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Soundtrack review : King Kong (John Barry – 1976)

Composer of the month John Barry month

Soundtrack review : King Kong (John Barry – 1976)



The 1976 version of “King Kong”, the one that launched Jessica Lange’s career, has a special little room inside my heart. I saw this movie when I was a kid, in Pitesti, with my best friend, in one of the four cinemas we had there. We went alone (both our grandparents lived close to the theater), even if we were 7 or 8 years old, and we got really invested in the movie. At the end we were really hoping Kong would make it and we got very vocal and upset with the moustache man who killed him. As we were getting out of the cinema, still upset, an old man who was just getting up told us, on a grandfatherly tone, to not take this too heart so much because it was just a movie.

Whenever I hear a John Barry cue like “Maybe my luck has changed” I wonder if he is the most romantic composer ever. There are moments when he beats even Ennio Morricone at writing sweeping, heartwarming tracks.  I think even il grande maestro takes a little more time to develop romance in his cues…But with John Barry, from the first five seconds I get a tingling in my stomach and the sensation that I’m falling into a beautiful relaxing dream, a vacation where nothing can bother me, a fantasy land. Yes, even on King Kong…John Barry has a calming and hypnotic effect on me…As I am listening to a cue like ”Arthusa”, I imagine myself as the calm little center of the universe: whatever happens around me, I’m in my little invisible cocoon, with a smile on my face that nobody understands.

In a strange way, the brilliance of John Barry’s ”King Kong” makes me appreciate even more (if it were possible) James Newton Howard’s memorable composition 30 years later. I think they saw the character and story in a similar manner. Barry’s “Beauty is a beast” sounds like an older incarnation of “Beauty stayed his hand” from the 2005 score.

The menacing and tense cues are just as beautiful. “Incomprehensible captivity” has a sound that takes me right back to the dramas of the 50s or 60s. The heavy brass and the strings have a fascinating dialogue. “King Kong hits the Big Apple” is a glamorous funky track, the only one that breaks the rhythm of the score.

“King King” is a beautiful composition, one I never get tired of. I always anticipate the final cue, where we can hear Kong’s powerful heartbeat. And I remember again that I was very upset when his heart stopped beating.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 42

Album excellence: 63%


The Opening

Maybe My Luck Has Changed

Arrival on the Island


Full Moon Domain – Beauty Is a Beast

Breakout to Captivity

Incomprehensible Captivity

The End Is at Hand

The End



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Fernando Bocadillos 12th August 2017

    I saw this movie when i was 5… I cried my ass off bec ause they shot king Kong in such a merciless fashion.
    This soundtrack is embedded to my heart, I never forget this music.
    John Barry is the Man. 🙂

    Greeting from Buenos Aires!

    Fernando Bocadillos

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 12th August 2017

      He he as you can see from my review, I have a similar experience except I was a little bit older. Not much though 🙂

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