Poor Kong. Since starring in what is perhaps the greatest monster movie of all time – only The Bride of Frankenstein vies for the crown – his screen appearances have been increasingly dismal. First there was a fun but juvenile sequel, Son of Kong, rushed out the same year as his father’s appearance. Japan’s Toho Studios represented him with a moth-eaten ape suit, first in King Kong vs. Godzilla and then in King Kong Escapes. Dino De Laurentiis mauled him via an admittedly better ape suit in his lousy 1976 remake, and then delivered the coup de grâ€šce in the hilariously atrocious King Kong Lives. As well, a hideous cartoon series in the ‘60s followed the lead of King Kong Escapes by continuing the adventures of mad scientist/Kong nemesis Dr. Who. (!) The only memorable thing about the show, which inevitable turned Kong into a small boy’s pet ala Gentle Ben (see also that same decade’s Moby Dick cartoon series), was the theme song. This reminded us that “You know the name of / King Kong / You know the fame of / King Kong / Ten times as big as a maan!“
Astoundingly, the recent 1998 musical (!) cartoon feature we’re now examining sports animation only slightly better than the old TV show. By which I mean, in the same way that, say, Scooby Doo was better than, oh, Speed Racer. (In fact, a tilted opening shot of flames shooting from a Kong mask looks directly out of a Scooby Doo credit sequence.) Yet despite the paucity of the budget, they somehow managed to get name actors such as Dudley Moore (!!) and, uh, Dudley Moore. And while the pun “Moore is less” seems a tad obvious, it’s sheer applicability here necessitates its usage. The producers did try harder with the music, but with little success. Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, plays lead Ann Darrow here. And, indeed, when a song occasionally allows her to open up, her singing so outclasses the amateurish quality of the rest of the film that it’s startling. The uninspired tunes themselves, meanwhile, were provided by the Sherman Brothers. These are the gentlemen who wrote famous ditties for such films as Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. Their most famous song, or good or ill, undoubtedly remains “It’s a Small World After All.” Nothing here, in any case, will prove anywhere near as memorable.
To sum up. On the one hand, this is a direct-to-video feature made for tykes. On the other hand, by tampering with one of the all-time great screen icons it deserves what it gets. Which is me. However, what I did to deserve it is another question entirely.
Instead of opening in New York, as the real film did, we briefly open on Skull Island. We watch as one of Kong’s ‘brides’ is tied up to await his arrival. This appearance we see also view, in a four-second cameo that acts mostly to ensure that the beast’s entrance is afforded as little majesty or mystery as possible. Then it’s on to period 1930s New York. A bunch of sailors are loading gear onto the tramp steamer The Java Queen and complaining about the quantity of weapons being brought aboard. One salt is provided with a hillbilly voice, confusing me no end. (“OOO-EEE!!” he actually squeals, though perhaps he was trying for ‘hooey’, a sentiment I more than share.) Here the departures from the original truly begin to rankle those who are familiar with that film. These alterations mainly involve screwing around with the characters. For example, take the ship’s Captain. To better fit some stereotype or other, he’s been changed from the dapper gent of the film into a thuggish looking sort with an awful Irish accent. We also here meet first mate Jack Driscoll, who will be Ann Darrow’s love interest. While the captain was coarsened, Driscoll has been prettied up – he vaguely resembles Bruce Campbell here — presumably so he’d look more ‘romantic.’
This established we cut to a Broadway revue. This showcases a dance routine that informs us just how bad the animation here will be. Which is really bad. Moreover, the trashing of King Kong’s Carl Denham character now begins. The real (albeit fictional) Denham was a reckless he-man adventurer who risked his life to capture exciting footage of dangerous wildlife. Here his films are shown to be comical “animal funnies.” Already the movie is punching my outrage buttons. And this is prior to meeting this film’s “C.B.” Denham, an effete looking dilettante type voiced by Dudley Moore (!!), complete with English accent. He’s also provided with a nerdy ‘comic relief’ assistant named Roscoe. Were Denham an actual person, he’d beat everyone involved with this production to a pulp, and I’d help. Meanwhile, the extremely weak level of humor here is indicated when a Walter Winchell-esque radio announcer introduces himself as “Walter Winter.” Ha ha. So kids won’t get the reference and adults will wonder how that hell that can even possibly be considered funny.
