Follow TV Tropes

Following

YMMV / King Kong (1933)

Go To

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Safari and wildlife travelogues were pretty popular at the time, and a filmmaker like Carl Denham would have been famous. In Real Life, King Kong directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack did in fact initially become famous by making the travelogue documentary features Grass and Chang.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Critics were very hostile to the film. "A 50-foot gorilla attacking New York City? And on top of that, falling in love with a human woman instead of eating her? Nobody's ever gonna pay to see THAT!" Take a guess at how wrong they were. It's one of the earliest examples of Critical Dissonance in cinema.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The "Jungle Dance" music. Also used as the background music to the "Eighth Wonder of the World" show in the 2005 remake.
    • The entire 1933 score by Max Steiner is still well regarded by both musicians and viewers.
  • Common Knowledge: Just about everyone knows that King Kong is fifty feet tall. While it was definitely claimed on the posters, his actual height fluctuates from scene to scene, and he rarely goes above twenty-five feet. For some idea, if Kong were actually fifty feet tall, the T-rex in the famous fight scene would probably have come up to his waist at best. On the other hand, he appears much bigger when atop the Empire State Building.
  • Designated Hero: Denham. The trip is his idea, as is the choice to bring the ape back to New York, where it promptly wreaks havoc and causes more deaths but he is never called out for his actions. Though at the end of it, he does appear apologetic and regretful of the whole thing. He is much more sympathetic in The Son of Kong, where he voices genuine regret for both Kong's victims and the big ape himself, and his actions in the film are a means of redeeming himself for his past mistakes.
  • Ethnic Scrappy: Charlie the cook, whose actor was credited as "Victor Wong" and may have actually been Chinese-American, but whose portrayal is still considered offensive. Still doesn't prevent him from being competent (noticing Ann's missing first and immediately raising the alarm) or brave (challenging a dinosaur in the sequel with nothing but a meat cleaver and coming out on top).
  • First Installment Wins: While there have been many sequels and remakes, this is the version most often spoken of by fans, with King Kong (2005) at a respectable second place.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film has been hugely popular in Japan from the moment of its release. Unauthorized cash-in films began to pop up immediately (most famously Wasei Kingu Kongu (1933) and King Kong Appears in Edo (1938), both now lost), and decades down the line, Toho licensed the character to appear in King Kong vs. Godzilla - which remains their most successful Kaiju film to this very day - as well an unrelated film called King Kong Escapes. It has been said that Godzilla (1954) was itself directly inspired by the original Kong, making it potentially the most important movie in giant-monster history. Additionally he was the inspiration for the very pillar of Nintendo, Donkey Kong.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The climax has military planes flying at the Empire State Building, attacking Kong, and one plane is sent crashing against the side of the building. In 1945, a U.S. Army plane accidentally crashed straight into the Empire State Building killing 14 — the 3 on the plane and 11 in the Building. The incident has been forgotten since.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: One of the film's iconic scenes is Kong wrecking an elevated train somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. Decades later, the entire elevated train system in Midtown Manhattan would no longer exist.
  • It Was His Sled: Yes, the airplanes did kill Kong, but it was also beauty that caused him to get shot in the first place.
  • Memetic Mutation: The entire climax of the film involving King Kong and the planes.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Kong does kill quite a few otherwise innocent people on both Skull Island and in New York when he breaks loose. He was meant to be sympathetic, but not to the extent that you should ignore his destructive qualities. Notably the 2005 remake portrays him as a Tragic Monster possibly in reference to this.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • While many still appreciate the Stop Motion used for Kong and the dinosaurs because of the effort or complexity of what was done, it's a lot easier for a modern viewer to write them off as "It looks like clay". For the time, they were the best special effects around, some shots still astound modern special effects artists with their seamlessness and complexity. But it's doubly impressive considering that the alternative would have been lizards in makeup.
