King Kong (1933) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
441 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
They'll have to think up a lot of new adjectives...
ramaken3328 January 2004
There's little new I can probably add here, judging by the amount of comments, but here goes. King Kong is still one of the greatest fantasy films. It has inspired generations of filmmakers, writers, and other artists, all of whom have been awed and thrilled by the level of craftsmanship involved in its creation. The film haunted my nightmares as a child; there was something absolutely frightening about Kong's glaring eyes looming in the windows of the wrecked elevated train. Thanks to television and repeated showings every Thanksgiving for years (thanks WOR) I became smitten with this film. Nearly 30 years later- post the 1976 remake, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, etc, I still sit down every few months to watch Kong. EVERY time, I see something new. The detail they put into this film is phenomenal, considering it was released long before television or VCRs could give viewers a chance to watch it enough to notice the more subtle details. Volumes have been written about this movie's production, but one effect still has me puzzled. When Kong is in his cave, just before he sets Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in a small opening in the rocks, the head of the elasmosaurus can be seen surfacing and submerging in the pool behind him. If it was done in stop motion, it's the smoothest work in the film; even the pool's water actually appears to ripple around the head.

Willis O'Brien is the man primarily credited with bringing King Kong to the screen, but in truth, Kong was the brainchild of Merian Cooper, a truly larger-than-life film producer, on whom the character of Carl Denham was modeled. Cooper had been a fighter pilot in World War I, a POW after he was shot down behind enemy lines, and- with his partner Ernest Schoedsack- had traveled to the wilds of Asia and Africa to film documentaries. Cooper imagined King Kong as the logical extension of his true life exploits; exaggerated but a recognizable caricature of his experiences. Originally he had wanted a real gorilla to portray Kong, and even wanted to have it fight a Komodo dragon! (Call the Humane Society!) We can all be grateful he encountered Willis O'Brien (who was working on his own dinosaur film- Creation) and decided to produce Kong and the monsters of Skull Island using stop-motion. I doubt anyone in 1933 could have tolerated the spectacle of a live gorilla in real combat with a Komodo dragon. I suspect the film would have either been banned outright or been little more than a grisly footnote in motion picture history. The idea was Cooper's, but the majesty and spectacle of the film belong to O'Brien. The miniature jungle settings created by O'Brien's crew with multiple glass paintings created an otherworldly quality to Skull Island that could not be duplicated by shooting on location- as Cooper had originally envisioned.

To be sure, the film is very much a product of a simpler time. However, if the acting in Kong is compared to its early 1930's contemporaries in the horror/fantasy genre, it holds up quite well. Cooper and Schoedsack understood the necessity of establishing the characters before Kong's entrance, but kept dialog to a minimum. The story is told visually, with camera-work furthering plot points that may have seemed didactic otherwise. The film is carried by not only its visual imagery, but by one of the first feature length music scores. This was an innovation that put King Kong ahead its sound contemporaries, which relied quite heavily on the spoken word and direction alone. There is a ten minute sequence in the center of the film- after the death of the tyrannosaurus until the escape of Ann and Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) from Kong's lair- that is told entirely with visuals, music, and sound effects. It is in large part due to the score that much of Kong's emotional impact is conveyed, particularly in its finale atop the Empire State Building. Steiner was able to suggest Kong's emotional state, assisting O'Brien in providing empathy to a creature who in reality was only an 18 inch high puppet.

It is a mistake to compare Kong technically or artistically with films from later decades. Consider the cultural context in which King Kong was produced. America was in the darkest days of the Depression. World War II was seven years away, and nobody outside of a few physicists knew what 'atomic bomb' meant. Kong truly was the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' just as the Empire State Building was at the time considered the greatest technological marvel. As Cooper envisioned it, Kong was an adventure escapist film, offering Depression-Era audiences something that at the time would be considered the 'ultimate in adventure.' Whether or not Peter Jackson's proposed remake of Kong can maintain these qualities of showmanship and adventure is a matter of wait and see: to today's audiences Kong no longer represents something 'all powerful' or able to 'lick the world' as Carl Denham described him back in 1933. Even setting the remake in 1933 will have its difficulties, since the film will then be a period piece rather than a contemporary story, as both the original film and the 1976 remake were, and audience involvement may be more limited.

Like Star Wars, King Kong was a made for the movies myth, not based directly on any previous source other than Cooper and O'Brien's imagination. It spawned one of the first monster movie sequels, one remake, (so far) and countless imitations, parodies, and merchandise. Among fantasy films, only the Wizard of Oz can rival King Kong for the sheer longevity of popularity, but while Oz provided escapist entertainment, it did so in a lighter fashion. Kong provided escapism but of a more disturbing and haunting kind.

Here's to ya, Obie, and Coop!

Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.
163 out of 180 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Some aspects of KING KONG people forget.
Glenn Andreiev3 December 2001
First, the 1933 version of KING KONG, is for me, the greatest fantasy film ever made. Sure, there are fantasy films with far better special effects (THE MATRIX, JURASSIC PARK) better acting (the acting here is of the period!) but KING KONG is a film of tremendous excitement. The suspense, pacing, sensuality, violence all adds up to a blood pumping experience. We all read about the film's history, being made, released, censored, restored, and how it's been picked to itsy-bits by every arm-chair film "expert".

