What I love about “Kong: Skull Island” is that while it’s essentially a good old fashioned matinee monster movie at heart, it’s also a pretty clever take on the Vietnam war. “Kong: Skull Island” implements the classic trope from the classic giant monster movies taking a group of armed men and women in to the wilderness, and uses that as an allegory for the Vietnam war. Like the aforementioned war, US soldiers storm in to a wilderness they were unprepared to do battle with, except they face an unparalleled force of nature. Also very effectively setting up a cinematic universe, Jordan Vogt-Roberts aspires for a lot, and succeeds as a simple and harrowing adventure with big monsters, and menacing creatures far and wide.
Would you rather have two bad monster movies or nothing at all? I agree: two bad monster movies. Shout! Factory offers up two bad monster movies for the price of one for movie buffs that appreciate the schlock and awe of giant badly designed monsters wreaking havoc within budget limitations. First up there’s 1977’s “Tentacles” directed by Ovidio G. Assoninitis and is one of the many Jaws-sploitation movies to come out of the decade. This time around there’s an all star cast of John Huston, Bo Hopkins and Henry Fonda, all of whom reside in a seaside resort town.
Poor Kong. He’s only a pawn in the game of life. “King Kong Escapes” is another in the efforts by Toho to create a more expanded mythology for King Kong, which is a shame since I think he could have been a nice part of the Godzilla movie series here and there. He could have balanced out all the reptiles and lizards and bugs. “King Kong Escapes” is a direct sequel to “King Kong vs. Godzilla” except this is a movie much more about Kong. This is also one of the few King Kong movies with an actual conniving villain, who walks around committing to an evil scheme.
This is the bash we were all waiting for: the king of the monsters from America meets the king of the monsters from Asia—by way of Toho. Really, King Kong is given something of an Asian treatment this time around, increased in size, and allowed much more of a loophole to face Godzilla for this giant monster bash. I saw the Universal International version where the producers take it upon themselves to over explain everything. In this version the head of a pharmaceuticals company wants to grab a rare berry that is found on a distant island. Said berry has narcotic properties but it non-addictive. Wanting to improve his ratings and invest in a potential product, he sends two executives to the island to find the berries and the mythical monster the villagers are said to placate with juice from the berries.
Don Glut is a lover of the golden age of monster movies, and his 1994 documentary explores Hollywood’s fascination with apes. Though “King Kong” popularized the giant ape in film, the idea of giant apes have been around for quite a while and even showed up every so often in silent films. Even by 1994 standards, “Hollywood Goes Ape!” isn’t the most polished documentary, but it does offer a no frills exploration in to ape cinema of all kinds. There are looks at giant ape films like “King Kong” and “Konga,” and odd ball ape movies like “The Ape Man,” and “Superman vs. The Gorilla Gang.”
It’s really hard to stack up to the original “Mighty Joe Young” which itself was kind of a simpler take on the giant ape tale. While the original remains untouched, it’s really hard not to enjoy the 1998 remake by Disney and director Ron Underwood. While it can occasionally be silly, it’s still a strong new take on the original film with a great cast, great direction and still very good special effects. This new version from director Ron Underwood strays from the original which was kind of a “King Kong” riff, and transforms it more in to a tale of a woman who watches over a humongous ape named Joe. The writers aim to tackle themes about poaching and wildlife preservation within the fun adventure tale, and most times it allows for an engaging tale of friendship and love.
If “King Kong” was the main feature, than “Son of Kong” is the less than stellar epilogue. After King Kong died in the middle of Manhattan, Carl Denham is suffering a large amount of scrutiny and possible jail time for what he brought on to New York. He now hides out in an apartment away from the press, all of whom are anxious to interview him and roast him about the part he played. “Son of Kong” is not the most action packed film. At barely seventy minutes in length, it’s mostly an adventure comedy about Carl Denham trying to save his reputation, and falling in love with a lonely female performer who follows him to Kong Island.
Ellory Elkayem’s “Eight Legged Freaks” came out during a horrendous time. First it was a limited release, unleashed around the time another Spider oriented movie was breaking box office records, and it was released during a time where audiences were still bruised from 9/11 and weren’t too keen on welcoming horror comedies in to their lives quite yet. It’s a shame since “Eight Legged Freaks” is a pitch perfect horror comedy that celebrates everything from B movies, slasher movies, disaster movies, and the classic monster movies like “Them!” and “Mosquito.” Ellory Elkayem based a lot of “Eight Legged Freaks” on his short film “Larger Than Life,” which is very much in the spirit of what we see on the big screen. It is a black and white ode to the sixties monster movies with Elkayem conjuring up what’s so gross and icky about spiders. I originally saw “Larger than Life” on television in 2000 when it premiered on the short film television series “Exposure” on the Sci-Fi Channel here in America.