Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
King Kong (1933)
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The Story (continued)

Swept down the river to the jungle, an exhausted Jack and Ann return through the jungle with a much-angered Kong in quick pursuit. Night has come back at the wall in the native village, where Denham waits for a signal from Driscoll. Excitedly, sailor guards see the two running toward the gate, and everyone greets them, grateful that they are alive. They all start back for the safety of the ship:

Denham: Wait a minute. What about Kong?
Driscoll: Well, what about him?
Denham: We came here to get a moving picture, and we've found something worth more than all the movies in the world.
Captain: What!
Denham: We've got those gas bombs. If we can capture him alive.
Driscoll: Why you're crazy! Besides that, he's on a cliff where a whole army couldn't get at him.
Denham: Yeah, if he stays there. But we've got something he wants (looking at Ann.)
Driscoll: Yep, something he won't get again.

Just then, a lookout up on the gate next to the giant gong cries out: "Hey, look out. It's Kong. Kong's coming!" Ann screams again. They try to keep the huge gate closed, bolted and blocked - the gate that has kept Kong trapped inside the island for so long. At the sound of the gong, the natives swarm from their huts and join them to hold the gate against the giant ape. Kong pounds repeatedly on it, and pushes with his entire weight thrown against the door. As last, he breaks it down, and the doors swing open to reveal the awesome brute. An enraged Kong attacks the village searching for his blond beauty. [The village's native huts had been reused from the film Bird of Paradise (1932).] He hurls an entire hut at the fleeing natives and crushes everything in his path. A screaming baby is rescued just before Kong would have crushed him with his gargantuan foot. On a raised scaffolding, a small group of villagers hurl their spears at him. In retaliation, Kong uproots a small tree and clubs the leader from the platform. He grabs the native on the ground with his hairy hand and chews on him in his gaping mouth, biting him to death (one of a number of horrific scenes removed by censors in the 1930s). Kong then smashes the platform with three swift punches from his fist. More native huts are crushed, and a few of the natives are trampled.

At the beach, Denham tosses one of his gas bombs that explodes at the feet of the charging Kong. The Beast is staggered. Exhibiting anthropomorphic mannerisms, Kong rubs his eyes, grasps at his throat, struggles to crawl forward and then collapses unconscious onto the ground. Denham enthusiastically orders his men to go to the ship for anchor chains and tools "to build a raft and float him to the ship." An opportunist, Denham explains their good fortune, believing that they will become rich by charging audiences to see their giant gorilla on New York's Broadway. Victoriously, he proclaims:

Denham: Well, the whole world will pay to see this.
Captain: No chains will ever hold that.
Denham: We'll give him more than chains. He's always been King of his world. But we'll teach him fear! We're millionaires, boys, I'll share it with all of you. Why, in a few months, it'll be up in lights on Broadway: 'Kong - the Eighth Wonder of the World!'

Kong is brought back to "Jazz Age" New York on the S. S. Venture to be put on display in a crowded Broadway theater, shown in marquee lights: "KING KONG EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD, Carl Denham's Giant Monster." Kong is a victim in civilization, far removed and transported away from his familiar jungle environment. The curious crowds of the first-night audience push into the huge auditorium, mentioning that tickets are $20 apiece to see the prized trophy, and freak show attraction. One of the audience members has misunderstood and believes a movie screening is about to take place. But she is told that it is more of a "personal appearance." Another individual speculates: "I hear it's a kind of a gorilla." A female quips: "Gee, ain't we got enough of them in New York?"

Just before unveiling Kong to his audience, a top-hatted, tuxedoed Denham tells press reporters backstage to play up the Beauty and the Beast angle on the story, because it was Ann that led the beast back to the village. He also requests that they take their first flash photos of Kong on stage after the curtain goes up. He walks on stage in front of the curtain and with much showmanship, addresses the audience about his "Eighth Wonder of the World" in its world premiere:

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here tonight to tell you a very strange story - a story so strange that no one will believe it - but, ladies and gentlemen, seeing is believing. And we - my partners and I - have brought back the living proof of our adventure, an adventure in which twelve of our party met horrible death. And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I'm going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a King and a God in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization, merely a captive, on show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong - the Eighth Wonder of the World!

The curtain rises to the amazed, black-tie audience, and there is the giant Kong exhibited, standing chained to a large steel-platformed structure. The metal structure's resemblance to a crucifix is symbolically striking. Denham invites Jack and Ann, now obviously in love, to come onstage. Denham introduces first Ann and then Driscoll - they're now engaged to be married:

The bravest girl I have ever known...There the Beast. And here the Beauty. She has lived through an experience no other woman ever dreamed of. And she was saved from the very grasp of Kong by her future husband. I want you to meet a very brave gentleman, Mr. John Driscoll.

