When I watched it the night we got back, my reaction was, "Yeah, this is definitely not good," and since then, I've had major mixed feelings about it. It will always have a special place in my heart and, every time I watch it, I can remember what I thought about certain things I loved when I saw it as a kid, but I'd be lying if I came out and proclaimed it to be awesome and didn't understand why everyone hated it. Believe me, I get why people say this is one of Kong's lowest points in his long history and I can't call it a good movie by any means. Going back to Godzilla vs. Megalon, I can say I'd much rather watch that over this because that's so unabashedly cheesy and juvenile that it's much more entertaining, whereas this is rather uneven (plus, I'm a bigger fan of Godzilla and I have more nostalgia for that movie since I watched it countless times as a kid). I do enjoy King Kong Lives whenever I watch it but I can't overlook its very major flaws and when I watched it again to do this review, I had the exact same reaction. I've ultimately decided that I wouldn't say it's a full-on "bad" movie but instead is one that's just kind of there, which is why this is neither an entry of "Movies That Suck" nor one of "B to Z Movies." I put it on a list I did of the Top 30 Worst or Most Disappointing Sequels and I still think it deserves to be on there, because it's nothing compared to King Kong '76, but it was pretty low on there, which I think perfectly sums up my feelings on it (the next movie after it on that list was Godzilla Raids Again; yeah, I just admitted to liking King Kong Lives more than a Godzilla movie!)
Ten years after he was gunned down by military helicopters and fell from the World Trade Center, the giant ape King Kong has been in a comatose state in a research lab at the Atlantic Institute in Georgia. To ensure his survival, his damaged heart must be released with a massive artificial one the institute has spent $7 million developing, but there's a problem: he's lost so much blood that he needs a transfusion to survive the surgery and there's no known creature whose blood is suitable. Elsewhere, in Borneo, adventurer and diamond prospector Hank "Mitch" Mitchell is tracking through the jungle when he comes across an enormous, female giant ape that is knocked out by the sedative-tipped blow-darts of some local natives. Mitch claims the ape and plans to sell her to the highest bidder. Seeing a prime opportunity for the needed blood transfusion, Atlantic Institute head Dr. Ingersoll and Dr. Benson Hughes, the head of primate research there, agree to Mitch's terms to take the ape herself rather than just her blood, despite protests from Amy Franklin, the head of the project to save Kong, who feels that any excitement or arousal he gets from the female's presence may endanger his recovery. The female ape, who's dubbed "Lady Kong," is flown to Georgia and Kong is given the transfusion to make him strong enough for the surgery. While Lady Kong is kept in a nearby warehouse until a permanent holding area for can be constructed, Amy and her colleagues conduct the surgery and, despite some setbacks, are successful in transplanting the artificial heart. Kong soon regains consciousness but, when he senses Lady Kong's presence, he tries to get to her, an act that puts a strain on his heart and forces Amy to sedate him. Amy then asks that Lady Kong be moved to her permanent enclosure as soon as possible so as not further endanger Kong's health but, two days later, when the attempt to move her is made, they're too rough in doing so. Frightened, she cries out and Kong, who's awakened back at the institute, hears her, her, breaks his restraints, and smashes his way out. He makes it to the warehouse, tears into it, and frees Lady Kong; he two of them have a literal case of love at first sight before escaping into the wilderness. The apes soon become targets of the gun-ho and unhinged Colonel R.G. Nevitt, who's assigned to capture them. His battalion tracks them down to a spot in the mountains and are successful in capturing Lady Kong; Kong himself proves to be more of a challenge and, despite Amy and Mitch's attempts to save him, he's forced to leap from a mountain into a river below, after which he disappears and is presumed dead. Many months later, Nevitt is keeping Lady Kong isolated at a missile silo, refusing to let anyone see her, and when Mitch manages to secure land in Borneo to act as a preserve for her, he and Amy are determined to help her. However, they soon learn that Kong is very much alive, and when he's spotted, he causes a panic in the area and prompts Nevitt to continue to ignore orders in an attempt to kill him, while Amy and Mitch do whatever it takes to save the two amazing gorillas.
This observation by De Laurentiis, however, proved to be very wrong once filming began, as Guillermin was once again very ill-tempered and volatile. By all accounts, he wasn't explosive with the actors, although actor Brian Kerwin described him as a "very sour person," but when it came to other members of the production team, like Ronald Shusett and the crew, it was a different story. Guillermin didn't appreciate Shusett's input and suggestions and, according to Ray Morton, the crew members all got rubber dolls of him that they would hold behind their backs and twist during his loud rants. He also didn't come back to the set after lunch a couple of times, as well as disappeared completely for several days after a very heated argument with the production staff or sometimes left halfway through a day's shooting to indulge his passion for sailing. As had been the case on Kong '76 and the pressure he was under, most understood that Guillermin was going through a rough patch because of his son's death and were willing to overlook his behavior for the most part. His relationship with De Laurentiis, however, became strained again and this would indeed mark the last time they ever worked together (after his behavior here, I doubt very much he would have been offered to direct the proposed third film if it had been made). King Kong Lives would prove to be Guillermin's last theatrical movie. After directing The Tracker, an HBO movie starring Kris Kristofferson, he retired from filmmaking and pretty much dropped off the face of the Earth, purportedly spending the rest of his life building boats and sailing them (he does have a "special thanks" credit on the 2000 movie, The Opportunists, starring Christopher Walken). He died of a heart attack in 2015 at the age of 89, something I didn't even know until I looked him up when I began writing my review for Kong '76.
