Review: King Kong (1933)

King Kong. One of the most famous characters in all of fiction,up there with Godzilla, Superman, and Santa Claus. Famous to a degree not seen often, with an instant recognizability—everyone knows King Kong means big monkey. Or ape, rather. Same difference.

The great ape first appeared in the 1933 adventure film King Kong, which we’ll be talking about today. Is it any good? Well, to an extent.

King Kong (1933)

It’s silly. It’s really, really silly. It’s also dated, but in a good way, not a bad way. I much prefer dated practical effects to dated digital effects. For example, I was watching Escape from L.A., and watched this:

Ugh. There’s a brief period, about from Tron until The Mummy Returns-ish, wherein most special effects are dated in an uncanny valley-like way: neither fake enough to be charming nor nearly real enough to be convincing. I’ve always had a personal fondness for stop-motion effects, from AT-ATs to Terminator endoskeletons to Harryhausen skeletons, and it was nice to see a film whose special effects rely almost entirely on this method.

Maudit king kong merian c. cooper gorilla vs t.rex vs pterodactyl

Maudit pterodactyl gorilla vs t.rex vs pterodactyl king kong merian c. cooper

The first half-hour or so isn’t terribly great, though it isn’t boring either. The film does move along quickly to Skull Island, however, unlike Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake. Once we arrive at Skull Island, we get some pretty cool sequences involving the aforementioned stop motion, including a Brontosaurus, a T-Rex, and a Pterodactyl. It’s fun, it’s cool, and it’s probably the best part of the film.

Of course we also get the Empire State Building sequence, which is all fine and dandy, but also so iconic that it’s been parodied, homaged, lampooned, spoofed, and redone so many times that it’s basically lost any impact it may once have had. “Twas beauty that killed the beast,” indeed.

The human characters are fine, not terribly interesting, memorable or entertaining, but fine. Fay Wray stands out, she’s better than any of her bland, generic male costars, but even she can’t escape from a script frankly not all that interested in its humans.

However, we’re not here for the humans, we came for Kong. Does he hold up? Well, yes and no. He’s no longer scary, if indeed he ever was, as he strongly resembles the Abominable Snowman from the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special.

BeFunky Collage.jpg

However, the limited facial expressions allowed by the puppet still convey a surprising depth of emotion, not close to the Andy Serkis mo-cap take, but still surprisingly complex. He may look a bit silly, but he still works today.

All in all, King Kong is a pleasantly amusing diversion, though it lacks the drama to truly pull it together, or the suspense to keep the viewer on their toes. A dated, yet watchable popcorn flick which became one of the most influential films of the 1930’s, King Kong earns an A-.


Well, there you have it. Will I be going through the sequels? Probably not. Maybe I’ll write about the Jeff Bridges and Peter Jackson remakes. Maybe. I don’t know. If I feel like it in the future.

But that’s all I’ve got for now, bye!!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. swanpride says:

    I think that King Kong is the Avatar on the 1930s, a lot of effects, not a lot actual substance…which is, at the end of the day, the reason why I don’t think that there will ever be another “good” King Kong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an apt comparison, only difference is that people still remember King Kong.


      1. swanpride says:

        I doubt that most People know more of this movie than the scene from the empire state building.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wendell says:

    I’ll second that comparison to Avatar. King Kong is much more technical achievement than great film, though it works just fine. It’s effects are as good, if not better, than plenty of movies made thirty or even forty years later. I actually like the Peter Jackson version better overall. That is also a great technical achievement, but Kong’s chemistry with Naomi Watts in that one has so much more depth and really makes that film soar. Like you said, Fay Wray is very good here, but the movie isn’t too interested in her or any of its humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re right – with a movie like King Kong, we come for the effects and to be impressed by a giant ape. We’re less interested in the humans, although Fay Wray is terrific in this film.

    Good point about (most) of the human characters being uninteresting. I can barely remember the individual male characters.

    I’ve gotta see this again! It’s been several years, and your review has gotten me eager for some big-ape-swatting-at-planes action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s only been a couple of weeks, and I already don’t remember Fay Wray’s character’s name, let alone anyone else. The creature effects are really something though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jay says:

    Where are you, friend? We miss you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry, I’ve been busy. Be back soon. (Within like, a week)
      Seriously, sorry for the non-updates. 😦


  5. emmakwall says:

    I’ve never actually seen this! But I think I’d get something out of it, the silliness appeals 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once the stop motion creatures show up, it’s all fun until the end. Not a classic, but solid weekday entertainment.


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