The classic monster picture that spawned the rest is not simply a venerable old cinematic relic that one is obliged to give a passing mention to. "King Kong" was created to grip and thrill like no movie before, and these basic principles hold surprisingly true today.
In reviewing or watching a film from the early 1930s, it is usually necessary to allow for the age of the film and the social and technical restrictions of the time. "King Kong" defies such limited expectations because it was so ahead of its time. Willis O'Brien created impressive effects that were not only technically brilliant, but also highly imaginative in terms of cinematic action. The pace of the film is both fast and quite fluid. Max Steiner's music adds fantastic atmosphere (it also helped lay down some of the basic rules of motion pictures scoring).
The plot was kept simple but believable enough to allow the audience to enjoy the special effects that would dominate. Fay Wray is hired by Robert Armstong to star in a film that he is making. It is to be shot on a mysterious island, which turns out to be the home of the rather angry Kong. He kidnaps Wray and rampages over the island until he is captured and taken to New York to be put on show. This foolish move allows him to escape and decimate the city.
What may surprise you about the film is the richness of Kong's character, which is due to the attention put into the special effects. Even more remarkable is the fact that most modern CGI-dominated monster flicks are unable to capture such characterisation. Technology has moved on but blandness seems to have crept in too. Treat yourself to "King Kong" and you'll see how a monster blockbuster should be made.
Read a review of the DVD.
Go to the "King Kong" FAQ site.