King Kong (1933)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother Special Edition)
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Overall Rating 79%
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Connections: King Kong

A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: April 28, 2005
In this classic tale, we find filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) setting out to film his latest film. Carl is known for shooting pictures of ferocious animals, such as lions, rhinos, and tigers... however, the film he plans to shoot this time around will put all of his other movies (and all other movies, period) to shame. Carl needs a leading lady for his movie, but is unable to find one due to the conditions that the crew will be working under. He sets out on the eve of the ships departure in order to find someone to fill the spot, and stumbles upon Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) at a roadside fruit stand. The owner of the fruit stand has caught Ann in the process of attempting to steal from him, but Carl slips the man a buck and takes Ann to a nearby restaurant for some coffee and chit-chat. He tells her about the film that he is about to start shooting, and offers her the leading role. Ann is a bit frightened about the long voyage that will take them halfway around the world, but having nobody to go home to and nothing to lose, she accepts his offer.

Carl, Ann, and the rest of the crew set out to their destination, which turns out to be Skull Island. We find out that this undiscovered (by modern man) island is home to a huge tribe of primitive natives, and that the entire island is surrounded by a barrier reef. Now, what makes this particular island so interesting is the fact that there's a huge wall cutting off a tiny portion of the island from the rest of the land. It's pretty apparent that this wall was built to keep something away from the natives, but what could it be? Carl intends to find out, and also film a movie in the process. Meanwhile, aboard the ship, Ann is falling in love with Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), a member of the crew who at first objects to Ann even being aboard. His feelings towards Ann soon change, however, and the two fall more and more in love.

Finally, the crew arrives at the island, only to be shooed away by the natives. During this encounter, the native chief (Noble Johnson) notices the golden-haired Ann, and offers to trade six of his women to Carl for her so that he may offer her to "Kong", the beast behind the wall. Carl refuses the offer, and he and his men head back to the ship to contemplate on what to do next. The natives won't take no for an answer, however, as they sneak aboard the ship and kidnap Ann so that they may hand her over to Kong. This sends the crew back onto the island, where they must trek through the jungle beyond the wall in order to rescue Ann. Along the way, they encounter ancient dinosaurs, huge snakes, and all sorts of other nasties... not the least of which is King Kong himself.

Here, we have an example of a timeless film. It was so good, in fact, that it spawned numerous sequels and a few remakes (with Peter Jackson being the latest to try his hand at retelling the tale later this year). What makes this film so good and stand the test of the time so well is not excellent special effects (though they were certainly mind-blowing at the time of release), nor is it the many action sequences where Kong fights off dinosaurs, nor is it even the absolutely classic scene in which Kong climbs the Empire State Building while holding Fay Wray in his giant hand. No, what makes this film rank so high in the history of cinema is the very basics of the movie; an excellent, well-flowing storyline coupled with award-winning performances from the actors and actresses involved. Although the revolutionary (for the time) special effects certainly played a part in the huge success of the film, I feel that even without that, this movie would have definitely been remembered for the storyline and those performances alone. Featured here is everything one could ask for from a film... a storyline with a great introduction, a clear-cut goal (rescue Ann and stay alive), plenty of surprise plot developments, and of course, more action than one could shake a stick at. Kong battles it out with more than a couple of dinosaurs and primitive beasts, with each scene doing a hell of a job to progress the storyline. Also, the way that Kong's movements and facial expressions conveys his emotions so well is another huge plus to the film... obviously, Kong can't speak, but that doesn't mean that he is a mindless beast. The facial expressions and actions tell the tale from his point of view here, something that we really don't see enough of these days.

Now, back to those special effects. While it's true that they're far from being of the caliber of, say, Jurassic Park, they weren't exactly laughable either. The men responsible for putting the huge Kong on screen did an excellent job at showing the sheer size of the huge beast, especially considering that the models used to bring him to life were only eighteen inches high and animated through stop-motion techniques. Yes, these were the days before fancy CGI effects, and not a single "man in a monkey suit" scene was shot for this movie... the men responsible truly put some work into bringing him to life, and the results were well worth it. The human cast here were just as good in their roles as the beast, and it would be a waste of time going down the cast list and critiquing each performance. Suffice it to say that anyone with any sort of significant role did an excellent, highly believable job at bringing their characters to life.

Truly, this is one of those classic films that deserves every bit of praise and recognition that it receives. Overrated? Not in the least. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added October 24, 2009 at 1:43pm
One of my fondest childhood films that I've seen a million times. Even watching it now you an still appreciate how revolutionary and ingenious the special effects were. We just don't see this kind of attention to detail anymore. Great performances, a classic story, and one of the most iconic characters to ever appear in movies. Without a doubt, 10/10.
George Snow #2: George Snow - added March 13, 2016 at 5:49pm
Just watched this after years, and it's AMAZING.
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