Dr. Hughes and Dr. Ingersoll are the two respective men on
It's a shame that nobody from King Kong '76 returns here. While I know for sure that Jessica Lange wouldn't have come anywhere near this film after that movie stunted her career for a few years, it would've been nice to see Jeff Bridges return as Jack Prescott, since he's the one would have been most likely to do so given how much he was on Kong's side (Dwan might've been too traumatized to get involved with Kong again). Maybe they could've had him in place of Mitch and be the one to discover Lady Kong, not changing a thing in the script other than having him more concerned about Kong's well-being than about money early on. You actually almost expect Jack and Dwan to be in the movie, given how it starts with an edited version of the ending of Kong '76 and shows their horrified reactions to him getting shot up, ending on that last moment between Dwan and Kong before the actual story begins. As a result, it's weird when nothing more is said about them and makes me think they should've completely edited them out of this prologue.
A more creative problem for the cast and crew was the script: not necessarily the story, mind you (although there are inherent problems with it, as we'll get into later) but rather the tone. When Ronald Shusett and another writer named Steven Pressfield wrote the screenplay together, they tried to take an approach similar to the one Lorenzo Semple Jr. had with King Kong '76: acknowledge the absurdity of the story without making it an out-and-out spoof. Shusett said his inspiration was Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he described as a sendup of action movies and adventure serials while being one itself, but also noted that's really hard to pin down, which caused a considerable difference of opinion between different members of the production team. Despite their attempts to write it as semi-satirical, Brian Kerwin said that nobody was trying to make a joke out of it during filming, and when she was interviewed by Cinefantastique during filming, producer Martha Schumacher described the movie as very serious and not a joke. This led to the actors being confused about how to play the roles, as well as the final movie coming across as a little odd tonally. For the most part, the film is played completely straight, particularly the heart transplant early on, and you can also say the same about the two lead characters, Mitch and Amy, even though the former is a really funny guy. But then, you have John Ashton chewing the scenery as Col. Nevitt and being a cardboard villain, silly stuff like Kong carrying Lady Kong off bridal style after rescuing her and the situations Kong finds himself in near the end (stepping on a teenager's new car and getting hit in the face by a golf-ball), things that are meant to be gags like the Honeymoon Ridge sign in the establishing shot before you see the first big scene between the apes, and all the overly mushy interactions they have. One line that sums up this film's uneven tone is when Dr. Ingersoll, whose sudden shift in personality can probably be blamed primarily on the script, is informed of Kong's escape from the institute by being told, "The other monkey's gone... ape-shit." It's delivered in such a confused, half-hearted way that it makes you wonder whether or not it was meant to be a joke, which is how this whole movie feels, in spite of the good intentions behind it. Say what you will about Kong '76, at least that movie's tone was consistent and knew what it was.
What keeps me from calling this an out-and-out bad movie, be it one that's entertaining or unwatchable, is that it's competently-made on a technical level. John Guillermin was very proficient in shooting movies and making sets look good and this one is no different. In spite of the dwindling budget that he and everyone else had to deal with, the film, while certainly not as big as its predecessor, doesn't look like a small movie. The enormous operating theater where Kong is kept for the first quarter of the movie is proof of that, as it filled every inch of the largest stage DEG had available at its Wilmington studio and is shown off in one long, continuous shot at the beginning that is very impressive. That's to say nothing of the big surgical tools they use to operate on him, which are very well-designed, despite being ludicrous in how big they are, and the full-scale props of Kong's real heart and his artificial one that are used in the sequence. The same can also be said of the big warehouse where Lady Kong is kept before Kong bursts her out and the missile silo that Col. Nevitt keeps her in. Those are the only two actual major sets in the movie, whereas everything else is either ordinary-looking rooms and offices, shot on location in the wilderness and countryside (a stipulation Dino De Laurentiis made to Ronald Shusett), or are miniature sets built for the suit performers, but they also look pretty good, especially the real locations, even if some find them to be uninspired. If I have one complaint about the film's look, it's that I wish the film was as pleasant to the eyes as King Kong '76. It has a murky, brownish quality to it, especially in the nighttime scenes, that I don't care for and I think could've been done better. Otherwise, I think it can hardly be called a badly made movie in that regard.
It sucks that this is easily most despised King Kong movie when it takes place in the setting that I can relate to the most: the American south. In fact, while the movie is set in Georgia, which I don't live that far from, parts of it were actually filmed here in Tennessee, at Fall Creek Falls and Pigeon Forge, both of which I've been to (the latter of which I've visited many times since I was a kid). When I watch the movie, I find it surreal to see Kong stomping around territory that looks like my own backyard and to see him interacting with the types of people I see every day. When giving his own personal analysis of the movie, which is not positive, Ray Morton refers to the rednecks as very clichéd, a charge that I beg to differ with. I know a lot of people who look and act like the hunters who pay a grisly price for trapping and torturing Kong, right down to the one guy who says that he wants his head on the hood of his pickup (my dad is an avid hunter and wears gear similar to the ones you see these people wearing; however, he's not at all reprehensible like them), and I can say the same for the old men at the barn dance the Kongs show up at near the end. Some may say that the old guy with the beard and overalls who says, "I ain't seen you in a hundred years, boy!", is an over-the-top caricature but I can safely say that I've met my fair share of people around here who look and say stuff like that. I've never been to an actual barn dance like that but I have been to numerous family gatherings akin to it, so it feels true-to-life for me. While it may be stupid and clichéd to a lot of people, I've always enjoyed seeing King Kong in my neck of the woods. Now, they just need to make a Godzilla movie where's trampling the south!
