Mystery Fest: King Kong
Rating: 20/20 (Buster: no rating)
Plot: A big-time movie producer takes a crew and an actress he picked up off the street to an island where they find a giant ape and. . .nevermind, you know all this. It's the same as the Peter Jackson version of the movie.
This is one of my favorite movies and definitely my favorite version of the titular beast. I'll take a stop-motion monkey over a CGI one any day. And don't bother correcting me. I know King Kong isn't a monkey, but I'm going to continue calling him one anyway. Go ahead. Accuse me of racism.
I don't know why I started this write-up so angrily because this is a movie that just makes me happy. So I apologize for that. It also made me happy that Buster wanted to watch this with me. She was bored for large portions of the thing, but that's understandable because she's used to brilliant animated classics like the one with the talking crayons, those Barbie movies, or those Tinkerbell movies. During this movie's exposition in which Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack (both uncredited directors for some reason) and the seven (!) people receiving writing credits, like in the '76 version I recently wrote about, really keep you waiting before you get to see that monkey. Buster asked, "Daddy, when is the monkey part?" and then, when she saw a smaller monkey during a scene on the boat, asked, "Not that monkey. A big one. Is this a fun part?"
Other fun things Buster said:
"Put her down, Freak!"
"Dad, you don't understand this movie. He's a gorilla, and she's a human." (I'm not sure what I didn't understand exactly. I'm pretty sure that I knew that.)
But once Kong makes his first appearance and this thing gets going, it really rolls. I love the stop-motion monster variety here. There's a spiky guy, a brontosaurus guy who causes a guy in a tree to expel one of the manliest screams you're likely to hear in a movie, and a T-Rex. The stop-motion is great, and, with all respect to Mr. Harryhausen who my faithful 3 1/2 readers know I love, I'm not sure stop-motion ever got better. That T-Rex vs. Kong fight is epic. My favorite special effects from classic movies like this are when it seems like the special effects gurus are just a bunch of kids having fun. There's some great giant movie music in this, but they were wise to do this fight scene without any music, just snapping jaws, growls, and Fay Wray screams. Epic fight, and it's great what they show us afterward--Kong playing with his opponent's busted jaws, doing that obligatory celebratory chest thumping, and giving Fay Wray a big goofy "How Ya Like Me Now?" grin. Oh, and when Jack comes by, they've got this giant bird pecking at the dead T-Rex. See, that's the kind of little detail that you wouldn't expect to see in a monster movie from 1933, and it's not something that really needs to be there. It probably cost them some money. But it just adds a little something extra. This Kong's still a character the audience can root for, but he's a killer in this. You get to see him getting a little rapey before a noise disrupts him, squash guys under his feet, bite guys in half, swipe guys off platforms, and then, almost like he's rubbing it in, using their spears like tooth picks. And apparently, Kong likes the paparazzi about as much as Alec Baldwin or Kanye West. There are other great action scenes and special effects. I liked watching the boat advancing through fog and the scene with the log that they attempted to duplicate in the 70's version. Just watch those bodies bounce when they hit the bottom of that ravine, the kind of dead dummies that could give Jeff Bridges nightmares. There are some terrific, artistic sets in this--rocky cliffs and caves and gnarled forests that really give Skull Island some personality. And of course there's the climactic scene atop the Empire State Building, again mostly sans music. I love the zooming-plane cam and later plane-going-down spinning cam. Seeing that big guy writhing on the top of that building while he swats at plans? It really does feel like the "greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld" promised at the beginning of the movie, or at the very least, it's close to it. I can't imagine what audiences in 1933 would have thought while watching this on the big screen for the first time. It's art that will last forever, and not every movie from any time period can boast that it includes that. Maybe they also had to think of a whole bunch of new adjectives to describe what they saw. That's a reference to a line in the movie. I'm trying to be clever here. That's one of Carl Denham's lines, and man, is that guy ever a prick here. He's annoying from the get-go, using "I'm a famous director" with Fay Wray, one of the oldest pick-up lines in the book. And then when he's filming her on the boat and tells her that he's going to "start cranking"? Come on, Denham. It's fine if you want to do that after seeing Fay Wray, but you don't advertise it. Is Fay Wray worth cranking to? Most definitely. She's dreamy, and I'd fall in love with her if I were a giant ape, too. Or even a normal-sized ape. Or any size of monkey.
Favorite little moment in this movie: One of the natives says "Hiyoo! Dolly Parton pickles." At least I think he does.
This movie is a metaphor for something, isn't it? You've got the director. You've got the wall holding something back. You've got the masses. What is this saying about movies and the people who make and watch them? I'm really too lazy to figure it out, but I know there's something there.