From the lunacy of A*P*E* to Toho’s seminal King Kong Escapes — with a sideways glance at a Kong novelty record — I’ve been devoted to studying everything Kong related in celebration of the big gorilla’s return to the big screen. But 1976’s Queen Kong nearly broke me.
Due to legal action by Dino De Laurentiis, maker of the bloated 70s Kong mega blockbuster, this movie was never seen in its native England. Rumor has it that it played in Italy and Germany, while a Japanese dubbed version — featuring Taichiro Hirokawa — played in Japan cinemas in 2001, right around the Peter Jackson remake. Even if you don’t know it, you’ve probably heard Hirokawa’s voice, as he was Mamoru Kadai on Space Battleship Yamamoto (Star Blazers to the Western world) and dubbed Tony Curtis, Roger Moore and Dan Aykroyd when their films played Japan. Ironically, this film was directed by Frank Agrama, who founded Harmony Gold, a company known for redubbing and changing Japanese anime, such as Macross (which became part of Robotech over here). I guess turnabout is fair play.
But back to the queen of Kong. The joke is quite simple. Invert the sex of everyone in the original King Kong and hope it’s funny. The results are mixed, if the mix is weak and struggling. East Enders and Coronation Street star — and Polish countess — Rula Lenska plays Luce Habit, the Bruce Cabot of this mess.
In 70’s America, there was an Alberto VO5 hair commercial with Rula where she was touted as a big star, yet no one here knew who she was. They even parodied her on Saturday Night Live. The commercial above — to American eyes — really seemed like a strange way to sell us on a product with someone we didn’t know, obviously.
Her Fay Wray male analog is Ray Fay, played by Robin Askwith, star of the Confessions of… 70s sex comedies that ran ad nauseum on late night Cinemax cable in the US in the late 80s and early 90s. He’s on Coronation Street as well these days.
Anyhow, Habit has a boat full of women — The Liberated Lady — and has already lost one leading man, so she searches for a new one in the same exact manner of the original Kong, finding Ray stealing an apple (and even a poster of the 1933 King Kong if you didn’t get the joke yet). Ray often wears gowns and dresses in this movie, but I think he’s supposed to be an effeminate glam rocker and not homosexual, as he definitely has romantic intentions toward his queen. The entire crew of this liberated ship dresses in very 70s sexy clothes while singing and bumping and grinding, which isn’t the worst of things in this film. You can even spot Virgin Witch actress Vickie Michelle and Marianna Morris from Vampyres along the way.
Your mileage for this film will vary depending on how you feel about films like Airplane and the Carry On… series. I tend to love the former and struggle to understand the latter, so plenty of the sight gags here come off similarly. And similarly hamfisted. There’s a long sequence about native girls singing about Kong, there’s an Exorcist riff, there’s a Jaws joke, there are commercial parodies and so much more. And The Peppers contribute an insane title track, including lyrics such as ““She’s the queenie of my weenie/When I’m feeling mighty spunky, I want to do it with my hunky monkey.”
Unlike Dino’s Kong opus, this film stays close to the original, including a witch doctor (played by Valerie Leon of Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb) and a dinosaur battle that ends with the T. Rex being kicked in the balls. That said — no one ever made a picnic table for Kong with a treat of a human on it. Otherwise, everything you expect happens. Of course, they go back to London. Of course, Queen Kong gets jealous and goes on a rampage. But she isn’t killed! No, Ray Fay incites all the feminists of the UK to rise up and choose the Queen as their icon and defend her (but not before she knocks a 747 out of a sky, which becomes a parody of Airport 1975, complete with a singing nun played by Linda Hayden from Blood on Satan’s Claw).
At the end, Queen Kong — who I waited until this far into the review to inform you looks like a man (or a woman, let’s stay liberated) in a monkey suit with boobs — and Ray escapes into the jungle, with Luce wondering if they’d be interested in a threeway. Because you know — the seventies.
If 90 minutes of a bad Benny Hill sketch and shoddy direction are your cup of tea, by all means, you should buy the 2003 release of this DVD, finally out after years of being lost. I’m just shocked to find a worse Kong rip-off than A*P*E*, but life is full of surprises. This one almost broke me, but I have emerged stronger and wiser from the viewing.
This article originally appeared on That’s Not Current. Read it here at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/monkey-madness-look-back-queen-kong-1976/