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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.18%
Average: 10.29%
Pretty Bad: 1.47%
Total Crap: 5.88%

2 reviews, 56 user ratings

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King Kong (1933)
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by Jay Seaver

"Kong's a classic, even without overselling it."
5 stars

Let's be honest: A lot of the standard talking points film lovers bring out when talking about movies like "King Kong" might not exactly be false, but they're a little exaggerated. There's not necessarily more life to its stop-motion creatures than there is to a modern CGI construct, the many hands involved in the writing make the story as much a muddle as any modern blockbuster, and its B-movie cast are generally just good enough to get the job done. And yet, even with all these things being more true than we would like to admit, "King Kong" still sets a high standard; the alchemy which makes base materials into fine entertainment is performed well here, and the thrill of creation (as opposed to eighty years of replicating its thrills) makes itself known.

The story, after all, doesn't really make a lick of sense; daredevil filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) has hired a boat to sail to the South Seas to make his greatest picture yet, but this time, he aims to satisfy his critics by giving it "love interest". That takes the form of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), a pretty but poor girl Denham snatches off the streets of New York City, much to the initial chagrin of the ship's first mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). When they reach Skull Island, the group finds something beyond their wildest dreams - a huge wall meant to the monsters who live in the islands' wilderness away from the natives. The mightiest winds up being Kong, a twenty-five-foot ape from which Driscoll and Denham must rescue Ann.

The whole thing is ridiculous, of course, but it's such earnest, unapologetic pulp as to wind up charming. It's from a time when men could express a desire for pure adventure without qualifying it or being told that the true adventure was settling down and raising some kids - and, just as importantly, before this sort of pulp fiction mutated into a reactionary thing that reveled in its political incorrectness. Sure, Denham is somewhat bitter about people wanting to dilute the manly nature of his jungle adventures, but he never demeans Ann for it. His comment on how blondes are a rarity on Skull Island comes out a lot less racist than it could. The movie shows that 1930s America still had some growing up to do, but at least it's not going to make a modern audience wince too badly.

Besides, the tendency to think about such things goes out the window when it's time for King Kong himself to show up on screen. Willis O'Brien's special effects work isn't perfect - Kong and the dinosaurs sometimes seem a little too bendy to have a skeleton while the models of Ann and Jack don't quite move like the actors do in close-up (same goes for the puppet used for close-ups of Kong's face) - but the animation is quite smooth and effective, especially for the time, with pretty good choreography to the battles between Kong and the dinos so that they actually look like fights rather than just random pawing. The last act, as Kong breaks his bonds and wreaks havoc in Manhattan, is justifiably one of the best-remembered action sequences ever made.

The human cast isn't bad, either. Fay Wray plays the damsel in distress quite well, giving Ann an upbeat attitude even as she spends a lot of time freaking out and screaming. Bruce Cabot makes for an enjoyably square-jawed hero, with Robert Armstrong playing along similar lines as the cocky filmmaker. Frank Reicher is a more grounded presence as the ship's captain. The common denominator is that nobody in the cast of characters is played as tortured or even particularly troubled; it's an enjoyably decisive group, even if the decision is to run or cower.

That straight-ahead attitude serves the film well; even though King Kong doesn't appear until almost halfway through the movie, it chugs along nicely getting there. I half-wonder if a fair amount of what makes King Kong such an entertaining movie is that it's in many ways a throwback to the recently-completed silent era, focused on visuals and action rather than dialogue. The wall on Skull Island looks like something out of a Fritz Lang adventure, and even the soundtrack (an early example of films having a dramatic underscore) brings to mind silents with live accompaniment.

That I'm inclined to make those comparisons does show how today, "King Kong" brings forth appreciation of it in context as much as pure childlike joy. That appreciation's not entirely academic, though; it's still a ton of fun, worth watching even if it wasn't the granddaddy of giant monster movies.