Denham in this version is on the financial ropes. Since he’s no longer being portrayed as an adventurer, I guess they felt they should ‘strengthen’ (i.e., simplify) his ‘motivation.’ This is quite a departure from the real movie’s successful Denham. Admittedly, the same character was broke in Son of Kong. However, that was because, in a rather neat bit for the time, he had been sued into poverty after Kong’s New York City rampage. Here Denham’s show is portrayed as being on the verge of bankruptcy as he begins the expedition to find Kong.
He’s also rather denser than the original Denham. Here, he gets the idea of finding an attractive woman for his film only when some reporter, cornering him a quote, bring up the notion. Said newshawks, by the way, have the kind of voices that shout “two actors playing all the incidental characters.” As with the actual film, Denham finds his leading lady when the starving Ann Darrow is caught trying to steal an apple. This version, though, was made in the ‘90s. Therefore, Ann is no longer shamed by her desperate moral lapse. Instead, she yells at the shop owner for not letting her purloin his merchandise, on the grounds that “it’s only an apple.” (People who ‘own’ things are so mean! There’s a good message for your kids. So steal them this video.) Reacting to her remark, the guy asks if “you think these things grow on trees?” Ha. Ha.
Cut to an Automat, where the ‘crowd’ is represented with some particularly embarrassing ‘animation.’ Over dinner, Denham offers the reluctant Ann the lead in his movie. Then, just in case we were becoming numb to the horror, Denham breaks out into song (sorta). Presumably hoping that if she agrees he’ll stop ‘singing,’ she gives in. After this experience, being chased by Kong should be a stroll in the park. Actually, Denham gets her to sign his contract (yeah, that’d be legally binding) by shrewdly asking if she’s afraid she “isn’t good enough.” Being a ‘90s-style gal, an autonomous, self-actuated individual with a full complement of “I am Woman!” self esteem, Ann allows herself to be manipulated into signing.
Back to the ship. Our nausea increases as we meet rambunctious cabin boy Ricky and his comical pet monkey Chips. Being a cartoon animal, Chips comes complete with a Gilligan-style sailor cap. (We can tell that Ricky’s a crewmember because he’s polishing a sextant, no doubt so that it can be used as a microscope.) In a bit that perhaps is supposed to be funny, to somebody, Ann arrives and is startled by Chips. See? Because she’ll soon meet Kong, and he’s like a giant monkey. Get it? So imagine how startled she’ll be then.
I had wrongly assumed that they wouldn’t have this Driscoll complain about having a woman on board the ship. They do, but attempt to justify it by having Ann get in the way of the crew, which results in a very sub-Rube Goldbergian chain of destruction. That way he has a basis for his complaint, so that he won’t look like someone who has the sexist attitudes of, say, a sailor of the 1930s. It also allows him to save her life, thus start their eventual romance off on the proper foot. Still, the times call for a more assertive Ann. So rather than being contrite at causing all this damage and nearly instigating numerous deaths, she gets angry at being (mildly) yelled at. That’s right, Sister! Don’t take no guff off The Man! Next, in a really odd bit, Chips is seen dragging what presumably is Ann’s suitcase to her cabin. This is covered with many international travel stickers, as might be found on the valise of any indigent woman during the Great Depression.
Having second thoughts about joining up with Denham, Ann confides her worries to Ricky. Or maybe Chips, I don’t know. However, after about two sentences of counterargument from the lad (amounting to “Second thoughts? Are you crazy?”), she smiles and casts her fears aside. Does the phrase ‘manic-depressive’ sound familiar, Ann? So the threesome dreams of the future, with Ann promising to take them to Hollywood with her. Then, in perhaps the only moment of genuine pleasure the film will afford me, they fail to break into song.
Cut to stormy seas. Down below the crew is peeling potatoes and complaining about the odd nature of their journey. This provides the opportunity for some exposition, as a sailor relates the legend of the mysterious Skull Island. An earlier ship had attempted to land a crew there, but they never returned. Only a sailor named Larson (“The Swede,” we’re informed, in case we thought he might be Larson the Zulu) was later found in the surf. Before he died he raved about a “monkey god” and “human sacrifices, and all that jazz.” Which seems like an odd piece of slang for a 1930’s seafaring man. I think this story is supposed to be eerie, or as eerie as you can be while trying not to frighten any four year olds in the audience.
Because of the storm, Ricky is too ill to deliver the captain’s dinner to the bridge. So Ann dons his rain slicker and hat and takes his place. There she finds that Driscoll is still complaining about having a woman on board. Rather strangely, given the time period, he’s not only upbraided by Denham — who’s still wearing a white evening jacket! — but also by the rough looking Captain as well. “Did you learn such superstitious nonsense at the Academy?” he sneers. Actually, taking a crew of seamen, not a breed known for their couth or sense of self-restraint, and placing a woman in their midst on a long journey tended to be like lighting a cigarette near a powder keg. So the ‘superstition’ wasn’t entirely without basis. Driscoll continues to rave on the subject, though, until Ann makes her presence known by tossing a pot of clam chowder on his head. Ha. Ha.
