King Kong (1933)


King Kong (1933)It’s one of those films that you know all about, but have very little chance of seeing until it appears out of nowhere. The classic that set the standard and inspired a generation of creative’s, namely the late Ray Harryhausen after watching King Kong (1933). One of the first blockbusters before they flooded the cinema 40 years later. Becoming part of the of fabric of film culture and even a mention in the opening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

What starts out as another treacherous trip for maverick film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) who leads an expedition to an unknown island that is later revealed as Skull Island. Which has been referenced multiple times since. With a lone woman Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) an unsuspecting victim in the directors crazy plan for his next feature film. Along with a crew which is growing tired of the mystery that surrounds the journey. Full of cliche’s, which started here in the early days of sound film as it found it’s feet. Matched by the first soundtrack that matched the action in the film by Max Stiener who set a standard for film soundtracks to come, matching also the emotion, and expanding it to be something more for an audience allowing them to empathise with the beast that goes on the longest journey than any of these characters who abuse their power as one director aims to make his dreams true.

For me the plot is secondary to the revolutionary animation that was devised by Willis H. Obrien who animated and seamlessly combined Kong into a world of humans and dinosaurs. A land that time forget for a time, but never would again. Inspiring generations of special effects artists who now make the impossible possible. Of course now you can see how it was put together. For the time of it’s release this would have been a spectacle not to miss by the audience of the early 1930’s. A bar was set for future films of the adventure genre to make. Met partly by the sci-fi B movies of the 1950’s which combined the now laughable spiders who crawled and scared the people as it left as path of destruction in it’s wake.

There’s a thirst for spectacle for director Denham as he strives against the odds to get his picture, even when his lead actress Darrow is taken away by the natives who offer her as a bride to Kong. The beauty has met the beast. Who throughout defends her against all the creatures that come their way. She is overwhelmed more by the danger than by his heroic acts. Something neither understand, as Kong is blown away by the new emotions he is feeling towards this blonde siren who has been offered to him. He is discovering beauty and other tender emotions that are new to him.

I feel in this fun and short film there is something deeper at work, maybe it’s my investigative mind that wants an answer instead of just enjoying what I have viewed for a classic film. As an outsider is torn from his environment and placed on show to a new audience who have come to see the latest attraction. Used for financial gain that goes terribly wrong. Becoming the first monster to destroy New York on the big screen. Is it America’s wanting to tame the world, but not knowing what they are dealing with, seeing a threat that has to be quelled or tamed, much like the Elephant Man/John Merrick (John Hurt (The Elephant Man (1980)) which saw a heavily disfigured man being exploited as freak of nature to be seen as an attraction, or more horror.

King Kong (1933) also above being setting a standard for both special effects and soundtracks marked the beginning of a new genre of monsters destroying towns that would only really take hold after WWII with Japan’s reaction on film to the conflict with Godzilla/Gojira (1954) and of cross-over films. In many ways King Kong is a landmark film that changed the landscape of films and film-making.

 

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