As much as I like the characterization, I've never been a big fan of Kong's design in this film. Carlo Rambaldi returned to do the suit and creature designs, now working completely on his own and it shows. While Kong certainly looks better here than he did in the Toho films, it's far from the ideal look. He looks shorter and stockier than he did in Kong '76, which detracts from the majestic feel I always thought he had there, and his physique is more akin to that of a bodybuilder than a gorilla, which I don't care for (he doesn't have a single mark on his chest, even though he's had a heart transplant). When he walks on his hind legs, it's in a weird, back-and-forth rocking motion, and while it's cool to see him occasionally get down on all fours like a real gorilla, something he hasn't done since the original King Kong, the design of the suit that makes feel stiff and awkward (he always looks like he's doing at an angle rather than in a straight line). But, far and away, my least favorite part of his look is the head and face. They wanted to make him look as much as like the 1976 Kong as close as they could, and they even used the same molds as that one, but as you can see, he looks completely different. There is a reason for that: Rambaldi was able to create a single head that could go through all of the emotions and expressions required, whereas he and Rick Baker had used several different masks with varying expressions before. To accommodate the mechanisms in the head, though, they had to use thicker foam rubber, making the face look completely different. Ironically, in spite of the advanced mechanics, the thick foam rubber resulted in his face being more lifeless than they were before, and the contact lenses that Peter Elliot had to wear underneath the mask gave him even more of a blank, doll-like expression. Even as a kid, I noticed that he looked more like a living, emotive creature in Kong '76 than he does here. Plus, he's ugly as sin in this movie. Whenever he's snarling or angry, you don't want to look at him because he's so hideous, and there's a different between that and making him look ferocious like before. And when he smiles, he just looks dopey. As for his vocalizations, they created a new guttural, growly roar from a combination of Elliot's voice and real animal sounds. While it sounds okay and does make him feel more like a real animal, when you combine it with his significantly different appearance, it makes it all the more difficult for me to buy this as the same ape I saw before (plus, I always preferred that great roar in Kong '76).
Lady Kong (George Yiasoumi), or "Queen Kong" as I always called her when I was a kid, is little more than an oversized damsel in distress for Kong to save and protect time and again. She's much more timid and sensitive than he is, only showing ferocity when she chases after Mitch when he first comes across her in Borneo (her seemingly random presence there is explained in a very simplified way with a throwaway line from Mitch later on when he says that they believe Borneo and Kong's island were once part of the same landmass), spending most of her time moaning in depression or screaming in panic when spooked. That's what major problem is with her: she can't do anything for herself and has to rely on either Kong or Mitch and Amy to help her, instead of fighting back against Col. Nevitt's battalion or trying to escape from the missile silo. In any case, it's love at first sight when she and Kong meet and she becomes a very devoted mate, as well as playful, although not without her limits (as seen when she doesn't appreciate Kong pretending to be in pain so he can cop a feel), and, above all else, loving. That's the other major problem with Lady Kong: her scenes with Kong are supposed to be sweet and emotional but instead, they're disgustingly sappy, with how their making goo-goo eyes and fawning over each other. I don't have a problem with her and Kong being humanized, as he was humanized long before this film, but, as nice as it is to see Kong get some happiness in his life, this is too much (it's made even weirder when you know that they're both played by men). She becomes depressed when she's imprisoned in the silo, refusing to eat, but also knows that Kong's alive, which proves to be right when he eventually shows up and rescues her. At the end of the movie, she gives birth to their son, which is a happy moment between her and Kong, but it's broken when he dies, which Lady Kong, despite being saddened, appears to accept. The movie ends with her and her son living in the preserve in Borneo that Mitch acquired for them and while she misses Kong, she does smile when their son acts and sounds just like him. There was originally supposed to be a subplot with Lady Kong becoming infatuated with Mitch, which would make Kong jealous, and while that was mostly dropped, you can tell she does have some affection for him when they arrive in Georgia on the cargo plane, which isn't lost on another guy in there. Plus, when she becomes distraught when Mitch and Amy's attempt to get her out of the silo is thwarted, she picks him up and hugs him for comfort.
As for Lady Kong's design, it's fine, for the most part. She doesn't look or move much more like an actual gorilla than Kong does but they at least made the effort to get across that she's a female by softening her face, giving her more of a brown color in her fur, and making her a bit smaller than him. Although, I could do without those shriveled, flat breasts of hers. I know female gorillas have breasts like human women do but, God, could they have made those things more unseemly?! When she's pregnant at the end of the movie, they had to give her a big baby pump and much fuller breasts, which I was happy to see, of course (and if you can't tell I'm being sarcastic with that statement, get the hell out of here right now!) Her vocalizations are also made to reinforce that she's a female, with a much softer, timid texture to her roars, growling, and bellows.
