King Kong (1933) Movie Review

There are very few works of cinema that stand up to repeated viewings and decades of changing film mores and audience expectations. Most notable among these is the classic King Kong. While the special effects that really came to symbolize the film look a bit ragged and prehistoric today, they carry an emotional weight that remains unequaled by modern CGI trickery and model work. You can spout off all you like about the wonders of The Lord of the Rings' Gollum but for all his slimy verisimilitude the guy still looks 2-D. There is, of course, a reason for that: He is. Kong wasn't.

Everyone knows King Kong but few people can actually recount the plot of the film he starred in. Perhaps that is because in the ensuing years since the film's release, the plot has become so tried and true, almost hoary, that it no longer registers on the cultural radar. It is simply archetypal.

A filmmaker played by Robert Armstrong recruits a young lady (Fay Wray) off the streets of New York to become the lead in his next film, a documentary of sorts shot on a mysterious island that is home to one enormous ape. If you don't know what happens next you are either a) someone who's lived in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath New York for the past 70 years or b) a product of a seriously underwhelming childhood.

While King Kong is not hailed as a classic of narrative film, it was the one picture that made way, carved the path, for all modern day blockbusters. Love 'em or hate 'em, they owe everything to this cheeky monster-on-the-loose picture. But saying this is only highlighting part of Kong's success. What really makes King Kong a film that will be revered for as long as there is cinema and people to huddle in the darkness to watch it, is Willis O'Brien's special stop-motion effects.

Most Gen X'ers are familiar with Ray Harryhausen, the master who created some of fantasies most endearing and alluring stop-motion creatures. But it was O'Brien who showed Harryhausen everything he knows. O'Brien imbued this big, shabby ape with a pathos that almost leaps from the screen. When Kong falls to his death at the end of the picture (I assume I'm not spoiling anything here) we, the audience, are dumbstruck with emotion. At that moment we could care less about Wray, who spends most of the film in Kong's clutches, it's the ape we cry for. Over the course of the film, we grow to love that ape. His earnest expressions, his grunts, his jerky motions and wild hair - Kong is the hero of the picture. He is more human than human. Our history is filled with stories and parables about human-animal relationships. The animal is either posited as other or as brother. But King Kong was the first film to really show us the animal as a combination of both - Kong is at once utterly foreign and at the same time comfortably familiar.

That old ape.

Cast & Crew

Director : Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Producer : Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Comments

King Kong (1933) Rating

" Essential "

Rating: NR, 1933

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

The Ladies of Friends Reunite On Jimmy Kimmel Live

Fans of Central Perk were given a treat on Wednesday night when Rachel, Monica and Phoebe reunited for...

The Ladies of Friends Reunite On Jimmy Kimmel Live

Joan Rivers In Medically-Induced Coma After Cardiac Arrest

Acid-tongued comedienne Joan Rivers has been placed in a medically-induced coma...

Joan Rivers In Medically-Induced Coma After Cardiac Arrest

If I Stay - Review

Based on the Gayle Forman novel, this teen weepie is wrenchingly emotional and packed with girly fantasies. But the characters and...

If I Stay Movie Review

So, Did Tony Soprano Die at the End of 'The Sopranos'?

It's a mystery that has plagued the television industry for seven years: did Tony Soprano die in the final...

So, Did Tony Soprano Die at the End of 'The Sopranos'?

Brangelina Marry: Hollywood's First Couple Tie The Knot!

The tabloids will have to find another couple to speculate over; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have...

Brangelina Marry: Hollywood's First Couple Tie The Knot!

The Keeper of Lost Causes - Review

Like the first episode of a finely crafted TV series you won't want to miss, this sharply involving Danish thriller introduces us to the ...

The Keeper of Lost Causes Movie Review

The Madden Brothers - We Are Done (Behind The Scenes)

Ahead of their debut album 'Greetings From California' being released in September, 2014, The Madden Brothers talk about...

The Madden Brothers - We Are Done (Behind The Scenes) Video

Counting Crows - Scarecrow Video

The new song, 'Scarecrow', by the band Counting Crows, has received a new music video. The song is set to appear as the...

Counting Crows - Scarecrow Video

Night Moves - Review

This may be a slow-burning thriller about eco-terrorists, but it's also directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff), a filmmaker who...

Night Moves Movie Review
Advertisement