King Kong (1933)

A Monster of Creation's Dawn Breaks Loose in Our World Today!

Year of Release: 1933
Genre: Adventure/Horror
Rated: Passed
Running Time: 100 minutes (1:40)
Director: Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack


Fay Wray ... Ann Darrow
Robert Armstrong ... Carl Denham
Bruce Cabot ... Jack Driscoll
Frank Reicher ... Capt. Englehorn
Sam Hardy ... Charles Weston
Noble Johnson ... Native Chief
Merian C. Cooper ... Pilot of Plane That Kills Kong (uncredited)
Ernest B. Schoedsack ... Machine-Gunner on Plane That Kills Kong (uncredited)
Jim Thorpe ... New York Theatergoer (uncredited)


Seeking a backer for his movie, Merian C. Cooper approached a top Hollywood mogul. "You know what a 50-foot gorilla would see in a five-foot girl? the mogul asked. "His breakfast!" The studio chief wasn't buying but the public was. King Kong saved RKO from bankruptcy and became an all-time classic, ranking 43rd on the American Film Institute's list of Top-100 American movies.


King Kong, remindin' us that it's lonely at the top, so be sure to bring a friend.

And speakin' of prevailin' winds, my mood's improved a great deal since my fragrance du pole cat has mostly dissipated (thanks to everybody who left food on the porch except for Colette Trindle and 'er packratatouille or whatever that was) and the local merchants've allowed me to engage with the local economy again.

Turns out a guy can lose track of time pretty quick when he only leaves his Barcalounger to nuke food and turn on the bug zapper, but it's gettin' to be that time of year where my box fan/space heater combo can handle mother nature's mood swings again, so between that and not havin' to leave the windows open until the smoke in the livin' room gets too thick to see the TV screen, it seemed like things were really startin' to come together.

Yessir - made it almost three days back at the Videodome before I called up Billy Hilliard to find out where he dumped that mama skunk intent on gettin' another get-outta-life free card. You prolly already guessed, beins I'm tellin' you all this, but he never would reveal the coordinates.

This gal by the name of Rhonda Buckhalter's what broke my streak, and if you've never met 'er, Rhonda's one of those reformed dregs who used to break almost every commandment on Moses' list under the watchful eye of a security camera, get arrested, and then let off with a warnin' for breakin' a couple more in the back of the squad car. That was before she found Jesus, who, I'd imagine, deeply regrets not findin' a better hidin' spot.

"Did you rent this filth to Jeannie Bigelow?!" she demanded, holdin' up a well-worn copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

"I did," glancing up briefly from my game of Tetris. "Kinda tame for her, but she's gettin' to that age where ya gotta make sure they're exposed to the classics before the CGI gets its claws into 'em," I explained.

"'That age' is 14! I could have you fired for this! See! 'Restricted!'" she seethed, pointin' at the MPAA rating.

I paused my Gameboy and set it under the counter next to the Abba-Zabas.

"Not that it's any of your goddamned business, but Jeannie's mom gave us a note sayin' she has permission to rent anything she wants 'long as it don't come from the adult section. So if you don't like what she's watchin' I'd suggest you take it up with Roxanne, or, I dunno, maybe put the binoculars away and stop peekin' into the bedrooms of teenage girls," I managed, puttin' a few added decibels into that last point.

"I DID bring it up after that little b-- brat showed this GARBAGE to my Grace!" she shrieked.

"Ah, yep. That tracks," I nodded.

"What tracks?!" she fumed.

"Roxanne's never been late returnin' a tape. She must be crumpled up on 'er front porch laughin' 'er ass off. Better call Cleave and let 'im know before she's late for work," I chuckled, reachin' for the phone.

"Do you think this is funny? I wanna see the manager!" she howled.

"Okay. See that photo hangin' on the wall there? That's him. Now, picture 'im nekkid with an apple in his mouth, while a slightly chunky leather-clad gal with a piece of extension cord in one hand and a jar of Crisco under the other arm orders 'im to squeal between whacks with said cord," I grinned.

For a second I thought I'd killed the bitch, but she just dropped to 'er knees and started prayin' to that stain on the ceilin' that Dottie Snooks made when she caught Maurice Fowler buyin' a Fifth Avenue for Tisha Teeter back in '92 and uncorked an uppercut that purt'near sent his Suicide into orbit. I guess I kinda understand why she might believe it has supernatural powers 'cause it's been thirty years and the floor behind the counter is STILL sticky, but I wasn't really thinkin' about that at the time.