What very few film-makers have focused on is the film-making itself in KING KONG. It has superb build-up. We are wondering what is on the island as we approach it. Then we wonder what is behind the wall on the island. Then we wonder what gigantic beast is sharing that frightening jungle with the rescuers, trying to save Fay Wray. The film is faultlessly edited. Many scenes begin or end with people running for their lives. Unneeded scenes just don't exsist (we go from Kong knocked out on Skull Island to his Broadway debut. We don't need to see what happens inbetween!) then there's Max Steiner's perfect music score. Before KONG, most music scores were borrowed snippets of classical or popular themes, but Steiner's score follows the action to an inch! Also, he does a great number of abstract musical strokes (I.e the clash of drums when Kong beats the giant snake to it's death. The lovely string piece that jumps to pulsating chase music in a milli-second.) When I hear of a friend say they never saw this film, it's like hearing a child say they never had ice cream. Long Live Kong!
159 out of 178 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"It was Beauty that killed the Beast"
Kristine10 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Pretty much sums up the movie, doesn't it? Who hasn't heard of King Kong? This movie is a major part of my childhood, it's one of the first horror films that I ever saw and I couldn't get enough of that giant ape. My mom always laughed at me because this is the first movie that made me cry, I rooted for King Kong all the way, all he wanted was that hot little blonde and to fight dinosaurs. Not too much to ask for. But why is King Kong so great? Why is it still very memorable? Besides the story that was incredibly interesting, the effects are absolutely amazing for it's time. When I was a kid, I seriously thought that they found a giant ape to star in the movie, give me a little credit, you believe anything at 4 years old. But this was the first movie to have tiny figures brought to life on film that were made to look like they were 80 feet tall. King Kong is character of it's own and this film is absolutely wonderful.

Carl Denham, a film director who is famous for shooting animal pictures in remote and exotic locations, is unable to hire an actress to star in his newest project and so wanders the streets searching for a suitable girl. He chances upon unemployed Ann Darrow, as she is caught trying to steal an apple. Denham pays off the grocer then buys Ann a meal and offers her the lead role in his latest installment. Although Ann is apprehensive, she has nothing to lose and eagerly agrees. They set sail aboard the Venture, an old tramp steamer that travels for weeks in the direction of Indonesia, where Denham claims they will be shooting. Despite his ongoing declarations that women have no place on board ships, the ship's first mate Jack Driscoll is obviously becoming attracted to Ann. Denham then describes something monstrous connected to the island he's sailing too, a legendary entity known to the islanders as "Kong". Finally arriving at the island's shore, they see a native village perched on a peninsula, cut off from the bulk of the island by an enormous wall. A landing party, including the filmmaker and his leading lady, goes ashore and encounters the natives, who are about to hand over a girl to Kong as a ritual sacrifice. Although Denham, Englehorn, Jack and Ann are hiding behind foliage, the native chief spots them and approaches the troop. Captain Englehorn is able to understand the native speech, and at Denham's urging makes friendly overtures to the chief. When he gets a clear look at Ann, the chief begins speaking with great energy. Englehorn translates this as "look at the golden woman!" The chief proposes to swap six native women for Ann, an offer Denham delicately declines as he and his party edge away from the scene, assuring the chief that they will return tomorrow to get better acquainted. Back on the Venture, Jack and Ann openly express their love for each another. When Jack is called away to the captain's quarters, a stealthy contingent of natives captures Ann, takes her back to the wall and presents her to Kong in an elaborate ceremony. Kong emerges from the jungle and is revealed to be a giant gorilla. The Venture crew returns to the village and takes control of the wall; half of the crew then go after Kong.

King Kong was a first of a kind horror movie, it had a story, terrific actors, amazing effects and a wonderful script. Faye Ray was the first actress I really looked up too as a kid, she was absolutely beautiful and such a great screamer, she made me want to lay in a monkey's paw for a while… yes, I also needed to get out more as a child. But hey, you have to admit, if you ever wake up late for work, I'd rather take a giant ape then the bus or car to be caught in rush hour. Anyways, is this movie worth the look? Absolutely, it's a true classic that I guarantee you'll love. It's a great movie and still stands the test of time of making us believe that there are giant apes in third world countries.

50 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
They weren't just making a film when they made this one.... they were inventing rules and ideas that would be followed for decades to come.
Jonathon Dabell28 October 2004
How many films can truly be said to be definitive? The answer is probably "not many", but the original 1933 version of King Kong is certainly one of them. For its time, every aspect is innovative. First-of-their-kind special effects, first-of-its-kind plot, famous performances and a final sequence that remains unequalled as an eye-popping cinematic experience. The quality of cinematography and visual trickery has progressed a long way since 1933 - so the special effects obviously look rather primitive to 21st Century eyes - but anyone with a shred of common sense will still be astounded by what they see. This is movie history in the making. Had this never been made, the whole history of films may have taken a different course.

Ace film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) hires an unemployed, attractive New York woman Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to star in his new picture. He takes her by boat to remote Skull Island where, according to legend, there lives an awesome god-like beast named Kong. Denham's plan is to shoot a variation of the Beauty and the Beast story, using Ann as his beauty and Kong as his beast. Everyone involved gets more than they bargained for when Ann is kidnapped by the island natives and offered as a sacrifice to Kong. She is kidnapped by a gigantic prehistoric ape and saved only by the courage of ship's mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). But Denham has one more trick up his sleeve when he captures Kong and takes the beast back to New York. You don't really think those chains will hold him, do you?

