King Kong (1976 film)

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Directed by                   Produced by
John Guillermin Dino De Laurentiis
Written by                       Music by  
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. John Barry
Distributed by                       Rating      
Paramount Pictures,
Toho-Towa Company Ltd.JP
  Budget                           Box Office
$24,000,000 $80,000,000
Running Time
134 minutes
(2 hours, 14 minutes)
Designs Used
The most exciting original motion picture event of all time. „ 

— Tagline

King Kong is a 1976 American giant monster film co-produced by the Dino De Laurentiis Corporation and Paramount Pictures, and a remake of the 1933 film of the same name. It was released to American theaters on December 17, 1976.


Fred Wilson, an executive in the Petrox Oil Corporation, organizes an expedition to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean covered in a huge fog blanket, which he believes hides a gigantic underground oil reservoir. Before the expedition's ship, the Petrox Explorer, leaves, primate paleontologist Jack Prescott bribes a guard and stows away on the ship. After the Explorer sets sail, Wilson informs the ship's crew about their destination. During this briefing, Prescott reveals himself and talks about various records of ships that traveled to the same island, speaking of a gigantic ape-like creature that lives on "the beach of the skull." Wilson asks Prescott who he is, and Prescott introduces himself as a primate paleontologist who wants to see the island for himself. Wilson believes Prescott is a spy from a rival oil company and orders him locked up. While Prescott is escorted to his cell, he sees a life raft floating in the open ocean. The raft is brought on board the Explorer, with only a single unconscious female occupant. The castaway is taken into a cabin, while Wilson performs a background check on Prescott and learns he is indeed who he says he is. Wilson allows Prescott to be freed, but appoints him as the expedition's official photographer. The castaway awakens and tells Wilson and Prescott and introduces herself as Dwan (spelled this way so it can "sound more notable") and says she was an aspiring actress on a director's yacht which suddenly exploded. Since the Explorer is already too far from port, it is decided for Dwan to stay on the expedition. Over the rest of the voyage, Dwan forms a close friendship with Prescott.

When the Explorer finally enters the fog blanket, it comes upon the fabled island. A landing party is organized, and Dwan convinces Wilson to bring her along. As the party explores the interior of the island, it comes upon a gigantic wall. Wilson states that the island is uninhabited and that the wall must be ancient, but Prescott says the wall looks well-maintained and that there is a tribe of natives living behind it, hiding from something. The party passes through the wall and comes upon a ceremony being performed by the natives. The witch doctor becomes enraged that the ceremony has been interrupted, but upon seeing Dwan offers to purchase her so she can be used as a sacrifice to their god, Kong. Wilson refuses and the party returns to the Explorer, scaring the natives off with their rifles. Determined to acquire the oil on the island, Wilson plans to return at a later time. That night, natives sneak onto the boat and kidnap and drug Dwan, then bring her back to the village. Dwan is decorated in ceremonial jewels and tied to a pedestal outside the wall, where Kong emerges from the jungle and grabs her, taking her off into the jungle. When Dwan's kidnapping is discovered, the crew comes back ashore and storms the village, only to see that something huge has carried off Dwan. Wilson sets up a base camp on the beach, while Prescott and a group of men follow Kong into the jungle. While on the beach, Wilson learns that the oil on the island is worthless and must wait thousands of years more before it is usable. Unwilling to return to his superiors empty-handed, Wilson concocts a scheme to capture Kong and bring him back to the United States as a marketing gimmick for Petrox.

Meanwhile, Kong sets Dwan down in a clearing and looks at her. Dwan believes Kong is going to kill her and begs for her life. To Dwan's surprise, Kong is amused and calmed by Dwan's sweet-talk, and she soon learns he means her no harm. Kong takes Dwan to a waterfall and holds her under it, cleaning the mud off of her. Prescott and the team begin to get closer to Kong, and come upon a fallen log spanning a deep chasm. As they try to cross, Kong emerges from the jungle and sees them. Kong grabs the log and tosses it into the pit, sending the entire team to their deaths except for Prescott and another man named Boan. Prescott tells Boan to go back to the village while he continues pursuing Kong. By nightfall, Kong brings Dwan to his mountain lair, where he prepares to undress his "bride." However, a giant snake appears and tries to eat Dwan. Kong attacks the snake, but it constricts itself around him. Jack arrives at the lair and reunites with Dwan while Kong is occupied. Dwan and Prescott stop briefly to watch Kong's struggle, but upon seeing Prescott with her Kong becomes enraged. Kong grabs the snake's jaws and tears them apart, killing it. Jack and Dwan jump into the water below and swim back to the village, where Wilson and his team have set up a trap for Kong. Kong chases them to the village and smashes through the wall, only to fall into a pit filled with chloroform, knocking him unconscious. The natives surround their fallen god and bow, as Wilson prepares to transport Kong back to New York.

