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Retromedia presents
The Kong Collection (Kong Island & Queen Kong) (1968, 1976)

"How can I sit here and listen to you when the gorilla I love is out there looking for me? Eh?"
- Ray Fay (Robin Askwith)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 30, 2004

Stars: Brad Harris, Esmerelda Barros, Adriana Alben, Robin Askwith, Rula Lenska
Other Stars: Mark Farron, Aldo Cecconi, Marc Lawrence, Valerie Leon, Roger Hammond, Linda Hayden
Director: Roberto Mauri, Frank Agrama

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, brief nudity, surgical footage and gore, drug use, language)
Run Time: 02h:48m:31s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 014381265026
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-BB- B-

DVD Review

Peter Jackson has his hands full with his remake of King Kong. While the original is a true classic, just about every film since then that has involved Kong in any way, shape or form has been disastrous in one way or another. This two-disc set from Retromedia collects two oddball and seldom-seen entries in the Kong sweepstakes. Both are also available separately.

Kong Island (Eva, la venere selvaggia) is a 1968 Italian film that suffers from having neither a Kong nor any island. While it's horribly plot-heavy, little of it makes much sense and the characters are ill-defined. Burt Dawson (Brad Harris) is a former mercenary who is called back into business in eastern Africa to rescue Diana (Ursula Davis), the daughter of Theodore (Aldo Ceccori) and Ursula (Adriana Alben). She has been kidnapped by the robotic gorillas controlled by mad doctor Albert Munier (Marc Lawrence) in his bid to rule the world. Burt has a past, however, and is in a romantic triangle with Theodore and Ursula (or a quadrilateral once Diana is put into the mix). Dr. Munier also has an associate who tried to kill Burt years earlier, and in the middle of it all is Eve (Esmeralda Barros), a jungle girl who may or may not speak English.

From this description, one may accurately get the perception that this is an incoherent mess, and that's about right. Conquering the world by putting radio implants in the brains of gorillas seems a fairly labor-intensive method, and there are references to "sacred monkeys" that are tossed out without much regard for logic or the rest of the story. The acting is wooden (and isn't helped by the lousy dubbing) and the result is at best a ridiculous time-waster.

The parody Queen Kong (1977) was suppressed legally by Dino de Laurentiis on grounds that it might interfere with the profits of his remake of King Kong with Jessica Lange. More to the point, this parody is infinitely more entertaining than de Laurentiis' ponderous remake. It tracks the original 1933 film pretty closely, with gender reversals throughout. Martinet director Luce Habit (Rula Lenska) is in search of a new star for her new picture Last Tango in Lazanga when she runs across blonde dope fiend and petty thief Ray Fay (Robin Askwith) and decides to make him a star. Going to shoot on location in Lazonga Where They Do The Konga, the group is attacked by the voluptuous female natives and Ray is seized to be sacrificed to Queen Kong. Before long, the Queen is fighting rubber-suited dinosaurs and getting taken to London where she makes the obligatory climb of Big Ben.

This film, surprisingly enough, is a genuine hoot, with a very British sense of humor and a gag every few seconds, ranging from witty to sophomoric to downright silly, with a dollop of musical comedy/farce thrown in for laughs, but it works pretty well thanks to the adherence to the original and a wilingness to accept that its story is pretty ludicrous to begin with. Askwith is quite funny in a silly role that requires him to be dressed effeminately most of the time, while Lenska really does a fine job as the demanding director. Had this been able to obtain a proper release, she might have forged a bigger film career because she really shines in both comedy and her dramatic moments. Hammer starlet Valerie Leon (Blood from the Mummy's Tomb) is featured in a microscopic red bikini as the queen of Lazanga Where They Do the Konga. Frequently cartoonish, and larded with satires of period films and commercials (The Exorcist, Jaws and Airport 1975 all get some mockery), it's really quite worthwhile. The special effects are OK for the shoestring budget, and the producers appear to have made a point of not even trying to disguise the seams in the ape suit, encouraging us to laugh along. This one is definitely worth checking out for Kong fans. This gets a solid B, while the companion picture gets about a D-.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationoyes
Anamorphicnoyes


Image Transfer Review: Kong Island appears to be a brutal pan-and-scan job, with characters frequently lopped off the sides. There's a lack of detail, with a soft and dupey look to the print, simulating the cheesy drive-in experience. Queen Kong fares much better, with a nonanamorphic widescreen transfer. The use of excessive filters makes the picture intentionally soft, but that's difficult to transfer properly, especially with a nonanamorphic rendition. The result is slightly digital and blocky but it's certainly watchable. Color is decent and the print is in acceptable shape. It's surely much better than the usual Retromedia fare.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both films carry a 2.0 mono track. Kong Island is fairly poor-sounding, with hiss, moderate noise and crackle throughout. Queen Kong again does better, with much less prominent noise and hiss. The musical numbers sound fine, though they're lacking in presence and depth.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Frank Agrama
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Drive-In Theatre intro
Extras Review: The most significant extra is a full-length commentary on Queen Kong by director Frank Agrama, who goes into the legal problems of the picture and gives additional background on the film and its checkered history. He's chatting with Retromedia mogul and B-Movie King Fred Olen Ray, who keeps things going quite effectively. There's also a trailer in slightly wider format. The Kong Island disc features a highly dispensable "Drive-In Theatre" intro (2m:34s) with Miss Kim and Fred Olen Ray, with more nudity than appears in the feature proper.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

While Kong Island isn't worth much, Queen Kong is more than deserving of the purchase price. There's a pretty good commentary on the latter disc, though the transfer on both is mediocre.

 


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