More4: Saturday 17 October, 10.20am
In what could have been a career-ending movie debut, Jessica Lange wilts in the hand of a big mechanical monkey. Flamboyant producer Dino de Laurentiis’ problem-plagued remake of Peter Jackson’s favourite monster movie was unsurprisingly ill received on its initial appearance. It looks harmless enough today.
Bemused Jeff Bridges and startled Charles Grodin provide sterling support while John Barry’s impressive music generates genuine grandeur and excitement. And it has something that Jackson’s mega-budget make-over doesn’t – the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers for Kong to climb and clamber over. Patience is required, along with indulgence.
The beast is not glimpsed for fully 53 minutes. Beauty, in the meantime, is well represented by Miss Lange, who won the role over Meryl Streep, infamously insulted at her Cinecitta audition by De Laurentis (a story he denied). Lange’s a ditzy blonde called Dwan (she switched the letters to be more memorable).
Grodin’s funny, too, as the would-be oil tycoon, striding ashore at Skull Island like he’s Douglas MacArthur surveying the troops. British director John Guillermin (who died last month, age 89) made King Kong on the back of his biggest hit, 1974’s The Towering Inferno. Sadly, his final feature was the disastrously misconceived King Kong Lives in 1986, from a script by Dan O’Bannon’s Alien co-writer Ronald Shusset.