I'm going to put my reputation (such as it is) on the line here and publicly state for the record that I do not believe that Dino DeLaurentis and John Guillermin's King Kong (1976) is quite as bad as everyone says it is.
The musical score for the film, however, by Space: 1970 favorite, John Barry (The Black Hole, Starcrash) is outstanding and memorable, and Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange both give very good performances, no matter how badly their characters are written.
Perhaps the reason I'm so generous toward the movie is because my own history with it is so fraught with disappointments - none of which have anything to do with the movie itself.
You can see where this is going, right?
As the weeks passed, my eagerness metamorphosed into anxiety as I checked the mailbox every day and never found my copy of the magazine waiting for me. Finally, I went to my mother and expressed my concern, and that's when I was enlightened as to the dangers of sending cash through the mail. If she'd known why I wanted that $5 bill, she would have written me a check instead, but no - I was being all grown-up and buying something expensive (!) for myself, and hadn't told her why I wanted the money.
Except, of course, when you're twelve, you really have no say in such things.
My parents were going on a snowmobile vacation in Canada that Christmas week, and my sister and I were left in the care of my older cousin Jayne. Which was fine; we loved Jayne. She was an adult, but not "old," if you know what I mean, and she always seemed to "get" me and my interests. Before my parents had left, I had extracted from my mother permission to have Jayne take me to see King Kong at the local 6-screen multiplex (the Waterville Cinema Center), and I got extremely excited about it, counting the hours and minutes until we'd get to the theater.
The day finally arrived. Jayne bundled my younger sister and I up in our heavy winter coats, scarves and hats and loaded us into the car. I was restless in my seat, eager to get to the show. When we arrived at the theater, Jayne noticed from the marquee that Kong was - oh no! - rated PG.
As we know, deLauerentis' Kong wasn't a blockbuster. It wasn't really a flop, either, but with the money that Paramount had spent promoting it, and the fact they'd had to turn over the foreign rights to the film to Universal (a story I'll tell one of these days), it fell far short of their Jaws-like expectations. Fans of the original RKO Kong - and most critics - derided the film for its tongue-in-cheek tone and its then-contemporary setting, and it garnered a generally bad reputation among fans of of genre cinema for decades to come.
I finally saw Kong a year or two later, on a portable television on a rainy camping trip to Canada. The reception was poor, the image was small, panned, scanned, and B&W, there were edits and commercials... but I finally saw it. Of course, I've seen it many times since, and over the years my appreciation of the film has risen and fallen with my perspective. These days, I tend toward liking it.
The 1976 Kong is not a classic. It's not even a particularly good movie. But I would argue that there's a lot in there to appreciate, and for those of us who remember the era, it's a pretty good time capsule of what the world was like in the mid-Seventies.