I thought long and hard and then decided to go with Pauline Kael. The only book of Kael's reviews (she reviewed for "The New Yorker") my library had was "When The Lights Go Down."
Flipping through, I found one worth sharing.
The movie is sparked mainly, I think, by the impudent new concpetion of the screaming-in-fear blonde, and Jessica Lange's fast yet dreamy comic style. Her Dwan has this high, wide forehead and clear-eyed transparency of Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey. Dwan, an aspiring starlet, doesn't join the expedition; she's picked up along the way, unconcscious, from a rubber raft in the ocean, the sole survivor of a yachting party. The yacht belonged to a movie mogul, and she'd been on board hoping to get a part that he'd promised her. Dwan (she changed it from Dawn) is one of the cloud-borne movie groupies who lead charmed lives. The way she's photographed, she seems to have stepped out of an expensive shampoo commercial; languorous and polymorphous, like a taller Tuesday Weld or a more slightly built Margaux Hemingway, she has the sensuousness of a kitten. Dawn is so innocently corrupt she's as childlike as Kong himself, and her infantilism gives the picture a sexual chemistry that the move-makers couldn't have completely planned -- some of it just has to be luck. She has one-liners so dumb that the audience laughs and moans at the same time, yet they're in character, and when Jessica Lange says them she holds the eye, and you like her, the way people liked Lombard.
While it's true that Lange didn't follow up "King Kong" with a stream of comedies, "How To Beat The High Cost Of Living" and "Tootise" demonstrated she could more than deliver the laughs. And they also make what Kael saw seem all the more amazing.
I wish Lange had done more films like those two.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"