Watching the original King Kong by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, one imagines what it must have been like for 1933 audiences to experience this spectacle. They must have felt something similar to today’s audiences experience Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.
King Kong is breathtaking. Sure the dialogue is clunky and the acting is that post-silent era wooden that today feels amateurish, but visually the movie is awesome. When one considers the amount of work put into the stop motion animation by master O’Brian, one is amazed a movie like this could have ever been made.
The story is classic. It’s the template for every summer blockbuster since. Without King Kong one imagines that we wouldn’t have the kind of big films we have today. This is the film that originally had audiences on the edge of their seats and set us up for the Spielbergs of the future.
The special effects are stunning. Kong really does live… although he may look a little goofy from time to time. Really, this doesn’t matter. Like the best created movie characters (like Yoda or Gollum in recent films), we believe Kong is alive and feel for him as he meets his classic end.
The violence in this film is not for the squeamish. I was struck at how graphic the attacks were. Bodies fall from great heights and we witness their crash into the ground. Blood and gore abound. Even by today’s standards this film is shocking in how vivid it renders its gruesome scenes.
My only disappointment is the limited analysis the film presents. Sure there is much subtext but most of this is focused on Kong himself and his love for the blonde but not on the post-colonial issues raised by the film (a tribe of black “savages” kidnapping a white blonde woman for example). Still, that might be too post-modern for the time. Peter Jackson addressed some of these issues in his remake.
There are limited bonus features on the first DVD release of this classic however what is there is amazing. Basically there are documentaries on the making of the film but these films are so complete you feel you were really there. Also, it helps the modern audience understand exactly what a landmark this film is.
King Kong stands the test of time and remains as thrilling as it must have been for the original audience. Treat yourself to the original Kong.