The original King Kong is one of the most beloved adventure films of all time. An obscure team of directors and producers that no one in Hollywood had ever heard of (or would really hear much from ever again) brought a fantastic tale of man vs. beast and the power of beauty to tame wild aggression, and they combined this tale with special effects (that while laughably horrible by today’s standards) were unbelievably exciting and terrifying for a 1930’s audience. Before this viewing, I had never actually seen the original King Kong and was only directly familiar with what I now know to be the far superior remake by one Peter Jackson (although I never would have guessed how faithful he was to the original source material). And while this film left me slightly disapppointed because Peter Jackson’s version really fleshed out the story and gave the characters greater depth and the film better emotional resonance, I can easily see why this is a beloved all-time classic.

The film tells the story of Carl Denham, a movie producer filming his newest flick in an uncharted island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He has chosen street waif, Ann Dunham (the absolutely gorgeous and talented Fay Wray), to play the lead. He plucked her right off the streets. They set sail on a steam boat to Skull Island where they come upon a tribe of natives (who are portrayed so unbelievably, ridiculously racist) who worship a giant ape named Kong. Ann is kidnapped by the natives and given to Kong as a sacrificial bride. What follows is an adventure story set against dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures to rescue Ann from the clutches of Kong. Eventually Kong is captured and brought back to NYC where you have the infamous climbing of the Empire State Building. I don’t care that I ruined the story. This movie is like 80 years old and been remade several times.

The effects in the film are pretty damn ridiculous by today’s standards, and there were a couple of times that I literally laughed out loud because of how bad they were, but I have to remember how damn old this film is and how much it shocked and amazed audiences when it was released. Computers weren’t something film studios were using yet to make movies and this film is a pretty grand achievement in early visual effects. The acting is also ridiculously over the top, but Fay Wray was pretty damn good as Ann. There’s a reason she’s the all time reigning “Scream Queen”.

This movie was fun. Their wasn’t a lot of depth to the characters and I know I’ve been spoiled by Jackson’s remake. But I really enjoyed it. It does have one advantage over Peter Jackson’s version though. This film clocks in at about an hour and a half, not well over three hours like Peter Jackson’s film, so at no point do you think any of it has begun to drag on you. If you haven’t seen this film yet, you should watch it simply for the place it holds in the hallowed halls of film history. Just be prepared to take its age into consideration.

Final Score: B

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