Cinema: The Greening of Old Kong

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As the new Kong has marched relentlessly to the screen, defenders of the 1933 version have been insisting loudly that no matter how much new technique was lavished on the remake, it could not match the original. They were right. Kong is a primal dream work, a symbolization of some deep and basic special anxiety of the species—and the only one created directly for the movies, having no ready roots in literature or folk lore. The crudities, the enigma of the original Kong's expression, are part of that work's strength. The wowing Technicolor virtuosity of the remake reduces the tale's mythic resonances and turns it into a safe PG entertainment. It may be that though the legend of Kong works on something that is perpetually child like in everyone, it was never meant for children .

With King Kong set to swing into 2,200 theaters and 17 countries, the great ape's publicity agents have been beating their drums with predictable frenzy. To celebrate the Paris opening, Paramount workers in Hollywood dismantled a 40-ft. Kong model used in the film, shipped it on trucks to New York, then by cargo jet to France. Last week while crowds gathered, the reassembled simian superstar lay in state halfway up the Champs-Elysées with all the grandeur of an embalmed potentate.

West German publicists made do by wheeling 15-ft.-tall Kong statues into 25 of the country's biggest movie houses. In Britain there are King Kong competitions. Among the prizes is a free trip to Hollywood for the humanoid who best answers the question: "When was the last time people made a monkey out of you?"

In Italy full-page newspaper ads offered free Kong posters to anyone who returned the accompanying coupon. "I expected about 10,000 requests, and instead we've had more than 200,000," lamented Publicist Alberto Balestrazzi, who is now at the mercy of Italy's notoriously tardy postal system. Giveaway posters have been part of the campaign in the U.S. and Canada as well—all thanks to Paramount's massive $5 million to $6 million advertising budget for North America.

Retailers have been eying Kong's potential with .prehensile enthusiasm. It will soon be possible to drink King Kong cocktails made from grenadine, orange juice—and bourbon—from an ape-shaped Jim Beam bottle. For kids there will be stuffed monkeys in three sizes, board games, knee socks, T shirts, lunch boxes, chewing gum and a King Kong candy bar. Though most of this stuff will go on sale too late for Christmas, shopkeepers seem to be taking the news philosophically. After all, with Producer Dino de Laurentiis already at work on King Kong, Part II, the monkey business is likely to continue for some time.

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