There’s a slight change of plans with this month’s blindspot selection, with me opting to jump ahead and watch Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s King Kong, instead of my originally scheduled pick of The Mummy. It’s a bit of a stretch to lump King Kong in with my theme of classic horror, with the film being more of an adventure film, however this giant ape is one of the most iconic movie monsters and is well worth talking about.
Filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) travels to the uncharted Skull Island to film his latest motion picture. When they arrive on the island, the natives kidnap actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and make her a sacrifice for the giant ape Kong. As Kong carries Ann away into the jungle, Denham and first mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) make chase, facing hoards of dangerous creatures.
Probably one of the most notable facts about King Kong is that it is one of the earliest films to make use of stop motion special effects for the titular ape, as well as the various dinosaurs that inhabit the island. Probably one of the most iconic moments of King Kong involves a scene of Kong in one-on-one combat with a T-Rex, which is quite well done. While the stop motion holds up quite well, some of the other effects in King Kong are almost laughably dated, such as the heavy use of rear projection to insert the actors “in front” of the creatures.
When most people think of King Kong, the first image that probably pops into their minds is the film’s climax, involving Kong climbing to the top of the Empire State Building and fighting off biplanes. However, it turns out that scene only takes place within the final ten minutes of a 100 minute film. In fact, the vast majority of the film takes place on Skull Island, with the climax in New York City not feeling quite as well developed.
It kind of says a lot for the time period that, despite receiving top billing in the film, Fay Wray spends the bulk of King Kong as a screaming damsel in distress. The majority of her dialogue comes in the first act of the film, during which she is victim of some sexist comments by Jack Driscoll, who then goes on to become her love interest. Also, probably less said about the stereotypically Chinese cook Charlie (Victor Wong) the better.
When Peter Jackson remade King Kong is 2005, there was a bit of an issue over how he took and an hour and forty minute adventure and turned it into a three hour epic. I’m actually a big fan of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which actually makes the film seem much more well-rounded, particularly the New York climax. However, that’s not to say that the original King Kong doesn’t still have its charms and I will say that I like both films.