"Lord! Keep us from the evil of this heretic and his house of sin and perversion! Protect us from the blasphemies of--"

"Great, that's all I need. Now He knows where you are and I'ma end up spendin' the rest of my day chiselin' a pillar of salt outta the floorboards," I lamented.

"The serpent has corrupted you all!" she declared, pointin' an accusing finger at the crowd that'd begun gatherin' to witness a show they wouldn't hafta pay a buck a night to see.

"And he deceives you with false idols and empty plotlines!" she continued, raisin' the Nightmare on Elm Street tape aloft.

"Now wait just a goll durn minute there, Whore of Crabbythong - you can trash me, and you can trash my video store, but if you slander the name of Wes Craven one more time I'ma give you an exilin' that'd make Adam and Eve cry like an untipped DoorDash driver," I threatened.

"God stands with me on this righteous path! He sees your betrayal! He sees your unrepentance! He sees--"

By this point it'd become pretty clear that the bimbonic plague'd crept into this broad's logic center and that reason wasn't gonna be an effective tool to combat her crusade against Blood, Breasts, and Beasts, but I just want you all to know that I only responded the way I did as a last resort.

"He sees you lookin' at Harry Reems' pantaconda!" I shouted as I stuffed Deep Throat into the VCR and plastered it onto the store's display set.

Edgar was pretty P.O.'d about the path she beat through the glass door, but, as a businessman, he understood that under the circumstances drastic action was necessary to prevent any of that crapola she was spoutin' from takin' root in the bong resin that'd once been our patrons' brains. And just to be clear, I'd like to add that I'm a compassionate guy, and that I respect the rights of cleftskulls to believe any bung-brained idea they want - right up to the point where I hafta listen to it. I would never resort to Linda Lovelace-related First Amendment solutions unless all other options have been exhausted, and I do not approve of cranking the volume of psychedelic 1970s porno films up to 60 unless the situation warrants it. You may find this cruel and unusual, but sometimes people simply need to be taught that their actions have consequences.

Once I got all the glass swept up I ejected Deep Throat even though Rusty Dockweiler offered me $3 to leave it on, and slid King Kong into the VCR in case Rhonda decided to come back with Deputy Dahl to have me arrested for crimes against public decency. 'Course everybody went back to what they were doin' as soon as the screen went to black and white, but I got a few of 'em back when Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong blasted the stegosaurus with a concussion grenade. Kong's one of those movies ya go back to as an adult to watch the groundbreaking special effects for scientific purposes and forget what you're supposed to be doin' 'cause you're too busy cheerin' Kong on as he pounds the tar outta all the Cretacean cock-blockers tryna come between him and his date. Plus Kong only eats seven or eight terrified extras durin' the runtime, so it's a pretty good one to show the kiddies durin' the spooky season to get 'em prepared to watch Evil Dead by the end of the month.

That said, I did manage to make a few observations between saurian sucker punches, and since mosta the film historians've failed to include these in their dissertations of the flick, I'm gonna pick up their slack and share a few of the rarely reported tidbits that Kong has to offer. First, bein' left at the altar may be heartbreaking, but bein' shackled to it is downright sadistic. Second, sometimes all ya need for flash photography is a sheer nightgown and the right lighting. And third, even the most socially awkward bachelors can make women putty in their hands by followin' Kong's foolproof guide to pickin' up chicks.

The movie begins on a ship docked in New York Harbor where this film director (Denham) is P.O.'d at his producer 'cause the no-talent bum failed to find a leading lady willin' to climb on board a boat fulla sex-starved scallywags to star in a scriptless film that pays scale at a location to be announced at a later date. Denham flirts with the idea of just grabbin' the first woman he sees and puttin' out to port, but the producer explains that that kinda thing is considered kidnapping unless you're the governor of Florida, and so he heads down to the battered wife shelter to scout talent. 'Course these're all the broads who couldn't figure out how to get dinner on the table by 5pm, so Denham decides to aim a little higher till he finds this gal (Anne) pinchin' produce at a fruit stand and immediately offers 'er the gig when he learns she has no relatives to kick up a fuss in the event she was carted off by some mythological creature of gigantic proportion. Hypothetically speaking, of course. The next mornin' the ship shoves off and Anne's positively delighted by how friendly the crew of skeevy, alcoholic bail-jumpers are, 'cept for this one guy (Driscoll) who's all hacked off 'cause he's afraid he might hafta lift the seat when his enlarged prostate sends 'im gropin' for the dumper at 2:30 in the AM, and so she starts makin' doe-eyed pouty faces at 'im to soften 'im up so she won't hafta go to sleep at night thinkin' she's failed as a woman. Eventually the ship reaches the shores of an island with a big skull carved into the mountain face where it's assumed Dr. Wily's buildin' a new batch of robots to settle the score with Mega Man, but pretty quick they come across a tribe of locals doin' the simian shuffle in ape costumes and placin' flower wreaths around the neck of an increasingly nervous-lookin' native chick.