Virtually every monster movie ever made owes something to King Kong - even colossal modern hits like Jurassic Park, The Lost World and Godzilla (not to mention thousands of small scale homages such as The Land Unknown and Gorgo). It is arguably the most influential film of all-time. I genuinely envy people who were lucky enough to experience this film during its 1933 opening week - what must they have thought? Did they realize they were witnessing something utterly extraordinary? I could go on all day giving reasons why you should see it, but it would be pointless. It can all be summed up in one sentence: if you have even the slightest interest in movies SEE THIS FILM!
133 out of 151 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The First King Kong Still Going Strong
ccthemovieman-129 November 2005
With the recent DVD release of this film, and the latest version on the big screen being released two days from this writing, I hope more people take the opportunity to check this movie out, the original King Kong, if they've never seen it.

This movie must have been astounding to the people watching it over 70 years ago. I doubt they'd ever seen anything like this, action-wise, and monster-wise. It is still fascinating today, even with the great advancements in special effects.

Most action films from the classic years, from 1920 to the late 1960s had corny mostly unrealistic special effects but this film still holds up, extraordinarily so considering its age. The film also had a tremendous amount of action. Young people today are usually bored watching old black-and-white movies but they wouldn't be bored with this one. Once the "girl," Fay Wray gets captured by King Kong, the rest of the movie is one long action scene.

Kong was not the only beast in the movie, either, which surprised me the first time I ever saw this. Protecting Wray, Kong battles a dinosaur, a giant snake, a giant bird and then human beings firing bullets and bombs at him.

Wray also was fun to watch, but I''m a male so a pretty woman like her - shockingly exposing her breasts in one scene, too - makes it easier to enjoy the film. Her screaming, however, can get on your nerves. She must have been hoarse for a month after filming this movie.

Robert Armstrong, as the film director, and Bruce Cabot, as the ship crewman and Wray''s rescuer, also are interesting to watch and hear. As I said, once the action kicks in, the his a very entertaining movie and impossible to put down.
35 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Classic Extravaganza Still Greatest Movie Adventure of all time.
mk425 July 2001
As a guy whose pushing 52, I'm proud to say that this movie has been a profound influence on my life and is largely instrumental into launching me into a career as an art director. I've seen this movie perhaps over 1,000 times. Before the advent of VHS, I would catch it anywhere in L.A. where there was a revival house. Saw it countless times before the "lost" footage was restored (which puts a competely different spin on the complex character of Kong). I have a rare tape recording of the original Steiner "prologue Music" lasting over ten minutes (dubbed for me by a collector friend) which I don't think has made it onto the excellent Turner/Rhino CD soundtrack. And still I see something new upon each screening. I first saw Kong in 1956 on the local "Million Dollar Movie" show, a weekly feature of KHJ TV-9 - an RKO-General station. I remember the scenes of Kong throwing the "wrong" woman to her death as still well as a few feet of film where a New York fire engine flips-over after going around the corner (I've never seen that bit since). I was in a film class being taught by Rudy Behlmer at Art Center in 1971 when he matter-of-factly screened the "lost" footage in class (he had gotten access to it). I've seen nitrate prints screened at the L.A. County Museum of Art, UCLA and MOMA. I have seen this film with Fay Wray in attendance. I don't think I've ever missed a screening anywhere locally to the best of my knowledge. What bothers me is that today's audiences may not be able to project themselves back into time and try to relive the thrilling film-going experience circa 1933. They cannot grasp or accept the dialogue or style of acting at face-value; many consider it corny...or over-the-top. Yet a comparison between Kong and say Jurassic Park III finds the latter's dialogue so stiltedly puerile and instantly forgettable that it cannot stand the test of time even in the present, let alone seventy years. In Kong, Bruce Cabot portrays a "natural" mug who plays his part beautifully as an uncouth mate aboard ship suddenly sharing his space with one of the prettiest women of all time (Fay Wray's looks are timeless, and she is still a "hottie" even by today's standards) . Is there any wonder that similarities between Cabot and Harrison Ford as "Indiana Jones" are not coincidental? If Cabot were alive today, he'd be the one earning millions. Robert Armstrong is perfect playing an impresario so full of energy he bursts at the seams. This is the way show people talked during the third decade of the Twentieth Century...full of what they used to call ballyhoo (check out Jimmy Cagney in "Footlight Parade made in the same year for the same kind of high-voltage enthusiasm). Frank Reicher is totally believable as the captain, lending an even greater amount of quasi-realism to the fable. Never discussed is fact that this movie is shot almost has a mythical "preserved-in-amber" feel about it. It's as if what you are seeing is truly real...folklore-become-fact...and that the scenes unfolding actually happened once upon a time in 1933. Who cannot visit New York City today and NOT think of King Kong on the rampage close to 70 years ago? I urge anyone who has not seen "King Kong" on the big screen to do so. When you hear the any of the remarkable sound effects as you view the film, you will become a convert; for example, just listen to the all-too-real crunching of the Allosaurus' jawbone just before Kong ends its life (a death made all-the-more poignant by the way the carnivore is introduced to the audience-by innocently and realistically SCRATCHING ITS HEAD WITH ITS CLAW as it enters frame before the fight). Absolute Perfection in a movie made up of absolute perfections. I could yammer on and on. But I won't. All I can tell you is that for these and countless other reasons this film will always rate a 10-out-of-10. It is still the Greatest Adventure Movie Of All Time.
128 out of 163 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
King Kong - One small step for man. One giant leap for film making!
jon-larsen25 April 2010
It's a shame that young people these days, don't know how to enjoy a black & white movie! I'm 14, and I love black & white movies. We saw this movie at school, and everyone hated it. They said it sucked, because it was in black & white, and the effects were hilariously bad!

