This movie had a lot of hype preceding its release in 1976, and it did well at the box office. I remember seeing it in the theater and enjoying it. The critics haven't been to kind to it though and Peter Jackson's more recent special-effects-laden version no doubt garners more praise. This one's admittedly a cheese-fest, but I think there's lot to like here. Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange are both otstanding, although I doubt either one of them would point to this movie as a great moment in their careers. The story is similar but not the same as the classic original and best King Kong from 1933. It's given a contemporary 1970s setting, and they're looking for oil rather than planning a movie (remember, there was a gas shortage). So some evil oil dudes (led by Charles Grodin) set sail for a strange island which they think will pour forth a lot of the black gold. This absence of a movie-making plot leads to a very contrived scene when they find the unfortunately named starlet Dwan (Jessica Lange) adrift in a raft. I guess they couldn't think of a better way to get her on board the boat. After that it pretty much goes as you'd expect. Scantily clad girl meets giant ape, giant ape falls for girl. A bad ending for the big ape.
There's more to it than that however, and for me at least, the most mesmerizing aspect of the movie was Jeff Bridges' facial hair. There's a lot of it and whenever it was on screen I couldn't take my eyes off it. Jeff Bridges plays Jack Prescott, a liberal-type scientist who wants to study Kong. He also falls for the girl, giving Jessica Lange two hairy beasts to contend with.
I should note here that I am a HUGE Jeff Bridges fan and I mean no disrespect to the awesome beard.