As one of the world’s largest cinema industries, it’s little surprise that Bollywood has jumped on the King Kong bandwagon a time or two. The first I’m aware of is Gorilla (1953), featuring a regular-sized gorilla, followed by King Kong (1962, try googling that and not getting the Toho movie!), and its follow-up Tarzan & King Kong (1965). It’s weird that these would feature regular-sized apes, while the more generic-sounding (and unrelated) 1964 Tarzan and the Gorilla appears to have a big one. Either way, I wonder if Merian C. Cooper ever found out, considering his desire to see Kong and Tarzan tussle on the big screen.
I haven’t actually seen any of these, but I did get a chance to watch the 1963 movie Shikari (which translates to “Hunter”), though my comprehension of Hindi is pretty nonexistent…Indian cinema doesn’t seem to get translated much in general; I’m not sure if it’s the extreme run times or numerous musical sequences that tend to scare people off, but at least in the case of Shikari the production values were on par with some of the Hollywood pictures of the time.
The director of the picture, Mohammed Hussain, also did the 1960 Bollywood Superman (which, as far as Indian Superman flicks go, isn’t the worst), and as well as cop flicks and spy movies aping the hits coming out of the west at the time, so I was honestly surprised by just how much the movie doesn’t lift from King Kong; yeah, there are the entertainment moguls (in this case a circus) going into a jungle full of dangerous animals and natives, a giant ape, and a dinosaur, but there’s also mad scientists and a miniature woman! On the other hand, it does take over an hour for the monster to make its first appearance, so if you’re one of the “Get to the f-ing monkey” types, you might have a bad time, especially since following that the ape disappears again for nearly another hour (there’s no equivalent to the New York scene; so this isn’t really that much of a Kong remake after all), but the intrigue with the kitschy high-tech mad science lab is enough to keep us engaged. It’s best remembered for its musical numbers, though, which were quite the hit upon release, and still up all over, much more so than the monster footage.
So, yeah, Shikari wasn’t bad at all, so I had to go and jinx it by pressing my luck and following it up with something legitimately horrible: 2010’s Banglar King Kong from, well, Bangladesh. That movie is rotten on pretty much every level (well, maybe not script, I don’t speak Bengali either): the Kong costume is atrocious, the actors obnoxious (though, I did sort of like how the Jack character is dressed like a karate-kicking pink-shirted cowboy, but that’s just because it reminded me of 70’s-era Kamen Rider), the music is lifted from countless Hollywood films, and the effects (the ones not stolen from King Kong ’76 or Mighty Joe Young ’98) look like a middle school class project. Even the quality of the film stock oscillates wildly from shot to shot, making it feel like some sort of weird patchwork movie, even when it’s the same characters on screen…I don’t even understand how that happens in a movie made less than ten years ago. In case I wasn’t clear, it’s pretty rough.