“Don’t be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen. Those chains are made of chrome steel!”–Carl Denham.
Just watched the original King Kong, which I had never seen before, and while it’s practically blasphemous to say so, my favorite is still the 1976 one. Yeah, that one, the one with the 46% Tomatometer. What can I say? I was nine when I saw it, so it’s not really a level playing field. I thought it was awesome. Actually, I think they are all kind of awesome.
Best special effects has to go to the 1933 version. Sure, the close-ups of the leering Kong are goofy as all get-out, and the effects in the 2005 Peter Jackson version are way more realistic, but you’ve got to give props to a movie made in 1933 when it’s effects still hold up 81 freaking years later, and I think they do. They did for me anyway. The fight scenes are awesome, and I think Ray Harryhausen hit the nail on the head in saying the stop-motion style lends a surrealism that just works for the fantasy genre. It looked cool in 1933; it looks cool today, and it will look cool 100 years from today.
The best Kong is easily Andy Serkis version from the 2005 film. I think they call that technique “motion capture,” and he’s amazing at it. He gives Kong an emotivity that makes him a no-kidding relatable character in the film. It’s easy to feel empathy for Kong because of Serkis. Peter Jackson made a really good move too in making this Kong a bit old and battle scarred.
Speaking of feeling empathy for Kong, aside from an awesome film score, that’s where the 1976 version really got it right. It’s a long way from Fay Wray’s incessant screaming in the original to Jessica Lang’s begging Kong to pick her up so they’ll stop shooting at him and Jeff Bridges cheering each time Kong manages to take out one of his attackers. It might have been beauty that sent Kong headlong after Fay Wray, Jessica Lange, and Naomi Watts, but it was good old fashioned capitalist greed that brought him to New York, and my 9-year old self felt the sadness of every one of those fading heartbeats at the end. Jakckson was faithful to the original in almost every aspect save this one, and his film owes a nod to that lampooned 1976 guy-in-a-gorilla-suit travesty.
And, okay, this is my blog and I can do what I want, so for one last thing I’m just going to go ahead and be juvenile–most obsession worthy babe hands down is Jessica Lange. Wow, was she gorgeous.
So there you have it. You can’t go wrong with any (or all) of the three. Wonder if I could talk my kids into a Kong marathon this weekend.