Kong has never been my favorite monster. Perhaps because it is more of a sad story than a scary one, and in movies of gigantic animals, there always seem to be scaling problems. The monsters are only reacting to the circumstances in which they find themselves and humans prove to be the real problem. In ways nearly impossible to conceive, less than a century ago films like the original King Kong shocked and stunned audiences. Humans are such visual creatures and no similar spectacle had been seen before. I recently watched the 1976 reboot for the first time. I’d seen clips, of course, and kids in junior high were talking about it back when it came out. For me it was more like “if you know the story already, why see another attempt to tell it?”
Visually, there is a lot of nice cinematography in the film. We’re all used to CGI so the animatronic Kong isn’t really believable, but nevertheless, our emotions map onto his with the prolonged shots of the gorilla’s facial expressions. That part was effectively done. Much of the rest of the movie left too many questions for belief to be suspended. The heartlessness of corporations was too real and perhaps the scariest part of the movie. Watching any movie with explosions on the twin towers brings back a kind of post-traumatic 9-11 reaction. Prolonged, nearly Russian-length, death scenes personally don’t do it for me.
The reason I was watching, however, was for the religious aspect. This is underplayed, but the islanders clearly worship Kong and consider him a god. (I did wonder what he ate since no giant fruits were shown, but the immense snake tells us not all was revealed.) In one reflective moment on the oil tanker back home, Jack Prescott says that they’ve taken the islanders’ god and their society will fall apart. Western enterprising does have much blood of this kind on its hands. And no matter how it’s dressed up King Kong always appears to be a racist story. Some critics say the 1976 version isn’t horror, but instead a kind of bizarre love story. While I don’t think much thought went into the implications—it seems the movie was a showcase of state-of-the-art animation for the period (otherwise the long scenes of Kong changing faces and blowing on Dwan make little sense)—that accidentally play into tropes of gods falling in love with women. Maybe there’s a reason I haven’t watched any of the other reboots.