I am often wary of approaching the classics I have not seen, particularly ones that receive a constant stream of praise. The original King Kong is one such film. I was familiar with all the classic scenes and knew the whole plot, yet when I finally got around to watching this classic I was enamored by its incandescence and narrative mastery. King Kong is often placed on top 100 lists alongside Citizen Kane and Seven Samurai and I was uncertain that it was deserving of such praise. I was sorely wrong. It is deserved of all critical praise, particularly is well-executed narrative, technological advancements and stellar cinematography. In fact, my only criticism for the work is its acting, which while overly exaggerated only reflects the accepted style of the early thirties. King Kong is the veritable beast of cinema and exudes all he elements of the magic movies can bring viewers. King Kong is magnificent.
As many of you may know, from either the original or the many subsequent remakes, King Kong follows Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) as he searches for the next big thing in cinema verite. On a hunch, Denham hires a crew to begin filming on an unnamed island. This crew includes the perfectly American John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), as well as a very large amount of uncredited actors, including a rather racially insensitive Chinese cook, not to mention the pseudo-minstrel village people of Skull Island. Denham's unspoken quest is soon revealed to be a quest to capture images of the elusive beast King Kong. This entails using a young woman Denham has hired named Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) as bait. The bait works and leads to King Kong taking Wray into his lair that is a literal pocket of the prehistoric era, complete with a variety of long forgotten monsters. In an act of love, Driscoll enrolls himself, as well as Denham and the crew, in a rescue mission. This portion consumes a considerable amount of the film and is a masterpiece of technical achievement and cinematic composition in its battles, multi-layered scenes and editing. Eventually Denham and Driscoll rescue Darrow and manage to subdue Kong deciding that their best bet is to take the beast back with them and exploit it for monetary gain. At this point, you are probably familiar with the story, it goes awry quickly and Kong attempts to take his prize in Darrow, unfortunately, Kong is quickly attacked by planes and falls to his death, a fatal case of beauty consuming a beast. A simple film that is eloquently told and forever timeless.
I will exempt myself from critical analysis for this work, because I would only touch on the issue of exploitation of others as it occurs so obviously in this film. Instead, I will offer up AFI's list of the best movies ever, which includes King Kong. While it is not the best list ever composed it is rather respectable and one that I plan to knock out sooner rather than later.
Obtaining a Blu-Ray should be understood on this one, a copy is necessary or you cannot even consider yourself a fan of film. Buy a copy and share it with your family and friends, they will thank you.