    • The use of sound in films is nothing new nowadays for modern viewers. Itís as common as common could be, but back in 1933 this film was revolutionary for its excessive use of multiple sound effects and a bombastic score. Back then the invention of sound in movies (known as "talkies") was still relatively new, so filmmakers didnít quite understand how to incorporate it into their movies, making many early talkies feel silent in a way. Kong was one of the pioneer movies that pushed the boundaries of what sounds and music could add to a moving picture.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: Soooo, you want to witness the mighty titular giant ape in action in all his enormous glory? Not so fast! First, you need to sit through over forty minutes of lagging dialogue, awkward acting, and a fair share of dated aspects involving Hollywood Natives, and sexist women quotes and scenes. Good luck sitting through the entire movie.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • As tremendously impressive as they were in 1933, we humble tropers must be honest: to a 21st century perspective, time has not been very kind to the Stop Motion used for Kong and the dinosaurs. Doesn't stop people enjoying them, though.
    • There's one bigger problem with the iconic "Kong vs. Rex" scene, though, and specifically in the otherwise gorgeous pulled-away sections that are so beautifully animated... because there's some non-beautiful animation in there. Willis O'Brien focused a ton of attention on getting Kong and the T.Rex right, and assumed the viewer's attention would be on them... except that, unlike the rear projection cuts (mentioned below), Ann on the tree in the wide view scenes is herself another stop motion figure, and one with vastly less effort put into her appearance and animation. She's tiny and confined to a small bit of the top left of the scene, but once you notice that she's generally animating with fewer overall "frames" than Kong and Rex, you simply will not be able to unsee it.
    • They did build a to-scale animatronic of Kong's head and shoulders. It has several quick appearances, the most notable being Kong's unveiling in New York and during his rampage in the native village (the close-ups where a villager is in his mouth). Though it was pretty motionless (only the eyes and mouth could move, and in a limited fashion at that), it still worked fairly well, especially when taking the attempt made 43 years later into account.
    • While the Stop Motion is respected even through a modern perspective, the rear projections are a more mixed deal; the scenes where Ann watches Kong battle dinosaurs have Fay Wray rather awkwardly pasted alongside the miniature set. Granted, this was half a century before Chroma Key was even a concept and everyone was halfway inventing this technology as they went, but it's still clear to a modern viewer that Wray has no idea what is going on in the full scene.
    • When Kong drops the random woman that he grabbed out of the building, there's a quick overhead shot of the flailing woman falling to the streets below. The compositing of the shot is poorly done, with the footage of the falling woman blatantly unconvincing. Similar flaws were reportedly why an overhead shot of Kong falling from the Empire State Building was rejected and cut from the film.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The use of Hollywood Natives has not aged well at all, especially with their kidnapping of a white woman to use as a sacrifice in their savage rituals being vital to the plot. At the time, though, they were an absolute stock archetype and virtually expected for an adventure film like Kong presents itself in the first half. The 2005 remake references these as Broadway stage show performers, thereby sidestepping the issue (but its portrayal of the actual Skull Island natives as orc-like troglodytes might actually be worse depending on your opinions), while the version of the natives in Kong: Skull Island are changed to be peaceful, with no sacrificial intentions.
    • Jack Driscoll's misogynistic comments would also be less likely to fly nowadays.
    • The character of Carl Denham seems less sympathetic nowadays due to the Western colonist and wildlife desecrating subtext, landing on Skull Island and capturing Kong just for money and personal publicity, and he represents a character of a intrepid white explorer in the genre of "adventure films" that have both long since gone out of fashion. It's no wonder he's made much more unlikeable in both of the film's remakes.
  • Vindicated by History: A downplayed example, since it was a substantial hit when first released in 1933, but when re-released in 1952, it was a massive hit — as in, biggest-movie-of-the-year hit — that led directly to the wave of giant monster movies for the following decade, including Godzilla (1954).
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The stop-motion effects were so impressive they got a kid named Ray Harryhausen interested in making that a career. There are still cinephiles and effects experts impressed with how Willis O'Brien made his effects, especially when considering the technology available to him.

Top