Like they did in King Kong '76, they used some full-scale props for scenes where Kong and Lady Kong physically interact with the actors. Most notably, there was no big robot this time around but rather, a big, inflatable body with separate, detachable heads for shots where one Kong or the other is lying down. It sounds cheap, but it's quite effective in big wide, long shots, especially when Kong is comatose at the institute and you see his eyelids fluttering and slight breathing. But, because they only built one body, if you look closely during the sequence where Lady Kong is knocked out and captured by Col. Nevitt, you'll notice that she's missing her breasts! They also used the heads separately for some over-the-shoulder shots, which look good but in some shots, especially for when Kong is buried up to his neck in boulders by those hunters, there's no movement whatsoever and it's lifeless. The big hand also made a comeback, and while it's not used nearly as much as it was in Kong '76, I think it looks better and doesn't come across as mechanical as it did before. In addition, they created a pair of big feet and legs, which are used in scenes like when Lady Kong is frightened by the overzealous reporters at the airport and when Baby Kong is placed on her leg after he's born.
Finally, you have Baby Kong (Benjamin Kechley), who was originally supposed to be completely mechanized before being made into another person in a suit, although you can still see that mechanical effect when Lady Kong lifts him up after he's first been born. There's not much to say about him other than he comes across as a curious newborn, is initially frightened of his father but quickly feels safe and comforted when he puts his hand around him, is distraught and confused when his father dies, and is later shown to be on his way to becoming like his father during the ending scene. I can't exactly call Baby Kong cute, either when he's a newborn or when he's older in the ending (where he's played by Peter Elliot), mainly because they made him look more like his father who, as we've discussed, isn't exactly a looker here, and he looks more like a hairy, little man than he does a gorilla (he's also not as big as he should be, given the size of his parents). His tiny, squeaky vocalizations, though, are kind of precious.
The miniature sets are another area where this film is inferior to King Kong '76. While not horribly-designed or constructed, the thing is you can tell that they are miniatures. They look artificial, aren't lit well enough to hide it, and they're very limited in size when compared to what was done before. The reason for this is 98% of the miniature sets are meant to simulate woods, swamps, and canyons rather than cities, and natural environments are very difficult to simulate convincingly out of plaster and plastic. It also didn't help that much of the crew production designer Peter Murton had to work with were Wilmington, North Carolina locals who'd never worked on a movie before. While I still enjoy the wilderness settings, it is a shame that we don't get to see any urban destruction or fake buildings and such getting ripped apart, save for the operating theater, the warehouse where Lady Kong is housed, and the missile silo where she's kept after she's captured by Col. Nevitt. Those sets look really good and are even better when they get smashed, making you wish there was more of it. At least you get to see Kong destroying a bunch of tanks and jeeps at the end, though, as well as some nice jungle miniature sets at the beginning and end of the movie.
This is by far the goriest King Kong movie ever. While it's hardly a splatterfest (it is PG-13), there's a fair amount of fluid to be seen here, especially during the operation scene. You see blood splattering against Amy's surgery gown when she uses a large circular saw to open up Kong's chest, a wide shot of his open chest as they're cutting and suturing it, and a full-on, gloriously detailed shot of his heart being hoisted away on a crane to make way for the artificial one. Later on, you see blood bubble to the surface of a rive after he whacks his head on a big rock, him munching on alligators, to the point where he's built up a big pile of their bones, and when he gets back at the hunters who bury him up to his head and torment him, he breaks one in half and eats another! And the final battle against Col. Nevitt and his men is just as violent and bloody as the one atop the World Trade Center in the previous film, as Kong is ripped into by their weapons and is almost totally covered in blood by the time it's all over, and the same goes for Nevitt, who sustains some pretty nasty injuries himself. In addition to the violence, you also get a very quick glimpse of Linda Hamilton's lovely breasts when she gets out of the sleeping bag she and Mitch shared when he tells her that Lady Kong is down there by herself, making this also the only real Kong movie where you see nudity, unless you count the very brief glimpse at Jessica Lange when Kong pulled her top down in the previous movie. (If you want to get a longer, more detailed look at Ms. Hamilton, though, you'd best watch the love scene between her and Michael Biehn in The Terminator. I'm coming across like such a pig here.)
In addition to Carlo Rambaldi, another effects artist who returned for King Kong Lives was Barry Nolan, who'd been a photographic effects assistant to Frank Van Der Veer and had now taken over as the head of the latter's optical effects company after he'd died in 1982. A lot of the technicians had also worked on Kong '76, so they knew what to expect, and they really rose to the challenge, as the blue screen, matting, and split-screen effects in this film are much superior. A lot of that could be due to simple advances in technology and techniques or the fact that there aren't as many shots of the Kongs interacting with the real actors but, whatever the case, they're much improved and some are even quite startling in how effective they look, such as the wide-shot of Mitch and the natives standing over to the side when Lady Kong topples over after being sedated or when you see them in the shot with her in the warehouse. Not all of the optical effects are great, with some of the weakest being a behind shot of Lady Kong watching the army vehicles approach her (her movements are slowed down and she looks kind of strange as well), Kong being matted onto the cliff behind said vehicles, and when he eats the one hunter, whom he's holding in his hand, but for the most part, the more obvious ones don't look as horribly dated as many in the previous film do.
When I've broken down the major scenes in the past Kong movies, I've got into detail about all of the scenes involving Kong and any other creatures, even if they weren't action scenes. Well, here, I'm going to have to take a different approach and just mention certain scenes in passing so this review won't be longer than it needs to be, because both he and Lady Kong have a lot of screentime and are truly the stars here (they're listed before the actual actors in the ending credits). Fortunately, a lot of the incidental scenes and shots featuring them are very short and superfluous, so you won't be missing much. So, with that out of the way, let's begin.
