Saturday, 22 February 2014

Orchestrated litany of High-lights

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular was a show of many lives and times, and a life-time.

New Zealand Mezzo Soprano Anna Pierard led the Orpheus choir in some beautiful choral pieces while stalwart Ben Foster (centre) conducts the NZSO in Wellington.  Who'd ever have thought it?

Really, I had intended never to refer to the 'fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who (TM)' on this blog again – except for this one last time…
Friday saw the opening of the New Zealand Festival and, I presume with its survival having been threatened by diminishing audience numbers in recent times, this year the organisers gave us Doctor Who.

This once ‘cult’ show has become a demographic-shattering juggernaut in the last nine years, and the colossal recognition factor has been reflected in Britain and Australia by sell-out live concerts of composer Murray Gold’s music, performed annually for almost as long as the show has been back. Beginning as a ‘one-off’ charity concert in 2006, the formula of live orchestra, a star host, huge screens showing relevant clips and ‘monsters’ stalking the aisles has grown to headline the Proms and tour Australia. Having seen recordings of most of the British performances, the highlight is always the cut-aways to the audience and their reactions to the spectacle, especially among the very young fans. 

A Cyberman inspires...ummm... 'terror' on the Wellington waterfront.
A lovely, chatty interview with Murray Gold last October earned me an unexpected but very welcome couple of tickets to the Symphonic Spectacular from the publicists, and a very special event in the vague proximity of my birthday to look forward to. This version of the ‘Symphonic Spectacular had of course been specially formulated for performances in Britain during last year’s ‘fiftieth year’ celebrations, so an unavoidable overlap into 2014 of Golden Anniversary cheer was to be expected.

However, I had no idea just how much, because this concert, unlike all the others before it, was not just about recent years but went to great lengths to embrace music from the entire history of the programme.
So, on top of all the unforgettable highlights the night already offered, was the wonderfully bizarre sight of the New Zealand Symphony orchestra belting out the bellicose 1960s Cyberman music; then accompanying an extended scene from The Sea Devils (thirteen-year-old me: I only wish you could have seen that!) and performing one of my all-time favourites, the spiralling refrain leading to Tom Baker’s regeneration from Logopolis. By now I was shocked to already realise that I wasn’t going to get through the night dry-eyed, but I know I wasn’t the only one. 

My giant ear almost eclipses the TARDIS.
Before further gushing, I will balance it by coming back to one of my oldest bug bears – the reserve of Kiwi audiences. The Logopolis clip mentioned above ends with the very first glimpse of a ridiculously young Peter Davison, and given that the man himself was more-than-ably hosting the evening surely some applause would have been appropriate? Like-wise a terrific video sequence towards the end of the concert, set to the choral piece which made David Tennant’s farewell seem even more protracted: Vale Decem, was utterly vindicated by accompanying a beautifully-edited sequence of all the Doctors in their final moments. At this point I desperately wished that the long-lived overseas tradition of fans frantically trying to out-do each other with cheers and applause as their favourite Doctor first appears on screen could only have been adopted here.

But I am , of course, being ridiculously churlish. Our capacity Wellington audience spanned at least four generations, the very youngest possibly never having been up so late in their lives before, and was liberally sprinkled with bow-ties and Fez’s. (Here’s the thing though: those in costume were almost exclusively young women. Certainly wasn’t like that in my time – to quote Paul Simon: “These are the days of miracles and wonders.”) They sat patiently in the late summer heat through the 15 minute technical delay in starting, warmly welcomed Davison’s entertaining asides, goggled at and stroked passing monsters and wonderfully, gave a mighty standing ovation at the close, so what more could anyone ask for?

With only the pulsing logo to keep us company, and a timely reassurance from Peter Davison,
we patiently wait out a technical diffficulty before the concert begins.
Another early sequence showcased the new programme’s first four companions. Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble got a delighted round of applause but the reaction to Billie Piper as Murray Gold’s masterpiece Rose’s theme opened the set was utterly lovely. A sigh of concentrated affection seemed to gust through the auditorium – in less than ten years the ‘new’ series already has its nostalgia buffs. The farewell scene between the Doctor and Rose featured heavily in these clips, a poignant recollection for many - myself included as I remember my Mother astonished to find herself weeping over this sequence back in 2006.

