Universal Studios and its many theme parks around the globe are fairly well-known for their amazing theatrics, imagery, and excitement that comes along with the rides and attractions of the beloved theme park. As time rolls on, the attractions change over to the next “big market” draw for the masses- but one that will never change is the tragically lost King Kong Encounter that I refuse to let anyone forget about.
I mean, it’s pretty hard to forget a 30-foot-tall Kong screaming in your face with banana-scented breath. I know I never did!
I remember my first “Kongfrontation” quite vividly in the Summer of 1993 on a trip to also my first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. The whole thing was actually videotaped but alas, just as with the fate of this ride, it got destroyed by the flames of injustice. So I only have my memory of watching said videotape several hundred times as a kid and of course, ye’ old faithful Yous of Tubes to light the way of a core attraction memory that seems so long ago.
The ride served as a spectacular ending to the now-infamous Universal Studios Tram ride and debuted in June of 1986- 10 years after the Dino de Laurentiis version bedazzled audiences with a bloody, scarier version of the eighth-wonder-of-the world, and was a prodigal ambition for the time paving the way for the complex themed attractions we know today. Kong’s animatronics were designed by legendary Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr with Kong’s design itself was tackled by Tom Reisenbach. This duo along with the muscle and brains of many others gave the 7-ton, 30-foot-tall, banana-scent-breathing Kong figure in the attraction the reputation of being the largest and most complicated animatronic figure in existence for many years, weighing in at 14,000 pounds and able to perform 29 different types of movements.
Pretty ground-breaking stuff for the mid-80s!
Getting on the tram ride was a real treat for guests at the park and an essential at that. After riding by lots used for Back to the Future and the real Psycho house, JAWS would pop up and give you a scare after riding over a bridge of murky waters and a couple of explosions popping off. Kong was the climactic event to seal the tour’s deal as the must-ride list at Universal Parks. The show began as the tour tram entered the soundstage into a world of New York City where they stopped in front of an apartment building, while a breaking news report about Kong’s rampage on television monitors located inside of the building’s windows showed live coverage of the destruction, informing us Kong is loose, and slightly pissed in the city.
Then, there he was- in all his goddamn 7 million-dollar animatronic glory.
With a news chopper circling overhead giving us a play-by-play, like we really needed that but still cool nonetheless, we were put at eye-level with the eighth wonder of the world and a sweet sniff of that Chiquita banana breath. Police choppers start to fire at Kong to protect us passerby citizens, but this enraged the King even more who then shook the bridge and ripped the suspension bridge cables apart in an attempt to grab us. But, of course, by the grace of RKO pictures, we escaped the giant ape and made it out safely.
It was an extraordinary experience to have and it really is a shame that a fire took out this beautiful piece of history. The infamous Universal Studios fire of 2008 began when a worker used a blowtorch to warm asphalt shingles being applied to a facade. The worker left before checking if all spots had cooled, and a three-alarm fire broke out. The fire lasted a total of 24 hours and damaged the Park quite severely, most notably destroying over 150,000 master recordings of music and, of course, the King King Encounter.
Nine firefighters and a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy sustained minor injuries. In the aftermath of the fire, only four walls remained of the entire Kong part of the attraction, with the only option to demolish this innovative piece of Universal history. Eventually, we got King Kong: 360 3-D, which opened on July 1, 2010, and was based on Peter Jackson’s Kong film, but it really wasn’t the same as a giant head of Kong staring directly at you with the mouth the size of a truck.
At the very least, we have our memories of what once was, and by the grace of giant monster Gods of Skull Island (well actually YouTube), we can remanence in the treasure that was the King Kong Encounter.
RIP to the coolest part of the Universal Tram ride.
This is the movie kaiju fans have been ravenously waiting to see! It’s been 7 years in the making, ever since Gareth Edwards brought the world a proper and faithful Western-made Godzilla film with a titanic budget backing it and cutting edge special effects befitting to the King of the Monsters.
