King Kong (1933) IMDb

Categorization

Pulp adventure.

Subject

A daredevil filmmaker finds a beautiful shoplifter and takes her to exotic Skull Island for the shooting of a sensational motion picture. Kong is worshipped as a god on the island and fights dinosaurs to protect the damsel, after she's left as a sacrifice to the ape.

Commentary

Map any allegory you like onto it, silly or not: Kong as the repressed and demonized sexual black man in hegemonically white American society, Kong as modern Quasimodo, Kong as an abusive boyfriend, Kong as a dying ideal of masculinity and primal bliss, Kong as the Depression, Kong as ethanol, civilization as a foul threat to mystery and nature... No allegory really works, but many go far enough to form a thin webbing of symbolism under one of the very least intellectual classics.

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Remake:

King Kong (1976) IMDb

Categorization

A straggler in the era of the Jaws (1975) blockbuster. Slower, darker, less of a fantasy (and less realistic, really straining to hit the set pieces of the original), with more sympathy for the ape.

Subject

Modernized: An uncharted island may hold a solution to the oil crisis, so a big tanker heads there under great secrecy. An academic stows himself away on the ship and helps pick up a drifting actress along the route.

Commentary

Nobody can translate the speech of the natives, there is only one other monster, the woman is even more ridiculous, and Jeff Bridges cheers when nonanthropophagous Kong lobs an explosive tank from one WTC tower to the other. The effects and dialogue have improved (too little for the time), and the oil crisis motif is nice, but to no avail.

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Remake:

King Kong (2005) IMDb

Categorization

Slower still, visually polished to a high shine, and intellectually pretentious, comparing itself to and quoting Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

Subject

Back to the 1930s, with natives even more hostile and cryptic than in the original, albeit awesome at pole vaulting. Kong retains his habit of not eating people from the previous remake, though he has a nice throwing arm, and the woman does almost nothing, as usual.

Commentary

Improved Lovecraft vibes. The romanticized visual design is amazing, and the portrayal of Denham's “undying ability to destroy the things he loves” is also quite nice, but no meaning is added.

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