Eighty-four years ago, a movie directed by Merian C. Cooper hit the big screen and completely changed the course of American history. That movie was King Kong. What can be said about this masterpiece of a movie? A lot. To this day with remakes, reboots, merchandise and video games, King Kong remains relevant to this very day. The movie has become timeless and there are several reasons why.
Let’s start with the plot. Fearless filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) has assembled a massive ship crew for an unknown expedition. His agent Weston (Sam Hardy) asks why so many men, guns and bombs – even the ship’s captain, Englehorn (Frank Reicher), and first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot: Big Jake 1972), have no idea. When Weston is gone, Denham admits he’s making a new safari movie but he needs a girl. Set right in the middle of the Great Depression, Carl finds his girl in the form of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), starving and looking for a break.
Back at the ship, Denham reveals to Driscoll and Englehorn that he secured a map to Skull Island, a remote isle where the mythical Kong resides behind a wall built in ancient times. Carl’s plan is to find Kong and shoot a picture with Ann as the damsel in distress. This all sounds good until they actually find Skull Island, where the native Chief (Noble Johnson) tells the crew to scram because what they are doing is creating the ritual to send Kong a bride. Once the Chief spots Ann, he wants her and wants her bad.
Later, the Chief has Ann kidnapped and brought behind the wall. Kong is summoned and we finally get a look at the mythical beast. He’s a giant, 50 foot tall gorilla. Kong takes Ann away and Denham’s crew is in hot pursuit. What follows next is a thrillride that combines great acting, amazing special effects for 1933 standards and a love plot between Ann and Jack. One of the main plots of the movie are the monster fights between Kong and various creatures on the island. Denham and his crew are attacked by an Apatosaurus and a Stegosaurus while Kong encounters a T-Rex, a giant snake and a Pterodactyl. All these effects look amazing and they must be seen to be appreciated, especially Kong when he’s finally shown.
The movie’s second half features an insane idea by Carl to not just shoot the picture, but to bring Kong to New York City as a Broadway attraction. As expected, Kong breaks free and terrorizes the Big Apple leading to the exciting conclusion and iconic image atop the Empire State Building.
Not only is the acting in King Kong fantastic, the writing is brilliant, the special effects are top notch for the times and the score is amazing as well. The Skull Island theme stands up 84 years later as badass and even the native ritual song is catchy. All in all, this makes for almost a perfect movie. I say almost because there are some negatives that may bother a few people. The movie was filmed in 1933 and there’s a lot of dialogue that would irritate people in the much more politically correct world of today. Charlie the Cook (Victor Wong) shouts, “Crazy black men been here!” Ann calls the natives “queer” and Kong does a lot of damage to the native village including putting them in his mouth only to throw them to the ground.
Also there’s one scene where Kong strips Ann of her clothes and sniffs his fingers. If any of that bothers you, you have been warned. If it doesn’t, go right ahead and enjoy the movie. This set the standard for monster movies that many tried to top but never could. King Kong was remade in 1976 and 2005 along with a variation coming out this year, but the original will always be my favorite. If you haven’t seen it yet, go buy a DVD because it will be well worth it. As, Carl Denham would say, “Holy mackerel!”