Saturday, January 28, 2012

Long live King Kong!

Much before King Kong was made into a film on at least three occasions – the 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, in my opinion, being more enchanting and engrossing than the 1933 and 2005 versions – English crime writer Edgar Wallace created the giant gorilla in a short story he co-wrote with Draycott Montagu Dell. Their story first appeared in Cinema Weekly in October 1933.

Interestingly, the first version of King Kong was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack based on a story idea by Cooper and Wallace.

King Kong has lost none of its cinematic influence after scores of movies about beasts and monsters that followed the first version – originally titled The Beast: The Birth of Kong – over the past eighty years. King Kong still sounds better.

The movies spawned many comic-books with the 1968-published Gold Key cover of the mighty King Kong battling puny airplanes atop the Empire State Building being the most striking of all.


  1. I am trying to decide if the 1976 movie is more exciting than the original black and white-the scene in the first movie where they first see Kong is really exciting

  2. Mel, I agree. Cooper and Schoedsack raked in the votes for the 1933 version and it influenced others that came after. The Dell comic-book cover was based on this film.

  3. Mel, that's Gold Key and not Dell, as I noted inadvertently.

  4. I actually liked the 2005 version pretty well. Loved the settings for it.

  5. Charles, I actually liked Jack Black in that one. And, naturally, the special effects were far superior.

  6. Hi Prashant, great post. That maverick film critic David Thomson also prefers the 1976 version - I remember seeing it when it came out as a kind and finding the ending much more moving than the original but since then I found myself truly charmed by the 1933 version, which is not somethign you can say about any of the remakes (I truly loathed the Peter Jackson version - I really, really want those 3 hours of my life back!).

    In terms of Wallace's involvement, I am fairly sure that the story was not the basis for the movie but was a tie-in. It was in fact published after Wallace's death in February 1932 and well after the movie came out in April 1933.

    All fascinating stuff - there is also the sequel to the 1976 film, KING KONG LIVES, also directed by John Guillermin and starring Linda Hamilton, which is pretty awful though!

  7. I watch the first half of the original film and only that. I am fairly OCD in my King Kong tastes. :)

    LOVE Robert Armstrong too.

    I also loved him MIGHTY JOE YOUNG which was kind of King Kong but with a happy ending.

    This one starred possibly the worst actress ever, Terry Moore. But she is forgiven for how well she works with a miniature Joe.

  8. Thanks Sergio. An article on Wikipedia says Edgar Wallace co-created King Kong, the monster, wrote the early screenplay and story for the movie, as well as a short story for KING KONG (1933), which was credited to him and Draycott Montagu Dell. Wallace probably wrote the screenplay before he died in 1932. The article also says Wallace wrote the initial 110-page draft for King Kong over five weeks, from late December 1931 to January 1932. It's all very confusing.

    I didn't care for the Peter Jackson version either and I thought Adrien Brody's talent was wasted as it was in PREDATORS.

    I think I have seen KING KONG LIVES but will have to check it out.

  9. Yvette, I have enjoyed KING KONG since early days and the 1976 version hasn't lost any of its appeal for me. I would love to see the 1949 version of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG again, as opposed to the one that came out in 1998.

    I remember Robert Armstrong in KING KONG (1933) and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), though not Terry Moore so much. IMDb tells me Armstrong also acted in THE SON OF KONG which also came out in 1933, probably to capitalise on the mighty gorilla's fame.