King Kong (1933) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
476 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
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.
174 out of 193 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Some aspects of KING KONG people forget.
boris-263 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!
173 out of 193 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"It was Beauty that killed the Beast"
Smells_Like_Cheese10 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.

52 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
barnabyrudge28 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!
140 out of 161 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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!

38 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
38 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
135 out of 173 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
66 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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
62 out of 79 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
58 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
15 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tongue in cheek movie about Hollywood.
Ben_Cheshire6 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.
67 out of 91 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The original and best
grantss3 March 2019
Famed movie producer Carl Denham is about to embark on his latest project. He has his ship chartered, his crew assembled and his leading lady hired. The location: an uncharted island off Sumatra. The main star of his film: a huge gorilla, King Kong.

The original King Kong, and best. Good plot, with a solid set up, a fair degree of intrigue and exciting developments. Good adventure and action along the way.

Some good sub-plots and character development too.

Probably the most outstanding area of this movie is the quality of the special effects. Yes, by today's CGI standards the special effects are pretty basic but by 1933's standards they must have been revolutionary. Even today, when we're used to seamless CGI, many of the effects in this movie, especially the huge gorilla and dinosaurs, look pretty life-like.

And these special effects contribute some of the most iconic images in film history, not least of which is the famous scene with King Kong on the Empire State Building, swatting at fighter planes.

A seminal movie in the history of cinema.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Still the best!
hennystruijk20 February 2019
Special effects may have improved..... But this is still the best version. It stands alone. And hard to believe in a couple of years-this film will be 90 years old! (writing this in 2019). Fay Wray still the best screamer. I have enjoyed this film since I first saw it in the 1960's. A true classic.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pure entertainment
lynpalmer118 December 2018
This movie is pure entertainment from opening to finish. I have seen this movie probably more than any other in my 57 years. Every time it's on I find myself just thinking I'll watch for a few minutes, then find myself absolutely mesmerized. I have never had the desire to be an actress but I can't help but think that Fay Wray must have had an absolute blast playing this part and I would have chosen this role over any other. Special effects are still amazing after all these years. The emotion you feel for Kong is real and poignant. A must see for everyone.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Great Escape
WriterDave26 December 2005
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.
16 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Still the Eighth Wonder
Jamie-581 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!"
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
13 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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!
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Film That Made Me Want to Become a Filmmaker Warning: Spoilers
This film is a technical marvel. Every shot is perfectly crafted and each scene progresses nicely. It has probably the best pacing of a film I've ever seen. Not a single scene drags, everything is needed. While the acting/writing is stilted at points, what makes the film is the imagination. The climax is the most iconic in all of cinema. As a 4 year-old kid, The image of Kong on the Empire State Building was hypnotizing. That was the moment that made me want to become a filmmaker.

People will argue that Citizen Kane is the most influential film ever made. While that film does have so much editing/camera tricks never accomplished before it, to me it lacks imagination. That film while fictional, is based in a realistic setting, and about things that happens in reality. That's the one thing at the end of the day that films aren't supposed to accomplish. Films are supposed to entertain, while spreading a message you can learn from.

I can talk for hours about this film. For 1933, what they accomplished is just unbelievable and jaw-dropping. Nowadays, most people won't appreciate the film because of it's "dated" special effects. There's no suspension of disbelief anymore. Even just the fact that a film is in black & white will turn people away, which is ridiculous. The effort that Willis O' Brien and his team put in has never been replicated again. As many times it's been remade, this classic will never be rematched. THIS is cinema.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
True Royalty...
azathothpwiggins5 May 2019
KING KONG is more than a mere monster movie. Even though I love the stop-motion by Willis O'Brien, the adventure on Skull island, and the eventual New York City rampage, there's more going on than special effects and thrills. KING KONG tells several tales, including the primal "man vs. beast", the environmental "man's exploitation of the natural world", and the forbidden love story between Kong and Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), where the creature's ferocity is offset by his gentle, protectiveness toward her. The fact that O'Brien was able to animate a tiny model and not only make it appear huge, but also make it a living, sympathetic character in the film, is a tribute to O'Brien's creative ability. Within it's glued-on rabbit fur, beats a living heart. KING KONG is a morality tale that causes self examination. So many decades after its original release, I still cry every damn time he climbs the Empire State Building!...
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Excellent monster movie!
Markie_Mark9919 February 2019
I remember watching the 2005 King Kong movie in the theater and not thinking much of it because it wasn't anything too special. However, watching the original makes me appreciate the idea of King Kong. Not only were the effects revolutionary, but the story and characters to go along with it were stellar. It takes the classic idea of a misunderstood monster and puts a more emotional twist on it. You feel for both the damsel in distress and the monster alike.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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...
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
28 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

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

Recently Viewed