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Possibly the most remarkable piece of Kongcraft, however, is the giant arms employed mainly to pick up and caress Jessica Lange, 27, the model-turned-actress who plays his inamorata, Dwan. The hands are 6 ft. across and the arms weigh 1,650 Ibs. each. They were designed and built separate from the complete Kong body and suspended from a crane in order to lift Lange 30 or 40 ft. into the air. Again, hydraulics were used to manipulate the huge fingers, and there was great concern that they might lack fine motor skills and accidentally crush Lange. Like all the other Kong paraphernalia, they were not ready until the production was well along, and Guillermin had about run out of surrounding material to shoot. Finally the huge paws were ready, and De Laurentiis was summoned to the set to witness a test. Amidst high excitement, the great arm extended in the producer's direction and then the middle finger slowly uncurled and extended itself in the gesture recently granted respectability by the Vice President of the U.S. De Laurentiis broke up. Unfortunately, however, so did the giant armfreezing, finger up, for a week. There were other delays. Once the mechanism began "bleeding" hydraulic fluid all over the stage. That breakdown cost two weeks.
In the end, Lange had only a couple of bad times while caught in Kong's grip. Once the pursuing hand came down too hard on her, crushing her painfully against the jungle floor. In another sequence, when Kong is in a playfully amorous mood and is stroking Lange's face and shoulders, he is supposed to tap her lightly on the head. One of the technicians miscalculated and landed her a blow that caused the actress to see stars. Mostly, however, the gizmo worked amazingly well. Says Lange: "I got very close with the guys who were working the hand. I got so totally relaxed that sometimes I'd go up there and take a nap." Others who worked on the picture commend Lange as a girl as gritty as she is pretty, gamely controlling her natural anxiety at being swept through the air, at considerable height, by an unpredictable and manifestly less-than-perfected contrivance.
The effect of these sequences is as awesome as the trouble they caused, especially in the fussy business of seamlessly melding ape and human footageessentially by employing sophisticated double-exposure techniques. This marrying of trick and conventional photography is still going on, but the available samples indicate that the illusions workwondrous conjurer's tricks performed on a brobdingnagian scale.
The rest of the production values match the special effects. Kong's South Seas habitat was a remote spot in the Hawaiian Islandswhere a honeymoon couple went to sleep on the beach one night, convinced they were removed from all worldly intrusions. They were awakened, alas, at dawn by the arrival of Dino's minions in four helicopters.
He stopped at nothing. Nine thousand extras? Get them! A supertanker to transport Kong to New York? Hire it! Everything about the production matched the proportions of its title character, except for one refreshingly small disaster: the infestation of the 40-ft. Kong by fleas.