Following the scene at the airport where Mitch has to calm Lady Kong when she's twice spooked by the crowd of people who've gathered there, particularly some reporters who start climbing at her feet to get some good shots, and the transfusion that she provides Kong so he can withstand the surgery, we next get the operation. Once Amy and her fellow doctors are ready, they walk onto a platform right above Kong's chest and watch as the artificial heart is moved into the room, followed by their very large surgical instruments. They take what they need and Amy is given a large, circular saw that she uses to cut open Kong's chest, blood splattering on her operating gown. After they've opened him up, they work for a while, removing the heart while keeping Kong alive through continuous blood pumps and suction. When they're ready, a crane with a large claw at the end of it is swung over and lowered into Kong's chest. A couple of more cuts and his enormous heart is raised up and out of his chest (Brian Kerwin contemplated taking that massive prop home and making it into a coffee table), making way for the artificial one, which is lowered down towards his chest. However, the surgery hits a snag as one of the heart's supports breaks and it nearly falls. As they try to support it, Kong's vital signs become crippled, forcing them to work fast and finish up what they need to. Once they're finished, the heart is lowered down into Kong's open chest, a shot that is actually photographed from inside it.
After a short shot of Lady Kong sitting in the warehouse with her wrists and feet chained, we get a scene that takes place the same night as a celebratory dinner. While Mitch, Dr. Hughes, and Dr. Ingersoll party, Amy is staying by Kong's side, monitoring his progress. She's fallen asleep in the observation booth and the doctor in there with her is watching Kong's vital signs, when he slowly begins to regain consciousness. Noticing this on the machine, he wakes Amy up and when she looks out the booth's window, she sees Kong turn his head to look at her. Looking up through the skylight in the ceiling, he begins to raise up, pulling the oxygen tubes out of his nose and taking some deep breaths. They realize that even at this great distance, he can smell Lady Kong's scent. As he raises his hand up towards the skylight, Lady Kong senses him as well in her warehouse, stands up, and calls to him. Hearing this, Kong sits up, pulling more wires and tubes out of him, and gets to his feet. Wanting to go to her, he jumps up for the skylight, but the chains on his wrists keep him from reaching it. This action puts a strain on his heart, and when he tries it again, he clutches at his chest, growling in pain. To keep him from going into cardiac arrest, they quickly sedate him using the tranquilizer line that's still attached to him, causing him to collapse to the floor hard enough to shake the booth.
Kong stomps angrily towards the warehouse and then, to everyone's horror, rips through the wall on the opposite side of the building like it's nothing, sending them all fleeing in a panic. Once he's ripped it completely open, he and Lady Kong see each other for the first time and they become instantly love-struck. He stomps his way through the warehouse, with everyone panicking trying to run or drive out of his way, with a car slamming into a bulldozer, a guy falling off his perch in a panic, and a truck hitting a ramp and doing a flip that leaves it lying on its side. Kong steps on the front of another truck as he reaches Lady Kong and rips her loose of the nets and pushes back the crane one of them is attached to, causing it to knock over a car behind it, which promptly explodes. Once he's completely gotten her loose, they look at each other in a very lovey-dovey manner, not seeing the bulldozers driving right for them. Mitch manages to stop one of them by climbing onto it and kicking the driver in the back of the head, but one hits the side of Kong's left leg with its plow. He roars in pain and anger and then grabs it by the plow, pulls it towards him, and shoves it over to the side, where it tips over and explodes. Some armed men in another vehicle prepare to open fire on the apes but Mitch jumps into a jeep and barrels it right at them just as they do, knocking them to the ground and damaging the vehicle. Seeing his chance, Kong rips Lady Kong loose of her chains, picks her up, and carries her bridal-style back through the warehouse and out the torn open wall, stepping on an electric grid as he carries her off into the wilderness.
Following that, we get our first our sweet interaction scene between Kong and Lady Kong at a place in the mountains called Honeymoon Ridge. Kong's offering his mate some shrubbery and she looks like she's going to take it, when she fakes him out and grabs a big clump of it by his feet. She then laughs at him, while he stands up and groans in annoyance, throwing away the shrub he was holding. He walks towards some nearby rocks, reaches in upon seeing something, and pulls out a snake (apparently a very big snake, considering how large it looks in his hand). Thinking this will impress her, he takes it over to Lady Kong who, as expected, freaks out and runs off. Kong follows her with it into another part of the clearing until she swings her arm and lets out a short yell that sounds like, "No!" Taking the hint, he drops the snake as she sits down and looks away, while he then notices the ugly injury the bulldozer left on his leg. Touching at it, he then lets out an overdramatic groan of pain, which catches her attention. Acting hurt, he sits down, holding his knee, and lets out another groan, prompting her to walk over to him. He shows her the injury and she walks over to inspect it. When she touches it, he again acts like it really hurts and she then scoops some water out of a nearby puddle. She drips it onto the wound and he makes a face of relief, putting his arm around her shoulders... before sliding his hand down and copping a feel. Lady Kong is not amused by this and lets out an irritated growl at him while shaking her hand, prompting to put his arms around his knees with a smug, satisfied smile on his face. But, as she continues tending to him, he puts his arm back around her shoulders, without doing anything perverted this time, and they give each other some loving glances.
