King Kong (1976) Scream Factory Extras Revealed: 2k Restoration of the Extended Cut and More


Courtesy: Scream Factory

1976's King Kong has enjoyed quite the critical re-evaluation in recent years, and deservedly so. For a long time its sole cultural legacy was that of a notorious Hollywood flop that almost ended Jessica Lange's career before it started, and stood alongside Dune as proof for many that producer Dino De Laurentiis could not be trusted to successfully helm a Hollywood blockbuster. But in recent years, the internet discourse around De Laurentiis's Kong has changed significantly, as people have revisited the film for the first time in years and had the collective reaction, "hey, wait a second, this is actually pretty good!" That was certainly my experience when I watched it in the early days of social distancing about a year ago.

Courtesy: Paramount

To be clear, it is not a great film or an unsung masterpiece, and there are definitely times where its production troubles are very evident (even with effects maestro Rick Baker on board, the production struggled to make their animatronic Kong work reliably and believably, and the finished effects aren't always up to the standards of the film's ambitions). But it is a very enjoyable film, with parts that work wonderfully, and even when it isn't entirely successful, it has a campy adventure-movie charm that is quite likable. And it is certainly elevated by a great cast, with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange at the helm, bolstered by great character actors like Rene Auberjonois and Charles Grodin. It can't match the original King Kong (which ironically has much more impressive effects work - the biggest disappointment about Kong 76 is that outside of one giant snake that Kong fights, there are no other creatures), but it also doesn't deserve its bad reputation, and it's worth another look. Which is why Scream Factory's upcoming collector's edition of the film is a very welcome one.

Now, Scream Factory has announced their full slate of extras for the collector's edition, and it is all that we could have hoped for, and more.

Courtesy: Scream Factory

Let's get the big thing out of the way first - Scream Factory has given us some very good news regarding the film's mythical extended cut. While King Kong's theatrical cut (the only one that has so far been available on home video) runs 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film was expanded into a 3-hour event for TV broadcasts in the late-70s and early-80s, and this epic-length, extended version of the film has long been the subject of myths and legends among Kong 76's cult of fans. It has only ever been available as very rough-quality, taped-off-the-air VHS-sourced bootlegs, which cropped the 2.35:1 film down to 4:3 pan-n-scan. Scream Factory announced that the extended version would be included on this set when the release itself was first announced, but at the time they did not reveal whether it would be a new remaster of the original 35mm elements in 2.35:1, or if it would be a 4:3 broadcast tape master, like the broadcast master that Koch Films used on their recent German blu-ray of Needful Things. Now, Scream Factory has revealed that the extended cut has indeed gotten a new remaster in its original aspect ratio, with the extended footage having been freshly scanned in 2k from the original interpositive.

This is incredible news, both for fans of the film who have always wanted to see that cut in better-than-pretty-awful quality, and for those curious about extended and alternate cuts in general. As for the extended cut itself... I watched it (on one of the above-mentioned VHS-sourced bootlegs) earlier in the pandemic when I revisited the film, and I can certainly say that it's worth a look, although I don't think it adds a ton to the film or makes it a lot better. Some of the restored sequences are great, and add valuable material back to the film, and it's fun to see this version of Kong expanded into an epic experience closer in length to Peter Jackson's film. But the TV version also includes a lot of padding, and scenes that don't need to be as long as they are, and the pacing sometimes suffers. The ideal extended cut of 1976's King Kong would probably be 2 1/2 hours, or 2 hours and 40 minutes - padding it out to a full 3 hours was clearly done to fill a designated TV block (4 hours with commercials), and not done to achieve good pacing. As such, the theatrical cut is definitely better in terms of pacing, and the stronger version of the film, but the extended cut is nonetheless a really fun curiosity that at least restores some material that is quite worthwhile. Fans should definitely check it out, but newcomers should start with the theatrical cut.

Courtesy: Paramount

As for the other extras on the set, the full list of bonus features is as follows:

NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Ray Morton (Author Of KING KONG – THE HISTORY OF A MOVIE ICON)
NEW Audio Interview With Special Makeup Effects Wizard Rick Baker
NEW Something’s Haywire – An Interview With Actor Jack O’Halloran
NEW On The Top Of The World – An Interview With Assistant Director David McGiffert And Production Manager Brian Frankish
NEW Maybe In Their Wildest Dreams – An Interview With Sculptor Jack Varner
NEW There’s A Fog Bank Out There – An Interview With Second Unit Director William Kronick
NEW From Space To Apes – An Interview With Photographic Effects Assistant Barry Nolan
NEW When The Monkey Dies, Everybody Cries – An Interview With Production Assistants Jeffrey Chernov And Scott Thaler
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 And NEW Restored Theatrical DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo Track
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Still Galleries – Posters, Lobby Cards, Behind-The-Scenes Photos

NEW 2K Scan Of The Additional TV Footage From The Internegative
KING KONG Panel Discussion From The Aero Theater (2016)

That 2016 panel discussion runs for an hour, and features Jack O'Halloran ("Joe Perko"), Richard H. Kline (Director of Photography), Rick Baker, Martha De Laurentiis (widow of producer Dino De Laurentiis), Richard Kraft (former manager of composer John Barry), and moderator Ray Morton.

That's a pretty solid bunch of interviews, and while it is slightly a shame that Scream Factory is presenting them as a series of interviews and not a single documentary about the making of the film, they should nonetheless be quite insightful - particularly Rick Baker's, given what a headache the effects work apparently was. It is slightly strange and unfortunate that the previous making-of featurette from the European StudioCanal blu-ray isn't being ported over, and it's a tad disappointing but totally unsurprising that neither Jeff Bridges nor Jessica Lange were interested in doing new interviews, but the interviews that they have assembled certainly make up for those omissions. It is also odd that apparently only the extra scenes for the TV cut have been freshly scanned in 2k, and not the entire film, but that likely is a contractual issue, that Paramount only cleared them to use the existing HD master of the main film. At any rate, that existing HD master has been generally quite well-reviewed, so that's not too big a loss, although it is a missed opportunity.

All in all, this looks like it will be quite a solid disc, and the HD restoration of the TV cut will be worth the price and the Collector's Edition distinction in itself. The disc will be released on May 11th.

- Christopher S. Jordan

Share this article!