Ten years ago there was a sensation around the globe when a huge gorilla, named King Kong, climbed to the top of the World Trade Center with a blonde in his fist and was shot down by helicopters, landing on the streets below. Everyone thought he was dead, but he actually lived on in a coma, kept alive on a university programme where they think they can restore him back to health. There's just one problem: Kong needs a heart transplant, and they may have a mechanical organ to do the job, but for the operation a blood transfusion is imperative. But where would they find another giant gorilla?
Just ask producer Dino De Laurentiis, he'll be able to point you in the right direction for this, the sequel nobody wanted to the remake nobody asked for, his 1976 superflop King Kong. Notably both the stars we see in the prologue were absent for this follow up, both Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange having moved on to brighter things but that didn't stop Dino from grafting the end of the previous effort onto the start of this, presumably to remind those few who genuinely enjoyed its smartass update of what they had appreciated, and reassuring them that the good news was this time the magic was well and truly sustained.
That was if you were a fan of bad movies, and there are a number of those who love to spend the evening with entertainment so appalling they can laugh their heads off at it; for those hardy audiences, King Kong Lives was a gift. It would surely be counted among the most ludicrous sequels ever made if its predecessor had not been so absurd in the first place, but even then returning director John Guillermin displayed the similar frame of mind that there may have been intentional jokes here, but overall this was no laughing matter. A hero as big as three houses was big enough to be taken deadly seriously, was the apparent idea, and you could look to the goofy King Kong Escapes from the sixties to see how you could have fun with the concept.
You could have fun with this too, but its overearnest qualities tended to make it more po-faced in the terms of a movie which nobody could have accepted in that way. Which made it all the more ripe for criticism, but there was a message here, and it was thumpingly liberal, even all out left wing, with the military, indeed anyone who picked up a gun, depicted as basically the devil. Taking the giant ape's side throughout was the order of the day, and the fact that this time there was not one but two of them made it all the more sincere in its environmental concerns - unless you were an alligator which Kong dines upon - but who cares about them, right? And aren't gorillas vegetarian? Do you really expect scientific accuracy, for that matter?
Yes, Kong got lucky in this chapter of his chequered career, for all round rogue Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin) finds a female counterpart named Lady Kong in the Borneo jungle and makes a deal to transport her to the States for the transfusion. This goes quite well, and though he's rather disreputable the lady scientist involved, Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton badly needing a Terminator sequel), warms to him as their relationship is intended to be the human equivalent of that of King Kong and his new squeeze, to the point that they both tend to wounds and have a shag within yards of each other one memorable night. Of course, it wouldn't be the same without tragedy looming, so not only are the Army out to capture or even kill the gorillas, but so are gun and dynamite-toting hunters, and Kong's artificial heart won't go on working for much longer. The angst. With special effects not much advanced from last time around, and a dash of daft violence (Kong munching on those hunters, for example), they weren't doing themselves any favours, so many must have been relieved when this sank without trace at the box office. But it lives on...! Music by John Scott.