Comfortably perched on it’s own metaphorical Empire State Building as the greatest action/adventure movie ever made, King Kong lives up to his name. Inspiring virtually everyone who ever made a blockbuster in Hollywood, without out it we wouldn’t have Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, the genius of Ray Harryhausen; the list is endless and with good reason.
The story is pure pulp. Crew go to mysterious island to shoot a movie for an unscrupulous director and instead find the giant ape, Kong: the 8th wonder of the world, who takes an exuberant interest to lead actress Anne Darrow (muscular lunged Fay Wray giving the most iconic screams in movie history) and spirits her away into the jungle. Wading through scene after scene of death inducing dinosaur scrapes (it’s a miracle there’s enough crew left to drive the boat) the crew eventually rescue Darrow, subdue Kong and take both back to New York where it’s hoped they’ll make a ton of cash. Predictably, Kong busts loose, re-acquires Anne and rampages across the city until his date with the Empire State Building and a horde of bi-planes seals his destiny.
If you needed a yardstick to measure Kong’s influence then a pretty good one would be that despite being made in 1933 it continues to have relevance even to this day, fitting pretty much any metaphor you care to throw at it. The rape of the natural world? Check. An insight into toxic masculinity? Believe it or not…
In fact anyone still quoting that beauty and the beast stuff in this day and age comes across as having a pretty narrow and naïve reading, especially as we’re living in the #timesup generation. You see it’s worth pointing out that King Kong is only a love story when seen from Kong’s point of view and isn’t exactly the Fred Astair to Anne Darrow’s Gene Kelly time has falsely led you to believe. After all, Kong IS an animal and a violent, uncouth one at that; when not cracking the jaws of T-Rexes he’s sniffing his finger after having a play with Anne’s skirt and treating her like a possession no matter how much she protests. No, he’s more Brando in Streetcar Named Desire or De Niro in Raging Bull, a bullying thug bred by life to think only with his fists and to selfishly take what he wants when he wants. Therefore when he actually feels for someone else – or his brutish approximation of it, it’s certainly not reciprocated- he’s utterly unprepared for what it does to him and the fact he let’s Darrow get in his head, despite her screaming at him in horror every time they meet, is what throws him off his game at the worst possible time imaginable. The real tragedy is not so much that beauty killed the beast, but that the hopelessly fish-out-of-water Kong and man ever crossed paths at all.
Of course, Kong is such a peerless movie that you needn’t look any further than the surface and you’d still have a near flawless movie going experience loaded with thrills and spills and over loaded with iconic moments. Take your pick: the T-Rex fight, the New York finale, Darrow being sacrificed, Kong straining to drop a log (the tree you dirty buggers, the TREE!), all of which easily expel any minor flaws that there may be (bland male lead, light characterisation) to create a masterclass in filmmaking that has endeared numerous decades to prove that, yes. Kong is indeed King.