Non-Union Films: King Kong Lives


Midmost Coast podcast episode 015 | Non-Union Films: King Kong Lives

With a new King Kong movie in theaters (Kong: Skull Island), we look back at the 1986 film King Kong Lives, filmed largely in Wilmington, NC out of Dino De Laurentiis’ freshly minted film studio. This movie didn’t kill at the box office, but it did kill some careers.

Scott Holmquist and Ana “No Last Name” join our panel to look back at this production which is steeped in local history.

King Kong Lives

Kong steps on a car

Kong smashes a Lamborghini, somewhere in Wilmington

Show Summary


  • We welcome back Scott and say hello to Ana

Dino De Laurentiis

  • An Italian film maker who came to the U.S.
  • Produced the 1976 King Kong remake
  • Released King Kong Lives in 1986
  • Founded the film studio now known as EUE/Screen Gems
  • The Jaws ripoff Orca scuttles the Kong sequel for years
  • Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, and Dune
  • Governor Jim Hunt and the NC National Guard


  • The Total Recall connection
  • Theme park tie in?
  • 0% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • Linda Hamilton on board after Terminator

General Impressions

  • Flawed, but not really that bad
  • Some cheesy moments
  • Some dated effects
  • Message about not being cruel to animals?

Movie Summary

  • Kong didn’t really die
  • They built a giant artificial heart
  • They need another Kong to supply blood
  • Lonestar from Spaceballs finds Lady Kong
  • Surgery, escape number one
  • Lady Kong is captured, King Kong rescues her, encounters mountain men
  • The military hunts them, Lady Kong gives birth

Wrapping Up

  • The movie did poorly, grossing under 5M after costing almost 20M
  • Two Japanese video games were made based on the movie
  • Director John Guillermin never directed again
  • De Laurentiis died in 2010

Sudden Death

  • A TV Tropes fight to the death for the leftover pizza


The LA Times write up “The Kong Isn’t Dead; Long Live The King” talks up the creature effects artist.

In 2005 the Wilmington Star News did a retrospective piece on King Kong Lives.

The Tennessean has an article on the production’s field trip to the state.

The book “King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson” offers a lot of backstory on the movie.

The Star News article on De Laurentiis’ death in 2010.

You can read more about producer Dino De Laurentiis on wikipedia.

A list of tropes in the film via

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