Upcoming creature feature Kong: Skull Island stomps into cinemas this week, bringing with it a strong Seventies flavour. From the Apocalypse Now-inspired atmosphere to a retro soundtrack, Warner Bros/Legendary have gone all out to deliver the monstrous companion piece to Jaws the decade arguably never had.
Unusual though it may seem to be taken back to the era of hang glider collars and epic flares, it’s a move that makes more sense than you think. While the Mighty Kong has been going since the Thirties, the really interesting and unique examples of his exploits occurred forty years later.
So take your eyes off Tom Hiddleston’s chest, put on your porn star sunglasses and let’s get funky with some of the Eighth Wonder’s wildest moments…
KONG: THE ICE POP
Toward the end of the decade, and a couple of years after the derided big screen reimagining, ice cream behemoth Walls decided it was time for a range of frozen treats based on everyone’s favourite primate.
There was only one flavour the makers could have opted for – banana. Well, the beast was also partial to human flesh but this would have been controversial. Sweetening the deal quite literally with toffee, the product was advertised using a comic strip targeted at ape/calorie fans in England.
Ann Darrow’s hairy boyfriend wasn’t the most obvious choice for a kids’ snack, yet has featured on the packaging of numerous edibles over the decades. The Seventies ice pop is a fondly-remembered case in point.
KONG: THE KITTEN
To say stars Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor weren’t afraid to be silly on national TV is an understatement. The plot, such as it was, featured laconic boffin Garden increasing a kitten to awesome proportions via a self-created growth formula, after which it went on a devastating yet hilarious rampage through the streets of London.
Its defining moment was a recreation of the iconic Empire State Building sequence, only supplementing Kong and the skyscraper with a feisty feline (‘Twinkle’) and the capital’s Post Office Tower.
KONG: ALIEN WARRIOR
Just when it seemed the Seventies couldn’t get any stranger for the misunderstood monkey, along came a sci-fi element in the form of tiny extraterrestrials, who saw Kong as the last great hope for their civilization.
Published in Mexico in 1979, King Kong In The Microcosmos saw the mighty mammal taken away from our planet and miniaturized by micro-soldiers looking to get the upper hand in an alien war.
The innovative and downright bizarre plan had the title character returned to full size for the ultimate surprise attack on the infinitesimal enemy. This series was one of a range of printed adventures for Kong in Latin America.
KONG: IN BIRMINGHAM
Less exotic climes awaited our dino-smashing antihero in the early part of the decade, when British industrial heartland Birmingham played host to a titanic statue of Hollywood’s ultimate showbiz diva – coincidentally in the same year Kitten Kong hit TV screens.
The fibreglass construction was less dangerous than the real thing, though at eighteen feet in height it certainly scared many a child in the city’s popular Bull Ring shopping centre.
Commissioned as an arts project, it was even dressed up as Santa Claus during the holiday season, before being sold off due to lack of sponsorship. Even the Mighty Kong can’t fight the power of the local authorities.
KONG: THE QUEEN
Long before the likes of The Asylum were taking off major blockbusters, British star Robin Askwith found himself at the receiving end of a female version of the banana-breathed island dweller. The idea was to capitalize on the Jessica Lange-starring King Kong. What to call this blatant cash in flick from 1976? What else…? Queen Kong.
Askwith was associated with numerous sex comedies of the era such as the Confessions… series, so you can guess the tone of this bawdy romp. Character names like “Luce Habit” and “Ima Goodbody” made this more Austin Powers than H Rider Haggard. The Empire State Building was naturally replaced by Big Ben.
Unlike other knock offs of the period, Queen Kong had her exploits stamped on by remake producer Dino De Laurentiis and originator RKO, finally getting a major release on DVD a quarter of a century later.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
If the Seventies connection to Kong wasn’t clear to you by now, then prepare to have it well and truly hammered home by the latest addition to the franchise, Skull Island. The story takes place in 1973, just as the decade was starting to cook. Rugged yet dashing Brit military hero Tom Hiddleston signs up for an expedition to a truly mysterious land mass, under the command of John Goodman’s shadowy government paymaster.
Their mission is simple, both in a narrative and box office sense – get to Skull Island and obtain proof of the fantastic beasts said to dwell there. Cue the requisite payload of CGI wonders, headed by the baddest fruit-fancier of them all, Kong.
Judging by early reviews helmer Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his team have evoked the period to perfection, from the whining guitars on the soundtrack to the exotic powder keg of a script, which blends high adventure with a psychedelic vibe. That’s not forgetting the sight of Hiddleston, Brie Larson and Samuel L Jackson roaming around in khaki fashions. The last time Kong had a major release in the Seventies was via the De Laurentiis furfest, showcasing a King who was far than regal. There are no men in monkey suits here. Skull Island seems set to banish the memory of Lange’s enormous yet rubbery admirer forever.
This article first appeared on BRWC