Kong Dies At The End

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A more accurate title for John Guillermin and Dino de Laurentiis’s KING KONG LIVES! would be KING KONG DIES AGAIN! since that is what happens. I feel no particular guilt at this fairly colossal spoiler, since KKL is not only very terrible, it’s also unusually boring for a terrible film. The action is repetitive — Kong rescues his mate at the end of Act I, then again at the end of Act II — and very generic. The characters are flat — so flat that James Cameron could recycle the hardass military guy in AVATAR, put him in 3D, and he was still so flat he could slide under doors like an envelope.

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“You’ve heard of the Green Berets? We’re the Raspberry Berets.”

Director John Guillermin does achieve one of the most memorable moments of his career — which includes some genuinely interesting, and well-made, films — during the sequence where Kong receives an artificial heart the size of a Fiat 500. Beginning with the hairy monarch lying comatose in a lab is not such an awful idea, if you have to begin such a venture at all (and clearly you don’t, so DON’T) — it allows Carlo Rambaldi to create another forty-foot mechanical ape, one which doesn’t have to do anything, but which human actors can interact with, thus convincing the audience that the gorilla really is as big as he’s supposed to be (a conviction shattered as soon as he gets up and starts ambling around miniature landscapes, but it was nice while it lasted). BUT — not content with staging a scene in which the $7, 000,000 artificial heart (this bionic Kong has to go one million better than Steve Austin) is winched over to the rather restive patient (should he really be tossing his head about like that if anesthetized?) — not content with generating bogus suspense by have the crane nearly break and drop the expensive, heavy organ straight through the slumbering monster’s abdomen — not content with showing us one of those inflating rubgy football things used in anesthesis, and having it be normal size when surely it ought to be a veritable Hindenberg — Guillermin throws in a shot taken from inside Kong, looking out of his thoracic cavity towards the assembled medical team and the descending cyber-pump.

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“A new low in taste,” was the phrase used gleefully by Martin Scorsese to describe the shot of a shark’s prey being consumed, taken from inside the shark’s mouth, in JAWS 3 — in 3D. But can that truly compete with a view from an ape’s thoracic cavity? I see now why Guillermin hasn’t made another film since — how to top this? Perhaps by filming out of Dracula’s arse as he breaks wind while stooping to bite a victim.

Fiona: “Why do they want to save Kong’s life after the mass destruction he caused in the last film?”

Me: “They like him.”

The more interesting aspects of the film’s deep badness are the points where it transcends the moronic and achieves solid stupidity. A stupidity you could walk about on; stupidity that could safely take a man’s weight.

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A kind of madness of stupidity, a mania of the dumb, seizes some filmmakers in the process of telling a genre story. The makers of this movie knew perfectly well that Kong, having fallen off the World Trade Center, couldn’t be alive, wouldn’t be helped by a robot heart, or by a blood transfusion from a giant female gorilla who doesn’t necessarily have the same blood type anyway, and that he wouldn’t have been able to walk even with such curative treatment after spending ten years in a coma. They knew that it isn’t full moon every night, yet it is in this movie, even though the action covers months. They also knew, one hopes, the simple biological fact that animals need to eat, yet “Lady Kong” goes on hunger strike when she’s locked in a missile silo by the army, and when Linda Hamilton asks “How long has she been like this?” she is told “Three or four months.” Yet not only does Lady Kong not die of starvation, she is able to give birth to a child at the end of it all.

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When the Son of Kong is eventually born, he is played by another actor in an ape suit, who is cradled in the animatronic Kong hand built by Carlo Rambaldi. So the Kongs, the fifty-foot ape couple, have a child who is only about six feet tall, if that, and who is as active and agile as an adult (and isn’t covered in icky amniotic fluid and blood.

Linda Hamilton sighs a lot and shakes her head to let us know she’s not happy with the way things are going, most of the time, and who can blame her?

