King Kong is undoubtedly one of the most iconic movie monsters to grace the silver screen. Created back in 1933, the fact that the giant primate has managed to stay in public consciousness after so many decades and after so many remakes is a testament to our continued fascination with him. With Kong: Skull Island hitting the big screens, let’s take a look at the history of big screen’s most iconic ape.
In the Begining
The man that created King Kong, Meriam C. CooperThe original King Kong movie was the brain child of film maker Merian C. Cooper. Cooper was no ordinary filmmaker, though. A decorated World War 1 veteran and adventurer, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he would one day create one of the world’s most iconic screen monster. Cooper already had a fascination with primates as a boy, having read Paul Du Chaillu’s
Cooper already had a fascination with primates as a boy, having read Paul Du Chaillu’s Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. The interest was furthered into his adulthood when he studied a tribe of baboons in Africa while filming The Four Feathers movie in 1929.
It was this interest and a dream he claimed he had, of a giant gorilla wrecking havoc in New York City that eventually inspired him to set the basis of what would eventually be the original King Kong movie in 1933.
A legend is born
In the original King Kong movie, the giant ape King Kong was the last primate of the mega-primodus Kong species. He was given his name, by the tribal natives of the mysterious Skull Island and was just one of many other giant monsters that resided in this hidden island in the Indian Ocean.
The original film plot revolved around an aspiring actress, Ann Darrow (played by Fay Wray), who is hired to make an exotic picture at Skull Island. Unfortunately, she is then captured at the shooting location by the tribal natives to be used as a sacrifice to the giant ape. Kong, however, fell in love with her instead of eating her.
Ann manages to be rescued from Kong’s clutches and in the process of trying to get her back, he is subdued and captured instead. He is then brought back to New York City and marketed as the 8th Wonder of the World. Of course, when you try to chain up a 50-foot tall giant gorilla, he’s bound to escape, which is exactly what Kong did.
Recapturing his tiny love, Ann, the film culminates in its famous ending, where Kong climbs the Empire state building and finally meets his end when he falls to his death.
Over the years, the various remakes have not strayed too far from the original movie plot. Ape meets girl, ape kidnaps girl, girl escapes, ape gets captured, ape escapes, ape captures girl again, ape climbs giant building, falls and dies.
Spin-offs, sequels, remakes and the Japan connection
Since the original movie came out, there have been various sequels, remakes and spin-offs. A sequel to King Kong was made just nine months after the release of the original movie and was titled Son of Kong. It did not feature the original giant ape and instead focused on a smaller albino ape that the main characters of the movie assume was Kong’s son. While the movie had some moderate success for its time, it just wasn’t the same movie without the original giant ape in it.
It would be almost 30 years later that we would once more see King Kong on the giant screen, this time, though, it wasn’t Hollywood that would revive him but Japan. Now by then, Japan already had its own famous movie monster in the form of Godzilla (who itself was inspired by King Kong), but the popularity of the original movie meant that we would get to see these two titans face-off in battle. And so they did in the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla which was released in 1962.
With King Kong vs Godzilla’s popularity and box office success of the movie, another Japanese King Kong movie was made in 1967, this time called King Kong Escapes. In it, Kong battles various other giant monsters, as well as robot version of himself, called Mechani-Kong. It didn’t enjoy as much success as the King Kong vs. Godzilla though, and that would also be the last time we’d see a Japanese version of King Kong.
It would be in 1976 that we would then see Kong return to Hollywood’s hands with a remake. The movie starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, kept the main plot of the original 1933 movie intact, with some changes here and there. However, the basic premise (as we mentioned above) remained unchanged. The movie would go on to be a box office success, on top of getting nominated for three Oscars and winning one of it.
Unfortunately, though, the remake would be followed up with an uninspiring and low-budgeted sequel in 1986 called King Kong Lives. And while the 1976 remake managed to bag an Oscar, King Kong Lives, however, managed to earn itself a Razzie, the award for really horrible movies. After that, we would not see Kong on the silver screen again for almost 20 years.
That didn’t mean the giant ape would disappear from our collective consciousness, though. King Kong by then had become too iconic just to disappear. He’s been seen in comics, television and video games. He even has his own theme park ride in Universal Studios.
However, Kong has always belonged to the big screen, and when we once more saw his giant frame grace movie theatres, it was in 2005 with Peter Jackson’s take on the giant ape. Unlike the 1976 movie, Peter Jackson decided to keep the original plot and characters. What resulted was a brilliant retake on the original King Kong movie.
Like the 1976 remake, it was lauded by both critics and fans and managed to top its predecessor with three Oscar wins. It seems that despite being decades old, King Kong was still as popular as ever.
It’s been more than 10 years since we last saw Kong on the big screen and it’s about due time that the giant ape once more makes his presence known to the world. Fortunately for all us Kong fans, he will once more grace the big screens, this time, in a new movie called Kong: Skull Island.
Don’t expect another remake of the original movie like the 1976 version or 2005 versions though. Instead, Kong: Skull Island, which stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly, offers a thrilling new adventure that reveals how Kong got his title, King.
Set in 1973, a secretive organisation known as Monarch finds an island that is shrouded in mystery and identified as the origin for new species. The resulting expedition to the island reveals that a giant monstrous ape named Kong is at the centre of a battle for dominion over the island, against the apex predators, nicknamed the “Skullcrawlers”, responsible for wiping out his kind. As the expedition crew makes plans to fight for survival against Kong and the other monsters on the island, some of them begin to see that Kong is worth saving.
Over the decades we have seen two sides to Kong, the violent beast befitting of his name, and the softer side, that fell in love with a tiny puny human. And while we have thoroughly explored and seen the softer side of Kong, especially in the both the 1976 and 2005 remakes, maybe it’s time we see him really go all out against opponents of the same size.
In that respect, Kong: Skull Island, is something that many fans of both kaiju and giant monster movies will be looking forward to as we’ll definitely be presented with a spectacle more epic than two men in rubber suits hitting each other.
Kong: Skull Island will hit theatres on March 9 2017.