One of the biggest surprises was a performance of music from an episode I would otherwise have been happy to forget ever existed - The Rings of Akhaten. A grim feat of endurance to watch on television last year, somehow it became many people’s highlight of the evening. The broiling sentient sun filled the massive screen as the audience were bathed in suitably fiery lighting, while child soprano Mia Vinaccia, accompanied by tenor Oliver Sewell, broke our hearts. As the spectacular conclusion to the first half of the concert, it left many visibly moved as the lights came up - perhaps this unloved episode should always have been an opera…

To my inexperienced ear the NZSO performed the music to this silly TV show with the same respect and commitment that they would give to the works of classical composers, and despite what I assumed to be a smaller ensemble than at overseas performances, the scores sounded utterly authentic and powerful enough to drown out on-screen dialogue in one of the show’s very few technical mis-steps.

Peter Davison turned the thankless role of halting the spectacle and announcing what was next into a superbly entertaining stand-up routine. Referencing our cricketing achievements, Peter Jackson and New Zealand Customs (“they frisk you for fruit!”) he was a delight and I’d have been very happy to hear more from this experienced pro, and less clowning from Ben Foster. As Davison concluded: “I’ve just got one note for you: don’t give up conducting.”

Perhaps the main draw for some turned out to be the least memorable for me, but no less welcome for that – the monster mash. The TSB Bank arena is not an ideal venue for alien creatures to menace and many appearances were restricted to on or around the stage. The latest iterations of the Cybermen and Daleks earned huge applause, and deserved it for ‘running the gauntlet’ to navigate the aisles (the blue Dalek with a little difficulty it seems). The limited space caused Davison to refer to ‘an alien traffic jam’, but the thrill of seeing these marvelous creations ‘in person’ was still very palpable. The imposing and surprisingly agile Ice Warrior was my personal highlight. 

A cavalcade of creatures brave a hot lunchtime stroll. 
I was strolling too, but completely obliviously past Te Papa in the background!
Could anything have made this show more satisfying? Well, one of the promised highlights was ‘a specially recorded message from the Doctor”. Although we are technically 'between Doctors' at the moment, for many Matt Smith is still the incumbent and I didn’t doubt his not-unwelcome chin would be filling the screen for this sequence.
Instead we got Uncle Tom! Now in his eighties , Tom Baker’s famous, still-piercing, twinkling blue eyes conveyed enormous affection and sincerity when he reigned in his trademark eccentricity and thanked us all for our support over the years. 

Uncle Tom!
No - thank you sir, and thank you New Zealand Festival for what was literally the show of a life-time, both for the programme and the audience.

My hastily scribbled review can be found here:

Like some more?
Here are two excellent impressions from two excellent matinee session imps:

Friday, 14 February 2014

Floydian Hits

At the beginning of this month New Zealand tributes to Pink Floyd and Stonehenge collided with spectacular results.

The hills were alive, with the sound of ...Pink Floyd.

February is here, and with it, summer – hopefully. We’ve made a resolution this year to make time for recreation, not only in terms of taking more time off and seeing more of the country, but also in making time for activities which aren’t work related. We’ve booked a number of Arts Festival Events but coming up first was a concert, with a difference.

Eclipse are a New Zealand Pink Floyd tribute band, and the venue for their outdoor concert on Saturday was Stonehenge Aotearoa, not a replica of the famous Salisbury stone circle, but a working monolith observatory especially designed and constructed for the southern sky.

It is perched atop a privately owned hillside in the Hinakura range, with a magnificent view of the Wairarapa valley and the entire length of the Tararua range, and on this particular evening the sun shone from a cloudless sky as it dipped gradually behind the distant ridgeline.

This was the first event of its kind to be held here, restricted to two and a half thousand people due to the relatively modest area available. A large stage was set up beside the ‘stone’ circle and a light show of international standard was promoted as one of the main draw cards. As is often the case with music of this vintage, a wide age range was represented in the capacity crowd, and the better-than-forecast weather seemed to bring out the more agreeable side of everyone’s nature. A friendly atmosphere was palpable.

The sun sinks behind the Tararua range.  Stonehenge Aotearoa  is
just out-of-shot, to the right of the stage.
The music of Pink Floyd is something we all seem to absorb by osmosis, before some choose to become fans and seek it out. I first became aware of them through their arguably most commercial phase when any old radio station would happily bang out “…we don’t need no education…” so I possibly wasn’t introduced to Pink Floyd at their best. Fortunately I have friends who were, and still are, far more proactive at seeking out new (and old) music than I am, and Wish you were Here, Dark Side of the Moon and others gradually joined my internal playlist. In short, I was by no means knowledgeable, or a fan, but felt I was at least on a head nodding, foot tapping acquaintance. Rose claimed to know nothing about their music, but as the night went on the exclamation: “I know this one…” was heard more and more.

