King Kong: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (21st June 2021).
The Film

With the biggest rematch of the century – “Godzilla vs. Kong” (2021) - currently winding down its impressive box office run this seems like the perfect (albeit LONG overdue) time to finally grace monster movie fans with a Blu-ray for the unfairly maligned remake of the original 1933 classic, “King Kong” (1976). Paramount, the film’s home studio, never bothered giving this film even a barebones HD release, leaving fans to shop internationally for various Blu-ray releases with minimal extras. Personally, I’ve owned the film on VHS, DVD, French HD DVD, and German Blu-ray… but now Scream Factory has delivered a U.S. release that is not only brimming with bonus features but also contains what has been a Holy Grail title of mine for years: the legendary 1978 TV cut.

Why, might you ask, would a TV cut be exciting? Those films are usually censored for broadcast – and that’s true here – but in order to make “King Kong” a true epic on television the film had an additional roughly 45 minutes of deleted, extended, and alternate footage added in, swelling the 134-minute theatrical running time up to a Kong-sized 182-minute mammoth. And even though some of it is clearly filler there are more than enough great moments to make up for that: more development of Jack & Dwan’s relationship on the ship, a longer ceremony scene, an extended battle between Kong and the giant snake (with some gorgeous never-seen wide shots of the tussle), more of Kong rampaging in NYC (at one point he hurls a car into a building!), and a longer lead-up to the grand finale. Trust me when I say, fans of this 1976 classic are going to be thrilled with the material and how it’s presented.

I can’t imagine anyone doesn’t know the story of King Kong but to summarize this same-but-different approach, Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), a Petrox Oil Company executive, sets sail for a mysterious island somewhere in Indian Ocean that he believes contains the largest untapped oil deposit in history. Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), an environmentalist and photographer, has stowed aboard hoping to reach the island for his own purpose: to uncover the legend of a great beast said to live there. On their way Dwan (Jessica Lange) is rescued from the sea, drifting in a life raft after the yacht she was on exploded. The trio land on Skull Island, meet the natives, and eventually all come face to face with the local god, Kong (Rick Baker is the man in the suit).

Look, this film has been out for 45 years and just about everyone has seen it and has an opinion about it. This has been one of my favorite monster movies since childhood and while there’s admittedly some rosy tint clouding my view I think what producer Dino De Laurentiis shepherded is a truly epic film with incredible highs and some obvious lows – for me, that would be the lack of Skull Island beasts (a large snake barely counts) and the fact Baker’s ape suit isn’t always the most convincing. But do these issues inhibit my enjoyment? Not in the least. This is a film world in which I love to spend time, making that 3-hour cut more of a good thing.

Tell you what really helps, too: John Barry’s phenomenal score. It isn’t hyperbole to claim this is one of the greatest scores in cinema because what Barry does is elevate this monster romp into a romantic tragedy befitting of its story. His motifs convey menace, foreboding, triumph, bombast, and somber reflection so well. This is a score I listen to constantly and in the three-hour cut there’s more of Barry’s music, though some of it is recycled; a minor qualm for a magnificent soundtrack.

Video

Scream Factory doesn’t tout any new restoration and since Paramount doesn’t like to allow other labels to tinker with their masters very often I’m going to assume this is the same transfer that has been making the rounds worldwide. This isn’t such a bad thing but, man, I can only imagine how nice a proper 4K restoration might have looked – hopefully, one day. Still, the 2.35:1 1080p image is beautiful when you consider the only other home video option is DVD. Contrast is a bit wan and the black levels sometimes struggle to remain dark but colors are pleasing and film grain looks so vividly ‘70s I can’t find much fault other than this being a dated picture.

The TV cut has its additional scenes restored via a 2K remastering and the consistency between the original and added footage is just about seamless. This is the first time ever the TV cut has been seen in 2.35:1 and that fact alone is enough for me to give this a pass; the fact it looks this good is just icing on the cake.

Audio

The theatrical cut features a restored theatrical 2.0 stereo track and also includes a 5.1 surround sound mix. While the multi-channel option does open up the soundfield a bit I found no fault with the restored audio. The TV cut contains only a 2.0 stereo track – and I don’t know if the restored version was used wherever possible – but it sounded full to my ears. Perhaps the theatrical cut audio wins by a bit but it wasn’t enough to sway me into declaring an outright victor. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

Extras

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

Two audio commentary tracks are available; the first with author Ray Morton, the second with Rick Baker.

“On Top of the World – Brian Frankish and David McGiffert on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 11 minutes and 54 seconds.

“When the Monkey Dies Everybody Cries – Jeffrey Chernov & Scott Thaler on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 13 minutes and 48 seconds, conducted via web chat.

“Maybe in Their Wildest Dreams – Sculptor Steve Varner on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 5 minutes and 36 seconds, conducted via web chat.

“Something’s Haywire – Jack O’Halloran on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 5 minutes and 52 seconds, conducted via web chat.

“From Space to Apes – Photographic Effects Assistant Barry Nolan on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 5 minutes and 36 seconds, conducted via web chat.

“There’s a Fog Bank Out There – Second Unit Director Bill Kronick on King Kong” (1080p) is an interview that runs for 6 minutes and 31 seconds.

Two theatrical trailers (1080p) run for a total of 5 minutes and 2 seconds.

Seven TV spots (1080p) run for a total of 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

Three radio spots run for a total of 1 minute and 35 seconds.

Image Galleries (1080p) are included for the following:
- Movie Stills runs for 7 minutes and 26 seconds.
- Posters & Lobby Cards runs for 8 minutes and 53 seconds.
- Behind-the-Scenes runs for 6 minutes and 39 seconds.
- Newspaper Ads runs for 3 minutes and 58 seconds.

DISC TWO: TV Cut

“King Kong Panel Discussion from the Aero Theater” (SD) runs for 1 hour, 8 minutes and 45 seconds.

A fun Easter egg can be found by highlighting “Subtitles” and pressing right on the remote, with a series of NBC promos and commercial bumpers (SD) running for 3 minutes and 52 seconds.

Packaging

The two-disc set comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with each disc opposite the other. The cover art is reversible, allowing for display of new art or the original classic World Trade Center theatrical poster. A slipcover with the new art is available on first pressings.

Overall

The fact this finally has a Blu-ray release is exciting enough, but to have Scream Factory give it the deluxe treatment with the much-wanted TV Cut makes this my favorite release of the year hands down.

The Film: A- Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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