So when “Scream Queen” female lead Fay Wray heard by director Merian C. Cooper that she was going to play opposite to the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood, she assumed he meant Cary Grant. Little did she know he meant an ape-like gorilla! This monster film classic King Kong is about an actress who films a movie at Skull Island and ends up being plucked by a giant gorilla who is drawn to her beauty.
This image above is what Merian C. Cooper dreamed of which helped him conceive the idea of King Kong. It’s unfortunate that at the time there wasn’t a category at the Oscars for Best Special Effects because this movie would hands down win. Then again it would probably be the only nominee considering these special effects stood the test of time. An 18 inch model was made for Kong made out of metal skeletons and joints covered in rubber, latex skin, and rabbit fur.
So who were in these animal costumes? The answer is no one! Stop animation is what made the models move shot at one frame at a time. We see giant dinosaurs and snakes in this spooky island that doesn’t take kindly to its visitors. I like that models were used and that there was no CGI back then because since the models were real and had hand movements and facial expressions, they felt real to us– making them all the more terrifying. This is also the first “talkie” film to have a thematic original score that wasn’t made to be just background music all done by Max Steiner.
When I compare this film to the remakes that followed in 1976 and then again in 2005, I’ve realized how this version really portrays the character of Ann Darrow as the victim and King Kong as the monster villain. He’s shown with dazed and slightly perverted facial expressions towards Ann and clearly has sexual desires for her as he rips her clothing to get a little look-see (despite being a Pre-Code film, that scene wasn’t included until 1971). Think of this film as a twisted Beauty and the Beast fable.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of the remakes, at least one thing I’ll give them credit for is that they made Ann eventually grow to Kong. In the remakes when Kong keeps saving her life, she realizes that there’s more to him than a scary gorilla. She sees a hero in him which makes the ending all the more heartbreaking. In this version, Ann doesn’t care when Kong saves her and when he gets exploited in New York. In fact, she supports the exploitation. The only time you ever really see character in her is her relationship with Jack Driscoll. Because of this, it’s almost set up where you want the audience to root for his demise. How did you see Kong? A monster or a misunderstood gorilla falling for a beautiful woman? If you love monster films and have an obsession with special effects, look no further than this film.
Watch one of the first successful monster films that saved studio RKO from bankruptcy and write in what you think: