In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow.
Carl Denham needs to finish his movie and has the perfect location; Skull Island. But he still needs to find a leading lady. This 'soon-to-be-unfortunate' soul is Ann Darrow. No one knows what they will encounter on this island and why it is so mysterious, but once they reach it, they will soon find out. Living on this hidden island is a giant gorilla and this beast now has Ann is it's grasps. Carl and Ann's new love, Jack Driscoll must travel through the jungle looking for Kong and Ann, whilst avoiding all sorts of creatures and beasts. Written by
So much has been written about this movie, which has been analyzed more than all but a few films, it's difficult to come up with anything new to say about it but to say that it's magnificently made, and dated as it is in certain respects, it plays as well as anything from seventy years ago, and has a dream logic of its own, which, if one submits to it, still works its charms.
A few points:
i.) There are no wholly sympathetic characters in the movie. While some people are more likable than others, there's really no one to identify with. Fantastic as the subject matter is, it's filmed almost like a documentary about an adventurer who captures a giant ape, takes it to New York, where it escapes, wreaks havoc in the city, takes down the el as if it were toy, and stomps on a lot of innocent people.
ii.) I've never heard more screaming in a movie than in this one. Men, women, children, natives, sailors, white people, dark people, you name it, they scream, often and loudly. Fay Wray is the chief screamer here, but there are plenty of others, such as the man chased up a tree by a dinosaur, and the sailors shaken off the log by Kong, as they fall to a horrifying death in the ravine. When Kong attacks the village there's screaming galore, then more screaming in old Manhattan, when the big guy breaks out of the theater. For his part, Kong does not scream. He roars. The great ape is angry, not terrified, while the people are only afraid.
iii.) As one of the chief characters is a documentary film-maker, it's impossible (for me anyway) to avoid making associations between what is going on in the film and the film-making process itself, as I wonder to what extent this entered into the minds of them men who made the movie, Merian Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack. To put it another way, film-maker Carl Denham wants to film the beast to show movie audiences something weird and exotic, so as to tickle their fancy. What he finds is so fantastic that he scraps the idea of making a movie and brings the creature back to civilization and puts it on display. But the beast has fallen in love with a woman, and when he thinks press photographers are hurting her, breaks free from his chains and goes on a rampage through Manhattan. Real life, which was supposed to make a "swell movie", proved so astonishing that it had to be brought back alive, to be shown to people as something that actually exists (i.e. not a thing made up by movie men), but in the process something went wrong, and the great creature went berserk. King Kong is in other words about a movie that didn't get made because life interfered, and proved more fantastic than the film that was abandoned. As such one might call it a cautionary tale (movie men, stick to your job). Or is it about the movies themselves? How, in their attempt to bottle life and sell it back to moviegoers as entertainment, like Kong, they have a way of breaking free and becoming real all over again.
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