From opening with Learning to Fly, appropriately under a clear, encircling sky, to encoring with Comfortably numb, while many tried to find their cars under blazing Wairarapa starlight, Eclipse seemed to satisfy all with their sincere and full-blooded depiction of music which covers several generations. We were in full agreement with the approving ageing rocker sitting behind us who had seen many a real Pink Floyd concert in London, and felt that although the lead vocals didn’t quite have the maturity of the original, the distinctive guitar work was spot on. 

Fortunately, it was still enough for the dry ice to help produce effects like this.
Less expected ‘geeky’ highlights for me included detecting a snatch of the Doctor Who theme during the opening instrumental of One of These Days (apparently long-speculated about, but it’s definitely there - Floyd were apparently BBC Radiophonic Workshop fans). I was also irresistibly shot back to 1980 with memories of John Mills’ Bernard Quatermass in a dishevelled hounds-tooth jacket and proto-new agers chanting about “ring-stone round”, as a blazing column of light shot out from the centre of the Henge during the truly spectacular light show. 
Glad we were here.

"Huffity, puffity, ring-stone round..."

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Ghost at the feast

Having looked at more chilling New Zealand Ghost stories, here is my own merely puzzling experience of ‘the other side’.

Encounters with the spirit world are meant to be spooky – unsettling, even terrifying, but my long-dreamt-of experience was positively convivial.  Rather than creeping through a dark, abandoned house I was standing in a packed kitchen, at a party, surrounded by laughing and chatting people.

The house, however, was most definitely haunted.  Not long after moving into the area, our neighbour didn’t waste any time in telling us about her ‘full house’. Catherine was a sunny, eternally youthful woman in her late 50s, always smiling, and attempting to frighten anyone would be the furthest thing from her mind.  But she soon realised that I had a fascination for the supernatural and would always fill me in on her latest happenings at home.  She happened to live in a very old house, or at least one composed of parts of very old houses which seemed to retain the essences of their previous inhabitants.  Catherine appeared to be especially sensitive to their presence, and knew them all.
There was a blind man and his dog, Catherine had heard the sound of slow footsteps and his cane tapping along her hallway walls.  One part of her home was originally a schoolhouse, so the ‘Grey Lady’ who dwelt there was assumed to have been a teacher.
Catherine’s husband, Cliff, was a very pragmatic man and accepted her unusual perception of these things as a point of fact, admitting to only ever having seen shadows or indistinct shapes himself.  Catherine was clearly a few more rungs further up the ladder of second sight than the rest of us, and I think this would occasionally cause her distress because she told me about a defence she employed when it became ‘too much’.  She would imagine a soldier standing in each corner of her bedroom before she went to sleep at night, watching over her protectively, and it seemed to work  Mainly though, I think the presences were not much more troublesome than mice, although appearances did sometimes seem to herald misfortune in Catherine’s family.

She and Cliff had just completed some major alterations to their home, including a large brand new kitchen, and it was here we all stood at their ‘house re-warming’ party, grouped around a large freestanding bench.  I was talking to someone, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure move past the other side of the open kitchen doorway, heading down a short hallway to the front door which was not visible from where we were standing. The part of my mind which wasn’t engaged in the conversation had just realised that I was anticipating the sound of the door opening but had heard nothing; when Catherine said quietly beside me: “I’ve just seen the Grey Lady”.

There was no shiver down my spine, just the thrill at having finally seen a phenomenon for myself which I’d been desperate to experience all my life.  As far as I could tell, Catherine and I had been the only people present aware of the apparition.  And what did the Grey Lady look like?  Well, to me, exactly like the indistinct shape you see when someone walks past at the very periphery of your vision – except completely silent.  Literally a shade.  As I mentioned, I suspect there are degrees of perception  in these situations.  My own ‘extra senses’ are probably quite dull and I’ll only ever be able to glimpse dim figures if anything at all. But someone like Catherine, for whatever reason, has a clearer awareness of visitors from this other world, whatever they might be.
An illustration for someone else's more thrilling ghost story, which unfortunately turned out to be a hoax.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Twilight Godzone

You don’t have to look to far-off crumbling Gothic mansions or European castles for a good Ghost Story, we have plenty here in New Zealand.

