IMDB #194 King Kong

Today we cross another icon off the list with 1933's original King Kong. Did it move me to tears, and inspire me to create an overlong, overstuffed remake (like the nine-year-old Peter Jackson)?

In a word, no. But hey, it's a giant ape climbing the Empire State building! If that doesn't do it for you, you might not be American.

The Key Players:

King Kong is essentially two films that overlap in places. Originator of the whole gorilla obsession Merian C. Cooper would direct the model and miniature scenes, while Ernest Schoedsack directed the live-action parts. They produced and directed, together and separately, some the last big silent productions of the late twenties, and several early adventure talkies. Most famous for this film, they reunited for a second go around at apes with 1949's Mighty Joe Young.

Fay Wray had a career of over 100 diverse film and television roles, but is mostly remembered for...screaming. Her iconic turn here and in other 30's horror films like Doctor X and The Vampire Bat led to the title of the "Queen of Scream."

Bruce Cabot (Fury, Diamonds Are Forever) and Robert Armstrong (The Son Of Kong, Mighty Joe Young) also star.

Click for More...

The Story:

Don't we all pretty much know the story? Filmmaker extraordinairre Carl Denham (Armstrong) plucks penniless leading lady Ann Darrow (Wray) from the streets, whisks her to an exotic jungle to shoot amidst hostile natives and an undocumented terror called "Kong." Stoic first mate Jack Driscoll (Cabot) falls for Darrow and tries to protect her.

It takes a while to get to our titular creature- instead, the first forty minutes of King Kong are all about what a hassle women are. The captain and Driscoll argue with Denham about bringing a woman onboard for awhile, they tell said woman that she's nothing but trouble after she's aboard, and Driscoll's primary courting method is to tell Darrow what a nuisance her very presence is. What a charmer.

Anyway, they find some energetic natives preparing to sacrifice a native girl to "Kong," but they offer to trade six of their women for "the golden-haired one" once they awkwardly notice our travelers.

Denham and co. rebuff the offer and regroup on the ship, but a small canoe of natives somehow infiltrates a ship with like a hundred sailors unnoticed and kidnaps the leading lady.

In a scene known to us all, they tie her arms to an altar-looking thing and wheel her through the giant gate, screaming all the while.

Then through the trees: claymation! The horror!

The Artistry:

Lost in the images carried through time is the prevalence of dinosaurs in King Kong. Frickin' dinosaurs, everywhere! This doesn't also qualify for "Wonder Of The World" status?

Seriously, when Driscoll and Denham set out to find Darrow (whom Kong carried off), they're charged by a stegosaurus and attacked from underwater by a brontosaurus before even seeing the big ape himself. King Kong actually has to fight a tyrannosaurus, pterodactyl, and long, more lizard-like thing, all of which seem out to get Darrow.

The claymation is certainly fun, and I can see why it was astounding for the time- did you know there was a thirty-foot bust of Kong which took three men to manipulate the facial expressions? I wonder if it was scary at the time, on the big screen and all.

It's certainly hard to believe anyone ever bought the super-imposed live action shots with a stop-motion background. The moment when the search party shoots the stegosaurus is the least believable sequence (plus I felt kinda bad for it).

But even if you find the effects a little dated, King Kong set plenty of other standards for modern action/adventure movies. The chief one, clearly taken as a primary facet of filmmaking by your Michael Bays and Brett Ratners, is not caring a whip about acting or character development.

The key is the not caring- it's not so-bad-it's-good, or overeager scenery chewing. It's just sorta there- you can easily see why Wray is the only one anyone remembers (for screaming).

This, for example, is Cabot's verbatim confession of love to Wray: "If anything had happened to you...I'm scared for you. I'm sort of, well I'm scared of you too. Ann, uh, I, uh, uh, say, I guess I love you...Say, Ann, I don't suppose, uh, I mean, well you don't feel anything like that about me, do you?"

Ugh. Only Armstrong has anything to work with at all, as the director who'll stop at nothing. Not that his delivery is exciting, but it's hard to mess up "I'd have got a swell picture of a charging rhino but the cameraman got scared. The darned fool, I was right there with a rifle."


So Driscoll saves Ann, mostly by staying out of the way while Kong saves her from dinosaurs and then sneaking down a cliff. They get back to the gates, and Kong appears in pursuit before they can close.

Not to worry, a handheld "gas bomb" is somehow enough to bring down a GIANT GORILLA, as Denham throws one at his feet.

Cut immediately to New York City (how'd they get there? I feel like the logistics of transport would have been more interesting), where King Kong is on display for a curious public.

We all know what happens next- he's startled by flashbulbs, breaks loose, snatches Darrow out of a window (I would've avoided windows) and climbs the Empire State building, only to be felled by airplanes.

Notable parts of this end sequence:

1. Kong picks up another woman at first, sees it isn't Darrow, then drops her.

2. Somehow no one in the entire city of New York's law enforcement of political agencies thinks of using airplanes until Driscoll does. Then they seem to round them up in thirty seconds somehow.

3. Denham's famous last line "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty that killed the beast!" is just ALL WRONG.

Sure, he came back to the beach for her in the jungle, but she didn't hit him with a gas bomb. Or take him to New York. Denham says the flashbulbs startle Kong because he thinks they're attacking Darrow, but it's probably just, you know, the flashing of the bulbs and all. In short, it was you, Denham. Pretty much just you killend him.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Eh. Points for influence, I guess? I can't imagine a world in which "How I Met Your Mother" can't parody the final scene with a scale model, a monkey, and a paper airplane, but that doesn't mean I'll ever sit through the entire film again.

The Legacy:

NFR Inclusion? Check. Remade twice? Check. Simpsons parody? Check. Oscars? None?

It also led to spinoffs like The Son Of Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and King Kong Escapes.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

You wanna watch an oddly-colorized version of the part where a giant ape climbs what was then the world's tallest phallic symbol?

Of course you do.

Leftover Thoughts:

-Peter Jackson's 2005 labor-of-love remake (not on the countdown) is really better than most people seem to think. I was going to watch it until I realized I don't presently own a copy.

-Seriously if I'm one of the press dudes, I'd be all "So yeah, a larger-than-normal primate, that's fine- didn't you say something about AN ISLAND COVERED IN PREHISTORIC DINOSAURS?"

Coming Up...

193. Rosemary's Baby

192. Dial M For Murder

191. The Hustler

0 Response to "IMDB #194 King Kong"

Powered by Blogger