- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A narrowly released 1970s “King Kong” parody featuring the exploits in Wichita of a gorilla trained in the Chinese art of kung fu wasn’t a hit, lost lots of money and still causes some local old-timers to cringe when the movie is brought up.

And yet, 40 years after “King Kung Fu” was completed, its producer still believes it might have been a hit if it had featured at least one “big name” actor.

“Most people look at it in the evening so they can drink,” producer Bob Walterscheid quipped when a Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/299XWRL ) reporter said he had recently watched the movie for the first time.

The coming-of-age tale focuses on a kung fu-trained gorilla that stops in Wichita “to let the rednecks gawk at him” en route to New York. Two would-be television journalists looking for a scoop accidentally set the gorilla loose from the Sedgwick County Zoo. Wichita police officers who try to catch the gorilla end up on the receiving end of roundhouse kicks to the head.

The movie’s breathtaking climax comes when the gorilla takes his only sympathizer, a Pizza Hut waitress named Rae Fay, to the top of what was at the time the tallest building in Kansas - the Holiday Inn.

“It isn’t the worst movie in the world,” Walterscheid said. “It isn’t the best, but it is what it is.”

Shot and edited entirely in Wichita from 1974 to 1976, “King Kung Fu” cost $100,000 to shoot and $80,000 to edit - a process that lasted from 1976 to 1987, when it was first publicly released at Wichita’s Crest Theater.

“We had no names and that was the thing that killed us,” Walterscheid said.

“King Kung Fu” appeared in 11 U.S. movie theaters and never recouped costs, Walterscheid said. The film has garnered something of a cult following online, and has been reviewed by multiple websites in the past five years.

“Working in Wichita, Kansas, the one thing I did accomplish was I got a movie made,” said Lance Hayes, who directed the movie. “Good or bad, I got a movie made, and how many people can say they did that?”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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