The original King Kong wowed audiences with its scale and effects in 1933. But how does the iconic film rate against today’s blockbusters?
Visually, the film is largely comparable to Peter Jackson’s remake. No one could criticise the sets, costuming or practical effects by modern standards. The greatest difference in quality is in the creation of Kong and the scenes in which he fights other animals on Skull Island. The stop motion itself is actually impressive for it’s time and viewers who are critical of that style of special effects should remember that they would have a hard time recreating the same technique. The fights between Kong and two dinosaurs are downfalls of the film, not for their technical faults but for failing to contribute to the narrative. The film makers were likely intending to demonstrate the size and strength of Kong while showcasing their effects. Speaking purely for modern cinema-goers, the extended effects-ridden fight scene has become one of the most criticised features of a film. Audience response to the climax of Man of Steel would suggest that this section of King Kong (1933) could turn off some viewers.
The performances in King Kong (1933) are highly engaging for most of the film. There are a few exceptional moments where you aren’t sure if it is the dialogue or the delivery that is uncomfortable. One such moment is when Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) are on deck prior to their arrival at the island and some subtly sexist comments about women on boats from Driscoll are met with a weak, breathy “But I haven’t been any trouble”. If Ann Darrow lived in the present day, Driscoll would have been punched in the face and thrown overboard. I can’t help thinking the giant, ancient ape would have treated her better but this is a film promoting superficiality after all.
Overall I give the film 3 Empire State Buildings out of 5. Should you see it? Always! Will you enjoy it? Check out my comparisons below:
To the remake: Narrative identical, effects rudimentary.
To other horror films: Lighter, more tense than scary.
To other classics: Good, the length and pacing of the film is engaging.