King Kong

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1976

Let Monkey Business week begin!

Who’s in this?

Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott a primate paleontologist, stowaway and wearer of a big beard.. Bridges is a veteran actor that you know from lots of films including Tron, Starman, The Big Lebowski, Iron Man and tons of others.

Jessica Lange as Dwan a young woman found in a raft. Both Jack and Kong fall for her. Lange was a model when she was approached to do this film. She received some unfavorable reviews for her performance her and spent much of the next three years receiving acitng training and din’t do another film until 1979. Since she has had a respectable acting career.

Charles Grodin as Fred Wilson who is looking for oil and acting like a jerk. Grodin has been a variety of things over the years including Rosemary’s Baby, Midnight Run and the Beethoven movies.

Rene Auberjonois as Roy Bagley assistant to Fred. Rene is a veteran character actor with close to 200 credits. He has been in tons of tv shows, movies and done various cartoon voices frequently playing snooty types. Best known as Odo onn Deep Space Nine and Clayton on Benson

Also look for 1950’s monster film leading man John Agar in a small part as a city clerk. In the 50’s Agar was in Tarantula, Revenge of the creature, The mole people and more.

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What’s this about?

Wilson is convinced there’s oil, no not in his hair but on an island hidden by a fog bank. So they set out on a three hour tour or more to see if the oil is there or not. Along the way they pick up a blond floating in a raft and a shaggy dude name Jack is found to be a stowaway.  Jack says they shouldn’t got the island because he thinks a giant beastie is there. Eventually they come to the island and oh it’s so pretty and all, but it is inhaibited by natives who love to sing and dance a lot. The two groups meet, but tWilson and his people head back to ship. However natives sneak aboard in the night and grab Dwan eeek! She is then dressed up and left out for a guy in a monkey suit to come and get her. That can’t happen, no self respecting hippie stowaway will allow it to be so Jack and some ship’s crew go after Kong. Some goofy guys get shook off a tree bridge by the big old monkey. Kong wrestles with a giganto snake and rips it’s jaws wide open ewwwww. Eventually the crew get Dwan back and put Kong on board so they can do what Americans do best-exploit others for cash. You can see it coming Kong breaks lose in the Big Apple and the ploice and military are after him. He squishes Wilson like a rotten grape, gets Dwan and heads to the big tall buildings. Helicoptors go after him he lets himself get shot and the monkey falls down and goes boom. We are all sad as he lays there while Jack decides not to go to Dwan. Roll the credits on this depressing ending.

The negatives-It’s a man in a monkey suit. The film tries to be it’s own Kong, but ultimately it falls short of putting enough of it’s spin on the classic tale. Lange tries and she looks good, but her preformance is hit and miss. Bridges is usuallly right on and he is mostly here with his acting, but the character seemed a bit too self-righteous for my liking. By the end of the movie I always want to punch him in his big beard.

The positives-The plot of how they get to the island is interesting enough. Much of the scenery particularly on the island and at sea looks great. Grodin does a fine job playing the greedy Wilson. Rick Baker tries as Kong. John Berry’s score is fantastic. The film has some flaws, but is overall decent although I have wished it had been just a little better. I’ll have some about my history with this film when I cover my history with Kong later this week.

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The Alien Factor

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Cinemagic
1977 (That’s what it says after the film, but I have also seen 1976, 1978 and 1979 listed in various sources for this film as well)

Directed by Don Dohler-Dohler was a Maryland based film maker who worked on a number of low budget horror and sci-fi films between 1976 and his death in 2006. In the 1960’s he came up with the idea to make a magazine about how to do special effects for amateur filmmakers. In the 70’s he started that magazine and it was called Cinemagic. He kept the magazine going for 11 issues before selling it to Starlog press who kept it going a number of years.

Who’s in this? Tom Griffith as the barely interested in much of anything Sheriff Cinder whose hobbies include riding around aimlessly and frowning, *Richard Dyszel as the greedy Mayor Wicker, Don Leifert plays mustached Ben Zachary an adventurer, inventor and amateur astronomer who may not be what he claims to be, Mary Merton as Edie Martin who has a knack for wandering into trouble in the woods, the film also has a number of other people who either don’t last long, don’t contribute anything or both of the above.

*Richard “Dick” Dyszel is better known as legendary horror host Count Gore DeVol. If you grew up in Maryland, DC, northern Virginia area during the 70’s and 80’s and loved monster films (as I did) then you probably know him. He continues to play the Count at convention appearances and has had a weekly internet show since the late 90’s.

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What’s this thing about?
We get views of a bunch of planets before settling on our very own little planet…that would Earth. A young couple are sitting parked in a field drinking, making out and just going as wild as they can in a small budget film. Then they are menaced by a being that looks like a pile of moldy trash. The police find the body of the male of this wild couple and he’s dead while his partner is in shock. The sheriff is trying to find out more, but a trio of local “concerned citizens” or young toughs as they may have called themselves show up. They want answers from the sheriff and are worried about an animal lurking in their woods. The sheriff wisely shoves them away for now. We see a crazy goof on his motorcycle, remember that because believe it or not that will come into play soon. Another couple is out in the woods (must be a local pastime) they separate and the woman sees a glow going over a being that looks like a muddy person with his insides on his outside. He is standing next to something that looks like a couple of freezers stacked up. It is supposed to be a spaceship. The woman flees towards the road and whack she runs into the motorcycle goof and they both go flying like they were shot out of a cannon. The motorcycle guy is okay, but the girl has bad cuts on her face and she’s out at least. The motorcycle guy does the honorable thing and…oh, no wait he actually takes off like a real jerk. Then the mud face inside out alien guy gets tired of standing shirtless by his freezer ship and comes over to heal the hurt woman via bright animated lights. Back at the doctors they tell the sheriff that it may have been an animal that killed the guy at the beginning or maybe it wasn’t they just don’t seem sure. This part is definitely what those in the movie business would refer to as filler and we the viewers refer to as a boring waste of time. At least some action is stirring up out at woods as the three toughs from earlier and a woman have just arrived after doing some drinking to venture off in the woods with their guns. Well, yee-haw them boys are going to stop whatever attacked the dude from the start of the film. They talk about their big plan and then slap, smack, rip the moldy trash alien makes short work of the three dumb toughs while the woman screams and gets away. Boy this alien likes taking it to the guys. Not long after this a guy leaving his house gets attacked by an invisible menace which is always the worst kind of menace although they are easy on the budget. Suddenly three kids are throwing a ball up in front of the sunset for what seems like five minutes. Wait did someone put in a different film? Nope, eventually these kids stumble upon the above man who has now turned blue and scaly. The doctor says this looks like a disease that caused aging. I wasn’t aware that aging made one so blue and scaly, but she’s the one playing a doctor. Mayor Wicker comes to the sheriff and tells him to figure this mess out because an amusement park will be built nearby and that means money for the town, but bizarre murders might scare off this project. Meanwhile down at the local honky-tonk virtually nothing is going on except a really crappy band plays a song that make me wish the aliens had ripped my ears off earlier. Then a guy leaves this dive and heads to his house. No, wait there’s more then he lays down in bed. Oh, wait he hears noises, grabs his gun and very slowly makes his way to the basement where a tall fuzzy looking thingamig scratches him and puts him out. Maybe he should have had someone spray for these things earlier. Now a guy named Benjamin Zachary shows up telling the mayor he is associated with an observatory from not far away and they saw a meteor landing not long ago and asks to go and look for it. The mayor tell Zachary that they have murders out in that woods recently but says it’s okay to go out there (?). The mayor tells the sheriff about Zachary. The sheriff practices his hobby of frowning and says he doesn’t trust Zachary. The mayor and Zachary head out to the happening woods. The electronic