Title: King Kong Lives (1986)
Director: John Guillermin
Cast: Linda Hamilton, Brian Kerwin
After seeing King Kong Lives and giving it a good reassessment, I can safely say that in the pantheon of really stupid movies, King Kong Lives is a contender for the top spot. I did a couple of articles a while back on Worst Movies Ever Made and I completely forgot about this one on there, in fact, I think I’ll edit the articles to include it. Yeah, its stupidity cannot be ignored. Wowzers this movie was bad! Let’s see, where do I begin? Well, let’s start at the beginning; King Kong Lives is the direct sequel to John Guillermin’s King Kong (1976), the one that starred Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin. That film in turn was a remake of King Kong (1933), the film that started it all. Guillermin’s 1976 remake wasn’t bad at all, it retold the story with modern effects, it was campy, fun, it even had some romance in the mix. The only problem with watching it today is that the effects look really out dated; the filmmakers did what they could with the effects that were available at the time. When it was released, it was a marvel to behold; legendary make up effects artists Rick Baker and Carlo Rambaldi joined forces to create the beast for that movie, the results while not at all convincing (Rick Baker wasn’t entirely pleased with the final results) won the filmmakers an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. Guillermin’s remake was one of the most successful films of 1977 (ranking fifth) and when aired on television, it was also a ratings success; so of course, a sequel was a no brainer. Unfortunately it took the producers ten years to get going with it. So, literally ten years after the success of the first film, King Kong Lives roared its ways into theaters.
The biggest problem with this movie is all the stupidity you have to accept in order to follow the story. I know, watching a film about a giant gorilla stomping New York City already requires huge amounts of suspension of disbelief, but damn, this movie asked for more suspension of disbelief than humanly possible. The first idea we’re supposed to swallow is that Kong didn’t die at the ending of the previous film. Now this is virtually impossible since the giant ape was shot down by machine guns! He fell from the top of the World Trade Center! We heard his heart stop beating! I mean, everything pointed to Kong dying, same way he died in the original film. But no, the filmmakers behind this film (who by the way are the same ones who made the 1976 remake, right down to its director) ask us to believe that some way, somehow, Kong has been in some sort of a coma for more than 10 years!? Okay, fine, I’ll take that jagged little pill, but then we’re supposed to believe that Kong is getting a heart transplant! Okay, maybe I can believe that, but then after the operation the guy doesn’t even have the freaking scar he is supposed to have on his chest! The inconsistencies escalade that way all throughout the movie.
So anyhow, then there’s a Lady Kong that suddenly appears in the Congo and some Indiana Jones wannabe who goes by the name of Hank Mitchell finds this Lady Kong and sells her to the same university that is trying to give Kong a heart transplant. Now, here’s my big question: why would they want to bring Kong back to life? After all the death and destruction he brought to the city? Don’t they figure he can do much, much worse if he wakes up again? I mean, it’s like trying to wake up freaking Godzilla! Nobody wants that! Not only this, but then they actually consider bringing in a female, so they can give Kong the chance to multiply and bring forth little baby Kong’s that can probably wreck havoc on the city just as well! These must be the stupidest scientists this side of Howard the Duck! Not only that, but they don’t have the proper facilities to contain a beast like Kong. The funniest part of the whole thing is this; they struggle to give Kong a new heart so the beast can come back to life and we get the impression that somebody actually cares for Kong. But then after he wakes up, they drug him and put him right back to sleep! So what’s the deal? Did they want to bring him back to life or not? The characters in this film are playing games with poor Kong, leave the damn beast alone! Make up your minds about what you want to do with him, but this thing about resuscitating, drugging, resuscitating and drugging is just abusive! Especially with a creature who has a heart condition like Kong.
But yeah, this movie is all about Kong’s heart beating faster every time he gets a whiff of Lady Kong, who’s being held captive in a hangar, right next to Kong’s. It’s kind of funny seeing Kong fall in love and yes my friends, this is what you are going to see, Kong falling in love! Kong hitting on a girl, slowly working his way up to the big event, the only difference this time around is that he’s sticking to his species. In the first film he falls for a human, but on this one he’s found one of his own to do the dirty deed with. Here’s this rampaging beast that suddenly gets all sweet on us! You have to see Kong’s face when he sees his female counterpart for the first time! It’s quite funny! So get ready to see Kong actually grab Lady Kong’s ass!, I’m not kidding, this happens on this movie! Lady Kong’s reaction is priceless! See Kong share a meal with his lady! See Kong getting some! Yes my friends, not only does Kong get it on in this movie, he also takes that big step and becomes a dad. There’s this thing they tried to do which was show parallels between humans and animals, so while Kong is getting it on with Lady Kong, the Indiana Jones type gets it on with the scientist who takes care of Kong’s heart, who by the way is played by Linda Hamilton. Her reply to getting it on in the woods with the adventurer is “we are primates too”.
Linda Hamilton, behind the scenes on King Kong Lives
One of the biggest downsides to this movie are the special effects. This movie was made in 1986, but they decided to make this movie like it was still 1976. The 1976 version of King Kong updated things from an effects stand point. They decided not to use stop motion effects and instead decided having men in suits act like giant gorillas. They even went and built a gigantic robotic version of Kong that cost more then a million bucks! Here's a funny little bit of info from that 1976 version of King Kong, they spent a bunch of money creating that giant version of Kong, and it only appears on the film for like five seconds! Talk about a waste of money, but anyways, King Kong Lives though made ten years after the 1976 version made absolutely zero advancements in effects techniques. For all intents and purposes, this movie might as well have been in the 70's. Men in suits and miniatures galore.
"What do you mean you don't you have protection?"
But then, after Kong plants his seed, the army takes Lady Kong away and it turns into a film about Kong trying to find his Lady friend. On his way he stumbles upon a couple of rednecks who want to make fun of him and they get what’s coming to them. There’s a chunk of the film which simply has Kong going around destroying little towns and smashing Lamborghinis, then the army decides they can take Kong on, apparently they never learn. Same thing happens in Japan, the army there doesn’t quite get it yet that their little tanks and guns are no good against Godzilla! Here it’s the same; they seem to think that bullets and tanks make them invincible against a giant gorilla! Now here’s where this movie gets even freaking stupider…the whole process of impregnation and birth for Lady Kong seems to happen in a matter of days! Ha! Before you know it, Lady Kong is pregnant and giving birth to Baby Kong! This movie is nuts, it’s the kind of movie that makes you wonder what the producers and director where thinking of when they made it. Still, I’ll let you be the judge of it because after all, a bad movie like this is good for a laugh, which is the only thing I can recommend this movie for. A laugh! And making me laugh ain’t a bad thing, a lot of people have a soft spot for this movie, warts and all. I gotta say, Kong kind of grows on you after a while. This film was the last nail on director John Guillermin’s coffin, after two blockbuster failures Sheena (1984) and King Kong Lives; he never made another film again. I wonder why? I guess it just proves one thing: one two many failures in a row will get you a free pass out of Hollywood.
Rating: 2 out of 5