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originally posted: 07/10/13 14:08:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/13/15 скачать книги гаррисон And what do you write?, 3 stars
11/13/14 Roosevelt What's the last date I can post this to to arrive in time for Christmas? <a href=" h 5 stars
11/13/14 Forrest Could you transfer $1000 from my current account to my deposit account? <a href=" htt 4 stars
11/11/14 Bruno What's the last date I can post this to to arrive in time for Christmas? <a href=" h 5 stars
11/10/14 Carlos What's the last date I can post this to to arrive in time for Christmas? <a href=" h 3 stars
11/08/14 Casey What's the last date I can post this to to arrive in time for Christmas? <a href=" h 3 stars
7/11/13 Charles Kill Still a classic that's actually enjoyable to watch today unlike others. *cough*Citizen Kane 4 stars
9/14/12 CORDWAINER SMITH Still the best of all monster movies then and now. 5 stars
10/04/10 art i was wrong,this 1933 original is NEAT!,ditto for the 2005 one, ZERO for 76 one! 4 stars
6/03/10 User Name You don't watch it for the wooden acting or the sub-par dialog, you watch it for KONG! 3 stars
2/25/10 art THE 1976 REMAKE BURRIES this verison! 1 stars
10/26/09 Sad89 This was almost a full brick of tofu, lightly fried, and served in a delicious broth. , <a 5 stars
10/24/09 driver15 Short term employment for youth workers, or even job-creation measures that bring in worker 5 stars
10/24/09 BadGirl39 Stopping and then reducing the Islamization of our countries will require a discontinuity, 5 stars
10/23/09 Wolf56 This is one of several standard approaches to the meaning of negation in logic programming, 3 stars
10/23/09 Red96 These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated heada 2 stars
5/24/09 art PURE SCIENCE-_FICTION,! 3 stars
9/21/08 action movie fan a great classic!!!! none of the remakes can equal it-old, but thrilling and exciting 5 stars
12/14/07 David Cohen Time has not dimished the impact of this movie one bit! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Well made for its era. Worth owning for the sake of it being a classic. 4 stars
5/05/06 dionwr A classic; still works 4 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing monkey love 5 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A what Dave said. 5 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius Best monster movie ever. EVER. 5 stars
5/02/06 William Goss It's a'ight. 4 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH is passport a sexy word? 5 stars
4/22/06 Poopy Woopy One of the 10 best films of all time 5 stars
3/27/06 Quigley Peter JAckson's Kong is the best, but this one is an unforgettable classic American icon 5 stars
1/11/06 Jordon What a fuckin piece of crap movie. King Kong is full of shit 1 stars
1/03/06 Luke Blackadder Go Fuck yourself Gremlin, Mark can say anything he wants 1 stars
12/26/05 John the action is phenomenal - a tight and great monster movie 5 stars
12/24/05 Green Gremlin Grow and and get a life, Radburn. This is a landmark film !!! 5 stars
12/14/05 Mark Radburn King Kong is the World's Worstest Movie Ever 1 stars
12/13/05 lance timeless classic!!!!! 5 stars
12/12/05 G ground breaking lots of effort 5 stars
11/23/05 Jeff Anderson A CLASSIC! For everyone that trashed this cinematic brilliance, I PITY YOU! 5 stars
10/12/05 Tom Burns A good movie. 4 stars
7/27/05 the untrained eye An American landmark film. A piece of true folklore. 5 stars
7/03/05 Quigley this film rules for its time. still an enjoyable ape/horror flick 5 stars
4/27/05 R.W. Welch Brilliant variation on Beauty & the Beast theme. A lifetime classic. 5 stars
12/21/03 john even after 70(!) years it is still a truly exiting action film 5 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick sometimes scary, but has certainly dated. It is still a landmark in horror. 5 stars
8/27/03 orizano rrrooooaaaarrr!!! 5 stars
7/30/02 Michael S. Browne A perfect "old monster movie" that's actually well-crafted and genuinely entertaining 5 stars
6/24/02 Charles Tatum Creaky but entertaining 4 stars
1/25/02 Andrew Carden The Beginning Was Kind Of Slow, but It Got Alot Better. 4 stars
1/23/02 Some Guy What can you say? Claymation is the best. ;) 5 stars
3/08/01 Trashstar Ernest and Merion were way ahead of their time, very subtley directed. 4 stars
1/26/01 R.W. Welch Astounding piece of early film work that remains as hypnotic as ever. 5 stars
11/25/00 The Evil Penguin not even close to a love story 3 stars
11/21/00 Bobby Magna very exciting 5 stars
11/13/00 joh a classic- one of the geatest 5 stars
9/24/00 Kristina Holmes Kong is definately worth seeing 4 stars
8/18/00 Zoe Kong has some good moves not only with the ladies but with taking down hisEnemies!Hilarious 5 stars
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  07-Apr-1933 (NR)
  DVD: 22-Nov-2005

  N/A (PG)

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