I disagreed!

This movie is nearly 80 years old, and it's still a hit!

The cinematography is incredibly beautiful. One of the greatest shots of all time is when Kong is on the top of the building!

The acting is fine.

The story is great, but my friends found it stupid. They thought it was unrealistic because there were dinosaurs and a giant gorilla on the island etc.

This movie is entertaining throughout the whole movie! Most black & whites movies got a lot of dialog and long scenes with no editing, but not in this one! There are plenty of scenes in this movie where there are no dialog, but great editing and entertainment!

The effects are so fantastic! Young people may find Kong hilarious when they see a close-up picture of him. But I was absolutely blown away! Imagine that you're in 1933. You go to the movies and you've never seen something like this before!

King Kong is a one small step for man. One giant leap for film making!

23 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
the Eighth WOnder of the World!
gamerax3 April 2003
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KING KONG! This month marks the 70th anniversary of the release of the classic 1933 movie King Kong. Produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, King Kong is a tragic tale of a giant ape that is taken from his jungle home and put on display in the big city of New York. He escapes while pursuing a girl he has become enamored with and dies a tragic death at the hands of a squadron of Biplanes. Who among us can forget the classic ending line `It was Beauty that killed the beast'. King Kong played to record numbers during its East Coast release in the first week in March 1933(It was released in April on the West Coast). In two theaters in New York the film grossed $89,931 smashing all records. Keep in mind this was during the depression! Many film makers have drawn inspiration from King Kong's tragic tale. Craftsman such as Godzilla director, Ishiro Honda , Ray Harryhausen,( who worked with King Kong effects artist Willis O'Brien on his film MIGHTY JOE YOUNG for which O'Brien won the very first special effects Oscar) and

Peter Jackson have claimed to be inspired by Kong's dynamic presence.

Willis O'Brien who created the incredible stop motion effects in King Kong tried to create interest in an idea he had been working on that had King Kong battling a creature like Frankenstein only larger. He hoped to make the film by using his stop-motion process to animate both Kong and the Frankenstein monster. He was unable to interest any of the U.S. Studios in his idea so he approached a Japanese studio, Toho, with his concept. The project fell through and Willis O'Brien passed away in 1962 his dream unfulfilled. Shortly after his death, Toho released King Kong vs. Godzilla which featured a story line almost identical to his King Kong vs. Frankenstein script except that the Frankenstein monster was replaced by Godzilla.

Little did Cooper and Shoedsack realize what an impact their film would have on the American culture. After the events of 9/11, the internet was bombarded by images of King Kong perched atop the twin towers defending them from the terrorists airplanes. Kong can be found in just about every New York souvenir shop on everything from pens to T -shirts. Todd McFarlane released his own more sinister version of King Kong in his Movie Maniacs line of action figures. Even now Peter Jackson is planning to remake this classic film. King Kong was voted as one of the top 100 Classic American films of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI) and TV Guide named King Kong atop the Empire State Building the Fourth Greatest Movie Moment.

Even 70 years later, King Kong continues to enthrall millions of new fans due to the extensive showings on television and video. King Kong has been shown on television more than almost any other film. Surprisingly, King Kong has never been released on DVD in the United States although a brand new DVD is planned for release in 2004 including never before seen footage and enhanced video and audio.

Merian C. Cooper said it best-"'Kong' was never intended to be anything but the best damned adventure film ever made, which it is; and that's all it is." Happy Birthday King Kong and thank you keeping the child in all of alive.
62 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Holy Mackerel, what a show!
baz-151 March 2002
I could never tire of this movie, i've seen it so many times and always watch it when it's on tv-in fact i watched it just a week ago! It's one of those films that is rewatchable countless times, like many other 'monster' movies. But this is the best 'monster' movie , it is so well made-it is a masterpiece. Everything is right-the effects,the photography,the score,pacing,continuity. My favourite part would be the big middle chunk on the island. Ann captured-natives dance-a sacrifice to kong-rescue mission-defeat of stegasoraus-swamp adventure-swamp escape-log catastrophe-trex battle-snake creature fight-pterydactil disposal-rescue/escape-kong wrecks village-gas bomb. There is almost no let up in the action in this sequence. I have seen two versions of the film though. One was cut, the other wasn't. Some scenes that were cut: kong pulls a native out of his hut and stomps him into the mud. Brilliant. Also the bits when kong chews a native, and when he chews on a new yorker. And when he throws a woman down from a scraper into the street. Needless cutting in my book. A lot of people complain about the acting. The acting is swell. Robert Armstrong is perfect as the over enthusiastic director who is completely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people but has absolutely no scruples about it. He provides the silent chuckles of the movie e.g my one line summary is actually what denham says when he sees the savages and their dancing. And Bruce Cabot to Fay Wray: ' hey, i guess i love you!' in a moment of clarity. Overall a smashing film with a great climax. And kong is supposed to have the hots for fay wray too when he plays with her and her clothes
59 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Scream and Scream Again!
telegonus11 October 2002
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.
53 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
We're genetically programmed to dismiss the 1930s...
A_Different_Drummer11 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
but the hard cold fact is that while the inevitable remakes have come and gone, this black and white, pre-CGI original remains one of the greatest films of its kind and even today has a better chance of mesmerizing an audience OF ANY AGE than any of the slam-bang thank-you-mam pyrotechnics that pass for quality entertainment in our era. THE SETUP IS ASTONISHING. Talk about your cinematic foreplay! Before any actor in this film ever sets foot on Skull Island, the audience is totally creeped out by the mists, the tall tales, the rumours, the strange goings-on shipboard... by the time we actually see Kong, it is almost anti-climactic. And this was the first film to fully develop the idea of transposing the "beauty and the beast" story to modern horror. What does that ape see in Fay Wray? What does she see in him? That 10,000 cartoonists have redone the final "skyscaper" sequence gives new meaning to "iconic." Un-equalled.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Tongue in cheek movie about Hollywood.
Ben Parker6 April 2004
"He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilisation merely a captive, a show to gratify your curiosity," the director says to the vaudeville house, before a curtain goes up and we see Kong suspended with his arms nailed out, as if on a cross.

