's some silly business regarding her name, but I won't go into that minutiae here.

It seems she was partying on board a yacht when the storm kicked up and threw her overboard into a rubber dinghy parked nearby. Nobody else on board the vessel was quite that lucky. Still, we didn't need to bog down the film with more needless characters anyway.

Deep Throat
Besides, they died happy. They were watching Deep Throat at the time while Dwan was up on deck because porn just wasn't her thing.  But instead of looking like a gal who just climbed out of a life raft, Dwan looks as if she just stepped out of the cover of Vogue.

Breast ImplantsMonkey Camera
Dwan makes a speedy recovery after about a second and a half of mourning her fellow passengers, and this, in turn, enables the ship's crew to donate their clothes to her so that she can quickly shrink them and then pour her 5'8”, 120 lb. perfect frame into them for Jack to take some photographs and extend the running time of the movie an extra ten or fifteen minutes more so every red-blooded heterosexual male and some not so heterosexual females can leer at her. Sexist? Probably, but that's the only purpose for every outfit she puts on to reveal her assets in skin-tight clothing, halter tops, and shorts cut way up to you know where.  I mean, why else do you include this scene which has nothing to do with anything else? Still the movie is rated PG, and I'm not one to argue, although apparently Google is, missing the point I was trying to make about the abundant sexism in this 1976 creature feature.  Unless it’s something else.  It could be anything from this picture to my hints of sarcasm ridiculing the certain beer boycott in a couple of places.  Nope, wouldn’t want to offend those jackasses.  But Google won’t tell you what the story is; you’re just supposed to be a good guesser, I guess, but that’s kind of difficult to do in an essay with over 4000 words.  At any rate, I’m considering removing the post from here and just linking to it where one doesn’t have to go through this silly nonsense.

We are supposed to notice that Jack and Dwan are falling for each other although you could have fooled me. Call it Beauty and the Geek, the 70's edition.  

After ogling Dwan for all its worth, we finally reach the perpetual fog bank in the middle of nowhere, climb into our trusty rowboat and head for shore. It is referred to in a legend as The Island of the Skulls and is quite different from the rendition we saw in 1933. Instead of being dark and foreboding, once the fog bank is left behind, the curtain rises on an island that could easily double as the Garden of Eden in a remake of the Old Testament or a vacation spot in Hawaii.

Fifty minutes into this monkey festival we get to finally meet Kong, who wastes no time running off with his betrothed, that being Dwan. Jack and the other guys run after him without Wilson, who stays behind to check on his oil reserves.

Ape Meets Bride
Unfortunately, after having already wired the home office at Petrox, Wilson discovers that the oil still needs to be cooked to perfection. As scientist Roy Bagley (Rene Auberjonois) puts it, "It needs a little more aging of about 10,000 years or so, hardly a drop in the bucket in geological terms." Still determined to bring in the Big One, Wilson begins devising a plan to capture Kong and take him back to star in his own Petrox Television Commercial. Yep, Kong is now the big 'un.

10000 years
Meanwhile, the Indiana Jones-type adventures behind the Great Wall of Skull Island begin with Jack and the crew battling dinosaurs, Kong fighting a giant T-Rex, a giant Sea Serpent, and giant insects. It's a special effects extravaganza you'll…… oops. Sorry for that. That was 1933. My bad. DeLaurentiis, having shot his wad on a mechanical ape that didn't work, had no money left for real special effects. So Director Guillerman and screenwriter Semple are forced to concentrate on the Jack/Kong/Dwan love triangle. It’s one love story that will never give Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw a run for their money.

You do get scenes of Kong gazing lustfully into Dwan's eyes, and I don't think there's any mistaking what's on his mind. I guess there's a scarcity of female giant apes on the island, and a horny ape has got to do what a horny ape….. Well, never mind. But he isn't intent on sliding those clothes off Lange to play strip poker.

Bitchin Booger
We also get a replay of the boat crew being thrown off the log and into the canyon by Kong. Compared to Kongs I and III (1933 and 2005, respectfully), it isn't very well done or even remotely frightening. It’s one of those scenes where the blue screen and matte paintings are painfully obvious. 

Lump Log
There are, of course, the usual two survivors, Jack, and another crewman, Boan. Jack will carry on to rescue Dwan while the Boan heads back to tell Wilson to leave the island barn door open because the big 'un will be coming full steam ahead. And while Kong is battling the Realistic Rubber Snake With Glow in the Dark Eyes, Jack absconds with Dwan, and the angry Kong comes rushing after them with a full head of steam.

Kong's Pet Snake
You know what happens next. Kong smashes down the door, trashing the native village, eating natives, stomping them to smithereens, splitting them into atoms…..oops, sorry. That was 1933.

There is no scene of destruction of the native village. There are no stomped natives. There are no chewed-up natives. There are no smashed huts. The natives must have caught the nearest Ferry Boat and headed to Singapore for a night out on the town with a complimentary case of my favorite alcoholic beverage, Bud Light.

