I caught the original 1933 film, King Kong, today for the first time. It really appealed to my inner 8-year-old. It is a stunning piece of work. The creatures are like vivid toys coming alive before your eyes. The light that falls on Kong is real light. His stuttered movements accross the screen are poignant; life-like and unnatural at the same time. His emotions are unabashadly raw and sentimental. His mood swings are violent and larger than life.
Even more than Peter Jackson’s recent remake, I was simultaneously drawn toward and repelled by the robot-like 1930’s Kong. He crushes humans in his mouth and drops women to their death. His desires are wildly unchecked, but they abate unexpectedly when compassion (or stupification?) overcome him. When unprovoked, his heart brims. But mostly, in this movie, he is provoked scene after scene by the fear and misunderstanding of others. Neither he nor anyone else are able to harness him or control him.
And so he must die. If we can’t have him, then nobody can. The film asserts in it’s final line that beauty is what has killed the beast. It is a sentiment that is stretched a bit too far more than once in this film. It becomes clear that this sentiment cannot quite cover the many other forces that lead to the death of Kong. What killed him? He killed himself? We killed him. The entertainment industry killed him, and enjoyed the spectacle of it.
Unbridled desire killed him. His displacement from his natural habitat killed him. The movie director, Karl Denham killed him. The audience in the theater killed him. The press killed him. Civilization killed him. We killed him. And his death is in no way portrayed as a triumph. No banners were waved. His death is met with question marks and silence.