Self-reflection and satire of Hollywood is everywhere, which came as a great shock to me. There is a great subtext: the story is about a filmmaker who travels to overseas locations, such as jungles, to film his movies - he cares nothing for the cultures he may be violating, all he cares is capturing the spectacle on film. If he is unable to capture it on film, he tells us early on in the picture, he'll destroy it without a second thought. This is a film about the emptiness and recklessness of Hollywood, yet the satire is not bitter, but tongue-in-cheek in a way that follows James Whale's advice for putting subtexts in genre films, ie, not spoiling it for those viewers who don't "get the joke." So Kong can be enjoyed as a pure genre picture. The performances have false moments, but as an adventure picture it develops well, taking us gradually further towards the mystery of the legend of Kong, then follows Kong as the whole drama of his attempted capture plays out. The music also, is great, and along with mist and good cinematography helps create a mysterious atmosphere. The beginning is fairly talky, but it picks up. And the lovely Fay Wray offers reason enough to watch this on her own. If I was Kong, i know i'd beat the hell out of any dinosaur there was in order to protect her!

Luckily, King Kong came in the period between 1930 and 1934 when there was no production code in Hollywood, so content was not censored. A couple years later we wouldn't have had the pleasure of seeing Fay Wray clad in a torn to shreds jungle jane costume, and especially not then falling in the water wearing said outfit! And probably not the degree of violence we have here: in one particular fight Kong has with T-rex he breaks the dinosaur's head by pulling its jaws so far open!

The vintage special effects are great. They're so fun for quaintness value, but in places they're actually really good. The wrestling match with the T-rex, when Kong cracks a giant snake's back, and especially when he shakes the men off the log - all these sequences in particular were very well done. When I think about it, these effects aren't as quaint next to today's as you might initially think. How would we do a convincing giant ape onscreen (how will Peter Jackson do it in 2005)? By computer? Most of our completely computerised creatures at this writing are ridiculously fake looking. Try the ridiculous creature in Hulk? Everyone commented on how fake it looked. I'll go for the much more fun stop-motion Hickenlooper Kong over Hulk anyday.

And the famous climax in New York City, which ends on the Empire State Building with Kong swatting at planes, is marvellous.
63 out of 85 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
He's A Big Boy.
daveisit1 December 2000
This movie was awesome. After recently watching it for the first time since I was five years old I was amazed. The production and editing were brilliant, and the effects left me stunned. The small attention to detail throughout the movie complete this 1933 masterpiece.

8.5 out of 10
72 out of 101 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Great Escape
Released at the height of the Great Depression, "King Kong" was the ultimate great escape for audiences. Its greatest legacy is that over seventy years later, it still has that uncanny ability to completely transport the viewer into its fantasy world. This amazing adventure film is still one of the most viscerally exciting spectacles ever made and changed the course of movie history.

The stop-motion animation was the most amazing special effects of its day and still hold up pretty well. The amazing sense of spectacle they created have inspired some of the greatest filmmakers of their generations. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson wouldn't have been inspired to make the films they made had Kong not brilliantly paved the way.

Aside from the technical innovations, you have a great music score from Max Steiner (who later scored "Gone With the Wind") that created the template for what movie scoring could do. He paved the way for the likes of John Williams and James Horner. Movie music, too, could be an art, and Steiner was the first to realize that with "King Kong."

Finally, you have the story, which is so much more than just a B-movie serial. It's amazing to find a special effects film that works on so many complex levels aside from the visuals. On one level this a innovative riff on the classic "Beauty and Beast" story with screen legend Fay Wray pitch perfect as actress Ann Darrow, the object of Kong's unrequited affections. On another level, this is gentle satire on movie making, with the reckless actions and sense of adventure and spectacle of director Carl Denham mirroring the real life adventures and desires of Kong's producer and co-director, the mythic-sized Merrion C. Cooper. Still, on a third level, this can be seen as a fable about the greatest jungle of them all, modern civilization, brilliantly realized through New York City. Not many films of this nature could be so rich.

This iconic classic was "modernized" egregiously in 1976, and redone as a loving, period-piece homage in 2005.
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Still the Eighth Wonder
Jamie Moffat1 June 1999
It would be pointless to pretend that this film hasn't aged at all. In just about every respect it shows its years; the special effects, the acting, the dialogue. And yet "King Kong" is a film which definitely survives the passage of time. It is simply above the sort of criticism that applies to most movies.