Mitch wakes up the next morning to see Lady Kong down in the clearing by herself and wakes up Amy by telling her this. In the next cut, Kong is seen gathering some more shrubs by a cliff, when the sound of a helicopter catches his attention. He stands up, looking around, and then turns to see the helicopter pass over the ridge behind him. He lets out an angry yell and a cut shows the helicopter spreading a layer of knockout gas, with a platoon of tanks and troops following behind. Kong begins climbing his way back to the spot, as Mitch and Amy watch the vehicles approach Lady Kong. She stands up to face them, as the helicopters pass over her and douse her with the knockout gas. She roars and yells in fear, grabbing at her throat as the gas begins to take effect, and then keels over onto the ground. As Kong climbs up the side of the cliff, Col. Nevitt arrives on the scene and calls in a helicopter carrying a large net. The troops gather around her with smaller nets, Nevitt telling them to make sure she's secure, as the helicopter lowers its net onto her. Kong appears on a ridge behind them and when he stands up and realizes what's happening, he lets out a loud roar, alerting everyone to his presence. Nevitt orders the helicopters to hit him with the gas, which they do, but he's not as easily affected and jumps down the ridge, making his way towards them. Nevitt tells his men to keep him back until Lady Kong is away and they begin shooting grenades at the ground in front of him to do so. The helicopter with the unconscious Lady Kong lifts off of the ground, while Kong is forced back up the ridge a little ways, and watches with a mix of anger and sadness as his mate is carried off, recoiling from the grenades.
After we got a look at Lady Kong's sorry state-of-mind and physical condition due to her being kept contained in the missile silo for months, with a bit of her ignoring the food they dump in for her and another where Amy and Dr. Hughes visit her and the former theorizes that, rather mourning for Kong, she can sense that he's still alive, we see that the big guy is indeed still alive, despite Hughes' skepticism. In a swamp, he picks up an alligator, holds it up (the switch between the baby alligator that Peter Elliot is holding and a close-up of a full-grown alligator is pretty obvious), and, as a frog watches from nearby, kills it with a snap to the neck and gobbles it down. He lets out a belch and picks up four that he's already gathered, holding them by their tails with his mouth, and, after killing a fifth by smashing its head against a rock, he wades through the swamp with them. A fade shows that he's eaten enough by this point to create a huge pile of bones and we see him finish munching on the last of the ones he gathered, leaving only its tail. He then prepares to bed down for the night, when he hears Lady Kong howling off in the distance. Standing up and looking around, he peers over the ridge behind and, looking at the full moon in the sky, returns a second call that he hears her let out. A brief shot of Lady Kong sitting in the silo shows her letting out more mournful howls. Following that, we get a brief scene where Mitch, upon returning from Borneo to buy land for a preserve for Lady Kong, only to learn of her isolation, tries to rush inside the base to see her but is painfully subdued by the guards there. When he and Amy prepare to leave, he hears her let out another mournful howl, and as she continues doing so, she wakes up Kong in the swamp. Getting up and walking to the edge of the water, he listens for her again and, when he doesn't hear anything else, is about to go back when she does let another. Answering her again, Kong hits his chest while letting out a yell before wading into the swamp, following the direction of the sound. It leads him to a small, lakeside town. Inside a house, a guy is making out with his girlfriend on the couch, talking about how she has big, brown bedroom eyes, when he looks up and notices some much bigger, brown eyes peering down at them through the skylight. His girlfriend implores not to stop but when she looks up and sees Kong through the skylight as well, they both panic and run out of the house. Their screams get their neighbors' attention, who run outside and become just as frantic when they see Kong. People start driving off in a panic, an old man with a gun almost shoots some of his neighbors when they stumble in front of him and begins shooting up into the air, and others run for their motorboats at the lake and use them to escape, all while Kong watches the chaos with a bewildered expression on his face. One guy decides to be a daredevil and, with his girlfriend, drives right between Kong's legs with his motorcycle. After that, Kong decides he's had enough and walks off into the woods.
Mitch and Amy use a small plane upon hearing of Kong's reappearance and, when they see a trail of broken trees that they're sure is his, they fly ahead of it in an attempt to meet up with him. Elsewhere, four beer-guzzling hunters wait at the end of a large canyon, having prepared a trap for Kong. When he rounds the bend in front of them, though, they become much less gun-ho when they see just how big he is, and his spotting them and letting out a roar sends one of them running off in a panic, saying that he has to go to church. He takes a few more steps towards them, when one of them hits a switch that ignites some dynamite that they'd set at the top of the canyon, causing a massive avalanche of rocks that heads right for him. He barely has time to react before he's buried up to his torso and then, unable to move, can only roar helplessly as he's buried up to his shoulders. The hunters are overjoyed when they realize that their plan's worked, while Kong snarls at them after the smoke and dust clears. They set up a campfire in front of him and celebrate by drinking, shooting their guns off in the air, and having one take a couple of pictures of the others in front of Kong's face. As you can expect, Kong does like the camera flashes at all and snarls and hisses at the hunters in front of him. One comments on how badly his breath smells when another decides to give him some liquor. Grabbing a big bottle, one pours it into his mouth, and Kong promptly spits it right back in his face. Two of them start talking about teaching him some respect, when one of their friends tells them to leave Kong alone, saying that there's no need to torment him. Ignoring him, two of the hunters pick some burning sticks out of the fire, when the more sympathetic hunter picks up his rifle and threatens them, trying to stop their cruelty, when the fourth one smacks him in the back of the legs with another rifle, giving them the opportunity to take his away from him. Turning back to Kong, the one hunter says, "Now, then, we're gonna teach you some manners, you big, ugly son of a bitch," and then cruelly burns the side of his face, laughing as he yells in pain. This proves to be their undoing, as Kong erupts out of the rocks, killing two of them by sending boulders flying everywhere. The other two, who were tormenting him, aren't so lucky, as he chases them through the canyon and corners one when he tries to climb up the cliff-wall. Snarling, he grabs him, lifts him up, and snaps him in half like a Kit-Kat. He then turns his attention to the other one, who's also trying to climb to safety, and the fact that he's made it up out of his reach doesn't deter him at all. When grabbing at him doesn't work, Kong begins running his hand up the side of the cliff, the impact of it creating a rockslide that knocks the man off his ledge and into his hand. Grabbing him, Kong hoists him up, and then eats him alive in one, massive bite. Swallowing him, Kong smiles, as he apparently tasted pretty good, and picks around in his teeth, pulling out his hat, which he drops to the ground.