Godzilla and King Kong, two of the most groundbreaking monster names in all cinematic history, have not met since the early ’60s. There was a lot of talk in the ’90s to bring these two colossuses back for a battle of the ages and I’m sad that never happened. I love the Heisei Godzilla films and seeing that Godzilla battle a revamped Kong would have been nothing short of extraordinary.
Well, after many decades, after many plans fell by the wayside, and once a new universe of monsters and mayhem had been established – courtesy of Legendary Pictures – the wait has come to an end at long last. The monster clash of the century has finally dawned and fans may rejoice in the neon haze.
Clash of the Titans!
If you’ve been following us here on Nightmare Nostalgia our readers will find it no surprise that I’m a Godzilla fanatic. I mean holy hell, people! If you search Godzilla there are at least 5 pages of Godzilla articles by me! So oh hells yeah, I’m excited about this movie. I’ve been looking forward to watching it for years!
First off I never thought it’d ever happen. Even while watching Godzilla back in 2014 I didn’t anticipate Legendary’s sensational vision to bring about a thriving MonsterVerse. One filled with classic Toho monsters and a fresh new evaluation of how these beasts would work in our world today.
Legendary’s treatment of these movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters) has been with the utmost respect for each creature and project. The filmmakers don’t treat these guys as great big monsters nor have they handled the projects as a ‘big dumb monster movie.’ Unlike the 1998Godzillaatrocity.
Legendary treats these beasts reverently and as individual characters – and not just some CGI thing – and that’s what makes them work. What separates this series of monster films from many imitators is the fact that the monsters have so much heart and character, just like the original monster films Gojira and King Kong
Their latest monsterpiece, Godzilla vs. Kong, is no different. And this was not an easy project to bring to life either. Anticipations were high as fans of both beasts wanted to see their Titan done properly. This would have been a movie that easily could have monumentally fucked up – and fuck up hard – had it been handled in lesser experienced hands. I trusted Legendary’s vision and they didn’t disappoint. As far as both monsters go that is.
Let’s get the most obvious fact out of the way. This is a remake, but it’s the kind of remake that works just like Carpenter’s The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly. King Kong vs. Godzilla was a fine achievement for Toho back in 1962.
It was the first time either Kong or Godzilla appeared in color for one thing, and it was the third outing for Godzilla (just like this new film come to think of it) and a completely new take on Kong’s mythos.
In KKVG King Kong was a juice-drinking bachelor living the good life and being worshipped by adoring fans. He kind of had it made…aside from having to kick the shit out of rowdy gigantic sea life every now and then.
Fun fact: this was not the first time Kong appeared in a Toho production. Sadly (as of this date) the original Toho Kong movies are lost to Time but, as has happened before, perhaps they’ll resurface someday. Anyways that’s a topic for another article.
That original movie also set the formula every other Toho Godzilla project would follow – that being Godzilla vs. (insert monster here). It’s a brilliant formula too and it’s enchanted generations of fans ever since. Because of this movie’s success, it led Toho to quickly follow up with fan-favorite Godzilla vs. Mothra. And the rest is cinematic history!
So being a remake, Godzilla vs. Kong pays faithful tribute to the original (and much adored) Toho classic– and all of us fans are given some pretty nostalgic Easter eggs – while forging a modern classic out of the heat of Godzilla’s flames themselves.
This is a must-watch – I can’t stress that enough – for monster fans and whether you find yourself favoring Kong or if you’re more of a Godzilla nut there is plenty enough in this film to appease and delight fans on both sides.
Godzilla is shown in all of his raging glory and fans have not long to wait before seeing our Monster King. When he arrives all Hell breaks loose as he obliterates an Apex facility at Pensacola, FA. People flee (helplessly) in terror as he blasts away towers, buildings, and streets nearby. The very air sizzles in the tormenting heat of his inner radiation.
