Behind the Scenes Photos of Jessica Lange in Kong’s Animatronic Hand, 1976

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Critics of 1976 King Kong frequently harped on the robot Kong as proof of the project’s “failure”, special effects wise. Because the robot ultimately failed to live up to its billing (whether intentionally or not), and barely appeared in a few brief in the final film, critics contended that the film was not the special effects triumph which its fans claim. But in their emphasis on the robot, those critics seemed strangely blind to the movie’s true special effects accomplishments. Along with the animatronic masks worn by Rick Baker, 1976 King Kong boasted the creation of a pair of Kong-size hands that were alone a triumph of mechanical engineering.

While a full-sized Kong hand had been used in the original 1933 King Kong, it was little more than an inanimate prop. The fingers had to be man-handled into position around Fay Wray’s body by stage hands, and it could not move during the actual shot.
For his 1976 remake, Dino De Laurentiis wanted more –– a lot more. He wanted the hand (which was about twice as big as the one in the original) to convey emotion and character, to be tender one minute, then terrifying the next, to be capable of being submerged in a pool or slammed into the earth in a fit of simian rage. And perhaps most amazingly, he wanted it to gently undress the heroine in one classic scene, all without breaking her neck!

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