By the way, if anyone really believes that this flick, with it’s simplemindedly ‘progressive’ portrayal of Ann, is more fit to be shown to children than the real, ‘sexist’ King Kong, please write me. I’ll be glad to append your comments to this article.
Next they make the mistake of redoing a scene taken from the real movie. It’s the sequence where Denham directs Ann in a screen test on the deck of the ship. In the original, Denham inspires Ann to a fit of terror as she imagines being approached by something rather Kong-like. Here, Ann is told to imagine herself an island princess, setting the stage for *sigh* another musical number. In this she’s on a tropical atoll in a bikini top and sarong, being serenaded by wildlife in a desperate attempt to produce an “Under The Sea”-type production number on one one-hundredth of the budget. In fact, even as I typed that, she dived underwater from a cliff and ends up looking so much like a cheapjack version of Ariel, fish swimming around her and everything, that I suspect they were baiting the Disney Corporation to sue them for publicity purposes. If so, the Mouse wisely kept his powder dry waiting for larger game.
Cut to the Captain and Driscoll demanding info from Denham. When he reveals that he wants them to sail to waters that are uncharted (“Officially, anyway,” he adds, whatever that means), they call him mad. He’s got a map, though, and when we finally see it we’re forced to concur about Denham’s fragile mental state. His ‘map’ is a sketch of Skull Island with a compass drawn on it! In a bit that indicates that whoever wrote the screenplay never even saw a ship, much less sailed on one, the Captain decides to let the crew vote on whether to continue the mission. No doubt in nautical circles he’s remembered as the Jefferson of the Seven Seas. This *groan* sets up another musical number, in the sense that ‘zero’ is a number, anyway. (Actually, it’s largely just a recapitulation of the Automat song. Waste not, want not, I guess.) In any case, since the audience isn’t allowed to urge them to stop this nonsense now, they unfortunately elect to go forward.
On the other hand, they then spot Skull Island less than a minute later. So they might have felt somewhat silly had they turned back to New York. Here a landing party goes ashore, just like in the real movie. (Despite all the weapons the ship is supposed to be carrying, only one crewmember is shown carrying a rifle. This presumably can be traced to the modern squeamishness about having guns in kids’ movies. Which begs the question: Are they actually going to let Kong kill anyone? At this point I doubt it.) After a brief yet boring trek through the jungle, the party comes across the local villagers, performing a ritual dance before a giant wall constructed from tree trunks. (Watch how they keep losing track of what sailors are supposed to be in the landing party.) Meanwhile, Denham’s sidekick Roscoe is becoming terminally annoying, as his sole function appears to be to ‘comically’ fall over while carrying the film equipment. This meager bit is one we’ve already seen a good – or bad – half dozen times by now.
At this point the animation is getting incredibly sloppy. For instance, when the group initially approached the ceremony, they seemed to be on a level plain with it. The next cut, however, shows the heads of Denham and the Captain (whose face is dead white here, leading me to believe that they forgot to color it in) as they view the ritual from a vantage point. By the way, dudes, this is animation. Extras don’t cost anything, so really, couldn’t you draw in more than the perhaps twenty villagers shown here? In any case, the word ‘Kong’ is heard, leading to a conversation about what it might mean. This is followed by the appearance of the sacrificial bride, whose skin color, for some reason, fails to match that of any of the other natives.
Again showing the effects of an anachronistic moral sensibility, Driscoll and Ann demand that the girl be saved. Luckily, we now see that the party is well armed, although this contradicts what we saw earlier. Then Roscoe trips again with the camera equipment and alerts the natives to their presence. Things look bad (literally, in this version of the film) until the Chief sees Ann, and demands her as a sacrifice for Kong. Firing their weapons – so as not to hit anything, of course – the party escapes back their boats. That night Driscoll and Ann reveal their feelings for each other in song. I’d express my feelings in song, too, only I don’t know how to rhyme vomit noises. The sequence is illustrated with firework effects, just like (well, not just like, but you know what I mean) the “Kiss The Girl” number from, that’s right, The Little Mermaid.
