Fox // 1986 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 8th, 2004
It's your typical "boy-meets-girl" love story, except with grown men in ape suits.
Ten years after the mighty King Kong tumbled from the World Trade Center as Jeff Bridges stared with his mouth hung open and Jessica Lange whimpered, the big boy is granted a second chance at life -- only to face a challenge greater than prehistoric assailants, gun-toting attack choppers, and a flying leap off a skyscraper: marriage.
It's been a decade since Kong made forceful ape love to the Manhattan pavement. Since then he's been barely alive, lying comatose at the Atlantic Institute, being prepared for the most ambitious giant-ape-heart-transplant surgical procedure ever attempted. A group of brilliant scientists and doctors, led by the bodacious Doctor Franklin (Linda Hamilton, The Terminator), eagerly anticipate slicing up the big, furry bastard; unfortunately, KK has been out of commission too long, and his blood has stagnated or something. He needs a transfusion, and there's no organism on Earth that has the appropriate blood. Except one.
Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin), a free-lance adventurer, is searching in the jungle for treasure, and stumbles across a female Kong! Just before he gets trampled, a gaggle of natives open fire with their blowguns and drop the ape-ette. Eager to cash in on his new-found money pot, Mitchell contacts The Atlantic Institute, hoping for a potential sale. Despite Doctor Mitchell's grim warnings, the Atlantic Institute brass agree, and bring over the sedated female for the transfusion.
The next step is the heart swap; using giant surgeon's tools, the doctors dig into Kong's chest cavity and take care of business. Amazingly, the procedure is successful, and The Atlantic Institute becomes the darling of the gigantic-ape-heart-surgery community.
But the elation doesn't last long. King Kong comes out of his coma sporting some serious morning wood -- he can smell the lady ape close by, and his horniness compels him to break free of his bindings and pursue the damsel in distress.
After some pyrotechnics and gunfire and crunching metal, Kong rescues his new flame, and the two freaks-of-nature waltz off into the mountains. Mitchell and the doctor pursue. Eluding the military, they camp out to keep an eye on the two apes while they get busy (and find time to get a little nookie in themselves). The army eventually catches up and captures the female; a distraught Kong is shot up but manages to escape into the wilderness.
Several months pass, and Kong resurfaces. Now Mitchell and Dr. Franklin must race the army (led by a psychotic colonel) to intercept Kong, who is marching through mountains, cities, and bloodthirsty rednecks in order to reunite with his ape-mate. But one last surprise awaits him.
The Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong that this film follows was an uncalled-for and unmitigated disaster. A cheaply made knock-off featuring a guy in an ape-suit treated the 1933 classic like a urinal cake. This ridiculous sequel lives down to the inanity of its predecessor.
Gigantic surgical scalpels and clamps. A $7 million artificial heart. A bosomy female Kong ape. The fact that Kong actually survived his plunge in the first place. This is all dopey enough, but add in a love story between the two Kongs and we're talking a crap classic.
This is definitely a movie that's so stupid it's inadvertently funny. Whether it's Kong crushing an obvious toy Lamborghini underfoot, or the amateur firecrackers that represent assault weapon fire, or the fact that the military can't seem to find a way to prevent Kong from escaping (even though it was made clear in the beginning of the film that all it takes to topple one of these big-ass monkeys is a few natives and some well-placed blow-darts), King Kong Lives boasts all the necessary ingredients that make a camp flick pooptacular.
The film is rife with goofy moments. There's the time that four or five drunken backwoods hunters intercept Kong in a canyon, and actually have the intelligence -- not to mention the clarity and focus in their inebriated state -- to rig the canyon walls with enough explosives to bury Kong up to his chest. They torment him for awhile, until Kong breaks free and dispatches his would-be captors by fairly violent methods; he snaps one in half, the other he eats. (Combined with a nip slip by Linda Hamilton, this explains the PG-13 rating -- edgy for the time.)
Or there's the obvious plot contrivance of including a three-month wait in the middle of the movie, a tactic that makes no sense whatsoever. Until you see the climax, which anyone with enough brain matter to fill a thimble can see coming a mile or two away, and which ultimately leads to the absolute corniest part of the movie.
I'm not sure what motivated the studio to green-light this yak-fart of a movie, but I'm sure Polaroids of executives in compromising positions with trans-gendered strippers probably had something to do with it.
Well, Fox has graced us with a DVD treatment of this gem, and they actually treated it better than it deserved. A 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is surprisingly clean and devoid of blatant image flaws, despite a few choppy spots. And a 5.1 digital mix actually does a half-decent job of filling the room with the aural sensation of apes run amok (though that infernal score is enough to drive the most mentally stable out of their minds). No special features for you.
This movie has a scene featuring two giant apes smiling at each other, okay?
Guilty for continuing to besmirch the legacy of the greatest movie monster of all time (though the court would be lying if it said no entertainment was gleaned from the accused).
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13