Denham wants to get it on film but the chief takes one look at Denham's framing and stops the ritual so he can go tell 'im how derivative of Murnau his technique is, and that he and his crew'd better get their lily-white hinders off his island before he instructs his witchdoctor to turn 'em into Picasso people. The ship's captain is able to open up a dialogue with the chief and the chief says he might see his way past gorin' everybody through the gondolas if they'll trade Anne for six of his women, but Denham doesn't like the idea of a 1:6 compromise any more than the 3/5ths version and plus he can't stand the way those magic Mormon underpants ride up his crack, so he respectfully declines and the crew split. Denham's pretty sure the 30-foot high "Make Skull Island Great Again" border wall wasn't built just to protect the natives from immigrants with a superior work ethic, but while he and the crew're plottin' their next move those sneaky natives row out to the boat and swipe Anne off the deck while she's imaginin' what it'd be like to walk Driscoll's plank and Driscoll hasta order everyone back ashore to find Anne before anything desegregated happens. Fortunately the chief's interest in Anne is both platonic and pragmatic, and all he wants to do is tie 'er to a stone altar and make like Chuck Woolery on Love Connection. Unfortunately, Bachelor #1 is a 20-foot, wild-eyed Sagittarius who enjoys banana splits, moonlight swims in the primordial swamp, and beatin' dinosaurs to death with sequoia redwoods, and he picks Anne up for their date and proceeds to take 'er back to his jungle bungalow to show 'er his collection of Italian plumber skulls before Driscoll and the crew can crash the gate and give chase.

Ray Charles could follow Kong's trail, but the rescue team faces more immediate concerns when they're charged by a reptilian tank and hafta blow its head off with a hand grenade, and by the time they catch up to Gigantomythicus he's already crossed a fogbound primeval pond. So now the men hafta build a raft if they wanna continue their quest to crown the king, 'cept when they venture out into the lake Mokele Mbembe surfaces and he's none too pleased by all the crackers in his soup and proceeds to shred everyone he can get ahold of into Peopleridge Farms meat samplers. The survivors are able to track Kong down but he grabs the log they're tryna cross and starts rotatin' it like a rotisserie chicken till everybody but Driscoll and Denham get tossed like chiggers off a bloodhound. By now it's lookin' like Driscoll's about to get smooshed into Schmucker's preserves until a tyrannical saurus shows up and tries makin' Rex Mix outta Kong's squeeze, and so the king hasta go rescue Queen Anne's cherry and ends up grapplin' with Lizard Borden until he's able to pull off a monkey flip and pry its jaws open and leave it layin' like an organic bear trap. 'Course Driscoll's the kinda guy who can watch the finals of the Primal Rage Tournament of Champions and think he's got the winner right where he wants 'im, so he follows Boss Bonzo back to his Kongdominium where the crass monkey finds a saurian squatter sittin' in his hot tub and snaps it like a wet towel. Then Kong starts peelin' Anne's clothes off and ticklin' 'er tomatoes until a pterodactyl tries flyin' off with 'er and while he's fashionin' its still struggling carcass into a hang glider for Reb Brown, Driscoll sees an opening and leads Anne down a Cretacean kudzu vine towards safety until the date rape ape sees what's goin' on and starts pullin' 'em back up the cliffside - forcin' 'em to take their chances in the lagoon below.