Denham then brings the press reporters on stage, to give the audience the privilege of seeing the first photographs taken of Kong and his captors. Kong struggles when he is startled and then angered by a flood of flashbulb photographs. He also is stirred and jealous of the sight of his beautiful prize - Ann, standing next to Denham. Denham assures his panicking audience: "Don't be alarmed ladies and gentlemen. Those chains are made of chrome steel." With a second flurry of photographs and bursts of light from the flashes, Denham warns them to stop: "Wait a minute. Hold on. He thinks you're attacking the girl." Furious and anguished, Kong believes the popping lights are guns being fired at his female love.

Kong roars in fury and breaks free of his chains to protect and rescue Ann - first freeing his right arm and then the rest of the manacles binding his other arm, waist, and ankles. Driscoll grabs Ann's hand and helps her escape into the alley where they flee into a nearby hotel, while the panic-stricken audience hysterically stampedes and races for the exits. Kong smashes his way out of the theatre, causing mass havoc. Crashing through the stage door, Kong sees Ann and Driscoll enter the revolving doors of the hotel building across the way. After a car crashes into the hotel entrance where Ann and Driscoll have fled, the frustrated Kong kills the driver of the car in his mouth. In his violent rampage and assault on Manhattan [a symbolic, Depression-era attack by the impoverished victim on Wall Street and its bankers and stock dealers?], he rips the marquee from the hotel entrance and throws it into the crowds on the street.

After hearing a scream and seeing a woman peering down from a window, he scales the tall hotel building. Kong's great eyes peer through a window searching for Ann. He reaches into the window of the room and grabs a sleeping woman from her bed. When he discovers she isn't the object of his affection, he opens the fingers of his hand and drops her headlong to her death on the street far below. Then he peeps through another window and glimpses Ann and Driscoll in another room higher up in the hotel skyscraper. He crashes through the window with his giant arm and Driscoll is knocked out defending Ann. Then Kong plucks her from the bed in the bedroom and recaptures her. He carries her to the roof, but then descends soon after, before Denham and Driscoll can stop him.

On his way, after being startled by the sight of a passing elevated train on Third Avenue - thinking it is some gigantic snake - he tears up the track as a second train approaches, causing the second train to turn over and crash. Kong further damages the train (killing and injuring more passengers) by destroying one of its cars with his fists. A radio report details Kong's progress - he carries her across New York City in his giant hand and makes his way for the city's tallest point or "tree", the Empire State Building, possibly because it reminds him of his mountaintop lair on Skull Island. Denham thinks they're defeated:

Denham: That licks us.
Driscoll: There's one thing we haven't thought of.
Police Officer: What?
Driscoll: Airplanes. If he should put Ann down, and they could fly close enough to pick him off without hitting her...
Police Officer: You're right, planes...

Four Navy biplanes are dispatched, each with fore and aft machine guns mounted on them. They approach the Empire State Building at sunrise, just as Kong is nearing the domed summit for a tryst with his Beauty.

The film's final moments contain some of the most familiar and memorable of all images and sequences in film history. Atop the building, Kong clutches the girl whose blonde beauty touched his heart. He places Ann on a ledge and then roars in defiance at the planes. A squadron of fighter biplanes swirl around him in an attack to shoot him down, as he swats at them like irritating mosquitoes or bees, but he cannot reach them. His battle against the biplanes is futile. [Note: The film's producers and directors, Cooper and Schoedsack, played the roles of pilot and gunner in this plane-attack scene.]

Kong flinches as machine gun bullets rip into his body. Kong sends one careless pilot to a fiery death. After a vicious attack into his throat and body, he is weakened and knows that he is dying. He touches his chest, and then looks at the blood on his fingers from a chest wound. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. He gently picks Ann up one last time to gaze at her with tender affection and love. Then, he returns her to the ledge and strokes her gently with his fingertips. After another volley of bullets into his throat, his head droops and his body sways and staggers - he is barely able to hold on. When he loosens his hold from the building, he silently plunges to his death on the street below. Tragically, Kong is no longer an object of terror and fear, but of pity. Moments later, Ann is rescued by Jack Driscoll on the Empire State Dome. He embraces his fiancee tightly in his arms: "Ann, Ann, hang on, dear."

In the final scene on the street's pavement below, next to Kong's lifeless body that is sprawled there with blood trickling from his mouth, Denham pushes his way through the police cordon to examine the massive, crushed body of the fallen monster: "Let me through, officer, my name's Denham...Lieutenant, I'm Carl Denham." He corrects the police officer lieutenant who claims he knows what killed Kong. Rather than the 'airplanes' - a symbol of civilization, Denham states what finally 'killed the Beast.' He shakes his head and replies with relish, in a classic line, the final line of the film:

Police Officer Lieutenant: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
Denham: Oh, no. It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.

Also Worth Considering:
King Kong (1933)


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