LP: Reprise MS-2260
I remember when King Kong came out. It got a massive publicity campaign and it was expected to be a huge hit, something like Jaws. Even though it did some business it was a disappointment and I always thought it was a flop. The Wikipedia entry tries to paint it as successful but my impression is otherwise. The best thing you could say was that it did not kill the careers of Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, or Jessica Lange (in fact it launched hers).
I had no interest in seeing it and it rarely played on TV. The original King Kong left me apathetic, and I am not a fan of Charles Grodin. If someone had told me his character would be stomped like a cockroach I would have watched it years ago. At any rate, I was reading the new Music by John Barry book and read the chapter on King Kong. I've had the OST for many years and supposed I should watch the movie just to hear Barry's music in context. Plus it was offered for free on Amazon Prime Video.
I won't tell you that I thought King Kong was a modern classic, but it turned out to be far better than I thought (probably because my expectations were so low). Jeff Bridges is good in anything he's in. Jessica Lange surprised me considering it's her first movie. And Charles Grodin got squished, so there was some payoff for that. Like many Americans, I didn't give a damn about the World Trade Center until it was destroyed by terrorists; if I'd made the movie, Kong would have climbed proper American icons: the Empire State building or 30 Rockefeller Center.
And the music worked very well. I'd never paid much attention to the main titles before but it's now among my favorites. I'd long been familiar with the Love Theme, ever since I'd heard it on a Roger Williams album that I may or may not still have.
I'm not going to buy the DVD and I doubt very much I'll ever watch it again, but I was happy that I spent the time to see it once, and I can't say that about a lot of movies with a Barry score.
So as I said above regarding the movie, I was largely prejudiced against it. I bought the OST LP and the original CD just for the collecting's sake, and listened to them a couple times and thought nothing much about it either way. It wasn't until I recently (spring of 2022) watched the movie that I started listening to the score again. Some scores work great on their own, but some scores work best if you can relate the music in-context to what's going on in the film and what each music cue was trying to accomplish. As I mentioned above in the film notes, I found out I really liked the main title music, particularly the church organ parts. I think seeing it with the images of the ship headed off to this mysterious island was beautifully framed and married with Barry's music. I still watch the main title on YouTube from time to time.
I don't yet have a copy of the 2-CD Film Score Monthly edition. I was going to get it and then found three other released that all get priority. But when I get it, I'll compare and expand this section with my thoughts on it.
Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker wrote the chapter about King Kong in the book Music by John Barry. I highly recommend it.
The LP came out with the film and shouldn't be too difficult to find. Mask released a CD and is also not exactly rare and expensive, no matter what eBay sellers say in their titles. There appears to be an 8-track edition as well (I don't have it and I don't want it).
In 2012 Film Score Monthly released an expanded two-CD edition. The first CD has 70 minutes of music in 29 tracks from the film; the second CD is the original 13 track soundtrack release.
If you buy online, be aware that the original Max Steiner score was released on CD some time ago, so be careful that you order the right one.
See Discogs.com for a comprehensive list of soundtrack releases.
Oh, and because I occasionally get asked about sheet music and I never have a good answer, I see that what I assume is the Love Theme is available as a solo-piano arrangement at SheetMusicPlus.com. I have not bought anything from them so I cannot comment on the quality of either the product or the seller.
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