Flesh, blood, and bone melt by the heat of his atomic flames! Something, to be frank, I was expecting to see back in 2014. I was expecting to see the destruction of which Godzilla is very well known for. Godzilla is pure energy, a child of the Apocalypse, born of nuclear terror and he who walks with destruction in his stride. In Legendary he is an ancient Titan come from primordial mystery and awe, so it was nice to see him blast things apart just like he did in the good-old days. Naturally it also plays into the film’s narrative.
We are given a glimpse of the terror and awe that was revealed back in Gojira. I just wish there could have been a little more.
Kong is our lead though, a powerhouse of brute strength but with sympathy. I swear I keep seeing that beautiful Willis O’Brian touch (from the very original King Kong film) here in Legendary’s Kong. It’s in his eyes and how expressive they are. There is a profound soul behind his gaze and even a crazed G-Fan like myself can’t help but fall in love with Big Monkey.
Without getting into spoiler territory (yet) I’ll say this really is a Kong adventure-story where we follow him on his quest to kingship. Godzilla is not the villain though, which I theorized earlier. We’ll cover that a bit later though.
The movie is brimming with fantasy and sci-fi adventure. It’s a visual masterpiece that awes its audience. It also (most importantly) gives us a massive slugfest as monster battles monster to the violent end. Enjoy the marvel of seeing two of the most famous monsters of all time beating each other to bits. And yes, the battles – notice I say ‘battles’ because we get a few – are mind blowing.
Now for spoilers!
Final warning: If you don’t want the movie spoiled for you do not read further.
The rumors and theories were all true. The hidden villain of the film is none other than Mechagodzilla. I fucking knew it.
Mechagodzilla bursts onto the scene, tearing his wear out of the heart of a mountain, very similar to one of his earliest introductions from Toho, and as he’s born a wave of mayhem ensues. He is the new era of Titans, a new god, brought to life by none other than pure mad science! Don’t you love that? Classic sci-fi stuff right there.
They hint at him from the beginning of the film as we delve into the malicious secrets of Apex and learn of the company’s true intent.
Science may have built the chrome design of this mecha-nightmare, but the soul of the creature, and yes, at least in this particular case, the machine has a soul, one that’s blighted and thrives on the agony of others, is the DNA harvested from Ghidorah’s skull (just as I predicted from seeing the first trailer).
And he is vicious! I was curious how exactly Mechagodzilla would perform in the movie – like would he be a bulky stiff machine or something? He quickly proves (right off the bat) to be more than Godzilla or Kong could handle on their own. There’s a serpentine way the creature moves, and he possesses surprising agility. He’s out to kill and it could be argued that he is the Second Coming of Ghidorah seeing as he shares the devil’s own DNA.
So we get the monster team-up fans have always wanted as both kings join forces to take down the terror of Mechagodzilla. As people have been posting on social media (and spoiling the movie left and right) it’s true: Godzilla wins the fight with Kong but Kong ultimately kills Mechagodzilla.
But Kong would have never bested Mechagodzilla without Godzilla powering up that cool axe of his. Yeah, it’s a whole thing and quite awesome.
Mechagodzilla always proved a formidable rogue in the Toho series. He’s easily beaten the ever-living crap out of the King of the Monsters anytime the two ever faced off. And Legendary’s MechaG is armed to the gills with weapons of mass destruction. He’s a great introduction to the series even if Kiryu (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla) is my favorite MechaG unit.
Since Godzilla is played up as the villain from the start it becomes a mystery race for Team Godzilla to discover why he’s attacking seemingly innocent people. Turns out Apex complexes are provoking him and Godzilla destroys each facility only because he believes a rival Titan is challenging him from each one. And he’s right considering it’s Mechagodzilla’s disassembled body parts behind it all. A single eyeball (seriously, his eyeball) emits a signal that just pisses Godzilla right off. Does he sense Ghidorah’s presence in the pulse? I really want to know more about this thing. Because the eyeball (hidden deep in an Apex factory) seems to act like the Orca did in GKOTM.
