(1933) dir. Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
King Kong is brilliant. I can’t remember the last time that I had seen this film, but I certainly don’t think that I ever appreciated it as much as I did this time around. And that said, I always liked it. Especially after having recently seen Peter Jackson’s sprawling, loving remake, I was highly tuned into the narrative and the details of the period and setting. On top of all of this, I watched the film with two four year-olds with the excitement of seeing something very special and “scary”.
The special effects might be considered hokey in a day and age when the realism and verisimilitude of digital animation is becoming so strong that one is increasingly sold on their “reality”. But the special effects are still quite stunning, in my opinion. Well, at least the stop-motion ones. The close-ups of the “life-sized” Kong are more charming for their quirky silliness than their power. The action sequences are well-done, much more impressive than I had remembered.
The setting, the real 1930’s has a lot more power than Jackson’s re-envisioning of the 1930’s through a lens of innocence and humanity. Robert Armstrong’s Carl Denham has a brassy New York tough showmanship that Jack Black just can’t muster. It actually might have been much better if he tried. Black is also nicer, less cut-throat. Everything is in the Jackson film. It’s not even that this film is cynical or harsh, but rather that the New York of the 1930’s comes across more in the dialogue in ways that just ring true. It’s the character of the film, I guess, that I am focussing on, something less tangible perhaps than I can get at.
This truly is iconic cinema.