It would be wrong to think of "King Kong" as camp or quaint. It packs a lot of primordial energy into its 100 minutes. What it has in abundance is heart, an element that every sequel, remake and spinoff has pretty much lacked. The richly textured visuals are truly unsurpassed - the nightmare of Kong's island always reminds me of one of Goya's more opulent fantasies. Visually "King Kong" is a true masterpiece.

At the risk of a lynching, I feel I should point out that "King Kong" offers one of Fay Wray's lesser performances. This very sympathetic actress has been justly rediscovered by later generations; in her own time I suspect she was rather taken for granted. "King Kong" is responsible for this reappraisal, and she is certainly very appealing and rises to the (not very high) demands of the role. But if you really want to see her at her best, take a look at Von Stroheim's "The Wedding March" or Walsh's "The Bowery". She could do more than scream - though "Kong" proves that she could do that magnificently.

"King Kong" is a true masterpiece, and I have to laugh at those who imply racist overtones. Clearly there was no such intent on the part of the producers, and I'm very hard pressed to see them even when they have been pointed out. I must have seen this film hundreds of times, and I always look forward to seeing it again. To quote Carl Denham, "Holy Mackerel! What a show!"
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10 out of 10? This deserves 10,000 out of 10.
G.Spider14 June 1999
Ignore the cranks who seem to look for subliminal messages and underlying hidden meanings in everything. This is a monster movie and a love story and never pretends to be everything else.

Hollywood film-makers of today could certainly learn a few things from watching it with its well-written characters, fast-paced and dynamic script which contains barely a dull moment, excellent dialogue and hauntingly memorable music. Willis O'Brien's animation is at its best and Kong himself comes across as a genuine character and not an unsympathetic one. Scenery is also imaginative, with marvellous attention paid to detail, and the monsters are well-designed.

Still the best monster film ever made, if not the best film.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A classic monster film that still holds up today!
gitrich15 January 1999
Willis O'Brien did the special effects for King Kong in 1933 giving him a unique place in film history as one of the most respected animators of all time. In fact, the film still holds up very nicely today not with-standing the high tech computer generated monsters of today. I suspect that everyone would still enjoy King Kong just as much today as back in the early 30s. It's that good.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Classic
Theo Robertson14 January 2006
I watched this a couple of days after Peter Jackson's KING KONG hit the cinemas . I had planned to go to the cinema to see the new version but just found out that it lasted for three hours which is far too long for someone who's addicted to caffeine and nicotine . I much prefer watching a movie with a cup of tea in one hand and a filthy cigarette in the other . Which reminds me that my new year resolution is to give up smoking . Sorry I digress

Perhaps the other thing stopping me is a fear of disappointment . I do confess I was disappointed after seeing THE TWO TOWERS at the cinema probably because I loved FELLOWSHIP so much , a film I didn't really expect much from . You see the original KING KONG is regarded as possibly the greatest monster movie ever made and after seeing it again I can see where it got its reputation from . This is a great Hollywood epic

One thing you must do however is ignore the failings of special effects from a modern day perspective . Yes we know that the title monster is a giant puppet , yes we know those dinosaurs are bloody laughable but that's not what you should be looking at . What makes the movie so enjoyable is the strength of the storytelling , the emotional depth and most important of all the imagination involved , it has a true sense of scale and wonder . I really hated the 1976 remake simply because it featured no giant reptiles on Skull Island ( Though there's other reasons to hate the dire remake too ) and you might bite your lip to stop yourself laughing as the expedition are attacked by a whole host of prehistoric monsters but you've got to admit it's very , very enjoyable as are the scenes in New York at the end
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
To sleep, perchance to dream
winner5528 October 2006
This film has been compared to a dream quite a bit over the years; I didn't know if I could add to that. But reading some of the reviews here, especially from younger writers, it occurred to me that maybe the problem here is that with the arrival of a totalitarian television culture, cheap imitation computer games and gaudy CGI special effects,and with an economy that offers little more than nightmare for the future, perhaps the fascination with dreams that this film evokes for us has itself become out-of-date. Perhaps the age of human dreaming is over.

How vivid are our dreams? How vivid are they when we're not sure what we're dreaming about? I've seen mint-condition prints of this film, and I've seen scratchy gray television prints; surprisingly, the effect is always the same. In fact, it's been ten years since I saw this film last, and as I write, the images appear to me as a stronger memory than anything I actually lived through.

The images are dark, and a bit murky in spots - so are my dreams. The torches of the natives on Skull Island flicker as stars that have fallen to earth. Fay Wray hangs on threads from the posts like an angel with clipped wings. Suddenly, the music stops (and I didn't even notice it playing); then the thunder beats through the jungle's permanent night, except the beating isn't thunder, it's footsteps, and the foliage begins to shake, not from wind, but from the quake of an earth suddenly off its axis - yet no earth could ever be as solid and immovable as this island, for there are no other planets, no other earth but this island - unknowable, dense, impossibly claustrophobic. Then the jungle parts the dark exploding in the dark, and a primal force, vaguely simian, fills the night, extinguishing stars, and Wray's weirdly whisper-like scream still pierces the air, before a dark hand reaches for her....

