King Kong

King Kong ★★★★★

It... is... a crying shame that I have watched both Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong, John Guillermin's 1976 remake of King Kong, the iconicly campy King Kong vs Godzilla and even the redundant sequel to the 1976 version, King Kong Lives, yet I had never seen the original. I always hoped I could see it on the big screen, something of childhood dream. But... no, I couldn't wait any longer! I had to watch it! Even though I had already seen every single scene in some way or another, in video reviews, in behind-the-scenes clips or something else, now I took the opportunity to watch it in full in the right order. In my opinion the perfect way to celebrate Halloween!!

It has already been said by many times before and I'm definitely one to agree with that opinion, but King Kong might be one of the best films made. At least it is one of the most enjoyable pieces of popcorn-entertainment, a true blockbuster before the blockbuster-age, but it definitely has some things going for it being one of the most groundbreaking works in the medium.

Firstly, besides the beautiful aura of pure, unadulterated enjoyment one can get out of a film like this, we can see some truly innovative filmmaking techniques. Most notable of course are the stop motion creations by Willis O' Brien, showstoppers then and still relevant for many filmmakers today. Even though they move a bit wooden here and there, the way in which they co-exist with the life-action footage in the film is something of a small miracle. I already adored the many different dinosaurs in O' Brien's 1927 effort The Lost World, but here both the effects themselves and the human touch in these monsters has clearly matured and it all gives the story a much more grounded feel.

With the acting in 30's, 40's and 50's films I have always felt that there were still to many hints of silent era overacting. Often we would get bloated, ego-stroking performances that totally pulled the viewers out of the films immersion. With King Kong almost all characters have at least a small sense of realism in them. Even though there are some clear traces of caricatural behavior in all of them (the femme fatale Ann Darrow, the unstoppable filmmaker Robert Armstrong, and so on), they all have gone through a significant amount of change by the end. The setup in both the characters and the story surrounding them might be fairly basic (stemming from the source of all great stories, fairytales) but the fact that it is presented with such purity and childlike wit to it, is what gives this film its strength, a power that has lasted over 80 years by now.

Next to the special effects, there are also many other technical marvels within this film. The cinematography, an often overlooked part with early genrefilms like these, must have been quite a challenge. Aside from the difficult mix between the live-action and the stop-motion segments, many scenes are made up of densely filled frames of jungles or busy streets. Many of these shots are so packed with people, objects and backgrounds that it would almost seem like too much. Nonetheless, the very precise framing of these shots gives an amazing amount of clarity within these scenes.

On top of that there's even more. The very clear sound-design, still in its infancy back in 1933, shows some equally unrivaled power. Not only do we get frightening and unique, beastly roars from Kong and the other island inhabitants, we also get a lush, orchestral score by Max Steiner, one of the great pioneers in the field. The scores main theme is as heart pounding and exhilarating as any anthemic piece of filmmusic. It almost has the same endurance as something like the Star Wars title theme, Indiana Jones Raiders March or even his colleague Godzilla's famous rhythmic theme. Even more beautiful is when the music becomes part of the film's environment, like in the scenes with the native village or when the honking of a train or a ship is played by one of the many horns, a prominent instrument in this magnificent score.

One just can't deny that, even with its flaws and its campy nature, King Kong is an achievement of monstrously epic proportions. The influence this work has had on the many years of cinema history that followed it are beyond compare. And even as a more "simpleminded" blockbuster it has a lot more to offer than would seem at first. The mere effort that was actually put into making this film should be a lesson to all contemporary Hollywood-masterminds. A film like this needs the same love and attention that an indie drama gets. It needs to be made precisely and with care for the product and its eventual viewers.

King Kong (I can't say that title enough) is a film so perfect on so many filmic levels, yet is has remained so accessible within the many years it ahs existed on this world, it has become one of the best examples of the medium, no matter what way you look at it.
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