Carl Denham: It’s money and adventure and fame. It’s the thrill of a lifetime and a long sea voyage that starts at six o’clock tomorrow morning.
R: Never all the way though.
F: Yes a good number of times.
R: Was this the very first overblown, hammy, special effects blockbuster? It is preposterous in so many ways, and there’s so much that’s easy to criticise from a 21st century perspective, but I’ve got to say I thought it was a lot of fun.
F: It’s certainly got to be one of the first. Of course the special effects look ropey here but when you remember this film is 85 years old, then they’re really enjoyable. Are you also referring to those out of date social attitudes? That passed me by when I saw this film as a kid.
R: It is certainly not a story about female empowerment, and the way the natives of Skull Island are depicted is also pretty crass. But I think it’s right to make allowances for when it was made, particularly as the ultimate message of the film is very anti-imperialist. Taking Kong back to New York is clearly a violent act of cultural misappropriation, and the film is quite unambiguous about the fact that leaves everyone diminished.
F: Do you know why they keep remaking this? I’ve seen all the versions (except the recent Kong: Skull Island) but this is by far the best.
R: I can see how those dated social attitudes might make it tempting to remake, but you’re right that those remakes seem only to have enhanced the reputation of the original. And that’s despite that this features probably the worst acting of all the films we’ve seen on this list so far.
F: Ha you’re probably right there. Even Kong is hamming it up! But it suits the blockbuster style. We have some of the most iconic scenes in cinema in this as well. Do you have a standout?
R: In all honesty it was the moments that I haven’t seen a dozen times before on Channel 5 clip shows like “100 GREATEST EVER MONSTER MOVIES!!” that I enjoyed the most. Because while some of the action scenes feel quite slow-paced by modern standards, the dialogue still feels quick and efficient (albeit a bit wooden). The start of the film particularly I think is really well paced – in stark contrast to the bloated Peter Jackson version which I had to give up on before they even got off the boat. What’s your favourite moment?
F: I’ve always enjoyed the scenes when they get back to New York over the bits on Skull Island. I think that’s the most interesting part of the story. Plus I would like to see the scenes of them getting Kong back to the USA! How did they manage that in the small (relatively) boat, using the gas bombs without knocking themselves out. I’ve thought a lot about the logistics of this!
R: Yes there are some pretty significant holes in the plot if you stop and think about it too long – a fine tradition that dumb action films continue to this day. But if we’re saying the special effects now look a bit sketchy, the acting is wooden and the plot is holey, what explains the film’s enduring appeal?
F: I think you have to remember the impact this would have had on audiences at the time. It would have been incredible to see these monsters on the big screen. Plus it’s a lot of fun!
R: Yeah, the wow factor might be gone but it is still a lot of fun. And I think the script deserves credit for that. This rattles along a lot faster than other films from this era.
Is it worthy of the top 100?
R: Yeah I reckon.
F: Yes definitely.