Kong breathes; no special fx creature seems able to do that, anymore. Kong's fur ripples along the taut lines of his muscles - no fx beast has demonstrated this since. Kong moves more swiftly than any of his offspring; Kong's eyes radiate a pre-rational intelligence; Kong's fury is passionate and implacable.

I've never had any doubt as to who Kong really is: he is everything human still inarticulate, set free to dream in perpetual sleep.

His death is swift - painfully realistic - exactly as one wakes to daylight.

'Twas not beauty killed the beast; rather, the beast is beautiful, and so it must die. Only in dreams can beauty live eternal. But humans are not immortal; everything beautiful passes, and every dream must have its end.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Gods and monsters
paul2001sw-122 August 2004
Forty years before Raquel Welsh, and a whole era before 'Jurassic Park', 'King Kong' was the world's first dinosaur movie. But it wasn't the dinosaurs it featured, but rather the eponymous giant ape, who became perhaps cinema's most enduring icon. The recent death of Fay Wray, the film's star, provides a good opportunity to re-evaluate this classic movie. The most remarkable thing is how exactly this film, made when talkies themselves were less than a decade old, defines the blockbuster to this day. All the elements are there: a ludicrous plot (among the many improbables we have to swallow is the fact that the discovery of living tyranousauri is regarded unremarkable by all); bad acting; a quasi-racist world-view, non-stop action tempered by a little love interest; and stunning special effects. The plot has a surprisingly mature structure, though, and unlike most of its successors, thankfully does not see the need for pyrotechnics right at the start, instead allowing the tension to build before the monster's first appearance. The scene composition is also frequently truly brilliant, especially the scenes of Kong in New York, and also the scene where he bursts through the gates. It's also interesting to catch certain cinematic conventions in an early state of evolution: one is that if characters are shot from a distance, we hear their voices more quietly. Also of note is the very static camera, pre-dating Orson Welles, of course, but additionally constrained by the need to accommodate the special effects: the scenes with the monster do feel more like a silent movie, or a primitive video game (indeed, the first computer game I ever owned was inspired by this movie, which, owing to a surreal Japanese spelling error, was known as 'Donkey Kong'!). 'King Kong' is certainly no donkey of a film; but in some ways it's a little disappointing to see how little the action adventure movie has advanced from its template in 71 years.
27 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kong Is Classic
hollywoodjohnny19 October 2012
King Kong (1933)

I had been anticipating viewing this for a long time. Back in '05 when Peter Jackson's remake came out I went to the theatre to see it and really enjoyed it. The story was awesome, the setting was really amazing, and the CGI "Kong" was incredible. It wasn't until a few years later when I had wanted to see the original King Kong. I looked all over for it and once I finally had a copy of it (the original black and white, not the colorized version) I was ready for it...

And personally, I think it blew the 2005 remake out of the water, no comparison. Of course, the original lacked a lot of the remake's special effects and vivid colors and whatnot, but that was to be much expected.

But I really loved it. It was amazing to see how they pulled that off back in the 30s. The acting was fantastic, the camera direction was superb, and I was mesmerized by the scenery.

Everyone should at least see this classic once in their lifetime. I know I plan on watching it again very soon...
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the most significant movies of all time.
swedzin8 October 2012
This amazingly large film, is definitely one of the biggest movies ever made, even in his genre, a mixture of adventure, fantasy, SF and horror. The movie that set some new standards that were used over and over, most importantly - the meaning of a true blockbuster adventure. This film was one of the first mega hit blockbusters at big budget and high gross (for that time). Directed by Ernest Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, these two guys were credited for creating a large ape adventure. The story was really something new back then, a little bit with that "beauty and the best" element, which goes pretty good here. A director Carl Denham (played by great Robert Armstorng, who created a very lively, charismatic and enthusiastic, original version of Carl Denham) and his film crew travels on a isolated island where they stumble upon a giant ape that takes away their leading actress Ann Darrow (played by lovely Fay Wray. Alas Fay got stuck forever with that role, and most of the time, she played scream queens, but, she did a terrific job here, and that only matters), only to capture the ape and brought him to New York (an excellent ground for one of the most thrilling endings in the history of cinema).

Now, the story was written by Edgard Wallace, whose idea about giant ape was really astonishing, in that period, in movies before the Second world war, he created a modern story idea about the beauty and the beast. Wallace put a rational amount of melodrama in the film, because without it, it would be just another mindless film featuring a large monster, only with cool special effects. And the special effects were amazing for that time, no wonder that filming took almost two years, it was a lot of work to do, and really, I enjoy these stop-motion effects more than today's CGI. Nevertheless, this "dimension" of Kong's which makes him more closely to human, just because he fells in love with the leading lady, makes the plot better and it determined a pattern which will be used in later films. It is interesting that, the same year, The Son of Kong (1933) was filmed and released with even higher melodrama.

So, the cinematography (for that time), make up, filming locations and others were pretty amazing, everything is pretty amazing, to mention the musical score of one of the old master movie composers Max Steiner, who made a badass score. We also have an old manly, heroic element depicted in John Driscoll (played by Bruce Cabot), who saves Ann from the clutches of the large beast. To also mention a fact that Kong is not alone in the island, there were tribes that worships Kong as a God, but that tribe looked little silly... and also - dinosaurs. That's right, there were bunch of dinosaurs, also large insects who pumped action and adventure even more, and don't even let me start talking about the brilliant duel between Kong and T.Rex... now that was amazing! Earnest Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper were big fans of wrestling and they directed the fighting choreography between two beasts. That's professional, even with stop-motion special effects.