Kong’s journey is an adventure tale leading him from the borders of an artificial Skull Island and deep into the heart of the Hollow Earth. Whereas Godzilla’s story plays out as a conspiracy/mystery journey Kong’s story is played up as the hero’s quest to find a kingdom. And we spend a lot of time with Kong. And some of my favorite parts of the film were exploring the Hollow Earth! It was a beautiful place of fantasy and awe. I wanted to spend way more time there exploring all it had to show us. It’s said to be the birthplace of all Titans so who knows what other familiar faces are waiting down there and will appear in future movies?
And that’s where I do criticize the movie. I went to see this thing in IMAX – the first time I’d been back to a theater since seeing Joker. And after GVK was over I knew I could have (easily) sat an extra 40 mins just to get more details on, well, everything!
Criticism (of Human Characters)
Yeah, we gotta get into this territory.
With the previous three films, we were given plenty of ‘oh that’s cool’ explanations and things flowed fluidly as we followed people trying to figure out who the Titans were and why things were happening the way they were. I think Kong: Skull Island and GKOTM both did this the best. The human characters weren’t that boring and we clearly understood their motives and why they were reacting the way they did to the Titans.
Not saying GVK doesn’t do that. There is clearly a human villain and his motivations are evident. He wants mankind to be the apex ruler of the world again and will prove his place on top of the food chain by creating Mechagodzilla.
Not to get too into it (but you know I am) but how in the Hell does Apex manage to build an entire Mechagodzilla? Way back in 2014 I remember thinking ‘Wow! Imagine what Mechagodzilla would be like in this world.’ But the thought soon passed because I realized that realistically no one could afford to build that damn thing.
In this case we have the stereotypical business tycoon (Walter Simmons) played by Demián Bichir who just happens to have tunnels running through the earth to serve as his own personal transport. This way he can move his evil robot parts around and other fun black market stuff without anyone noticing. But holy shit how rich is this guy?
Unlike every other movie come before this one the military and government push to control the Titans are all missing. It could easily have been explained that world authorities had pumped all their resources together and given the military the go ahead with preparation for a man-made Titan combatant. That could have been Mechagodzilla’s origin and wouldn’t have taken much to set up. But no, rich guy built him.
The scene that stands out to me though was when Team Godzilla happens upon Ghidorah’s skull. It’s just there because of reasons. We get a quick rambling explanation that it’s fueling MechaG and Ghidorah used telepathy to communicate between his three heads, so this thing can talk to the mecha(?). But I would have liked a little more time knowing how did this thing get into Apex’s hands. I mean I know they must have bought it, but the last time we saw this skull was when Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) bought it off the black market in GKOTM’s post credits.
And holy shit did I miss Jonah. Like what happened to him? He was such a great(!) bad guy, definitely in my top 5 favorite Godzilla human baddies, and his absence is heavily felt here. It would have been cool to know that Jonah was the evil mastermind manipulating the CEO of Apex. I’d have liked to know that smarmy businessman who thought he had all the Aces up his sleeve was nothing more than a witless puppet in Jonah’s hands. And perhaps Mechagodzilla was simply a little test for a much bigger horror Jonah had in mind. Oh well.
Most of the Monarch team was missed here too. But no one was more missed than Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who died in the previous film. But in GKOTM it looked like Dr. Chen (Ziyi Zhange) was going to be taking his place as the voice of reasonable exposition. In GKOTM she was already explaining Titan myths and lore from across history. In GVK it would have been nice to have her give us a little insight into this ancient rivalry between Kong and Godzilla’s species. That rivalry is just a thing that’s mentioned and never goes anywhere else in the film.
Again to use GKOTM as example, we’re told that Ghidorah is a species come from outer space and that he and Godzilla fought once before. The return of Ghidorah from his icy prison threatened the world as it had in ancient times when he and Godzilla fought once before. So the hatred they both had for one another was clear and understandable. Same way with Kong’s hatred fro the Skull Crawlers in KSI.
