Film 28: King Kong

King Kong (1933) dir. Merian C. Cooper. USA.

But “King Kong” is more than a technical achievement. It is also a curiously touching fable in which the beast is seen, not as a monster of destruction, but as a creature that in its own way wants to do the right thing. Unlike the extraterrestrial spiders in the “Alien” pictures, which embody single-minded aggression, Kong cares for his captive human female, protects her, attacks only when provoked, and would be perfectly happy to be left alone on his Pacific Island. It is the greed of a Hollywood showman that unleashes Kong’s rage, and anyone who thinks to exhibit the beast on a New York stage in front of a live audience deserves what he gets–indeed, more than he gets.

— Roger Ebert

Abigail:  I very much enjoyed this film.  Of course it is vaguely sexist and racist and completely ridiculous, but it is also an enormous amount of fun.  I had seen Peter Jackson’s bloated monstrosity while it was in theatres, and I was surprised to see how similar the plot was, while the pace and tone were SO different.  This is as breakneck a film as we’ve seen — paced incredibly quickly, with no time for thinking too hard about any of the ridiculousness.  The movie also refused to shy away from difficult scenes.  They embraced the faux nature of the dinos and the giant ape to great affect.  This was a very enjoyable film, and incredibly influential, pushing the boundaries of both special effects and the suspension of disbelief.

Forrest:  I went into this pretty skeptical.  Everybody knows the image of the claymation monkey standing on top of the Empire State Building — it’s goofy, the butt of jokes, the object of parody.  It couldn’t possibly have retained any of whatever power it might once have held.  Right?  Wrong.  Super wrong, it turns out.  “King Kong” is a fantastic, rousing, old school adventure story.  It starts with restraint, slowly and plausibly drawing you into the story.  By the time Kong himself shows up, you’re so involved that it barely registers that he’s a special effect.  Instead of goofy, he and his dino pals seem wondrous — a testament to the imagination and skill of the wizards behind the camera.  And as he climbs the Empire State Building, your heart’s in your throat.  That tired image, it turns out, is grander and fresher than you ever knew.

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