Kong walks out of the canyon, only to clutch his chest and groan in pain for a few seconds, his heart reeling for that exertion. The pain quickly subsides and he stomps off after letting out a groan. Up ahead, Mitch and Amy hear Kong approaching and the latter pulls out the monitor to check his condition. She sees that his heart is crippled and attempts to correct it. Kong then appears and heads up the hill right towards, but Amy is too busy trying to complete the sequence to worry. He continues to walk towards them, when Mitch grabs Amy and pulls her off to the side. He steps right on the monitor when he walks past them and when she sees its smashed remains, Amy reveals that she couldn't repair the damage and now, his heart won't last another day. They watch him round the bend and, following the path he took, they find the two dead hunters, as Mitch figures what happened. Amy realizes, "Well, Kong, you've killed now. Now, nothing will stop them from killing you."
The next day, while Col. Nevitt deploys his men and Mitch and Amy use their plane to keep track of Kong, he wanders into a suburban neighborhood. He steps on and crushes a young man's car, prompting him to say that his dad's going to kill him, and then has some bad luck when he walks near a golf course and gets whacked in the head with a ball. His angry snarl promptly scares off the golfers. Mitch and Amy fly over the spot where Nevitt and his forces have gathered, waiting for Kong, and they land their plane near the base, waiting for a chance to help Lady Kong escape. That night, we see Kong cautiously approach the spot where Nevitt and his men are waiting, keeping low while making his way towards the tree-line at the edge of the ridge overlooking them. Nevitt uses a small, telescope-like device to check the ridge, and Kong then peaks his head out and frowns angrily when he seems to recognize the colonel. He then explodes upwards in a cloud of dirt and dust, continuously throw up into the air over them, as the men open fire. Unable to see because of it, all of their shots miss and when the place is completely covered, Kong stomps towards them and through the field. Nevitt commandeers a vehicle with a mounted gun in the back and has the driver chase after Kong, only for the ape to turn around and throw a clump of dirt right at them, knocking Nevitt off the back. His face bleeding, Nevitt watches Kong stomp off and angrily yells, "You son of a bitch!" (Funny story about that: when I first saw this when I was only like six years old, I repeated that line in front of my mother, even though she and I had seen it together and she had told me that it wasn't a good thing to say. As you might expect, she wasn't amused and I was reprimanded for it.) He commandeers a passing tank and resumes the chase, with his other men following after him.
Back at the base, Mitch and Amy manage to get inside when the guards at the gate get into an argument with two soldiers who attempt to drive off in a jeep. They quickly run through the gate and Mitch uses the controls at the guard booth to open up a large door leading into the heart of the place. Although they're found out, they're able to run through the door and close it as one of the guards opens fire on them with an assault rifle. Two guards inside are warned of the intruders through the telephone and arm themselves, only to be caught off guard when Amy walks through the door. The one guard walks up to her, when Mitch swings around the edge of the door and decks him in the face. He's able to easily punch out the other guard as well, and he and Amy then look through the observation window at Lady Kong. Seeing her bloated belly, Amy realizes that she's pregnant, and Mitch grabs the keys off of one of the guards and uses them to open the door leading into the silo. They climb down the ladder to the floor, with Lady Kong backing away from them, as she hasn't seen them in a long time and doesn't know who they are, and activate the controls that raise the floor up to the opening of the silo. She's initially confused and frightened, but soon recognizes Mitch and becomes happy when he opens the panel in the ceiling, showing her the sky and the moon and making her understand that she's getting out. Unfortunately, one of the guards in the control booth regains consciousness and uses the control panel there to stop the platform and close the ceiling back up. Lady Kong becomes distraught when she sees it closing and reaches for it, yelling, while Mitch unsuccessfully tries to open it back up. He then tells her to calm down, when she corners him, picks him up, and holds him to her shoulder, needing some comfort. Suddenly, Kong shows up outside and uses his strength to push the panel back open. Lady Kong is ecstatic, while Amy and especially Mitch are scared over what he might do. Kong's forcing open the panel causes the gears to smoke and short out, and he tears off chunks of the concrete as they freeze in position. He continues tearing and smashing the panel open until he's created a hole big enough and reaches in, takes Lady Kong's hand, and pulls up through it, all while she's still holding Mitch in her other hand. When the apes climb out of sight, Amy climbs up one of the ladders and uses it to reach the outside herself. She sees the Kongs run off into the distance and, spotting a nearby supply truck, she quickly commandeers it. Seeing numerous approaching headlights, she knows who it is and drives the truck straight through the gate.