In Kong: Skull Island we had an established character (Hank Marlow played by John C. Reilly) in place to explain to us the long feud Kong’s family had with the treacherous Skull Crawlers. They killed Kong’s parents and made it very personal, and they also nearly wiped out the Iwi people. Kong had to fight these beasts to the death to protect all life on Skull Island but everyone feared the day when the Big One came up.
In the case of both films, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, both Kong and Godzilla are given villains to battle and there’s a lot of personal trauma caused on both characters by their arch villains. It created tension and excitement when they had to face them. Not to mention whereas Godzilla had Alan Jonah as a master-class baddie Kong had to fight none other than mother-fuckin’ Samuel L. Jackson! Both of these human baddies brought sinister drama to the monsters and it’s brilliant.
In GVK we have conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) who is running with Team Godzilla and spouting off random bits here and there. I loved this guy – actor not character – in Child’s Play, and I really liked the character at the beginning of GVK but towards the end of the movie I really wished he would just shut up. He quickly became the stereotypical conspiracy theorist nut-job who couldn’t stop talking about the Illuminati and lizard people.
I know I’m bitching a whole lot but this is the first Monsterverse film where the human cast did really bug me. They simply felt one-dimensional when in past films they had depth and a purpose that was immensely relatable in one way or another. And they weren’t forcing comedy on us. When the comedy happened in past films it felt natural.
The one new character who carried her role perfectly was little Kaylee Hottle who plays the lone survivor of the Iwi culture. Her connection with a giant digital ape is so believable and precious. Kong acts as her guardian angel and she’s his voice to humanity. Really she stole every scene she’s in.
Do the monster battles make up for all this though? Oh hell yes! And my petty criticism can’t change how exciting and impactful the monsters are. And that’s why we go see these movies after all. Once the movie ended I could have easily sat there and watched a movie just about Godzilla and Kong without any human characters.
And that’s the bottom line. If you gotta have human characters at least take the time to make them interesting and give them depth.
Speaking of that I know there was talk about making a movie that went back in time and showed Godzilla and Ghidorah’s first battle. I’d be cool with that. And I’d also be cool with a movie focusing on the ancient rivalry between Kong and Godzilla’s species. I don’t care if there are no people in either film. Just let me see monsters fighting!
Overall I do love this movie even with my opinions about it. Doesn’t mean it’s bad. It also makes me hope there’s an uncut version of the film out there. At times it feels like scenes are just cut short, that, and, there are two characters listed in the cast who do not appear in the film. One being Dr. Ilene Chen (Zhang Ziyi) and that’s interesting! Where was she? Like I said, she was sorely missed. And a character played by Van Martin who is listed as Dr. Chen’s assistant. There has to be more to this movie than we’ve seen.
And now that Kong is established in the Hollow Earth who knows what else we’ll get to see in future films? I know that there’s been talk to remake Destroy All Monsters, a Toho film that took place on Monster Island and featured nearly every kaiju from Toho’s legacy. Could there be plans to set up a Legendary version with similar themes?
That and there were rumors of aliens being involved in future films. And you know what that means: GIGAN!
So far GVK has done well and we can only hope it continues to do so so the studios green light some more of these great monster movies.
King Kong on TV was an event! – Doug Jones (The Shape of Water, Hellboy, Star Trek: Discovery)
I was a monster-loving kid. They were my world back in those mythical days before entering school and being introduced to a broader horizon of realities to come. But for the rest of my life that passion has never faltered or dissolved.
As a kid I would throw on a bath towel and pretend to be Dracula. And of course, my mom, who had an amazing cackle, would play the evil witch with me and that tickled me stupid.
Along with my love for monsters came a deep-rooted passion for dinosaurs, dragons, and Godzilla. They all blended together and just fed my imagination as I ran around our little home roaring and imitating giant monsters I saw on TV.
