In my youth there was only one burger place I ever wanted to visit, it was not the local McDonald’s but Burger Chef. One of those reasons had to do with the fact that as a kid you were going to get a Funburger and toy in your Funmeal – a pre-Happy Meal – beating McDonald’s to the punch by about seven or so years. While the first Burger Chef opened up back in 1957 and new franchises opened up over the years – it appears to have really taken off in 1968 – when the General Foods Corporation bought out the franchise. I have shared before how there was very little money in my household when growing up – so getting to go into town and visit the Burger Chef was a VERY big deal. Try to imagine how much I ended up hounding my Father to take me there after seeing this tie-in commercial with the 1976 remake of King Kong – a movie that I didn’t get to see until the Spring of ’77 as the local Drive-In was seasonal in our neck of the woods.
King Kong was released to theaters on December 17th of ’76 – a then modern retelling of the exceptional 1933 film from co-Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. When I caught it with my Father on the Spring night of ’77 I was totally captivated and most of all I can remember feeling a little grossed out when Kong bested the giant snake – as Dwan (Jessica Lange) hightails it to safety as the titans tussle. In fact you can check out the highly edited version for yourself by watching this clip of King Kong when it aired on NBC on the night March 27th of 1983 – edited due to gore and Lange’s rather revealing wardrobe at that moment in the film.
Now back to Burger Chef and those King Kong glasses – they featured wonderful John Berkey artwork – the same artist responsible for the memorable theatrical poster. Of Kong straddling the World Trade Center – with Dwan in one hand and crushing… something in his other hand – while a jet and helicopters circle overhead. Just a quick aside – I have never EVER figured out what Kong is destroying in the poster, I’ve seen some original preliminary artwork from Berkey where he is grabbing one of the jets out of the sky… this thing though… is it a blimp or a spaceship?
So anyway a couple of months before I finally saw King Kong at the 62 Drive-In I was lucky enough to have one of the Burger Chef glasses – to look at and imagine how the scene depicted would play out in the movie itself. For all of one night that is as my Father accidentally shattered it the next day while washing it in the sink – although to be totally fair he managed to nab me two of those of four Kong glasses from a local comic book shop a couple of years back to make up for it. Of course it was in ’77 that Burger Chef featured another film tie-in – being one of the few fast food chains to have the foresight to offer up seven different Funmeals for a little film known as Star Wars!