King Kong Lives (1986) – John Guillermin 

 

My time with Kong hasn’t drawn to a close yet! The Sci-Fi Chronicles book takes me now to 1986, and Guillermin went back to the well 10 years after his previous Kong flick to follow-up on what happened, and this one just doesn’t work at all…

Picking up from the ending of the previous film, and then leaping forward a decade, we learned that despite being shot up rather nicely by the choppers, not to mention the fall from the World Trade Center, Kong is alive, in most stable condition, and is about to have heart surgery conducted by Dr. Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton). While his artificial heart is being inserted, we flash across the world to Borneo where Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin) is doing some exploring and comes across… Lady Kong.

Carlo Rambaldi is back again to do work on the Kongs, but his work seems outdated here, especially after coming off the successful work he did with Spielberg. Both of the beasts don’t look much improved since the 70s… While the suits, and effects may feel reused and recycled, John Barry does not return to score this time around, being replaced by John Scott.

We get a bit of a role reversal this time, which, is actually rather predictable as soon as you find out the new ape is a woman, she develops a bit of a crush on Mitchell, until she is introduced to Kong, who can scent her a mile away, and breaks out of his holding area to escape and be with her. Things go horribly wrong (surprise!) as Mitchell and Franklin try to catch up with the pair, their own love story paralleling that of the Kongs. Both parties are caused severe problems by the army, let by Colonel R.T. Nevitt (John Ashton), who simply wants to put both animals down.

There are a lot of jumps in time, and apparently most of this film is supposed to take place over the space of a number of months, but neither the pacing, or story structure helps play that out very well. Mitchell wants very desperately to get both of the Kongs to Borneo where he has secured land for a preserve for the two animals, but they may not get that far as Kong has to face off against Deliverance-style hillbillies, model work, and a pregnant monkey, which no doubt could have spawned another remake with a new Son of Kong.

The ending, much like the rest of the film is pretty bad, and whereas the first film had the amazing cinematography (and the top of the line effects at the time), this one has nothing to make it stand out from the crowd, and ends up being a bit of a forgotten chapter in the story of King Kong. Which is not entirely a bad thing.

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