Oh but then came the day when King Kong aired on TV. My mom knew I couldn’t miss out on this one, and I don’t say it lightly, it was an event! Nothing could stop us from watching this upcoming movie. The name alone captivated me but I had no idea just how blown away I was about to be!
To set this up, I was young. Like toddler young. My sister wasn’t born yet so I had to be at least 3 or 4. So I’ve just crawled out of diapers and had learned to talk by then and monsters (as previously stated) were my world, and, if I’m being honest, is there any better way to live?
To further set this up this was the early ‘80s. And yes, I’m older than DVDs, the internet, and even Nintendo. Go me! But it also meant watching any movie – let alone something as grand as King Kong – when it came on TV was a very big deal! One, that if missed, you’d never forgive yourself for.
I sat my happy ass in front of the TV to watch nothing less than absolute and pure cinematic magic at its absolute finest. You could not have prepared me for the adventure lying in wait inside that classic movie.
You also couldn’t convince me the movie wasn’t real. King Kong was real. He had to exist! I saw it with my own eyes, by the gods of Midgar! And so were the dinosaurs. They all existed on that mysterious Skull Island where fantasy was allowed to live on.
The Adventure of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror!
King Kong has it all, and really, stands as the criteria for all the genres we now love and celebrate. The whole reason why this site exists is to praise the things we grew up loving, and had there not been King Kong to pave the way – not only as a colossal success but also as an inspiration to future dreamers – we would have so much less to cherish and praise.
For example, for all us gamers, King Kong led to a little blockbuster arcade called Donkey Kong. A game Universal sued Nintendo over due to the strangely similar themes the game shared with the movie. But then DK introduced us to Jumping Man, who later would venture through the Mushroom Kingdom on a rampage of crushing death upon turtles and goombas who had the fucking audacity to get in this guy’s way. Sure, it was Super Mario Bros. and that brought the NES into most homes.
But then there were a few of those friends at school who thought those of us who played Nintendo were a bunch of fucks and they had to go get the Sega so they could play Sonic the Hedgehog on. And Sonic was simply a way to compete with Super Mario. And now look at video games today!
All because Nintendo was inspired by King Kong! Though they denied any connection, (cough, cough).
So just as Kong smashed down the gates barring him from the villagers who worshipped him he also broke down barriers of what to expect out of films and pop culture, and he went on to pave a new way for filmmakers and creative minds to come.
Not just as a monster movie, but as a breakthrough in cinema in every way you can imagine.
The Story Behind The Magic
And we were asleep, my brother and I, and my father, who is a very serious man, if you don’t do sports you don’t exist kind of, isn’t into fantasy or anything like that, came into our bedroom, woke us up, which is unheard of we thought the house was on fire or something, and took us into the living room where we had this tiny TV, and he said, “This is the greatest movie ever made.” David Colton, Senior Editor USA Today
We might take it for granted today, but before King Kong there was simply nothing on earth like it. The closest thing would be The Lost World, a film that greatly influenced the film makers when making King Kong, but Kong took those concepts and upgraded them to the max.
So what makes it so special? What is it about this movie that drives film critics nuts to talk about it?
On its surface, the film is a majestic tale of colossal adventure. At the age I saw it I missed out on all the subtext the movie has to offer though. All I could focus on was the sprawling adventure: a majestic sea voyage that quickly turns into a prehistoric jungle adventure but then quickly becomes a monster masterpiece!
The flow of the film – aside being a testimony to the director’s talent – is seamless. The story builds upon poor Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), a starving young woman who must steal for her food is offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Money, fame, and the promise she’ll never have to go hungry again are all offered to her and just like that she sets out to live the Hollywood dream.
Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), on the other hand, is desperate to make the greatest movie of all time. Something no one will soon forget and in this meta journey the director happens upon his lead actress as if the stars above have aligned and these two strangers were meant to cross paths and venture out on a wild voyage towards destiny.
