"King Kong" was one of my all-time favorite movies when I was a teenager. It was the big 'event' movie of 1976 and showed on two screens in most multiplexes. It might have been the first movie to get that treatment. With a production cost of $24 million it was the most expensive movie ever made at that time.
Promotional material offered for sale dwarfed anything that had been done in that area before. A fast-food joint offered King Kong collectible glasses (I still have a set). And you could find posters, T-shirts and a 'Making Of King Kong' book.
I very much enjoyed 'King Kong' as a 17-year-old high school senior, but not so much later as an adult. The romance between Dwan and Jack seemed contrived once I got older. Other aspects of the film struck me as just dumb. Like the ship's radar being able to pick up Kong when he was walking around the island. Or the SUNNY aerial shot of the people walking on the allegedly fog-shrouded island. Or Jack's theory that the fog was produced not by a huge supply of crude oil near the surface, but by 'animal respiration.' As if King Kong's breathing caused the fog bank. Give me a break!
Yet there's something about movies one enjoyed as a youth that makes them special for the rest of one's life, no matter how bad they really are.
But 'King Kong' had it's good points, too. First of all, it was funny. Charles Grodin's portrayal of the greedy, desperate oil company executive is scenery-chewing at its best. For years after, I watched in vain for Grodin to play a similar character, but everything else he has done is nothing like his work in 'King Kong.' (Nothing as good either, I might add.)
Speaking of singular performances, you won't recognize René Auberjonois if your frame of reference is his work on 'Benson' and 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.' The voice he uses in 'King Kong' is nothing like the gravely voice we're used to hearing.
Jeff Bridges is perfect in the role of Jack Prescott. His long hair is a nice touch, although it probably turned off some of the older people in the theater. Jeff has a way with a sarcastic line that few actors can equal.
Jessica Lange comes off worse than any other actor in the film. Not because of her performance, which is fine, but because her character is an airhead who is only there to be protected (and rescued when that doesn't work) from Kong. The fact that her costumes were chosen for their ability to showcase her body and that her breasts are briefly visible when Kong undresses her has got to make the actress cringe nowadays when she thinks about this movie.
I'll close by noting that John Barry's score of 'King Kong' was terrific. Twenty-six years after the movie debuted and I can still remember the title tune.