Happy Waitangi Day, if that well-wish can ever be applied to a day so infused with controversy and discord. Whatever this significant date has come to mean, it’s my belief that New Zealand is now a country of many cultures, though most often characterised by the designations Maori and Pakeha.
And this seems no more obvious than in the two volumes of collected ‘true’ ghost stories published by Shoal Bay Press and Long Acre press respectively: Where No Birds Sing (1998) and it’s follow-up When the Wind calls your Name (1999) both by Grant Shanks and Tahu Potiki.

My learned friend and proud fifth generation New Zealand friend over at Jetsam: : discovered that we each owned a different volume and suggested a synchronised blog, both of us writing about the book we had. Mr Jet's erudite post can be found here
As both volumes very much represent this country’s dual identity, through differing but intersecting spirituality and shared history, he went on to wisely recommend today for going ‘live’.

When The Wind Calls Your Name is the second book, published due to the enthusiastic response the first collection provoked. It is true that the tales can be roughly divided in nature into Maori and Pakeha-themed accounts, often by the European convention of the haunted house (or more disturbingly, Satanism as in the stories The Ouijia Board and Satan’s Knife) and the equally-chilling consequences of Tapu. But I would suggest subcategories as well:

Apparitions from, and ghostly re-enactments of, Maori history (Waka in the Forest and Pa on the Peninsula) can manifest without Tapu being broken or any willful wrong committed. Elsewhere, in both cultures helpful, benign entities can make an impression upon the living - as can darker forces. And some accounts are merely inexplicable; co-incidences and unique combinations of circumstance reaching just to the other side of the rational (The Little Boat). In the case of stories involving a ‘bad place’, often exorcisms or liftings of Tapu are performed by elders from either New Zealand culture (and in this book at least this is always successful). And in one case the tainted location is vacated without resolution (The Store of Memories). Interestingly, in the Maori-themed stories the ‘bad place’ is usually often found in the great outdoors, while the European instances they are almost always a house or building.

Throughout my years in this beautiful and welcoming country, my own encounters with Maori and the rich cultural heritage permeating this land have always been positive and enriching. When the Wind calls your Name only increases my respect.
This little paperback has also been a cherished companion over the years, and has accompanied us on camping holidays when turns are taken for torch-lit readings. Naturally, the fact that the accounts are not only New Zealand-grown, but true, always adds more than a small frisson of chills as we unconsciously burrow down deeper into our sleeping bags and glance at shadows cast on the canvas around us.

Tomorrow I will post my own supernatural encounter, hardly worthy of inclusion in either of Shanks and Potiki’s books, but no less true.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

We Three Kongs: Part one - The King of Clubs

In disco –drenched 1976 there was a gorilla in our midst once more, but these days people either choose to, or genuinely forget, the first remake of King Kong.

The ‘70s Kong (centre) might be all-but forgotten, but he was probably the best-looking.
 This is the beginning of an occasional three-part series looking at the trio of versions of a film which, although first made at the dawn of the talkies, led film technology and story-telling for many decades afterwards and continues to inspire even today.  But rather than beginning with the original King Kong, or the massively publicised 2005 remake, I’m starting in the middle.

Possibly the only thing I have in common with some of my favourite film-makers is that they were all massively inspired by seeing the original King Kong for the first time.
I first met ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ in 1974, aged 10, and was already in a state of high excitement by being allowed to stay up late on Sunday night.  With the exception of the occasional Harryhausen epic I had seen up to this point, the general rule of monster movies was that you had to wait a long time to see the monster.  Even then, usually only in brief glimpses and when it finally got some screen time it was just before the poor beast’s inevitable destruction at the hands of wooden actors you didn’t really care about.

Of course, King Kong is no mere monster movie and I realised this as soon as the toppling trees heralded his first appearance.  The legendary Fay Wray looked up and did her thing, screaming loud enough to frighten away an ordinary gorilla and suddenly there he was; seeming to my young eyes hundreds of feet tall, literally larger than life.  This was no clumsily inserted and animated model; Kong was the uncontested star of the film and I remember gasping “WOW” in instant, total amazement and adoration. I also seem to remember Mum and Dad grinning at one another.  They knew I’d eat this film up, and somehow they had a connection to it as well.  Dad would often tell me about seeing the famous gorilla, Guy, in London Zoo, making eye contact with the dignified creature and being struck by, for want of a better word, the humanity he saw there.

