When I was around eight years old, one of our neighbours owned a home projector. He would fix a white sheet to the wall of his living room, and invite us in to watch films that he projected onto his ‘screen’. One of those was the original 1933 film, ‘King Kong’, starring Fay Wray. I thought it was just amazing. It was scary, (for a youngster) exciting, and the huge gorilla was so well done, even though we of course knew it was a model. The cast took it all very seriously, from the scenes in ‘Africa’, to the Ape rampaging around New York City, and the effects and performances were enthralling to me as a youngster.
When the poor beast is shot down from the top of the Empire State Building, we cried. Then asked if we could watch the whole film again.
In 1976, it was remade. Starring Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges, the story is much the same, but Kong meets his end atop the World Trade Centre instead. By this time, special effects had moved on, and the film won an Oscar for them. But even though I had also moved on, I still yearned for the simpler original, and that feeling from 1960, when I first watched it.
That wasn’t the end of it of course. Once again, in 2005, someone came up with the idea of a third remake, this time starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black. They now had all the new bells and whistles to throw at the film, including CGI, and the benefit of the two earlier versions to work from. This time it won three Oscars, but it had no heart, and felt silly to watch, as far as I was concerned. I sought out a TV showing of the 1933 film instead, and settled down to watch the only one worth my time.
In 2017, there was a film made called ‘Kong: Skull Island’, but that’s not really the same film.
I have no doubt they will eventually make another version. I’m sticking with the first one.