Anne and Driscoll make it back to the gate where Denham and the smarter members of the expedition're waitin', and by this point Denham's decided he wants to bring Optimus Primate back to civilization and force 'im to do Richard III on Broadway. Meanwhile, Kong's P.O.'d, and he comes crashin' through the jungle and starts throwin' shoulder tackles into the gate while Denham's men and the natives try holdin' 'im back, but he's got a last call hard-on for Anne and uses his rejection rage to snap the brace. The Skull Islanders grab their pikes and start spearin' Makilla Gorilla like sausage samples at Kroger but that just makes 'im madder and he ends up destroyin' the air defense scaffold and stompin' villagers like cigarette butts until Denham lobs an explosive that brings down the Kongdome. Next thing, they UPS his Hairy Highness back to Madison Square Garden to be gawked at by indifferent New Yorkers, and everything's goin' fine until the paparazzi start flashbangin' Kong's corneas till he gets so fed up with the invasion of privacy that he decides to blow off the gig and go house-huntin' with Anne. I spoze everybody already knows what happens. Even if you haven't seen the movie you've prolly seen the Simpsons Halloween special or one of the other parodies that spoil the ending, but if you think I'm gonna abandon my personal principles or do any more work than is expected of me you've got another thing comin'. You're just gonna hafta haul your hinder down to the Videodome and rent it like everybody else.

Alrighty, well, due to anatomical complications beyond his control, Kong may not've been able to sire an heir to his Skull Island empire with Fay, but he did give rise to the first fantasy blockbuster in film history. Admittedly we weren't really with it as a country at that point, and consequently, King Kong was only the third highest grossing film of 1933, but the flick, due to its mainstream appeal and phenomenal production value, permanently altered the public perception of what a movie could be, and drastically raised the bar for every special effects film that was to follow. It also kicked off a less often cited (yet no less significant) trend that would later be co-opted by much lower budget filmmakers, when it took a formidable creature and blew it up to gigantic size. Of course in the 1920s and 1930s the gorilla was still a fairly recent discovery in the west, and much of society's fear of it had more to do with its close resemblance to man than any evolutionarily ingrained danger it may pose. By 1933 the killer ape flick had been circulating since Go and Get it in 1920, and after another dozen or so attempts to make our adorable cousins frightening failed, Merian Cooper went big and got it right.

King Kong single-handedly saved RKO Pictures from bankruptcy, grossing a modern equivalent of $40 million on a budget of roughly $600,000, and although the movie ultimately succeeded only in kicking that can down the road a couple decades, the movie industry's debt to Kong and its many innovations and successful gambits is genuinely immeasurable. From its spectacular (though admittedly recycled) sets, to its ground-breaking stop-motion, rear projection, creative camera mounting techniques, and the inclusion of one of the very first feature-length soundtracks, the flick will rightfully maintain a reputation as being one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever produced relative to its place and time. It should also be mentioned that Kong, while not my personal favorite film of the decade (that'd be Freaks), is without question the most accessible to a modern audience due to its relentless pacing during the second half of the flick. It does drag in the early stages, but the moment the crew reaches the island it picks up dramatically and rarely lets up for the remainder of the runtime, which is surprisingly long for a film of its age. In this regard, the movie is at least twenty years ahead of its time, and for that reason, there's no better place to start if you're looking for a place to dive into the genre's earliest offerings.

I'd imagine you're probably waitin' for the other foot to drop given my track record with these relics of a bygone era, so let's buzz this monkey a few times and find out if he's steady enough to hold his position at the top of the monster heap. The plot is interesting in that its ending was conceived first, leaving its writer to reason out just how a giant ape makes its way to New York City. It's not what you'd call a complex narrative, but the Beauty and the Beast theme serves as a sufficient motivator for Kong as he rampages through scene after scene of creature-on-creature carnage before finally being subdued, escaping, and getting the chance to do some serious damage. Let's be honest here - nobody's watchin' this flick to find out if Fay Wray and Bruce Cabot live happily ever after. We're here to watch Kong kick prehistoric hinder and punish humanity for its arrogance and that's it, but for what it's worth, the premise and motivating factors are solid so long as you can get past the existence of a saurian-destroyin' simian and mankind's ability to restrain and tow his 10-ton torso 9500 miles by tugboat.

The acting is very good, particularly where it concerns Fay Wray and Bruce Cabot, but in the early going I feel like Robert Armstrong flubs his performance a little bit. By the time the crew reaches the island he seems to have everything together, but he's definitely playin' third fiddle to Wray and Cabot here. Wray gets top billing and rightly so, although the movie's structuring makes it difficult to say who the protagonist actually is given that Wray spends a lotta time off-screen in Kong's clutches, Armstrong is largely AWOL during Wray's rescue, and Cabot hardly seems to matter until the natives kidnap Wray. The obvious answer here seems to be that Kong is actually the protagonist, except he doesn't show up until halfway through the movie, so who knows? I guess everyone gets their chance to shine - it's just a little strange that we don't have a definitive point of view to follow. It's also worth noting that a surprisingly large number of the natives look to be honest-to-cripes black people, and although the flick definitely has its share of guys who've been dippin' into the boot polish, it's kinda refreshing.

