The first King Kong is still top banana

I had a conversation with my friend on-line a couple of days before Peter Jackson’s King Kong was shown. And during our talk I learned he was not that enthusiastic about Jackson’s version of King Kong. I could not understand why. I was familiar with the 1970’s remake of the movie with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges. And with my nephews watched Jackson’s long version of the film.

Then a few weeks ago we were able to watch the original 1933 version. Jackson, probably trying to be faithful to the original, did not alter the story as much. Although he might have cinematically waxed over certain bits of the story and included the ice skating bit.

And despite the distance between the first film and Jackson’s version it seemed quite clear to me that the original one was and will always be the better one. First, The story was told simpler and did not meander. A few minutes from the start and we are at Skull Island. Second, The special effects were amazing and it was obvious that the stop motion scenes were meticulously done. There were even stop motions of figures representing the human/victims. Third, The fight scenes between Kong and the rest of the creatures were dynamic. Fourth, black and white lent an air of mystery and horror to the film. Fifth, The scenes showing Kong rampaging through the village in Skull Island was unforgettable. Even when he used a number of indigenous people of Skull Island as toothpicks or when Kong was peeling Fay Wray’s clothes like a banana skin was alarmingly interesting.

The restored version of this classic included scenes deleted from the initial commercial release. This included Kong’s emasculation of indigenous warriors of Skull Island, the partial undressing of Fay Wray, and possibly the squashing of one unfortunate inhabitants of Skull Island.

Our local cinema adopted a lot of the techniques used in the film. A scene in the movie reminded me of a scene in Darna and the Giants, when the Max Alvarado giant attempts to squash or squeeze Rod Navarro to death inside a Nipa Hut. The techniques used in Kong were to be used again and again in follow up movies (Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young and those Godzilla Movies).

Monsters like King Kong, Godzilla, the rest of their brood and other assorted non- human villains have a knack of unintentionally destroying unpopular figures or institutions. Godzilla always destroys a new government building, the Japanese Diet or Tokyo’s City Hall. Tim Burton’s Mars Attack, the small and pesky Martians flamed the whole US Congress. I wonder if Filipinos decided to create an uber-monster which branch of government would it destroy, if we are lucky probably all three branches and all remaining politicians.

Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman(as James Creelman) and Ruth Rose. Idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Cast: Fay Wray , Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy, Noble Johnson, James Flavin, and Victor Wong.

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