Landing upon an unknown island, the two discover a land forgotten by Time, a place purposely hidden by God, a place untouched by modern man, and once modern man enters into this wild Eden all Hell breaks loose as we upset a natural order that’s existed since humanity crawled out of the primordial ooze.
Oh and little Ann is offered up as sacrifice to the island’s alpha predator, a beast we know as King Kong.
That’s when the film really takes off as we’re then, not only introduced to Kong himself in a mesmerizing reveal, but we soon learn about the terrors that reign supreme across the island itself. Primarily dinosaurs!
Little did my little child brain know that dinosaurs live in the swamps and jungles of this island! I was beside myself with excitement! I can’t imagine the impact this film had on its first audiences.
And – fucking hell! – the filmmakers knew what we wanted! They gave us some extraordinary scenes of these creatures. Brontosaurus, T-Rex, stegosaurus, plesiosaurus, and a pterodactyl all wreak havoc on not only our cast of heroes but also prove challenging to the titular hero of the movie itself, Kong!
My favorite part, as a kid, was seeing King Kong fighting a ferocious T-Rex! As a kid that was pure magic. I mean he had to fight my favorite dinosaur of all time. And that blew my mind. Today, that is still my favorite scene but for much deeper reasons. I’m still enthralled by the scene and how they made it work! It’s ingenious and for its time it was perfection.
I mean not only is Kong and a T-rex just wrestling around, but these beasts are flipping each other over their backs, getting tossed in the air, knocking down trees, and climbing atop each other as they both fight to the death. And this is all done by stop motion and it just feels so realistic.
Credit goes out to Willis O’Brien who was the stop-motion animator of The Lost World – a film that inspired King Kong – and, of course, King Kong. The animation talent behind Kong is breathtaking and holds up in 2021. It’s a piece of cinematic special effects history at it’s finest.
It’s worth mentioning that O’Brian also brought Mighty Joe Young to life, another big ape movie that’s worth seeing.
Merian C. Cooper, uncredited director of the film, must have been a fan of Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), a writer who is considered the Father of Science Fiction and is praised for his stories of world-challenging adventures to mysterious locations and the horrors (and giants) awaiting there.
Cooper’s imagination must have been brimming with adventures of unexplored far-off places where the layers of mystery veil the wonders that await us there.
And Merian C. Cooper was one hell of an interesting character. Not scared of a goddamn thing. The man survived a plane crash and was nearly mauled to death by a tiger while filming a shot.
He had the heart of a true adventurer, one that converted over to characters in his films. In reality the lead character of Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) really is Mr. Cooper, a driven director Hell-bent on making the greatest movie ever filmed.
And really, I think Merian C. Cooper did just that.
So at its heart, it’s one helluva great adventure story, but it’s also a modernized retelling of the fairy tale classic Beauty and the Beast. In this case, the Beast is taken out of his castle of mystery and forced to deal with the skyscrapers of New York.
But the movie is more than just a ‘monster movie’ and won over film goers and critics alike. The movie pulled in viewers on a weekly basis despite the pesky little fact that it was released during the Great Depression! Now that’s fascinating.
The movie just works. In every way – the beauty of Fay Wray brings it romance, Denham gives us the adventure, the crew fills in the horror as the dinosaurs viciously attack them, and, I must insist, dinosaurs in movies need to be scary! The fantasy of Skull Island enthralls our imaginations and finally seeing Kong rampaging through New York is pure science fiction at its finest.
This is a movie history needed to happen.
As stated before, it gave audiences a magnificent distraction from the daily drudgery of the Great Depression. And it’s proven to be more than simply a product of its time as it’s reached out to kindle the flame of imagination across generations. No one watches King Kong without somehow being inspired by it.
One of the greatest moments in my life (as a fan) was being at a convention and seeing King Kong face to face. I got to meet that little and sweet armature that climbed the Empire State Building and swatted fighter planes out of the sky. I couldn’t believe it! I stood in front of King Kong and all that nostalgic enchantment swept through me all over again.