Kong bursts through the gigantic door, promptly falls into a 100-foot-deep pit dug out by Wilson and the gang, and falls gently asleep when several giant drums of chloroform that just happened to be lying around Singapore to be flown out to Kong Island are released. At the same time, Dwan hums the Ape Lullaby of Broadway.

Breakthrough Kong
What was a novelty in this film and one of the better sequences is the method they used to transport Kong back to the mainland. In the original Kong, we had to guess. In King Kong vs. Godzilla, they built a giant raft which they blew to shit, allowing Kong to go to the mainland to beat the crap out of his opponent. That was cool and also funny in a Japanese way.

In this one, they stick him into one of the giant cargo holds designed to transport oil. And once Kong discovers Dwan is on board, he goes into a blind rage, nearly destroying the ship, which for my money, is probably the best sequence in the film. Dwan manages to soothe the savage Beast with a few kind words before they flood the tanks, and we're off to New York, Shea Stadium, and our first authentic look at Mechani-Kong.  Still, we’re left to figure out how they got him in that tank in the first place.

Falling into Ape
As good as the Kong sequence on the Petrox Explorer was, that's how lame the Shea stadium sequence is. It also takes little time to figure out why the 40-foot-tall Mechani-Kong was abandoned. First, it doesn't look like a real Kong but a Walking Dead Zombie Kong, except he never walks because he would have fallen over. That’s why they wheel him out on a cart covered with a Petrox Gas Pump cover.

As I later found out ( by watching the extras on the bluray), he almost took a nose dive, even standing still. There were 40 or so men behind it manipulating the tubes and wires to make him go, and it was impossible for them to co-ordinated who was supposed to be operating which part, when, and what for. According to those there for the action, they had no sooner begun the sequence than Kong started to fall apart, hydraulic fluid began leaking all over the place, and it was all they could do to hold it together to get the shots we have here.

Mechnical Kong Sequence
Worse yet, the indestructible cage looks like Dino's grandkids built it with their erector set that morning. It's bad enough that they parade Kong out in a giant gas tank, but they went to great lengths to steal a crown from Burger King and place it on top of his head. And while they wheel Kong out to the crowd, Wilson chants about the power of Kong and the power of Petrox oil as if he is Donald Trump working his bigoted, useless followers into a frenzy. Thankfully, Kong soon puts Wilson and us out of our misery. After another clunky-looking, poorly done special effect sequence where Kong takes on a railroad car looking for Dwan, he eventually catches up to her and Jack having a Bud Light and decides to take Dwan on a ride to the top of the World Trade Center.

Why the World Trade Center? Probably because Dino wanted everything in his movie to be more significant. That also enables Kong to do an Olympic Trial for the long jump.

Jack, for his part, calls the army and tells them where Kong is headed after eliciting a promise that they won't kill him. (Like nobody will notice a forty-foot ape climbing a building with a sexy blond perched on his shoulder as if she were a parrot). And if you guessed that, as soon as they hang up the phone, the army calls out the heavy flying artillery to promptly shoot Kong down; you win the big Ape stuffed animal, and intelligent guy Jack looks amazingly stupid for having made the phone call.

One Small StepOne Giant Leap
It gets bloody messy atop the World Trade Center as Director Guillermin leaves nothing to the imagination. Bullets rip Kong apart, and blood flies everywhere as if someone had just struck a red oil gusher in Kong's chest. Then things get a bit silly as Jack Prescott cheers when Kong grabs hold of one of the choppers and hurls it to the street.

I mean, this was a serviceman just following orders. Of course, they were hurting the giant monkey, so maybe we aren't going to give Jack a pass when he refers to the guys in the choppers doing their job to save New York from destruction as dirty bastards. Hey Jack, that could have worked if you had gotten in your own helicopter to confront them as Sam did in Outbreak.

Then Kong decides to make one giant leap for apes and one giant leap for ape kind by jumping off of one tower and over to the other, with poor Dwan holding on for dear life. However, it's one of those many times when they used the Dwan Barbie Doll to achieve the effect, which pops up several times and is evident on a large screen like mine.

You know how it ends, so what can I tell you? Some praise the movie as high camp and a novel way to look at the Kong legend. Even Pauline Kael, who was a real hard ass and more demanding than my World History teacher in high school when it came to passing grades, gave it a good review.

But we're here for my thoughts, and despite what Kael and even Roger Ebert thought, I can't see my way to giving Dino's Konk anything better than a C. The flaws are way too many and way too obvious to do any better than that, despite all the ridiculous goofiness taking place on the screen.

I distinctly remember going into the theater to see the movie upon its release with great anticipation and feeling slightly disappointed. I had expected at least a little sense of adventure or horror, but there was none. Instead, you got Kong spending most of the running time on Kong Island, leering at Jessica Lange as you leer along with him.

