King Kong

King Kong (1933) [DVD]

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I caught a bit of Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the famous classic movie King Kong on one of the digital channels the other week, and it immediately made me want to watch more. More of the original 1933 version, that is, which I hadn’t seen in an age. So I duly sat down and unsurprisingly loved every minute of it, finding it as delightful and exciting as I ever did. Clearly there was no comparison with the overblown 21st century production which, while a labour of love for Jackson, nonetheless failed to recapture the timeless appeal of the first and best version.

And yet it quickly occurred to me that in almost every objective measurement, the 2005 version is clearly superior. Better written, better acted, and – with all due deference to the then-pioneering visual effects of the original that laid the basis for FX for decades thereafter – with vastly superior effects, I found myself having to ask: is my love of the original film just a product of rose-tinted nostalgia and not backed up by the cold hard reality?

Take the first scene of the 1933 original: it has two anonymous characters meeting by a ship’s boarding point to share some important scene-setting exposition for almost two minutes. Neither character plays any significant role in what’s to follow, so the whole thing is incredibly clunky – the sort of thing that even a film school student on his or her first day of study wouldn’t try to get away with. The acting is stiff and formal, as you’d expect from an industry still feeling its way with sound recording and daily having to import green talent from Broadway stages to replace the former star that looked good but had no way with dialogue for the talkies. Read the rest of this entry »