It’s incredible how much life was put into that tiny armature. But that’s the brilliance of filmmaking. When I was a kid I sincerely believed Kong was real and, as an adult, I found myself standing in front of the real King Kong, in the presence of true magic.
And I cannot leave out the beautiful matte paintings that brought Skull Island to life. Being inspired by Gustave Dore, King Kong’s realm looks so lush and that jungle is rich in depth! I was shocked when I learned that was all done by painted glass.
But the way the puppets are set in the background and lumber about gives that glass imperial life. The jungle doesn’t just look real, it feels real. It has life, and it is brimming with danger. But, in a wild twist, it feels entirely other worldly.
Before I move on here’s a fun fact. King Kong is the first movie to feature character themes in its soundtrack. Today it’s a given that – and largely thanks to Jaws and Star Wars – characters should have their own themes. You hear the Imperial March and you think of Darth Vader. That’s just how it goes. But King Kong was the first movie to feature individual character themes.
It Broke Open A Way For Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror!
Chances are if you name any of the big-name directors today King Kong had an impact on them. The reason a lot of them got into movie making in the first place was all due to seeing King Kong! They saw that movie and had to go work their own magic.
Think of any giant monster movie you know today and it will have ties back to the original King Kong. But among them all, there’s one name that stands out more than all the rest. And that name is GODZILLA!
No, wait, there’s that of course, but we’ll get to that later. What I meant is Ray Harryhausen. I mean Clash of the Titans is credit alone! The Kraken attack is still exciting. But there are the Sinbad films too, and that moment when you see the Cyclops stomping out of the cave. It’s all a tribute to the magic of Kong.
Peter Jackson, who, in 2004, gave us a beautiful remake of the Kong legacy, was heavily influenced by the original film. And Jackson is very vocal about it, King Kong is his absolute favorite movie.
It’s what got him into making movies. That stands to reason that had it not been for King Kong I can honestly say we would not have the legendary LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.
Something about the last march of the Ents rings of King Kong to me btw.
Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, The Shape of Water, and Pan’s Labyrinth) is another King Kong fan.
I could go on and on. So many of our favorite classic films, horror, fantasy, you name it, are all directly influenced by the 8th Wonder of the World.
Oh Hell, even Rob Zombie credits King Kong as to why he started making movies. So in a way the Devil’s Rejects, Hell, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig RIP) lives on in fans’ hearts thanks to Kong!
Directors, special effects artists, and actors all share a love for Kong’s magic. Due to all the movie has influenced it can be said King Kong molded pop culture and turned it into what it is today.
And the film was an international hit too. Sea borders couldn’t contain the beast as cultures around the world were uniquely captured by and reacted to Kong’s might and majesty.
Godzilla sure wouldn’t exist without Kong’s titanic success. So heavily was the influence over the project that Godzilla was originally planned to be stop motion. Now that would have been interesting but I’m glad they changed their minds. Godzilla went on to make history himself and likewise stands as an imperial icon amidst pop culture. And his legacy lives on today, right alongside King Kong.
It’s no secret I’m more of a Godzilla fan, and all you gotta do is search Godzilla on here to see how much the kaiju has influenced me. But I love Kong too and praise him for the impact he’s had on genre fans across generations.
And that brings us to today. Godzilla and King Kong are coming back together for a battle of the ages! It’s the monster fight fans have wanted since they first watched Toho’s original King Kong vs. Godzilla from the ‘60s.
We wanted more! And we’re getting it!
So is King Kong the greatest movie ever made? Honestly, how can it not be? Given not only all it’s achieved over the years, and not to mention the impact it’s singularly had over multiple generations, but also every single person it’s inspired, and how they, the dreamers, went on to further enlighten generations with their own visions of adventure and horror of the great and mighty fantastique, King Kong is more than deserving to stand as the greatest film ever made.
And Kong lives on to this very day! Without any sign of slowing down.