Following the standard plotline, natives later covertly climb aboard the ship. Actually, one just leans over the side and grabs Ann, who’s conveniently standing alone on the deck. During the struggle, the villager’s bone necklace falls to the deck. Then the camera zooms in on it, just so we get its significance once Scooby and the Gang start searching for clues. (“Jinkies! Then the Ghost of Apolu-Polu is old man Matumba, the island caretaker!”) By the way, can I point out that we’re fifty minutes into a roughly eighty minute film and we’ve yet to really see Kong yet. As with the number of villagers they drew, you wonder if they get this animation idea. In the original film, the number of painstaking stop-animated sequences they provided was limited by the budget. Here, though, one scene is as pretty much as cheap to animate as another. Are we even going to get any dinosaurs here? By this point in the real film, we’d already seen a Diplodocus, a Stegosaurus, had Kong fight a T-Rex, a giant snake and a Pterodactyl and more. Here we’ve seen squat.
The necklace is found by Ricky and Chips, who’ve been missing from the film for so long that I’d forgotten about them. Which was quite pleasant, by the way. I look forward to doing it again once the movie is over. In any case, they report their findings to the bridge. The Captain orders all hands armed and sent ashore. From the deck they see the villagers wheeling Ann on a mobile pedestal up a hill somewhere. Why they bothered to change this from the more credible fixed dais on the other side of the monstrous gated fence is left to our imaginations. Although we do see the gate opened, so what the heck? Meanwhile, Ricky and Chips are sneaking ashore to help. Next thing you know they’ll be hiding in the truck of the Mach 5. Then, in a ridiculous bit that entirely misunderstands the concept of ‘scale,’ Kong is shown towering over a large cliff. From what I can tell this would make him a hundred feet tall or more.
Panicking, the Chief flees in terror, ‘humorously’ smashing into Roscoe and his camera. This sends papers wafting through the air, as when Dagwood Bumstead crashes into the mailman. Meanwhile, Kong grabs Ann. Denham prepares to shoot, but is stopped in traditional movie fashion by Driscoll. Feeling a warm air draft coming from a cave, Driscoll deduces that it “leads to the inside of the volcano,” and that by following the passage, he can head Kong off whilst the others follow the beast. This plan seems predicated on a number of dubious premises, but since we’ve only about twenty-five minute of film left, he’s probably right.
Driscoll emerges on what appears to be a mountainous terrace from which there’s nowhere to go. And, hey, across that chasm are Kong and Ann. Our Hero climbs the rock face (which is drawn less steeply now as he ascends it) and is momentarily chased by a triceratops (??). Got to watch out for those herbivores. Said beastie goes from being bus-sized to cow-sized and then back again in the space of maybe five seconds, and is incapacitated by Driscoll’s one gas bomb. Then it’s time for the T-Rex scene. You know, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to ape (sorry) this particular scene after all. Also, I can’t help but notice that the backgrounds are all mountainous here, rather than being jungle as in the real movie. I guess rock is cheaper to draw than foliage. Meanwhile, the ‘fight’ lasts under ten seconds and ends when Kong punches the dinosaur in the head. Presumably it’s only unconscious, so that children won’t become afraid that the giant gorilla has killed the huge reptilian predator.
Kong carries off Ann, past an underground lava river one second, then dunking her under an outside waterfall the next. Kong is here drawn with a goofy expression on his face, so that we understand his tender feelings for her. (By the way, what supposedly became of Kong’s earlier brides in this version? Are we just not supposed to think of that?) As in the De Laurentiis remake, Kong then dries Ann off by blowing on her. This is supposed to be a magical moment, in both versions, while we in the audience can only dwell upon how stinky giant ape breath must be.
