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JOHN GUILLERMIN RETURNS TO DIRECT 'KING KONG LIVES'

Foreign Poster to King Kong Lives YEAR: 1986
A rather unnecessary sequel of a remake for the 1976 Dino DeLaurantis's epic, which made a decent profit but wasn't embraced by fans of the classic original, and it's fitfully titled KING KONG LIVES, again directed by John Guillermin, an otherwise adventurous filmmaker who doesn't take his characters on the edge in this one-dimensional outing...

Kong, it turns out, following his New York Twin Towers fall, is in a top secret coma, and soon-enough saved by a heart transplant by our lovely ingenue, THE TERMINATOR actress Linda Hamilton, less of a scream queen and providing both the brains and brawn... And on the flipside is a relatively unknown actor only fans of the series SHERIFF LOBO would recognize by name; although Brian Kerwin is probably best remembered as Sally Field's flakey ex-husband in MURPHY'S ROMANCE, or the guy who smooches TORCH SONG TRILOGY star Matthew Broderick (who'd headline the infamous 1990's GODZILLA, which made this film seem like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK). Kerwin is somewhat similar to Jeff Bridges in the 1976 environmentally conscious, anti big oil company version, only more of a self-serving rogue; sarcastically described by Hamilton as "Indiana Jones" he's not respected as a animal activist, but is more of a capitalist and yet, like every leading man, he too has a heart of gold...

KongLivesScore: **
Having found a giant female ape around the same region as Skull Island, he brings the she-beast to a location (guided by the military, who calls all the shots) close enough to Kong's recuperating from surgery and, with non-suspenseful ease, the apes meet and take to the surrounding woods, passively pursued by the nature-loving couple as well as our stock villain John Ashton as a menacing military a**hole who wants Kong covered in blood like the bi-planes in the original and the copters in the sequel. But alas, there's no exciting, climactic standoff here. The army, with all their guns and ammo, serve merely as wallpaper....

Screen capture from King Kong Lives
In fact, not much is improved upon the flawed yet entertaining original-remake from the seventies except the gorilla suits (neither worn by makeup guru Rick Baker this time) look a tad more realistic... But that too is a waste since having two apes should mean twice the action/double the chase. A more fitting title should be A MELLOW GORILLA HONEYMOON. Well hell, at least the resurrected simian gets some action off screen... God knows he deserves it (and perhaps now we know how the 1933 sequel/programer SON OF KONG was born.. or not).

Beach Landing on Skull Island in the 1976 King Kong
The audience, meanwhile, is given close to nothing except to follow Cult Film Freak's advice and take another look at the maligned Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange disco era KONG, which isn't only far superior to this decade-past LIVES but passes the time, and hits the right marks like a blockbuster should, especially the creative first half, but... we'll get to that eventually... So please have patience: a SKULL ISLAND review is coming soon, along with a myriad of other Kong related project. For last weekend's box office success proves the giant ape is still relevant after almost ten decades. Ironically, the next weekend, ISLAND was pummeled by a Disney flick that not only has a similar plot but is quoted by the original film's star, Robert Armstrong as globetrotting director Carl Denham, pointing out that Fay Wray and the ship's onboard pet spider monkey is a "Beauty and the Beast." And now we're rambling; a pop culture collision: Welcome to Cult Film Freak!
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