Apart from the various stupidities, the film only really startles one awake when something particularly vile happens, as when Kong snaps a man in two; or some distressing attempt at humour is made, as when he pick a baseball cap from between his teeth after eating a man. And the whole Kong family still keep grinning, having learned nothing from the first go-round.

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Boldly, Lady Kong is played by a man, making this a rather forward-looking same-sex marriage, or at any rate civil partnership.

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11 Responses to “Kong Dies At The End”

  1. Raspberry Beret? Then Prince should have done the title song.

  2. Since so much of the action takes place under a full, and possibly cherry moon, why not?

  3. But when Kong a-died, again, did you a-cry?

    Did Dino de Laurentiis *ever* actually say anything, “When Jaws cried, nobody cried, but when Kong dies, everybody cries!” I’ve grown up with this notion that I learned from God knows where that de Laurentiis was obsessed with topping “Jaws” and that he actually uttered some variation on those words, but then I found a mention in some article or other that the infamous “when Kong a-die” bit actually comes from a John Belushi SNL bit parodying de Laurentiis.

  4. Ha! It certainly SHOULD be true.

    But nothing could compare to Mike Hodges’ authentic stories of Dino lunacy from the production of Flash Gordon…

  5. Randy Cook Says:

    I really DO recall Belushi’s bit being a riff on a virtually identical Dino quote, but I have no documentation at hand.

  6. I know of the “When Kong die” from something like The Golden Turkey Awards – one of their books anyway. Which might explain the “-a”. Every line of Flash Gordon is a kind of wonderful.

  7. Semple’s script finds a pretty consistent tone for FG, and Hodges and his cast stick to it (apart from maybe the strained swearing Timothy Dalton goes in for laterally, as if somebody said “OK, when this shows on TV the last half-hour will come after 9pm so we can let rip with some “bastards”). Semple’s Kong script keeps shifting mood awkwardly.

    One of the writers of KKL! is Ron Shussett, who co-wrote Alien and Total Recall. Extraordinary.

  8. Haven’t seen KKL, but your account reminds me of “Fantastic Voyage”, a huge A-movie with B-movie science. I’d read Isaac Asimov’s book adaptation of the movie before seeing the film on TV. Asimov conscientiously made the shrinking plausible and the biology solid, improving the story as a bonus. The movie was a bit of a letdown for all its goofy delights.

    “Flash Gordon” lost me when they did the football game comedy routine. There were good bits, but too many moments of aggressive contempt for the source material and too many obvious borrowings from “Star Wars.” Ironically, Mark Hamill asserted on a talk show that George Lucas created his own saga because he couldn’t get the rights to “Flash Gordon” (“Otherwise you’d be talking to Nick Nolte instead of me”). As for the Dalton obscenities, those may well have been added to protect the film from a kiss-of-death G rating (although Ms. Muti on the table would seem sufficient). Even “Popeye” added a “sh**” to avoid being classed as a kiddie film.

    Then there’s “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, which not only opens with a romantic title ballad (Out of context, it sounds like a dreamy invitation to drown), but offers the Van Allen Radiation Belt — oxygen-free, I think — catching on fire; and a submarine that breaches the surface at a steep angle but is full of unsecured furniture and a shark pool right under a walkway.

    The latter film spurred a professor to shout at the screen when the sub was rocked by sinking hunks of the polar ice cap. “No no no! Ice FLOATS!,” the good professor yelled. He eventually formed a pre-Internet group that tried to educate the public about scientific bloopers, or at least record them for their own amusement.

  9. Ha!

    Fantastic Voyage does have an endearing sense of its own absurdity, visible in glimpses.

    “But I don’t wanna be shrunk!” ~ Stephen Boyd.
    “It’s just for an hour.” ~ Edmund O’Brien.

    https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/the-sunday-intertitle-normal-service-will-be-resumed-as-soon-as-possible/

  10. Surprised to find I’d not only read the previous article, but commented on it with mention of the short-lived 1960s animated series. Still good stuff (the article).

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