Here's who matters and why: Fay Wray (Black Moon, The Vampire Bat, Mystery of the Wax Museum, Doctor X), Robert Armstrong (Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, The Mad Ghoul), Frank Reicher (Son of Kong, Dr. Cyclops, Superman and the Mole-Men, House of Frankenstein, The Mummy's Ghost, The Mummy's Tomb, Night Monster, The Devil-Doll 1936, Life Returns), Noble Johnson (King Kong 1933, The Son of Kong, The Mad Doctor of Market Street, The Ghost Breakers, Murders in the Rue Morgue 1932, Dante's Inferno 1924), Steve Clemente (Son of Kong), James Flavin (Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff, Mighty Joe Young, The Ghost Breakers), Roscoe Ates (Freaks), Reginald Barlow (The Mad Monster, Werewolf of London, Bride of Frankenstein), Fred Behrle (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923), Lynton Brent (Batman 1943, Flash Gordon 1936), Jack Chapin (Chloe Love is Calling You, The Monster and the Girl), Edward Clark (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Phantom of the Opera 1943), Harry Cornbleth (Son of Kong), Nathan Curry (Son of Kong), Dick Curtis (The Phantom 1943, Batman 1943, The Man They Could Not Hang, Condemned to Live), Ruby Dandridge (Black Moon), Vivian Dandridge (I Walked with a Zombie), Jimmy Dime (The Deadly Mantis, M 1951, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Batman 1943, Island of Lost Souls), Florence Dudley (The Monster and the Girl), Earl Dwire (Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe).

Louise Emmons (Mark of the Vampire, The Man Who Laughs, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923), Frank Fanning (The Phantom Speaks, Mystery of the Wax Museum), Jean Fenwick (The Return of the Vampire), Arthur J. Flaven (The Mummy's Curse), June Gittelson (Mark of the Vampire, The Raven 1935), Arnold Gray (She 1935, The Mummy 1932), Lawrence Green (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Mighty Joe Young), Charles Haefeli (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923), Charlie Hall (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939, The Ape Man), Pat Harmon (Night of Terror 1933, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931), Tex Higginson (Son of Kong), Ethan Laidlow (The Night the World Exploded, The Body Snatcher, Murders in the Zoo), Sam Levin (Son of Kong), Vera Lewis (Spook Busters, The Body Disappears, The Return of Dr. X), George MacQuarrie (Life Returns, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923), George Magrill (The War of the Worlds 1953, Zombies of the Stratosphere, Red Planet Mars, M 1951, Superman 1948, Cry of the Werewolf, Batman 1943, The Phantom Creeps, Flash Gordon 1936, The Phantom Empire), Buddy Mason (A Comedy of Terrors, Invasion of the Saucer Men, M 1951), LeRoy Mason (Valley of the Zombies).

Etta McDaniel (Son of Dracula), Frank Mills (The Black Castle, Red Planet Mars, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939, Son of Kong), John Northpole (One Million B.C.), Frank O'Connor (Flight to Mars, Mysterious Island, M 1951, Superman 1948, The Brute Man, The Vampire's Ghost, Cry of the Werewolf, The Corpse Vanishes, Man Made Monster, The Invisible Man Returns, Son of Kong), Edward Patrick (King of the Zombies), Gil Perkins (Batman 1966, Valley of the Dragons, Teenage Monster, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941), Jack Perry (Cult of the Cobra, The Black Castle, M 1951, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Mighty Joe Young), Lee Phelps (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Magnetic Monster, The Lady and the Monster, The Walking Dead, Murders in the Zoo), Alexander Pollard (The Monster Maker, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Invisible Man Returns), Allen Pomeroy (Captain America 1944), Russ Powell (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939, Son of Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923), Tom Quinn (Man Made Monster, The Ghost Breakers, The Man They Could Not Hang).

