King Kong (1933)
Director: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher
Plot: A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal giant gorilla who takes a shine to their female blond star.
Genre: Adventure / Fantasy / Horror
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: MILD)
This was the original King Kong, the film which spawned a remake in 1976 and more recently in 2005 by Peter Jackson, and of course a whole lot of imitations such as Mighty Joe Young. Its influences were immense, especially in the way adventure films were made after 1933.
Moreover, over the years, it naturally became the yardstick against which monster movies would be measured. Directors Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack’s achievements with King Kong still remained astonishing till today, nearly eighty years since its theatrical release.
Though it might appear that way, King Kong is not a full-fledged monster movie; it's essentially a love story between two beings, a beauty-and-the-beast tale set in the hostile jungle of fictional
King Kong was one of the first films to use stop-motion technology, a technique still practiced today by the creators of the popular Wallace and Gromit series. The effects might seem too jittery and B-grade by today's standards, but they still continue to astound viewers new and old alike.
Acting is above average, but that's not a surprise. Kong is the star of the show, and though he appears like a miniature clay model with varying heights in most of the scenes, there’s a human side to him that can only be felt with the most subtle of observations.
The score by Max Steiner set groundbreaking standards in film music in the early 1930s. Nearly four-fifths of King Kong is accompanied by Steiner's music, driving the film along with a deep sense of adventure and mystery.
King Kong has one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history - the final battle atop of the Empire State building that leaves a despairing Kong to futilely defend against a fleet of attacking warplanes. Moreover, unforgettable sequences such as the duel between Kong and a T-Rex are stuff of schoolboy fantasy.
Though personally, I prefer Peter Jackson's extended version of King Kong because the characters are developed with more verve and feeling, the 1933 original take is undoubtedly a masterpiece of its time.