One of my guilty pleasures – or it would be if I were guilty about it – is that I love old black and white movies, and this is far and away one of my favourites. It’s such a classic and probably hard to believe now, but was quite ground-breaking in its day for its stop motion special effects. People were genuinely terrified by the story of a gigantic gorilla found on a remote tropical island who falls in love with a human woman. Well, she was a classic Thirties platinum blonde in a bias cut satin frock, so who could blame him?
Because the film has been remade a number of times (and a prequel, Skull Island, is being made as I write) I won’t bore you with details of the plot. If by any chance you haven’t seen the film, this is the perfect opportunity for you to correct that! Surely all my readers would be familiar with the iconic image of Kong at the summit of the Empire State Building, battling biplanes while holding Fay Wray in one hand?
King Kong was easily the most successful of a range of “jungle movies” made in the early years of Hollywood, most of which did reasonably well, but the combination of Edgar Wallace’s storytelling with the top notch (for the time) special effects had audiences flocking to cinemas for years. It’s worth remembering that primatology was still in its infancy and people simply didn’t know very much about apes; it was very possible that, somewhere in the depths of an unexplored jungle, such a gigantic being could genuinely exist*. Consequently, it was a huge hit and ensured that Fay Wray’s name will always be remembered as the woman who tamed a gorilla.
Just as a random fact – the chap who did the special effects on this film taught the great Ray Harryhausen. That’s a small sign of how good the film is.
* We now know that’s impossible, but in 1933, it was seriously considered.