Edwin Rochelle (Invisible Invaders, Son of Kong), Syd Saylor (The Crawling Hand, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man, House of Horrors 1946, The Walking Dead, Murders in the Zoo), Floyd Shackelford (The Vampire's Ghost), Milton Shockley (Mighty Joe Young), Larry Steers (White Pongo, Ghost Catchers, The Ghost Breakers), Harry Strang (Phantom from Space, Mighty Joe Young, The Soul of a Monster, Captain America 1944, The Ghost Walks), Madame Sul-Te-Wan (Mighty Joe Young, Revenge of the Zombies, King of the Zombies, Black Moon), Charles Sullivan (The Invisible Monster, Donovan's Brain, The Vampire's Ghost, The Soul of a Monster), Gertrude Sutton (Son of Kong), Harry Tenbrook (Batman 1943, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Son of Kong, The Phantom of the Opera 1925), Jim Thorpe (The Vampire's Ghost, She 1935), Ray Turner (Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars), Monte Vandergrift (The Phantom Creeps), Sailor Vincent (Tarantula, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941), Harry Walker (The Black Cat 1934), Blackie Whiteford (Batman 1943), Geneva Williams (Black Moon), Victor Wong (Son of Kong).

And the mainstream credits: Bruce Cabot (Ben Sage in McClintock!, Sheriff Brody in Chisum, Major Henry in The Comancheros), James Flavin (Clarence Duntz in In Cold Blood).

The special effects, for their time, were without question the greatest and most revolutionary creations put to film. There's just no comparison. Willis O'Brien had previously done an excellent job animating the dinosaurs in The Lost World eight years prior, but he and his team were able to best all of his previous work when they brought Kong and his saurian adversaries to life. Are they a bit jerky? Sure. Are they up to the standard O'Brien's student and successor, Ray Harryhausen, would set with his work on the Hammer dinosaur films of the '60s? No. But looking at the primeval world O'Brien, his team, and the production designer created in conjunction with the impressive composite shots and superb matte paintings, it must be stated that the visuals of King Kong set a standard for special effects that would rarely be matched for the next two decades. Words simply cannot express just how significant a leap King Kong represents in the field of special effects, and while it's fair to say that they seem a bit silly 89 years later, the fact that they were still comparable to the effects being produced 30 years later is nothing short of astounding, even if that full-sized Kong head does kinda make ya snicker just a little.

The sets, miniatures, and matte paintings really come together to create an effective vision of a world believed to be extinct, but that was actually just well-hidden due to the endless fogbank surrounding Sumatra. There are a few exterior establishing shots taken near the Empire State Building, the Shrine Auditorium, and the Bronson Caves, but most everything was filmed at Culver Studios and RKO Studios. The jungle was the same one used for The Most Dangerous Game (with both movies shooting concurrently as they shared a director and several stars), the wall built to keep the dinosaurs mindin' their manners was originally built for King of Kings, and the native huts were leftovers from Bird of Paradise, but you don't lose points for reusing well-constructed sets, and everything seems to jibe nicely anyway. I dunno if they actually filled the Shrine Auditorium to capacity or just used creative camera work to make it look that way, but that auditorium seats 6300 people and really brings home just how much damage a guy like Kong can do when given an appropriate venue by an egomaniacal showman, so that was a great get for the production crew as well. I'm not sure this flick actually has a weak point, but if it does it's definitely not to be found here.

The soundtrack is believed to have been the first feature-length score composed for a talkie, and it was so important to director Cooper that when the studio told him to go root around in the lost and found for somethin' they could get for free he paid the composer (Max Steiner) out of his own pocket, and that decision proved so pivotal in helping to make the flick a success that the studio actually reimbursed Cooper for the cost when they heard the finished composition. I have long been of the opinion that you can take the soundtrack to just about any horror movie made prior to the Hammer horror cycle in the late '50s and exchange it with any of its peers without issue, but King Kong is an incredibly rare exception to that rule. Yes, it is very dated, but it's also unique, with pieces that were actually composed to match up with the scenes in which they play, and the first time you watch the movie it's almost jarring to hear music from a flick of this age that actually fits and complements the film. The subdued harp music helps boost the feeling of fantastical anticipation once we learn about the goal of the expedition, the boisterous brass ensemble is lively and even exciting at times, the strings, when combined with the native chanting, is surprisingly rousing, and the ominous tuba solo that plays when Fay Wray is tied to the altar creates an intense sense of menace, as well as concern for her wellbeing.

Overall, Freaks is still my favorite horror flick of the 1930s, but King Kong is right on its heels, and given the phenomenal execution of every technical aspect of the film there's just no question that it's the best the decade has to offer. I cannot stress enough just how important a film it is in general, and how much of its success hinges on a fast-moving plot that holds the audience's attention. In other words, if you wanna introduce a younger audience to classic horror without puttin' 'em to sleep, this is the flick to lead with.

Rating: 81%