If you haven't seen this film, not even the two remakes... see the 1933 first, than proceed to the other, please don't watch remakes, you'll ruin the impression. Watch it and enjoy!
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
CG or stop motion?? I prefer the latter!!
Ulrik Sander-Pedersen7 March 2006
Warning: I admit. This is a terribly biased review as I hate CG animations and I'm a huge fan of the original 1933 KING KONG. Read on if you dare...

Storyline: The disreputable Carl Denham (Jack Black) and his film crew travel to the unexplored Skull Island to shoot a movie starring the beautiful Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) as leading lady. On the island the film crew encounter first a tribe of primitive cannibals and the giant ape Kong who falls in love with Ann Darrow. They use Ann Darrow as bait to catch Kong and transport him back to New York. But all hell breaks lose in New York when Kong escapes from a presentation show to seek out his beloved Ann Darrow...

Since I first heard Peter Jackson was remaking KING KONG I had been anxious to see what the New Zealandish director of infamous low budget/no budget horror movies such as BAD TASTE and BRAINDEAD, the funny mockumentary FORGOTTEN SILVER, and the overrated LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy had done with the perhaps biggest monster icon in the history of cinema. Remaking such huge cinematic milestones is always near-impossible. Many people have nostalgic memories of the giant ape, and therefore everybody will have opinions.

Surprise, surprise - the movie was actually good! And much better than the 1976 and 1986 versions. Most impressive are the CG special effects. For example: the fast-paced "Kong vs. dinosaur(s)" scenes or the small details on Kong's body. His hair. His eyes. And his realistic movements. Andrew Lesnie's cinematography looks stunning, and the movie is generally full of stunning backgrounds and set designs. Secondly Jack Black nails the Carl Denham character by never overdoing the sentimentality or comedy, unlike fellow comedic actors Robbin Williams and Jim Carrey. Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody, along with the rest of the person gallery, struggle to give their cliché cardboard characters life, but that doesn't matter too much, because in reality this movie is all about Kong. Thematically it deals with impossible relationship among uneven sizes.

But, aside from being an hour too long, I have another more fundamental, yet highly subjective, problem with Peter Jackson's KING KONG. This is where the inevitable subjective and nostalgic criticism comes in: I want stop motion animations and not CG animations! Although Kong looks better than ever CG is just too slick and, in lack of a better word, "undemanding" for me. Admittedly the 1933 KING KONG looks laughable compared to today's standards, but one can only imagine the impact the stop motion technique must have had on its audience in the early 30's. To me stop motion just has a certain unique visual quality that CG will never be to deliver. Nowadays CG easily handles anything, while in 'dem good ol' days it had to be done manually. And the result just came out more cinematic. I enjoy looking at Kong 2005, but when the initial wow-effect has worn off I find Kong 1933 more exciting to look at. As with all good film elements it's hard to pinpoint the exact quality of stop motion, but it has something to do with visual poetry (to use German director Werner Herzog's expression). The CG is so overdone and slick that it gives you all the answers, and doesn't leave room for the imagination. Stop motion looks more strange, terrible, mysterious, funny, and... poetic!

I welcome CG animations to the world of cinema, but only when used rightfully. Hollywood shouldn't forgot to reflect on what qualities they neglect by always taking the easy route. If you want a modern Hollywood action popcorn blockbuster then Peter Jackson's KING KONG is a fine choice, but I highly recommend that you seek out the 1933 version to see what they accomplished back then. Judge for yourself which one is superior. Remember to get the original black/white version, and not the colorized version. 7/10
10 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It's not as bad as it seems
letitbe189 May 2017
Whether it's the movie poster or the year that it was made that makes you think twice, don't let it. This movie truly is a must watch because I think it beats Jack Black and his 3 and half hour movie out of the park. It's so simple yet complex because for the time period this is a tough movie to pull off and they did. Yeah, the story may be rushed compared to the newer one but that's because it's only an hour and forty minutes. The story still brings you right into the action and keeps you interested, the monkey may not be all that realistic but for how early in film history it is, it's decent. The camera staying stationary for the entire film makes it easy for us follow along and watch the scene as a whole and not forcing us to focus on one thing. I also recommend watching the color version of it, it makes it so much more appealing because the costumes and colors in it are very pretty.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The King is dead ! Long live the King! (dad)
leplatypus11 April 2017
I saw this classic while i was a kid and my first feelings still continue today while i'm an adult: the clash of civilization / nature is really gripping and the violence of every side is frightening… It's amazing to see that in the 30s, the movies language was already finished because except for the special effects, this movie equals (and sometimes beats) all current productions: the story is clear, direct, intriguing, the cast is talented and the characters totally recognizable and there is a real, deep craft to build the sets (i really like when they are climbing down the cliff and you can see on the horizon the boat and the big door)! The score really supports what happens on screen, either action, romance or communication... As for the effects, this movie is the proof that CGI are not the miracle: computers weren't invented then however King Kong (and its bestiary) looks alive and with feelings! You are afraid for Ann and then you are afraid for King Kong... In a way, there is as much emotion and care here than with the best Cameron or LOTR trilogy! So it's really a masterpiece and each year the movie gets older, it adds value as this happens in an America more and more distant... For sure today dumb people would criticize the racial prejudices as whatever you can write is considered as an attack!
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews