Fearing this would happen, Plan B called on an exploration of the Billy Jack boxset to mark the passing of Tom Laughlin; and though I do enjoy The Born Losers quite a bit, I just didn't have it in me to sit through Billy Jack Goes to Washington again no matter how much liquor I stockpiled. Luckily, Plan C presented itself with the one-two-punch of a gift of a nifty King Kong lunchbox from some friends and rousing discussion on where Peter Jackson went wrong on his remake via Facebook that led me to settle on the Big Ape and his oeuvre. And so, with my trusty sammich, a pecan pie, and a bottle of Wild Turkey, our journey to Skull Island and beyond began where it began.
Ya know, every time I watch King Kong, I always pick up on something new. This time, I noticed something easily overlooked, but ... Remember the scene after Kong breaks thru the wall, munches on a few natives, and trashes the village before making his way to the beach where Denham is waiting with those gas bombs? Here, I finally noticed the sand the tranquilized Kong wallows around in while he tries to fight off the noxious vapor. Sand animated frame by frame, mind you, to match the movement of Kong as he struggles over the dunes. Incredible.
Also also this time around, Bruce Cabot has officially gone from liability to 'Screw Joel McCrea.'
"I thought you meant Cary Grant!"
Up next, quickly slapped together, and it shows, Son of Kong is only 69 minutes long. But it takes the crew nearly 45 minutes to get back to Skull Island. (Plenty of time for some tropical island misadventure, musical interludes, and prescient anti-commie propaganda.) Fifty minutes in and Junior finally shows up, who is mostly played for laughs. The 'derp' factor in this thing is freakin' astronomical as the soundtrack bludgeons the audience about the head and neck to really hammer this *ahem* hilarity home.
Anyhoo, it's proper title probably should have been The Redemption of Carl Denham with our very special guest star, Baby Kong. Decent chemistry between the leads salvages most of it, even the odious comedy relief of Victor Wong has its moments. Beyond that, slapped and dashed to within an inch of its life, but relatively harmless.
"Why, no. I haven't seen your daddy. Is he missing?"
Before you ask, I did consider watching Mighty Joe Young but eventually ruled it out because even though he may be the same genus and species, well, his name ain't Mighty Joe Kong. And so, we move to Japan for the Battle of the Century, King Kong vs. Godzilla. Aided and abetted by some narcotic grape juice that helps us overlook our giant monkey's highly visible seams, for once, our titanic tussle actually lives up to it's billing.
And even though OPERATION: DIG A BIG HOLE failed, we got some excellent kaiju action and a ton of property damage that firmly puts this one in the win column. Who won? Who cares! And remember, whatever you do, DO NOT GO TO HOKKAIDO!
"Dr. Arnold Johnson is right."
Sticking with the theme, we stay in Japan for another round of pure bedlam with the completely demented King Kong Escapes, where Kong and his lady fair are captured by an international terrorist for a plot that you wouldn't believe even if I typed it up and drew you a picture. Just watch it. Trust me.
Also plugged into this insanity, we got an awesome arch-nemesis with Mechanokong, a full-loaf of Paul Frees, a dinosaur powered by Scrubbing Bubbles, mind-controlling disco globes, and a Kong suit even goofier than the one from the last movie. And as a big dollop of gravy on top of all of that, we got Linda Miller in those go-go boots and majorette uniform as Nurse Watson, who is just sooooo adorable I can't even even.
Anyhoo, at this point, I came to the conclusion I was way too sober for this next entry, but, rules is rules, and so, it was time to mix 'em a little stronger so I could cry when the monkey die in Big Dino D's version of King Kong. Now, I tried to fold up that poster and stuff it into the DVD tray but turns out that won't work. And then, Netflix refused to stream it on the first try, crashing the software on my BluRay player. Ignoring the fact that the universe was trying to tell me something, I tried again. And, dammit, it worked this time. *sigh*
Hands down, the best F/X in the whole movie is Jeff Bridges' beard. And though I used to think Jessica Lange was terrible in this, now I believe her channeling of an empty-headed actress with nice rack but no other discernible talents is nothing short of brilliant. And despite the lack of monsters on faux Skull Island (-- except for that ludicrous snake), my biggest personal beef with this movie is Charles Grodin, an actor I've never really cared for, who plays a character that amplifies everything I don't like about him up to about an 11. *pfeh* Beyond that, we got overblown and sexually inappropriate metaphors...
