Without a doubt, De Laurentiis' remake of Cooper and Schoedsack's classic is the biggest con job ever pulled on the unsuspecting American public. Having spent somewhere in the vicinity of $24 million on his epic, De Laurentiis told the world that his Kong was a fabulously expensive and
technically amazing, full-sized mechanical ape that stood 40 feet tall, when in reality the majority of Kong's scenes were played by makeup man Rick Baker in a monkey suit! The Italian producer fought hard to bring his version of the 1933 classic to the screen and was even forced to give
Universal's rival production, "The Legend of King Kong," a percentage of his profits to persuade the company to abandon its version, which was being produced simultaneously. The updated script was fairly clever, and De Laurentiis managed to assemble a tolerable cast of performers. Grodin, an
official of Petrox Oil, discovers an unknown Pacific island that is rumored to be brimming with oil. Seeking to secure the wealth of crude oil for his company, Wilson assembles a crew and sets sail. While at sea, the crew discovers a stowaway, Bridges, a hip paleontologist. Bridges informs Grodin
that his expedition is actually headed for the legendary "Skull Island," a land where time has stopped and prehistoric monsters still roam. Grodin scoffs at the idea, but when Bridges tells of the tribe of vicious natives that worships a giant beast called Kong, he begins to pay attention. Soon
after, the crew spots a beautiful blonde woman in the water, clinging to some debris (Lange, in her first screen appearance). The girl is an aspiring actress who was shipwrecked when the yacht she was on sank. Of course, once on Skull Island Lange is kidnapped by the giant gorilla. The beast is
eventually captured and brought back to New York, where it escapes and winds up climbing one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Believe it or not, De Laurentiis' debacle garnered amazingly favorable reviews from incredibly short-sighted critics, who seemed eager to denigrate the 1933 version
and praise the modernity and technical advances of the remake. Considering that most of Kong's sequences were of a man in an ape costume (a very good costume, though), the special effects were relatively simple and not particularly well executed. Perhaps the biggest injustice of all is that Rick
Baker didn't even receive screen credit. The film won a special Oscar for its visual effects and was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
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