"It was beauty killed the beast"

King Kong, Cooper & Shoedsack, 1933

I can understand why this film made Peter Jackson want to be a director.

I'd managed not to see it, somehow. I did see both the 1931 Dracula and the 1931 Frankenstein, but not this one. Of course, with Jackson's monumental (and surprisingly well-received) remake coming out tomorrow, I had to revisit the original. I never thought it would be so genuinely good.

Oh, maybe good isn't the first word that comes to mind if you just start anywhere in the middle. To modern eyes, Kong himself, and most of the other effects, seem clumsy, laughable even. Watching from the beginning, however, letting the atmosphere creepm up on you, discovering the crew together with a screaming Fay Wray, he is suprisingly believable. Oh, of course you see he is made of clay, of course his movements show that he was made with stop-motion, and yes, foreground and background don't match all that often, but still, what a spectacle. After all, isn't the most important quality that special effects should have that they draw you into the movie? Who cares about realism, as long as the effects make you care. And I cared. I held my breath during the wrestling match between Kong and the dinosaur, and I felt a pang when he fell.

What I was most surprised by is not how much the film gripped me, but how violent it was. Many, many people get killed here, brutally, and somehow it shocked me more than, say, Sin City did (well, the Sin City deaths, at least, the whole ripped-off-balls things not taken into account). From the trailers and what I've heard, King Kong in the new version is a sweeter, more tender creature, and Ann Darrow loves him back in a way. Not in this version, but it's true that you almost blame here for it, because even this clay model has an amazing array of feelings on his face. I'm looking forward to see what Andy Serkis can do with that.

Many articles come out now asking what it is with our fascination for beautiful blondes in the paws of big black beasts. I don't know the answer, but whatever it is, it seems to work for Peter Jackson.


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