King Kong - 1933
Directors - Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Plot summary/ review:
An over eager film producer / director called Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) comes into possession of a map to the mysterious Skull Island. He hires a vessel and it's shipmates to take him and his film crew to finish his motion picture.
Under pressure from his executives, Carl hires Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), a struggling but beautiful actress to be the eye candy for his picture. On board the ship, Ann falls in love with the ships second in command, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) who at first resists Ann's charm and is sceptical of women on sailing boats.
The crew arrive at Skull Island and discover it is surrounded by a huge wall, built thousands of years ago. When they venture closer, they discover a primitive tribe in the middle of a sacrificial ceremony when the leads tribes man spots the crew and Ann. He offers to trade six of his women for Ann, the crew and Jack refuse and they exit peacefully.
That night back on the ship, some of the tribesmen sneak on board and kidnap Ann and take her back to the great wall. When the crew realise she is missing, they arm themselves and go after her. The tribe have resumed their sacrificial ceremony, opening the great doors and tie Ann to two pillars in front of the expanse of the jungle. The trees shake and crash down as something huge approaches, Ann is snatched by "King Kong" a 25 foot silver back gorilla and taken deep into the jungle. The crew frighten off the tribe and pursue after Ann and her captor.
We find that Skull island is inhabited by a range of strange creatures and dinosaurs. The jungle sets are impressive and matted together with stop motion animated creatures to blend with live action. As the crew battle their way through, Kong runs into trouble with a T-rex in a wonderfully animated battle.
BBC review 13th June 2001
"Willis O'brien created impressive effects that were not only technically brilliant, but also highly imaginative in terms of cinematic action."
Jack Driscoll manages to rescue Ann from Kongs cave high in the mountains and Carl greedily realises that Kong will be in hot pursuit of his companion. He convinces the crew to try and capture the beast. Kong smashes through the door and rampages through the tribes village, Carl uses his gas bombs to subdue Kong and triumphantly announces that Kong's name will be in lights on broadway in a few months. "Kong, the eighth wonder of world!"
Back in New York, Carl has been busy promoting his new show, gathering the rich and powerful to show off his new attraction. He unveils Kong to a packed theatre ignorantly boasting the chrome steel chains will hold the beast. However, when the media's flashing bulbs agitate kong, he breaks free and once again pursues Ann, stealing her from her room.
After terrorising the streets of New York, Kong scales the Empire state building with Ann in tow. In the climax of the movie, Kong battles with bi-planes equipped with machine guns. He eventually succumbs and falls to his death, the media curious why he climbed to certain death, Carl realises it was "Beauty that killed the Beast."
Empire Magazine review - 6th December 2005
"The focusing on Kong's feelings for Ann gives the spectacle backbone, making it far more satisfying than busy updates like Jurassic Park (where the effects are stars but not characters)."
I am huge fan of this film which somehow gets more charming with each view. It is a fantastic accomplishment with the tools and techniques available at the time. The animation paved the way for a string of movies from Sinbad to Clash of the Titans. The set design carve a pure fantasy, mysterious world which somehow seems familiar and real, from dense overgrown jungles and Kongs cave to bustling streets of 30's New York. This film managed to embrace the technology of the time and still tell a story of emotion and companionship, ape and human alike. Whatever has been said about the sexual innuendo's or politically incorrect racial views, the emotions evoked between Ann and Kong are truly remarkable and make the film a true classic.
Time Out review - 24th June 2006
"The throbbing heart of the film lies in the creation of the semi-human simian himself, an immortal tribute to the Hollywood dream factory's ability to fashion a symbol that can express all the contradictory erotic, ecstatic, destructive, pathetic and cathartic buried impulses of 'civilised' man."