King Kong (1933)

‘Classics’ Review: King Kong

by E. McDonnell

**** 4 Stars

A proper classic and visionary spectacular that has truly stood the test of time.

Director (s): Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack Actors: Merian C. Cooper, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot
Synopsis: Hollywood’s most famous monster movie, in which a film crew goes to a mysterious island for a shoot, only to discover a giant prehistoric ape living there. Mayhem ensues, when the gorilla attempts to possess a woman from the crew and then is taken from his prehistoric island home to be exhibited in the music halls of Manhattan. The brilliantly executed tale of beauty and the beast set new standards in film-making and provided some of cinema’s most powerful and lasting images.

The first of all the great classic monster flicks, the original 1933 King Kong is unquestionably a timeless masterpiece.

Sometimes it’s good to take a look at the classics – something retro; those timeless classics that move you away from the modern day movie flicks that can sometimes become repetitive; those movies that shaped movie history and made technological advancements; those films so magical and spectacular that are still beloved and appreciated in the present day. I’m talking about King Kong. Not the 2005 reboot, not Kong Skull Island from 2017 and certainly not the one they tried to make in the 80s (or was it the 90s, I forget…). I’m talking about the original. The classic. The legendary ground breaking movie about the giant gorilla we all love. But does it still hold up today? Is it still relevant in today’s climate? And what is it exactly that makes it so amazing in the first place? Let’s find out…..

We all know the story. The story that has been recreated and inspired so much over the decades of film history. Although this story has something special, it was the first – the original. We stumble across a group of visionaries seeking to film on a mysterious island. On arrival, the girl in the group in captured by a group of natives seeking to offer her as a sacrifice to the king himself. He is a beast who destroys everything in his path, kills dinosaurs, destroys villages and can push over a skyscraper without even trying. Yet when he is brutally murdered by aeroplanes on the Empire State Building, it is hard not to shed a tear for the great brute.

And this is perhaps the finest achievement. Along with the spectacular and revolutionary special effects and iconic film score, the empathy created for Kong is a masterclass of storytelling. Never before had an audience felt sympathy for the antagonist. This makes it a timeless classic to be marvelled through the ages. This movie does have a few issues with some dated ideas towards women and very ‘of the time’ dialogue, although the audience should remember these were the ideas of the time and all movies that are regarded as the classics have these in some way. The effects are of course nothing compared to the visual treats of today’s films but this was made nearly 80 years ago! Some of the iconic imagery and effects still hold up today and has inspired countless movies to this day. A proper classic and visionary spectacular that has truly stood the test of time.

King Kong is currently available on BBC iPlayer and was rated PG by the BBFC.

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