For, Friday, March 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the latest entry in the ‘King Kong’ franchise, ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ opening this weekend, here’s a look at the only Kong movie that opened during the 20 years I was the movie critic for the Deseret News: ‘King Kong Lives,’ published Dec. 21, 1986.

Linda Hamilton is beginning to grow on me. She has a very pleasant screen persona, though I’m not too sure about her acting abilities — although she was good in “The Terminator” and had a very nice cameo in “The Stone Boy.”

But she does so much schlock — “Black Moon Rising,” “Children of the Corn” and now “King Kong Lives” being prime examples — that it’s hard to tell whether the good performances are the exception or the rule.

Though she isn’t the least bit convincing as a heart surgeon, there is no question that Hamilton is the one reason to see “King Kong Lives.” And there’s no question that it’s not reason enough.

Mainly what we have here are two grown men running around in ape suits, as King and Lady Kong, respectively, while Hamilton and Brian Kerwin try to look sincere in exhibiting strong feelings for them.



        Linda Hamilton, Brian Kerwin, 'King Kong Lives'

“King Kong Lives” is a sequel to the “King Kong” remake of a decade ago, and is again directed by John Guillermin and made for Dino De Laurentis. The premise has King dying after his fall from the World Trade Center towers to the streets of Manhattan, so it is decided that he needs an artificial-heart transplant.


Meanwhile, Kerwin finds a female Kong, “Lady Kong” he calls her, and she is brought in to be the blood donor during the operation. Eventually the apes break free and roam the countryside, until the Army kills King and captures Lady.

But is King Kong really dead? And why does Lady Kong develop an appetite for pickles and ice cream?


               King & Lady Kong, 'King Kong Lives'

Since it has been so widely publicized, it’s no real giveaway to reveal that a Baby Kong eventually arrives on the scene, thereby opening the door for more sequels.

“King Kong Lives” is supremely silly but it’s only really funny when it’s not trying to be. There are lots of dumb jokes, as when the Kongs are seen behind a group of square dancers and one fellow says to another, “You never know who’s going to show up at these reunions.”

But the film is funniest when it’s utterly deadpan, as when Hamilton lowers a monstrous electric saw onto King Kong’s chest and begins cutting for the heart transplant. In fact, the entire, very elaborate heart-transplant scene is a real hoot, with surgeons standing above Kong reaching up for the huge artificial heart, looking for all the world like auto assembly-line workers lowering a motor into a new car.

Unfortunately, most of the film is deadly dull, with top-billed Peter Elliot as King Kong and George Yiasomi as Lady Kong, going ape in the mountains, stomping on toy trucks and eating rubber alligators, all as phony as those idiotic Japanese “Kong” movies.

“King Kong Lives” is also surprisingly violent for its PG-13 rating, which reaches its zenith when King Kong picks up a soldier and rips off his head. Yuk!