 I was riveted for the next hour: the T-Rex fight, the village gatecrash, the New York rampage – so much spectacle before the greatest and most heartbreaking climax a movie had ever had. For me, it was love at first sight and in repeated viewings throughout the years I came to appreciate more than the mere destruction.  The tight storyline, the performances, (most notably Kong himself), the adventure, the allegory, emotional impact and the wonderful sense of the world still holding undiscovered wonders.

Devastating overbite, turnip-shaped body and long spindly legs,
fortunately, he looked better in the film.
 So when I first heard that King Kong was being remade a couple of years after this life-changing first viewing, it was literally the most incredible news ever.  The promotional tagline was “The most exciting, original motion picture event of all time” (even then I wondered how a remake could be called ‘most … original’), but that is exactly what the anticipation of this film as like for me. In retrospect I realise it was this which triggered my life-long fascination for film news.  Up until then, movies I enjoyed were decades old and on TV - Hollywood didn’t currently seem to be producing anything with the same kind of appeal for me.  But now I had good reason to look ahead instead of backwards (and a certain film by George Lucas which debuted the following year cemented this life-long enthusiasm for coming attractions)

Dino De Laurentis’s Kong was made at a time when the disaster movie was king, and indeed, that is how this version was conceived. I accepted without question that it was going to be updated to present day (that’s just got to make it even better, right?) but baulked when I heard that this Kong was originally envisaged as some kind of giant prehistoric ape-man running amok.  It’s well-known that legendary make-up maestro and then-Kong performer Rick Baker convinced the film’s makers that Kong must be gorilla, but what I’ve only recently discovered is that the original 1933  film’s creative team seriously considered exactly the same concept.  At the beginning of production a sculpture of a far more human creature was mercifully rejected and in fact, the original Kong we are so familiar with is really only superficially gorilla-like.  The pointed-head and over-exaggerated brow certainly suggests a prehistoric ancestor rather than a modern gorilla.

This foreign pre-production art seems to depict the
more humanoid initial concept for the new Kong.
It’s been many years since I’d seen De Laurentis’s King Kong, the last time being on VHS in the early 1990s.  It has since been give a rather shabby DVD release, but unlike the original and the 2004 Peter Jackson remake on either side, the 1976 version has no lavish menu of special features, documentaries, restored footage or even a commentary.*  Perhaps the prominence of the World Trade Centre twin towers in the climax (then the world’s tallest buildings) will forever condemn this film to relative obscurity.
Whatever the reasons might be for the its ignominy, or simple ignoring, I sat down with as open a mind as possible to see how this version holds up almost forty years after its much-hyped Hollywood premiere.
Before starting though, I need to bear in mind that Kong ‘76 is now almost as old as the original Kong was when I first saw it in the mid-seventies…

“ You know, I had my horoscope done before I flew out to Hong Kong. And it said that I was going to cross over water and meet the biggest person in my life.” 

Too hot to handle: the incomparable Jessica Lange.

Jessica Lange Jessica Lange Jessica Lange…sorry, what’s this film called again? 
Her debut here leaves you with no doubt that a giant gorilla, or in fact anything with a Y chromosome, would fall in love with her at first sight. Proving the old adage about bone structure, Jessica Lange is still beautiful now.  Because this film introduced her to the world, many made the assumption that Ms Lange and her sweet, but vacuous, aspiring actress character Dwan (she swapped the middle letters of her name, see?) were one and the same.  It’s only with time and a Kong-sized list of Oscar nominations that it becomes clear that we are actually presented with Lange’s perfectly-pitched depiction of this role, and possibly the most skillful performance in the entire film.

That’s right, it’s called King Kong, so let’s talk about the other lead character.  Dino De Laurentis went to great lengths to muddy the waters about the way Kong would be realised for his remake.  Gigantic hydraulic paws holding, and pawing, Dwan were widely publicized, as was a forty foot ‘robotic’ gorilla built by Carlo Rambaldi.  The first caption at the end of the film credits Rambaldi for the creation of Kong, but in reality, the character we see is designed, constructed and performed by a man who is merely credited with ‘special contributions – now legendary effects maestro Rick Baker.  Yes, Kong is a man-in-suit.  Rambaldi’s very unconvincing full-sized version gets the only very most fleeting glimpses during one climactic scene, before cutting swiftly back to Mr Baker.