Kong is loaded in the Explorer's cargo hold, where he is fed with tons of fruit. Both Dwan and Jack are upset at Kong's treatment, while Kong himself grows increasingly distressed throughout the voyage. One day, Dwan accidentally falls into the cargo hold, only for Kong to catch her. The captain orders the hold to be flooded after Dwan is rescued, but Kong becomes calm and allows Dwan to climb back out. The rest of the voyage goes relatively smoothly, and Kong is prepared to be put on display in New York. Wilson tries to convince Prescott and Dwan to be present at Kong's exhibition, but Prescott refuses and states he will start a fund to return Kong to his home. Kong, bound with chrome steel and with a giant crown placed on his head, is put on display in front of a huge crowd. When reporters try to take photographs of Dwan, Kong becomes agitated and breaks free of his binds, trampling the crowd, including Wilson. Dwan runs away and finds Prescott, and the two of them cross the Queensboro Bridge to escape from Kong. Kong simply walks across the water and approaches Manhattan, desperately searching for Dwan. Dwan and Jack hide in an abandoned bar, where Prescott sees the World Trade Center, realizing it bears a remarkable resemblance to Kong's lair on the island. Prescott calls the Mayor's office, telling them to allow Kong to climb to the top of the World Trade Center where he can be safely captured. While Prescott makes the call, Kong finds the bar and grabs Dwan, carrying her off to the World Trade Center.

With the National Guard pursuing him, Kong climbs the South Tower and reaches the top. There, he is attacked by soldiers wielding flamethrowers, much to Prescott's dismay. Kong managed to jump to the North Tower, where he throws a gasoline tank at the soldiers, killing them in a fiery explosion. Ignoring Prescott's request to capture Kong with nets, the military sends in helicopters with mounted machine guns to kill him. Realizing the incoming threat, Kong sets Dwan down and holds her back. Dwan begs for Kong to pick her back up, hoping the military will not fire if he is holding her. Kong smiles at Dwan and turns away, facing the helicopters head-on. The helicopters open fire, riddling Kong with machine gun fire. Despite his grievous injuries, Kong managed to destroy two choppers. Eventually, the machine gun fire is too much, and Kong falls over, bleeding profusely. Sobbing, Dwan approaches Kong. Breathing heavily, Kong rolls off the roof of the North Tower and plummets onto the plaza below. Minutes later, reporters and onlookers have surrounded Kong, while Dwan approaches him. Kong looks at his love one last time before his heart stops beating. Mobbed by reporters, Dwan bursts into tears and calls for Jack, who is trying to reach her through the crowds.


Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

  • Directed by   John Guillermin
  • Written by   Lorenzo Semple Jr.
  • Produced by   Dino De Laurentiis
  • Music by   John Barry
  • Cinematography by   Richard H. Kline
  • Edited by   Ralph E. Winters
  • Production Design by   Mario Chiari, Dale Hennesy
  • Assistant Directing by   Nathan Haggard, Pat Kehoe, William Kronick, David McGiffert, Kurt Neumann
  • Special Effects by   Carlo Rambaldi, Glen Robinson, Frank Van der Veer, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Jeff Bridges   as   Jack Prescott
  • Charles Grodin   as   Fred Wilson
  • Jessica Lange   as   Dwan
  • John Randolph   as   Captain Ross
  • René Auberjonois   as   Roy Bagley
  • Ed Lauter   as   First Mate Carnahan
  • Julius Harris   as   Boan
  • Jack O'Halloran   as   Joe Perko
  • Dennis Fimple   as   Sunfish
  • Jorge Moreno   as   Garcia
  • Mario Gallo   as   Timmons
  • John Lone   as   Chinese Cook
  • John Agar   as   City Official
  • Sid Conrad   as   Petrox Chairman
  • Keny Long   as   Ape Masked Man
  • Garry Walberg   as   Army General
  • George Whiteman   as   Army Helicopter Pilot
  • Wayne Heffley   as   Air Force Colonel
  • Rick Baker   as   King Kong (Uncredited)
  • Peter Cullen   as   King Kong (Voice, uncredited)



