Movie Review: The Original 1933 King Kong

Kong 101

I believe that a prerequisite to watching Peter Jackson’s new version of King Kong is to watch the original 1933 version. As is said in an interview on this recent DVD release, the ability to take any story and make it into a fantastic movie using special effects, didn’t really start with Star Wars, but with the original King Kong—I believe it too!

Sure, the movements of the beast are a bit jerky and his fur buzzes around him as if there are a dozen cyclones whirling around him at any given time, but the truth of the matter is, I thought it was still interesting and fun to watch.

The melodramatic acting is fun to watch too (almost a special effect in itself). You can see how sensibilities have dramatically changed over the years about how to act. This movie is a great specimen of acting in a way that is the polar opposite of subtle.

I bought the 2-disk special edition on a whim because Jackson’s version was soon to be at the theaters and it was packaged as a King Kong Collection with Son of Kong and the original Mighty Joe Young. Since Peter Jackson had commented repeatedly about how much inspiration he received from this movie as a child to become a filmmaker, I thought it would be a good idea to check it out. It pays off too, when you watch Jackson’s version, there are many inside joke treats that you’ll only understand if you’ve seen the old one. One quick example is (in the new version) when Carl Denham (Jack Black) is being told names of actresses that could work in his film, one of them is “Fay”, who Carl dismisses as already being busy with an RKO Picture. Well, RKO is the producer of the original Kong and Fay Wray was the original Ann Darrow.

One of the most unexpected twists to this visit to this classic picture is how much my 6 and 8-year-old daughters loved it. I think sometimes that I tend to count out older movies as options for entertainment for my kids because of the lack of ultra-realistic CGI special effects—so unfounded. My kids were tense at the suspenseful points, they thought the funny parts were funny… it was great! If you’re looking to show your young kids King Kong and are worried that Jackson’s version might be a bit too much, check out the old one, it might be just the ticket.

On the DVD, there’s also a documentary titled, “I’m Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper.” Historically speaking, it was amazing to learn more about this man who was the original director of Kong and how the character of Carl Denham was almost autobiographical.

With Peter Jackson’s updated version coming out on DVD tomorrow, I thought this would be a good segue into a review of the new one, which will come later this week.

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