'King Kong,' the 1933 original: Betsy Sharkey's film pick
“King Kong,” the original 1933 Fay Wray version -- as opposed to the 1976 revise with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange or Peter Jackson’s 2005 homage starring Jack Black, Adrien Brody and Naomi Watts -- is a classic for all kinds of reasons.
Let's start with the remarkable, for the time, creature features: pioneering stop-motion animation; a story that captured not only a giant gorilla, but so many of the nation's rising fears; an unforgettable performance by Wray; an improbable and improbably moving love story. And that’s just the tip of the Empire State Building, which the film made truly, and terrifyingly, iconic.
Unfortunately, the movie has become a small-screen/late-night experience for most people, rarely making its way into theaters, which makes the American Cinematheque’s 7:30 p.m. Sunday showing at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood such a rare treat. For to really see “King Kong,” you need the dark theater, the gasps of those around you, the big screen for Kong to fill with his rages and roars against the machine.
And Wray -- her vulnerability, her fear, her empathy in perfect counterpoint -- is an iridescent beauty that breaks hearts indiscriminately, of those who watch her and the beast who loved her.
-– Betsy Sharkey