Review by Brian Koller|
2½ stars out of 4
From the first few minutes, it is obvious that
"King Kong" is not a great movie. The script
isn't good enough, full of cliches and one-dimensional
characters. Fortunately, the film is partly
redeemed by the special effects and action scenes.
"King Kong" is a historically important and
entertaining film, but not particularly good.
Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a gregarious
huckster and film producer/director/cameraman
who specializes in jungle spectaculars. He needs
a blonde for a love interest angle, for dramatic
purposes finding her (Fay Wray) at the last possible
moment. Wray is so hungry that she has resorted to
stealing apples, yet she looks terrific. Armstrong
hires her without any knowledge of her character,
experience, or acting ability. Clumsy phrases such as
"square", "straight" and "on the level" are used
as code words to indicate that Armstrong will not
try to seduce Wray.
On a ship headed for an uncharted island (chosen by
Armstrong based upon second-hand information, quite
the gamble) Wray meets Bruce Cabot, a crew member
who believes that women don't belong on ships. When
pressed, he can only state that "they cause trouble".
Upon arrival, the crew stumbles onto a fantastic
native ritual. Somehow, ship captain Frank Reicher
is able to speak their language, despite the tribe's
Since I've made my point about the clumsiness of
the story, I'll fast forward through the synopsis.
The natives worship King Kong, a giant ape that
abducts Wray and gives her a tour of the island,
stopping to fight various giant reptiles. Kong
is later captured by Armstrong and shipped to New York.
Kong escapes, re-kidnaps Wray, and goes on a rampage
in the Big Apple.
More complaints about the plot: how has Kong
survived for millenia on this island when he has
to fight giant reptiles for his life several times
daily? The large search party has two survivors:
predictably, the two male leads. How did the crew
drag Kong onto the ship? And keep him fed through
the return voyage? After his escape, it defies
probability that Kong is able to find Wray in the
big city, and that of all the skyscrapers, he would
choose the most famous, the Empire State building,
to climb. And anyway, why would he climb it?
To put a flag on the top of the building?
Of course, the plot is secondary to the special
effects and action scenes. They age well: Kong
and his reptile enemies are obviously stop-motion
models, but they do not lack charm. Kong is the
deepest character in the film, and despite his
nasty temper, you can't help but feel sorry for
the poor guy.
"King Kong" has surprisingly graphic violence and
would be an "R" movie if re-released today. Kong
bites and squishes numerous screaming people, as does
a belligerent brontosaurus. A scene which had crew
members devoured by giant spiders had to be deleted
from the film, as it horrified a preview audience.
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller