I was unsure about how I was going to approach the idea of reviewing a film that is so highly regarded and yet potentially could now come across as incredibly dated; after all, King Kong was originally released over seventy years ago and special effects techniques have developed so much during this time. How would a movie so reliant on its ground-breaking stop motion animation and model effects stand up to the scrutiny of a modern day audience? Happily, the magic is still there and the timeless tale effortlessly enthralled a contemporary crowd at London’s Roxy Bar & Screen last Saturday evening from beginning to end.
King Kong is the story of a film crew led by movie director Carl Denham who travel to the fog enshrouded Skull Island to complete his latest production. Once on the island their leading lady, Ann Darrow, is captured by natives and offered up as sacrifice to the mysterious “Kong”, who turns out to be a massive thirty foot tall gorilla. Kong takes the girl into the depths of the jungle with the ship’s crew in hot pursuit and after various battles with a menagerie of monsters is captured himself by Denham and his crew and shipped off to New York. Once there, King Kong is put on public display but soon escapes and starts tearing up the city. It won’t be giving anything away to say that the film’s climax takes place with a huge battle on top of the Empire State Building.
A combination of a classic almost fairy-tale storyline, non-stop action, solid performances and breath-taking special effects combine to make a movie that is still stunning to watch. Unlike many early monster movies, King Kong’s pace never drags. It’s non-stop action all the way with set-piece following set-piece as Kong battles various stop-motion dinosaurs as he tries to prevent them from munching on our helpless heroine. These scenes are surprisingly gory, with natives being stamped into the ground and a dinosaur having his jaws ripped apart by King Kong. Many of these scenes were often cut out of their original television screenings due to their graphic content. Some of the effects are so convincing, I actually found myself wondering how they were achieved and just watched in open-mouthed wonder as the spectacle unspooled before me.
Fay Wray’s iconic performance as the beautiful Ann Darrow is another plus in the film’s favour. She combines a wide-eyed innocence with a knowing sexuality particularly in her scenes opposite love interest Bruce Cabot. Add to this a wonderful music score, superb sets and ahead of it’s time direction and you have a true classic that embraces romance, horror, action and adventure in a filmic journey of a lifetime.
Review by Richard Gladman
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