King Kong

King Kong ★★★★★

Life is great and movies are awesome. There is nothing quite as life affirming as being thrilled beyond your wits. King Kong makes me very happy to be alive. The adventure of it is simply astounding. This is the most entertaining film ever made. It unbelievably has it all. It's got a giant ape wreaking havoc on America's greatest city, an absolutely gorgeous scream queen you can't help but gawk at, a long forgotten prehistoric island populated by questionably cannibalistic tribesmen, sea monsters eating seamen, a pterodactyl getting its neck snapped, and a brawl to the death between Kong and a T-Rex. When it comes to being purely delightful, Kong is King. It also helps that the film's a blast long before the beast appears. The fantastic voyage of the first thirty-forty minutes includes some of my favorite scenes. One in particular is Fay Wray's 'screen test', and it is here where we are first plummeted with the greatest scream ever recorded for film. We also get the marvelous line spoken by Bruce Cabot directly afterwards, "What's he think she's really gonna see?". Goddamn! I love that scene! Oddly enough, overbearing producer David O. Selznick wanted to cut it out of the film for being superfluous. Director Merian C. Cooper was adamant that the scene stay as-is, untouched and unsullied. Cooper stood his ground and ultimately backed Selznick down, which would have been tantamount to defeating Kong himself in real life. This film has dialogue that sends delirious tingles up my spine. Some lines were just born golden and slap a permanently goofy smile on my face. The outrageous fantasy of King Kong is an outrageously generous gift from the filmmakers. King Kong is a glorious motion picture experience. It is a film that oozes adventure.

I present to you now the King of all monster movies.

This film is brilliantly composed. Static scenes are injected with inspired visual patterns and camera changes. What would have suggested a typically banal frame-setup instead re-assembled itself into bravado close-ups, naive reactionary shots, attentive lighting, and a wistfully moving camera. From the very start, King Kong is a prime example of dynamic filmmaking. Never before have I been so enthralled. King Kong looked back not to expressionism, but to the prewar experiments of French film magician Georges Melies, who introduced virtually all the basic elements of modern trick photography at the tail end of the Belle Epoque. This Melies-ian approach made the impossible actual. These special effects are flamboyant displays of the cinema's true circus. King Kong is a film with a hunger to excite. It goes above and beyond in its drive to be huge. The resulting effect is mammoth. King Kong towers above its rivals and its imitators. It towers above them as a God.

The monster himself is a magnificent creature with a capacity for pathos so enormous it's heartbreaking. I've always loved Kong ever since I was very little. Way before I ever actually saw a King Kong movie, I was infatuated with the monster. I found his image, the very idea of Kong, equal parts thrilling and frightening. I saw adventure in Kong's eyes ever since I was a child. That feeling hasn't gone away, it's something I still very much remember. It was the fantastic adventure and innocent romance involved with capturing the beast, but it was also the moral complications of it all. Kong is one of my most loved movie characters and it's because even while the film is humanizing him, it is always while he's committing terrifying acts like biting people's heads off. It's easy to defend a confused and threatened animal, but it gets complicated when he starts to chew on your face. The design of the creature model itself is almost too unbelievably complex. Kong is a product of ineffable movie magic. The determination that it took to bring the beast to life is of a captivating process of metal levers, hinges, rubber, and air compressors. Kong should have been an impossibility. His roaring face is something I will never forget, his curiously playful prodding of his victims, the way he'd pound ferociously on his chest, and his mammoth size has been burned into my memory. It's strange to think how far this cinematic tale has come. Kong is so ingrained into the popular consciousness that he has begun to exist somewhere in the ether of mythos. I love the beast. I love him very much. But he doesn't need my words. Kong can speak for himself.

Picture this: The Empire State Building. That newly constructed monument of deco-phallicism, and a giant ape holding Fay Wray on top of it while he swats at darting airplanes. There are few images of male domination in all of Western art as outlandish and impressive as this. King Kong's gender politics are presented overtly and with much ironic bravado. The image itself is an unforgettable one. It is striking and ageless. It's a perfectly ornate finale to an already perfectly elaborate film.

King Kong was a film made by actual real-life madmen. The exploits of director Merian C. Cooper have been well documented in all of their jaw-dropping details. Cooper was a crazy person, he was an adventurer who ballyhooed danger. In fact, he based Robert Armstrong's character in the film on himself. Armstrong was even cast because he bore semblance to the director. King Kong is the by-product of a stop-motion dinosaur adventure called The Lost World and a unfinished film of Cooper's titled Creation. King Kong is the result of Cooper's relentless dream of something big. It is a cinematic landmark, and a masterpiece of adventure filmmaking. But even more than that, King Kong is a wild testament to the rabid men who made it a reality.

For all of King Kong's technical genius, it would be absolutely nothing without Max Steiner's score. This is easily one of my favorite pieces of music written for film. It is operatic and Wagnerian. It is THUMPing, THUNDERing, and MAJESTIC. It is the clear driving force behind the film. Steiner's score cannot be overstated, not in a thousand years and with a million words. Steiner's score is timelessness itself. An undeniably genius piece from film scoring's first brainiac composer. Steiner shines through.

Sequentially, King Kong is the definition of grazing the cinematic landscape. It is something very special to behold. It is a film that seeks to entertain and does so unceasingly. It's a magic film made by cinema's last real sorcerers. It is a film that took the techniques of Georges Melies, and expanded on them whilst making the magician's process not only commercially masterful but emotionally invested in creature design. King Kong is a film that makes me glad to do what I do. It is a film that reminds me why I fell so deeply in love with the medium in the first place. It's because of its adventure, its thrills, its woman, and its monster. It's on account of the four pillars of movie magic. It's on account of the most remarkable escapism the world has ever seen. It's on account of the beast. It's because of Kong that I love what I do. And for that tryst, it was the beast that made me who I am today. King Kong is a film that will never die in my heart.

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