Weapons, Vehicles, and Races


The idea of a remake of King Kong had been considered as early as 1952, when Merian C. Cooper and Willis O'Brien planned to produce a remake of their film titled The Eighth Wonder, making use of improved stop-motion techniques and technology. The film never came to fruition, though Kong went on to appear in two films produced by Japanese Toho Company Ltd. in the 1960's.

In the 1970's RKO Pictures sold the remake rights to King Kong to Paramount Pictures and Dino De Laurentiis. Universal Pictures objected on the basis that RKO had previously made an oral agreement to allow it to produce a remake of the film. Universal filed a lawsuit against RKO and Paramount for the rights to King Kong, all while beginning pre-production on their own remake, The Legend of King Kong, scheduled for a 1976 release. Universal expected this would cause De Laurentiis to abandon his remake, but it instead prompted him to rush the film into production. When the lawsuit was settled, Universal purchased the rights to Kong from Richard Cooper, son of Kong's creator Merian C. Cooper. However, the court ruled that De Laurentiis and Paramount did have the right to produce their remake, prompting Universal to abandon its plans for the time being.

Due to the accelerated production, Rick Baker lamented that he and Carlo Rambaldi were unable to properly design the King Kong costume. Baker gave all the credit to the suit's passable appearance to Carlo Rambaldi and his technicians and to Richard H. Kline's cinematography. Rambaldi also constructed a life-size King Kong animatronic that stood around 40 feet tall and weighed 6.5 tons. The animatronic cost $1.7 million, but did not function properly and was relegated to a few brief shots in the film totaling only a few seconds.


Main article: King Kong (1976 film)/Gallery.


Main article: King Kong (1976 film soundtrack).

Theatrical Releases

Box Office

Despite often being called a financial flop, King Kong was actually a sizable financial success, earning Paramount Pictures over triple its budget. King Kong had a budget of approximately $24 million and ended up with a worldwide gross of $80 million. According to Variety, King Kong was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1977.


King Kong was met with mixed reception from viewers and critics alike upon release. Many criticized it for failing to live up to the original film, and it was often accused of being too campy. Some critics, including Roger Ebert, gave positive reviews to the film, praising the humor and acting. The film launched the career of actress Jessica Lange, who received a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female for her role in the film.


King Kong was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound. The film won the award for Best Visual Effects, sharing it with Logan's Run, on which several of the film's effects crew also worked. Actress Jessica Lange won the Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female for her role as Dwan.


Main article: King Kong Lives.

Due to the film's financial success, Dino De Laurentiis tried for years to produce a sequel. Finally, ten years later in 1986, De Laurentiis' production company De Laurentiis Entertainment Group produced a sequel, titled King Kong Lives. This film, however, was a critical and financial failure.


  • King Kong was advertised as "The most exciting original motion picture event of all time," despite being a remake.
  • Posters for the American release of Godzilla vs. Megalon featured Godzilla and Megalon battling atop the World Trade Center as an attempt to cash-in on this film's release.
  • Over 30,000 extras showed up one night for the filming of the film's ending scene at the World Trade Center Plaza. The filming had to be shut down because the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey worried that the weight of so many people would cause the plaza to collapse. The filmmakers managed to get the shots they wanted before the filming was shut down, and a few days later returned with a smaller group of extras to finish the scene.
  • This is the only version of King Kong in which Kong climbs the then-newly built World Trade Center at the climax, rather than the Empire State Building. This is due to the fact that at the time this film was made, the World Trade Center's Twin Towers had surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest skyscrapers in New York City.
  • King Kong was the first film project for legendary makeup effects artist Rob Bottin. Bottin, famous for his later work on films such as The Thing, RoboCop and Total Recall, served as an uncredited assistant makeup effects technician under his mentor Rick Baker for this film.

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