Kong and Lady Kong show up at a barn dance and it takes the people there a long time to notice them, in spite of how big they are (it's only when Kong lets out a yell that they run off in a panic). In fact, it's only until they're almost on top of them that two old men actually see them; once they do, though, they run for it. Lady Kong gently places Mitch on the ground, as Amy drives up, and both them and Kong watch as she loses her balance and falls backwards, right through the barn. Kong looks in on her as she begins to go into labor and then turns upon hearing the sounds of approaching vehicles. Col. Nevitt and all of his men show up and Kong, recognizing them, lets out a protective roar. Nevitt gives the order to fire, and Amy tries to stop him, saying that he'd hit Lady Kong. But the madman is now thoroughly intent on killing the apes and repeats his order to fire. His men do so, opening fire on Kong with everything they have, and thus begins the best sequence in the whole movie. Determined to protect both his mate and unborn child, Kong gets down on all fours and charges right at them, not slowing down at all as the gunfire rips into him. He grabs one tank and throws it to the ground, causing it to explode, smashes another vehicle with a swipe of his hand, grabs the wreckage and bashes it into the ground before picking it up and tossing it aside, and pounds the side of another tank (a guy runs by it on fire!). He stands up, roaring as shells continue to rip into him, kicks one tank on its side, exploding it, and charges at the retreating soldiers as they fire on him with their assault rifles. Seeing that his men have abandoned him, Nevitt aims his tank directly at Kong and fires at him with everything he has, spraying bullets across his chest and shoulders. Wading through them, Kong grabs the colonel's tank, picks it up, and throws it into a nearby cemetery, where it explodes, although Nevitt falls out of it in mid-air. Getting to his feet, Nevitt turns to see Kong looming over him, growling. Defiant to the last, Nevitt pulls out a handgun and shoots him with every bullet he has left, which he easily withstands. Looking down at the colonel, Kong growls at him menacingly and raises his arm in a threatening manner. Nevitt tries to run for it but doesn't get very far when Kong brings his fist down right on top of him, pulling it away to reveal the colonel's legs sticking out of a large hole in the ground, a sight that makes him smile satisfactorily.
Kong stands up and lets out a victorious roar, only to then clutch his chest in pain again. Watching him, Amy realizes that his heart is giving out, as he falls to his knees and supports himself up with his right arm. At the same time, Lady Kong is going through labor pains inside the barn, yelling and groaning, as her dying mate stumbles up to it and finally collapses at her feet. Lady Kong lets out one last, long yell, which is then followed by the sound of a baby gorilla squawking and crying. Hearing this, Amy and Mitch rush to the barn, as Kong looks in as his mate cradles their newborn son in her hands. Walking through the hole and up to her leg, Mitch tells Lady Kong to show Kong his son and she, appearing to understand him, places the baby on her thigh. Looking around, Baby Kong walks across his mother's leg, getting to his feet and yelling at one point, and settles down. He and his father then see each other and Amy tearfully implores Kong to reach for him. He weakly looks down at her and then, turning his attention back to his son, who isn't quite sure what to make of him, he reaches his hand in (again, can they now suddenly understand what the humans are saying to them?) and touches Baby Kong, as Lady Kong smiles. Baby Kong feels the hair on his father's hand, as he then raises it up and uses it to envelop him. The baby is initially frightened by this, standing up and moaning, but he quickly gets a feeling of comfort from it instead and smiles, patting and rubbing against his father's palm. Kong and Lady Kong exchange loving glances and groans at this, when the former's last bit of strength is ebbed away and he slowly slumps down and lets out one last groan. Seeing his father's hand collapse and go limp, Baby Kong ducks out from under it and, realizing there's something wrong, begins to whine. Amy is brought to tears, while Lady Kong forlornly accepts her mate's death and her baby lets out a scream. Patting at the hand, he looks back at his mother, who nods and growls lowly at him, as if confirming what's happened, and Amy and Mitch leave while Baby Kong continues to snuggle against his dead father's hand. This is the one bit of interaction between the Kongs that I find to be genuinely moving rather than just schmaltzy.
The film's conclusion takes place in Borneo, at the preserve that Mitch bought, as an older Baby Kong is swinging through the trees (as I said earlier, he looks more like a little hairy human than he does a young gorilla). Resting on a tree branch, he looks at his mother, who's holding some flowery shrubs, mourning her lost mate. Seeing her sadness, Baby Kong beats on his chest, which gets her attention and she makes a motion with her head like, "Yeah, son that's nice." He then lets out a loud yell, and Lady Kong can't help but smile at that, seeing how much he is like his father. She makes a loving gesture towards him and Baby Kong, smiling at seeing her happy again, continues swinging through the trees.
John Scott, who'd done the music for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (as well as Yor, the Hunter from the Future and Inseminoid), composes the score for this film and I doubt anyone would argue that it's one of its best aspects, by far. I think John Barry's score for King Kong '76 is much better, mind you, but this is pretty good. It gives the film a feeling of adventure, excitement, and grandeur (much more than the movie actually has, I might add), as well as the character of Kong one of nobility and a pure heart. His main theme is a nice little tune that you first hear in a soft, sympathetic way during the opening credits and is reused many, many times throughout the film, in different variations, be it sweet and loving, sad and tragic, and melancholic. My favorite iteration of it is the grand, sweeping one that plays when Kong annihilates Col. Nevitt's forces and makes it even more of an awesome sequence. The downside of the notable main theme is that it's played so much, it makes the score feel very repetitive, akin to the main piece to Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the rest of the music, although adding to the thrills and comedy of their respective scenes, isn't something I could hum for you if you asked me to, which I could for most of the pieces of Kong '76. Still, it is a good score and is one of the highlights of a film that's very uneven for the most part.