I mean, really -- What's THAT all about?
Where was I? Oh yeah ... Overblown and sexually inappropriate metaphors, skeevey simian Stockholm Syndrome, male chauvinist pig apes, and Laurentiis and Carlo Rambaldi pulling a Bud Westmore on Rick Baker. And so ends King Kong '76. What a f@cked up, tonally inconsistent mess you are.
Sorry, Dino. No tears here.
Of course there weren't any tears. Why should there be?! Turns out Kong wasn't dead after all (-- even though that fall alone should have liquified him.) Why make King Kong Lives, you ask? Because the world needed a Rom-Com Kong vs. Rednecks movie, dammit. That's why!
First, the good news: My old VHS tape wouldn't work. Hooray! The bad news: I found a copy streaming on YouTube. Ah, poop. The really, really good news: I do believe I was now sufficiently drunk enough *hic* to handle this entry with ease. Nah. That's not really fair. For, despite the grumbling and hesitation, I do love and appreciate the mounting stoopidity of this movie something fierce. From the reviving surgery, to Kong and his lady love making the goo-goo (and beyond) at/with each other, to that aforementioned redneck interlude, to the final fight and the credulity-chucking final coda, this thing is just amazeballs.
And, oh, holy crap, does John Ashton's Lt. Nevitt belong in the Cranky Military Asshat Hall of Fame along with Alex Nicol's Col. 'Kill that Hairy Sumbitch' Davis of A*P*E infamy.
And so, having survived King Kong Lives, my reward was getting to watch the super-duper three 'n' half-hour long extended cut of Peter Jackson's well-intentioned, but let's just call it what it is, wet dream. Now where the hell did I put that bottle...
What I remember most about watching Jackson's Kong in the theater was after the excruciatingly long and exhaustively-detailed set-up, was glancing at my watch when the monkey finally showed up and noting over an hour of screen time had elapsed before we got to what we had all paid to see. It's heart was definitely in the right place, sure, but the film is still kind of a broken baroque mess. I can't remember who first said it on the message board I used to haunt, but I wished it was me, when they said the film truly was a lovingly laborious and well-intended expanded-universe fan-fic gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I don't know when Jackson contracted his case of Rube Goldbergian Bullshititus (a/k/a Spielberg Pox), but he hasn't been the same since. Still, when I decided to revisit it, the only copy I could get my hands on was the extended edition. And though the last thing I felt the film needed was a longer running time, somewhat miraculously, the whole thing just seemed to gel better and didn't feel nearly as over-cooked as I'd remembered. Alas, even with this tinkering, the near fatal flaws were still there the third time through: the V-Rex fight, the stampede, and the spider pit hootenanny still had me rolling my eyes and thinking 'Sweet Big Monkey Bajeezus, move on already.'
Look, I don't hate the movie. Far from it. The cast is outstanding (special nods to Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, and Kyle Chandler) and the F/X are top-notch. The component parts of this movie are great, the whole that they make when put together, pains me to say, is not. The problem, sadly, then, is Jackson. And the moral of this story: When you love something that much, and lose yourself that badly in the minutiae, and love it so much you can't bear to leave ANYTHING OUT, you're too close and you run the risk of smothering the life out of it.
Wow. Listen to me get all serious. Heh. Forgive. At this point, I'm really, really drunk and really, really tired. And so, our Mad Monkey Marathon comes to end. But before I crawl off to bed and pass out, I bid you Happy Holidays One and All. Or Bah! Humbug, where applicable. 'Oh, Good King WencesKong looked out, on the Feast of Denham...'