Jessica Lange gets a big hand (sorry!)

The cable operated head which Baker wore (and to be fair, Rambaldi contributed to) is actually quite masterful, and it needed to be, as Kong possibly gets more close-ups than anyone else in the film.  Baker emotes wonderfully through simian contact lenses while the rather nobly-featured face conveys amazingly subtle shifts in mood.  When Kong puffs out his cheeks to blow Dwan dry after her encounter with a waterfall, the effect of a living creature is utterly convincing.
Unfortunately, the rest of Kong is a gorilla suit, and as well-designed as it is, his strolling off screen while slouching under the weight of the slightly over-sized head does spoil the effect a little at times. The other odd thing about him as that publicity shot convinced me Kong was blue, (a little like pre-publicity embedding the mistaken idea that Godzilla is green).  I suspect reflected light from the blue screen which so many of his scenes were shot against is responsible for this effect.  And this colour cast does complement the nighttime scenes on Kong’s island home and the generally lush photography in the first part of the film beautifully.  Transferred to New York, despite some impressive miniature work Kong seems less effective, some camera angles being inexplicably shoulder-height with our star, rather than trying to emphasise his height with low angles.  I also have to question the amount of unforgiving wide shots; surely Kong would be shown to better advantage in partial view?

A fleeting, mechanical performance by Carlo Rambaldi’s full-sized Kong (left). 
Meanwhile Rick Baker fills in yet again, and exits stage right.

But so much for the nuts-and-bolts of Kong; this film does an admirable job of building the foreboding and mystery prior to his appearance.  From a strange radar blip accompanied by suitably ominous music as the crew monitor the mist-shrouded Island, to Jeff Bridges’ invoking Lovecraftian, centuries-old mariner’s accounts, (suppressed by the Holy Office in Rome), of ‘the greatest beast who touches Heaven’…
Despite some shortcomings, the 1976 incarnation of Kong has be labeled a success because he is undeniably a fully-fledged character whom the audience empathises with.
  Love-struck, courageous, kidnapped and eventually felled by the worse excesses of human cruelty and ignorance, he is nothing less than a tragic hero.

Many have commented on the ecological allegory so fundamental in the script, and this is both laudable and well ahead of it’s time. The abduction and abuse of an innocent creature is obvious enough, but upsetting natural order through greed-inspired exploitation is equally strong. Jeff Bridges character Prescott calls attention the effect Kong’s abduction will have on the human inhabitants of his Island home:
“ He was the terror, the mystery of their lives, and the magic. A year from now that will be an island full of burnt-out drunks. When we took Kong we kidnapped their god. “
Interestingly, Kong’s roars have a distinctly human note of rage (the original was a lion’s roar played backwards, whereas an actor appears to have been involved this time) and somehow this adds to his fury and torment. Kong’s exploitation leads to equally disastrous results in New York and after his disturbingly-bloody last stand atop the World Trade centre against lethal helicopter gunships, the film ends surprisingly bleakly. A grief-stricken Dwan (reportedly real tears courtesy of Ms Lange) is buffeted by an uncaring, rubber-necking crowd thronging around the shattered body of our hero, while Prescott is cut off from her and helpless to offer any comfort.

We were all young once, (but some got to become mega-stars): Dwan and ‘the Dude’
When history acknowledges this film at all, it seems only as a misguided failure. In fact, despite its then-colossal budget of $24 million, the film quickly made back three times that amount world- wide, putting it at number 5 on Variety’s chart of top US domestic moneymakers for 1977. The film won the academy award for visual effects (shared with Logan’s Run) and Jessica Lange won a Golden Globe for best female debut.
The cinematography was also Oscar nominated and Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin’s performances were positively noted in reviews. Even the infamous New Yorker reviewer Pauline Kael liked King Kong ‘76. And as she was also a supporter of The Wrath of Khan, I’m going to give her the final word, something I’m sure Ms Kael was very accustomed to.

"I don't think I've ever before seen a movie that was a comic-strip great romance in the way this one is — it's a joke that can make you cry."  Pauline Kael

No, I’m not going to mention the snake...

 * I actually re-watched this film on the Blu-ray edition, which does boast deleted scenes and a very good making-of documentary.  Still no Lange or Bridges interviews, though.