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Fox Home Entertainment presents
King Kong Lives (1986)

"Well, we should have no trouble identifying the enemy. They're approximately 50 feet tall and wearing their birthday suits."
- Col. Nevitt (John Ashton)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 09, 2004

Stars: Brian Kerwin, Linda Hamilton, John Ashton
Other Stars: Peter Michael Goetz, Frank Maraden, Peter Elliott, George Yiasoumi, Jessica Lange (in flashback only)
Director: John Guillermin

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:44m:47s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 024543112020
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D- D-BB- D-

DVD Review

Not content with disgracing the name of Willis O'Brien with the ill-advised 1976 remake of King Kong, Dino de Laurentiis struck again ten years later with this sequel, which appallingly enough makes its immediate predecessor look like a Kurosawa film. Inept from start to finish, it's an hour too long and saddled with poor actors forced to deal with a worse script.

Starting off with a flashback to the end of the last film, complete with Jessica Lange (who otherwise is happily absent from this mess), we learn that Kong (Peter Elliott) didn't actually quite exactly precisely entirely die in his climactic fall, and that a group of scientists, including Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton), have decided to try to save and revive the giant ape for reasons never quite explained in any coherent fashion. After some jabbering about Kong's "blood volume having deteriorated" in the past ten years of coma, it becomes clear that an artificial heart will need to be implanted. To accomplish that, a blood donor is necessary. Adventurer Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin) obligingly goes back to Kong Island and just as obligingly a Lady Kong (George Yiasoumi) appears and is brought back to allow the surgery. But Kong, scenting the female, has romance on his mind, such as it is after ten years of coma. The ensuing hour concerns the efforts of Franklin and Mitchell to protect the amorous apes. That's complicated by the efforts of Col. Nevitt (John Ashton) and his military force to kill the monkeys. Typical government bureacracy, isn't it? One hand revives the giant killer apes, the other one tries to blow them up. It always happens that way in real life.

If it sounds from this summary that there's little thought given to character definition and even less to character development, you'd be right on the money. No one does anything logical, or attempts to explain what they're doing or why. They just do these things because the script tells them to. And most unforgivably, they do them badly. Linda Hamilton is occasionally tolerable in the Terminator films, but she's obviously taken the same tranquilizers as Kong because she's got the same expressionless, dazed look that says most clearly, "If I try really hard, I'll wake up from this nightmare." Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is even worse, and the science is unspeakable. How exactly does Kong not only stay alive, but continue moving without a heart? Why on earth does Dr. Franklin not sedate Kong after the operation, preferring to wait instead until he goes into cardiac arrest trying to get to Lady Kong? Why exactly are they prepared to kill Lady Kong by draining out all her blood so that Kong can live? Who knows, and the screenwriter apparently didn't care, because he doesn't bother to tell us.

It's really not that difficult. If you want proper man-in-monster-suit action, look to the Orient. Accept no American men in gorilla suits pretending (badly) to be 50 feet tall in front of a poorly-disguised bluescreen. A proper Kong must be animated, not a guy in a suit. It's the way of the world, and the sooner Hollywood wises up to this basic fact of life, the better off we'll all be. Take heed, Peter Jackson!

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.20:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image transfer is at least pretty good. There are no significant defects other than some ringing on horizontal surfaces. The source material is in good condition. Detail is adequately sharp, though texture is a little bit lacking. Black levels are decent and color is quite good, with the giant ape blood a particularly vivid scarlet.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Surround track and a DD 5.1 remix are included. Disregard the 5.1. It has a low electronic buzz throughout, with plenty of hiss. It's recorded louder, and music has good impact and acceptable range. But when you turn the Dolby Surround track up to equivalent levels, there's nearly as much bunch, minus the buzz and the hiss. 5.1 is not always better, and here's Exhibit A. The 5.1 track gets a D grade, while the DS ranks a B.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: I can only conclude Fox knows when it has a dog on its hands, since there are zero extras. English subtitles and closed captions are provided.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Kong fans, despair. One of the worst giant ape offerings ever has hit DVD, but at least Fox has the decency to present it barebones. Don't look for this in the Studio Classics series any time soon.


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