scores blares trying to make these two going into the snow covered woods seem more exciting than it is. Suddenly yowzers there’s a spaceship laying out in the snow and it’s a big ‘un. They find an alien body that looks like a shriveled reptile with a mop for hair. The shriveled alien passes some light onto Zachary before dying. Zachary tells the mayor the being passed knowledge onto him but they have to get out because the ship is gonna blow and kablooie it does right after they high tail it out of there. Back in town Zachary tells the sheriff, the mayor and the recently added Edie and Steven that the alien told him that he had three specimens in his ship when he crashed and these specimens escaped so they are the ones killing dudes in this town. Only the sheriff thinks this story is odd or that it’s strange that Zachary got this knowledge from a dying alien by way of a glowing light. Edie and Steven end up in the woods hoping to help capture an alien, yeah maybe they hoping to catch a bigfoot and ride on the Loch Ness monster too. Hey, it’s woods and around here you go out there and you run into…the garbage alien who pursues them. Suddenly a blast of sound hits and garbage creature falls over the like a, well a bag of garbage. Turns out Zachary was so clever that he figured this alien was like a big bug and that sticking a big honking speaker in the woods and then blasting sound when the alien came around would kill him. Hey, what do you know it worked. The mayor comes out of his house and the tall, fuzzy legged alien rips the mayor’s face open and plops him down. Eventually the sheriff and his deputy go after this monster trying wildly to bring him down with no luck. Then ker-plunk a big needle flies into the alien’s chest (or as my 8 year old said that monster just got shot in the boob). The alien falls down and goes boom and Zachary comes out with a big silver gun that shot out the needle. He had taken venom from alien number one and put it in this needle to kill alien number two. This Zachary sure doesn’t seem quite normal. The sheriff gets a call from the nearby observatory to let him know that they indeed have never heard of a Mr. Zachary and the sheriff for the first time in the movie seems happy. Edie is out in the woods again, buy this woman some sense please. She comes upon Mr. Zachary getting his tail kicked by a translucent creature that loos like part alien and part worm. Mr. Zachary gets smacked around some more before killing this big beast with a stick. Uh was that a poison dipped stick? No. Maybe a multi-spiked stick? Nope. Heck, it didn’t even look pointy, but whatever works I guess. Edie comes to check on Mr. Zachary but he tells her to stay back plus he sounds different and we can’t see his face. He informs her that he is from the same planet as the one that had the ship earlier and he (Zachary) was coming to destroy those three creatures before they caused more damage on earth. Then he reveals that he looks like the other alien complete with mudface and inside out bumpy veins. Edie screams, the sheriff shows up and shoots Zachary dead. Uh… didn’t that alien just get rid of all the creature that had been killing the townspeople? No time for making sense it’s time to roll the credits and it’s over and done.

Stats-
Number of aliens killed by a stick-1

Number of times the alien costumes look lame- about 5 which less times than they look decent

Number of people in the sad honky tonk- I think about ten, but my attention was fading due to the rotten club band.

The negatives? Although there are some action scenes of sorts in this film there are plenty of slow parts with people just yammering away contributing nothing. The acting is what you’d expect from a very small budget film which is to say that along with some alright performances there are some wooden performances and some wide eyed over acting too. Killing the final alien with a stick is a major hangup, that just smells of cheapness and hurrying.

The positives? The make-up on the aliens if actually decent considering the budget and when this film was done. The tall alien is likely using platforms or stilts which works pretty well. The scene where spaceship is on it’s side and the Mayor and Zachary and discover it looks quite good. The plot is overall decent although it takes a while to get to the heart of the matter. Don Leifert was far from great, but he gave easily the best performance here as the semi-mysterious Mr. Zachary.

Who should see this? This film was made down the road from where I live so I was interested in it for that reason. People are split on this film as it gets panned by plenty, but has some fans as well. It has serious problems, but a decent plot and some alright effects for the time and budget. I feel like Dohler really liked sci-fi and tried to make a sci-fi film that was the best he could do with the resources he had. The results are varied, but effort was good.

There you go.

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