King Kong is a 1933 film directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. It starred Bruce Cabot, Fay Wray, and Robert Armstrong. The story is probably familiar to most since the movie has found its way into pop culture and was the subject of an (inferior) remake in 2005. The film was a box office smash and was ultimately responsible for pushing the studio that released it, RKO, into the black for the first time in its history. The film continues to be highly regarded and has made numerous AFI “best of” lists and it maintains a perfect 100% fresh rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. So how does this film stand with the all time greats and does it deserve the label “classic?”
Should this film be considered a classic? This is not always the case, but often when a film gets remade it is because the first one was really good and captured the imaginations of the people who viewed it originally and the people who view it in a modern context. King Kong, in its 1933 form is truly a classic work. Granted, the effects are extremely dated and sometimes distracting. However, it maintains a charm and appeal that transcends the effects. The story is tightly written and the 100 minute runtime far more suited to the subject matter than Peter Jackson’s three hour remake. Fay Wray and Bruce Cabot steal the show as Ann Darrow and Jack Driscoll. They carry the movie with their excellent chemistry and provide the human element monster stories desperately need to be successful. I’m going to throw my hat in with everyone else and say this one certainly is a classic!
Would I own this film? While I absolutely agree with the consensus that this film is a classic, it is also not one that I think I would own. Some movies, even the classics, just don’t grab me and this is one of them. I enjoyed watching it and I can appreciate even the dated effects but it just does not feel like one I will need to revisit. Maybe that is why I don’t feel much of an urge to add this to my personal collection. I will say this though, if you were a fan of the 2005 remake you should at least give this film a look. It is far superior in terms of storytelling and proves that even with all the marvels of modern computer generated imagery nothing can replace a good tight story told by competent actors and actresses.