Your travel experiences aren’t complete until you find a place that’s home to a giant monkey who falls in love with you. That’s my personal motto, sure, but Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) finds herself in exactly that boat. Eek, boats. I bet she’ll never accept a ride from a strange movie producer ever again after her trip to Skull Island. Geez, even the name of the primitive place has to make a girl shudder. Couldn’t they call it “Fabulous Island” or “Club Med (Now With Rampaging Apes!)” or something?
Not that any of that nonsense sinks this excellent monster movie. King Kong was a technical marvel of 1933 special effects. The stop-motion, while incredibly dated, has a compelling charm. The camera tricks that blended F/X and live-action made it the T2 or Matrix of its day. Kong himself has such savage nobility at the end too. When he nosedives off the top of the Empire State Building (he never really thought his “let’s go way high” plan through), it’s bound to get to you a little bit.
Not that all the characters are memorable for the right reasons. Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot are awfully craptastic in this picture, although Cabot is given some lines that not even a motivated Robert De Niro could sell. Armstrong and Cabot stand in for the 2 guys who made the movie, Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack. Maybe Mer and Ernie are this hammy and/or wooden on their typical tropical adventures. Who can say? It’s not like the original Scream Queen Fay Wray reminds anyone of Hepburn.
But watch it. Watch it often. It’s worth your time. King Kong earned plenty of American Film Institute plaudits (making both the ’98 and ’07 Top 100 lists, not to mention the Top 100 Thrills, Top 25 Music Scores and even the Top 100 Passions). Ah, monkey love. Nothing beats it…unless you’re a screaming blonde woman who just wants the big lug to leave her alone. As for Kong, add him to the long list of those who had a Broadway show open and close on the same night.