Monday, January 4, 2016

AFI Top 100, #43: "King Kong" (1933)

Movie Stats:
Released 1933 (USA)
American, in English (a small amount of a made-up “native” language, occasionally translated)
Directors - Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Shoedsack
Stars - Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot

Plot Summary:
When a film crew arrives at a remote, tropical island, they discover a terrifying world of primordial beasts. Armstrong stars as the film’s director, Carl Denham; Wray as his beautiful young ingenue, Ann Darrow; and Cabot as the ship’s first mate, Jack Driscoll.

Extreme violence.

Bad Stuff:
It relies too much on coincidence for my taste. [Mild Spoilers] For example, if this island is so remote that it still has dinosaurs on it, how on earth would the boat captain (Englehorn, played by Frank Reicher) know the natives’ language? Or how about when the natives paddle out to the ship to kidnap Ann and just happen to find her standing right there, all alone on the deck with no one else around? [End mild spoilers] It’s all awfully convenient in a way that screams “lazy writing” to me.

The foreshadowing early on is very heavy-handed. I suppose maybe if I didn’t know the story before watching the movie (nearly impossible, I think, in this day and age), it might not seem so obvious.

After a while, it just felt like a lot of screaming and poor decision making to me. That’s how I feel about most horror movies.

Good Stuff:
I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue. It felt really natural, like the way that people actually talk to each other.

Endless screaming aside, I thought the acting was pretty good.

I liked the special effects that didn’t involve clay. While I wouldn’t say that much of it looked “realistic,” it was impressive for the time period. I understand why contemporary moviegoers found it thrilling.

The Verdict:
I feel rather neutral about this movie. I don’t think it’s terrible, but I don’t think it’s amazing either. It has a decent plot, good acting, impressive special effects for the time (apart from the claymation, which is terrible TBH), and fun dialogue. I think part of my apathy toward it is that the King Kong story has never appealed to me. Also, I feel that the movie lingered in the “primordial” section for too long (Do we really need to see Kong defeat THREE different dinosaurs on separate occasions?), only to rush the end. So perhaps I have an editing problem with it as well. Overall, I think it’s reasonably entertaining.

I give it 3.25 stars.


Patricia said...

"After a while, it just felt like a lot of screaming and poor decision making to me."


I've never seen this movie. I've not seen the recent remake either. I feel like I know what happens, so why watch?

My one association with this film is that when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher was trying to make some sort of point that may have had something to do with US Government (or perhaps not. She was one of those spazzy teachers who birdwalked a lot.) Anyway, she said, "You know like Fay Wray?" and we're all--myself and the students--like, "who?" and she flapped her hands around a bit saying, "Fay Wray! You know! Fay Wray!" before she eventually remembered the name King Kong.

That lady was weird.

balyien said...

Like a bunch of teenagers in the 90s would know who Fay Wray was. LOL!

The recent remake is TERRIBLE. I may have seen the 70s version but if I did I can't remember anything about it. Of the two I remember, the original is definitely better.