King Kong Lives, or rather, he really doesn’t; he’s never quite the same after his fall from the Empire State Building in John Gullermin’s shockingly bad but blisteringly daft epic. This is a direct sequel to 1976’s unsuccessful King Kong remake, with none of the cast returning, but the original director offering the same technical showmanship that he brought to the Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange reboot and The Towering Inferno. Unfortunately, pretty much everything that could go wrong with a sequel goes awry here, and the end-result is catnip to bad movie fans.
‘There’s only one thing that can save Kong now,’ chirps Dr Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton) as Kong’s heart surgeon to a gathering of fellow professionals. ‘What?’ they cry aloud. ‘A miracle!’ she says not-very-scientifically, and we’re off on an idiotic adventure through lame dialogue, terrible plotting, variable effects and silly conceits.Love Kong? Well, you probably won’t love that he’s in a coma for the first twenty minutes here, while Hamilton works out how to fit him out with a giant mechanical pace-maker. She needs monkey blood for a transfusion, and lots of it, but when a potential donor is located, Kong fancies her as his mate, and doesn’t feel that his underlying healthcare issues should be an obstacle.
Also known as King Kong 2, this film was the most poplar import in Soviet Russia in 1988, and presumably led to the Berlin wall collapsing as Russians looked to the West to see where such wonders emerged from. The ape affects are by Carlo Rimbaldi, and the writer behind Alien (Ronald Shusett) gets a credit, but this whole enterprise feels very down-market. The apes frequently look awful, and yet there’s some surprisingly tender scenes between Kong and his missus that deserve a cult following for their comedy value.
King Kong Lives is a so-bad-it’s good classic, a ridiculous, numb-skulled sequel with no merit whatsoever except that it’s hilarious to watch. The physical effects and hydraulics are top-notch, and yet contrast with the generally tatty feel of the whole enterprise. There’s little evidence of this film surfacing on streaming, but connoisseurs of rubbish will seek it out; by playing all the wrong notes in the wrong order, it somehow opens a Skull Island-style gate to a genuine comedy classic.