Take a shower
There is one scene well done where Dwan falls in the mud. He washes her off in a waterfall, balanced by an earlier silly scene of her punching Kong in the mouth and calling him a male chauvinist pig ape.

Pig Ape
Dwan could not have known if that was a gleam of Love in Kong's eyes or if his stomach was growling, but he was supposed to be a vegetarian. Frankly, I wouldn't be sparring with a forty-foot ape that obviously has the upper hand.

Bigger Glassesss=One of the best things that came out of this movie was the four glasses given away by Burger Chef and Jeff at the time. Or was it Burger Chef? Doesn't matter. They were great for drinking my Bud Light. I don't have them now. I think my ex-wife got them in the divorce.

It doesn't matter, though. The awful snake and the snake fight sequence destroy any chance the Kong Island scenes had of totally redeeming themselves. Didn't anybody bother to look at the rushes? Or did they decide that with no dinosaurs or other animate objects besides Dwan's fist to put Kong up against, it was better than nothing?

If they hadn't wasted so much time and money building a Mechnica-Kong that turned out to be useless, they could have come up with something better. Frankly, if Willis O'Brian can perform the magic on Kong that he did in 1933, you would think that 43 years later and with 24 million dollars at your disposal, your special effects would be dazzling. The apparent flaws are glaring while watching the film in my home theater last night. Chief among them is that you are well aware of the blue screen sequences and, in the log sequence, the abundance of matte paintings in the background.

They obviously knew that Mechanica-Kong didn't work, so why bother trotting it out for a few seconds in the Stadium sequence? Its flaws are awesomely obvious, making it easy to spot when we are watching Rick Baker in a monkey suit and when we're watching Dino's 1.7 million dollars worth of furry crap that probably ended up in a landfill. The use of forced perspective runs rampant in this film. The rule of thumb is when it walks like a man and acts like a man, it is a man horsing around in a monkey suit.

It's not that the cast doesn't give it that old Kong try, though. Still, they all look silly as they recite constant groaners such as "Let's not get eaten alive on this island. Bring the insect repellent.”

Lange's Dwan could have been an interesting character, but Semple's script does nothing more than paint her as a sex object and then piles on by turning her into a total air head. Still, give Jessica Lange her due. She manages to shine despite the mind-numbing dialogue and working with a giant ape as her leading man.

As for Bridges, I could never be convinced he was an anthropologist or scientist. Instead, he looks like he just stepped out of the cast of Hair. And some of his actions are really stupid towards the end. At times, he seems to want to blame Dwan for Kong's plight when her only crime was being a gorgeous blonde on an island where there weren't any. 

Honestly, if some nitwit came and told you that what you saw on a satellite photograph was animal respiration, wouldn't you have him carted off to the funny farm when you finally finished rolling on the floor laughing? And although Prescott and Dwan are supposed to be attracted to each other, they have absolutely no chemistry in their scenes with each other. There was more give and take between Dwan and Kong, and we all know Kong is an ape of very few words. By the end, I was pretty sure Prescott had an erection for the ape way more than Kong had for Dwan. I’ve seen this movie several times over the years, but I have to say by the end of my most current viewing on my home theater, I came away feeling like Jack was kind of a conceited self-absorbed monkey’s butt.

Getting Married

But no matter. Bridges and Lange would win Oscars later, so no harm, no foul.

Grodin knows what kind of movie he is in, and he spends all of his screen time good-naturedly hamming it up for us. We're supposed to hate him and what he stands for so that we feel some pleasure when Kong stomps Wilson's lights out. But I didn't feel happiness, pain, sadness, or anything. I didn't care.

If you have never seen the film, you should see it at least once, and then you can form your own opinion about it. Maybe you'll be like Pauline Kael, who hardass that she was, actually had praise for the film. Or perhaps you'll fall somewhere in between, like Roger Ebert:

De Laurentiis' version plays like a tacky Italian knockoff of "King Kong," only using the actual name and costing tens of millions of dollars. The centerpiece of the '76 "King Kong" was to be a life-size robot Kong built by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi. It was constructed and promptly failed to work or move in the slightest realistic manner. Rick Baker was brought in to play Kong in an ape suit for most of the film. And in this special audacity that was De Laurentiis' trademark, the film ends with crediting Rambaldi for Kong and thanking Baker for his "special contributions" to the film.

The film has a 51 percent critics review score on Rotten Tomatoes but only a 32 percent audience score.

You can buy the original Kong, the 1976 version, the Peter Jackson 2005 film, or the recent renditions starting with Kong: Skull Island. Maybe Kong fighting it out with Godzilla in the 60's and doing it again in the 2000's is your cup of tea. And you could have a good time by throwing in the original Mighty Joe Young with Terry Moore while avoiding the dreary Disney remake with Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton (Readily available from the Disney movie club, or you can order an overpriced third party seller edition elsewhere.

Whichever Kong pleases you, they are readily at your disposal. Kong has been around for 90 years and will probably be around another 90 years, and that suits me just fine.