Monday, 21 October 2013

King Kong Review

Fig 1: King Kong Poster

The film King Kong is a extremely iconic film, with several adaptations each trying to capture the classic story of a damsel in distress. The original film (1933) was produced and directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack and is a landmark if film history. The film's plot is generic, a damsel in distress needs rescuing from some evil force by the valiant white knight, but beyond that outline is where the plot begins to change into something that has captivated audiences for decades. The damsel, Ann Darrow, is whisked away by the film producer Carl Denham who plans to voyage to a uncharted island for his next movie only for Ann to be kidnapped by the giant ape, Kong. "The story, like "Frankenstein" and "Dracula," has taken on the significance of a modern folk tale, layered with obvious moralizing and as familiar as personal history." (Smith 1991) The unique story of King Kong has left its mark in history and filmic practices, being remade several times with each new version attempting to recreate the success of the original and reinvigorate a story that has become, as Smith puts it, modern folk tale in its own right.

Fig 2: Kong Attacking a plane scene

The film is full of topics, stereotyping, race, class and sexism being among the most prominent and obtuse. The attitude towards race in King King can be classed as appalling, the faked Chinese accent, the multitude of black actors used for the islanders and Carl Denham's line about the team with him being the first whites to set foot there all have a poor taste in any audiences mouth, "...viewers will shift uneasily in their seats during the stereotyping of the islanders in a scene where a bride is to be sacrificed to Kong..." (Ebert 2002) with a reaction just like the one Ebert describes a familiar feeling to those who have viewed the film. Although the film does border on the outright offensive, it does not diminish the spectacle granted to us, "...from the moment Kong appears on the screen the movie essentially never stops for breath." (Ebert 2002) with the films special effects so awe inspiring for the time period and really bringing the spaces to life, even for a modern audience, and the amount of creativity and entrancing visuals playing with the audiences imaginations like putty.

The portrayal of women in the film is poor, with Ann Darrow being a completely passive character to the events around her and being pulled about in the story's flow. This stereotypical view of women may have been accurate for its time period (1930s) but only when in the environment of 'civilised' society, as a human's base instinct to survive and by any means possible is identical regardless of sex. The way in which Ann has been portrayed may have been to frustrate women watching the film, showing a reflection of the 1930 female stereotype so flatly to them as provocation. "An icon of pop culture with truly erotic and emotionally touching scenes between Fay Wray and the massive gorrilla" (Levy 2011) The scenes in which Levy speaks of are at best elusive, with Ann, played by actor Fay Wray, screaming at the top of her lungs throughout many of the scenes with Kong in primal fear of him, leaving very little or no room for interaction between the two beyond her being held like a toy in his hand. The elusive nature of these scenes brings the audiences feelings of sympathy to lay solely on Ann by the end of the film with her traumatic ordeal over and Kong dead.

Fig 3: Kong holding Ann scene

List of Illustrations:

Fig 1: King Kong Poster (1933) At:

Fig 2: Kong attacking a plane scene from King Kong (1933)

Directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, At:

Fig 3: Kong holding Ann scene from King Kong (1933)

Directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, At:


Ebert, Roger (2002) (Online Review) Accessed 21/10/13

Smith, Mark Chalon (1991) (Online Review) Accessed 21/10/13

Levy, Emanuel (2011) (Online Review) Accessed 21/10/13

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kyle,
    Ok, I have just commented on your Caligari review, and most of the comments stand for this one too - PLEASE... lose the white highlighting!! You don't need to highlight the quotes, just put them in italics; you seem to have been over-enthusiastic with both this one and the previous one and extended the highlighting well into the text too!
    All that aside, a thoughtful review :)