Kong is then attacked by, that’s right, some Pterodactyls. Oddly, we now see that the waterfall is in fact underground, leading one to wonder about the foliage growing all around it. Also, if I may be so nosy, but what are Pterodactyls doing flying around in a cavern? Is that normal? And why are they attacking Kong? In the real movie one tried to steal Ann whilst Kong was absent but got caught. Here they just get right into his face. These are soon almost (non-fatally) disposed of and…yep, there’s the big snake, right on cue. Now I see why they didn’t introduce Kong earlier in the picture. When all of his fights last ten seconds he doesn’t really require all that much screentime. Anyway, the snake and the Pterodactyls team up on Kong (?!) and we cut away to…
…Driscoll climbing something somewhere. This magically leads him to a cave that overlooks the, er, action with Kong and his attackers. Using a handy stalactite as a club, Kong swings away as Driscoll finds Ann and they take off. Suddenly an eruption of sort some is occurring, tossing lava bombs around and such. Needless to say, this is much less exciting than it sounds. Driscoll and Ann jump over the waterfall, which leads to a river going somewhere while Kong shows up aboveground chasing Denham and Roscoe. If this makes no sense whatsoever, then I’m doing a good job of describing things. Denham and Roscoe escape from Kong by jumping off a cliff with a length of film stock tied around their ankles, a bit so wrong in so many ways that it makes me tired just thinking about it. Then Driscoll and Ann are seen with lava behind them, and they run off, and there’s Kong right on the other side of the lava and they escape and Roscoe and Denham are found hanging inches over the ground by Ricky and Chips and…
OK, take a breath. OK. Here we go. Once cut down Denham reveals an injured ankle or something. He tries to get the others to flee, but obviously they refuse. Or wait, no, his ankle isn’t hurt (although my brain is) and they leave to go to the boats and get some gas bombs. Meanwhile, Kong has gotten past the lava and is chasing Ann and Driscoll through the jungle. They make it to the beach with Kong somewhere behind. Then Ricky and Chips show up, but not with Denham and Roscoe, what the hell is going on here? and Ricky and Driscoll head back with gas bombs and Kong is shown towering over Denham and Roscoe and again drawn much, much too large and they’re right in front of Kong and Kong tosses some trees back over his shoulder which then land right in front of Denham (??) and then they all change positions again and Driscoll shows up and tosses a gas bomb and partially sedates Kong who follows them still and then the Captain tosses another bomb and knocks Kong out. Whew. My intent there, by the way, was not to make any of that sound exciting, which it isn’t, but rather confusing, which it is.
At this the volcano spews lava, like Nature revealing its displeasure or something. Then, in a really funny shot, the camera pulls back for a shot that is utterly ludicrous in sense of scale. We see Kong prominently lying out on the beach. Meanwhile, we see the whole island and it looks to be maybe a city block long and wide. Off the beach we see the Java Queen, clearly shown to be roughly the same size as Kong. The volcano, meanwhile, seems maybe a smallish two and a half times taller than Kong. And nowhere do we see the giant wall that the villagers erected. The shot is so seriously awry that it’s like an especially sophisticated version of one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” deals.
As lava spews out of the mouth of the rock Skull on the volcano (hence the island’s name), the villagers take off in canoes. That’s odd. From sea level the volcano looks pretty much like a mountain, while from the air in the previous shot it appeared to be perhaps a hundred feet tall. Man, this is one weird island. The Captain orders everyone to get going, but the others argue that something must be done to save Kong. “Perhaps I might make a suggestion,” Denham exclaims, and then we cut to back to New York. How convenient. Now they don’t have to show how they transported Kong all the way from the South Pacific in a ship smaller than he was.
Anyway, we cut right to the opening of Denham’s premiere exhibition of Kong on Broadway. (Referring to the show, the nature of which is being held close to the vest, radio commentator Walter Winter notes that “it better be big.” Ha. Ha.) This is introduced with another production number involving more dancing girls, which reprises the opening song. It’s like we’ve come full circle from the beginning of the film. Isn’t that just like life? This is followed by another song from Ann. Yawn. This intro is practically as long as Kong’s entire rampage on Skull Island. Anyway, to make explicit the subtext of the original film, Ann notes that Kong “doesn’t belong in chains.” This is better, because some people conceivably might have missed this tragic theme in the real movie. Here they won’t, because it’s helpfully been spelled for us. See. It’s better. Anyway, Denham reveals he has a thousand acre spread set up in New Jersey for Kong to live in. Inevitably, this leads Ann to argue, “He can’t survive in Jersey! Nobody can!” Ha. Ha.
So the curtain goes up and the audience sees Kong. As with the original, and this is one of it’s few silly spots, you have to wonder what the rest of the show is. Does the audience just stare at the beast for two more hours? I mean, yeah, Kong’s pretty amazing, but still. The audience starts to panic, but Denham assures them that “those chains would hold a battleship!” Whatever that means. Perhaps as in The Giant Claw, a battleship is the only term of reference this world knows. Meanwhile, Ann is introduced as being the person most responsible for Kong’s capture. This just makes her feel all the guiltier, being as how enlightened and progressive this new Ann is. So she cries, and Kong cries, and I cry, having seen the real version of this story. Anyway, the Press starts taking pictures, and the flashbulbs scare Kong, and he breaks free, yada yada. An annoyed Denham replies to all this by informing the retreating Kong that “You’ll never work in this town again!” Ha. Ha.
Driscoll takes Ann to her hotel. In keeping with the new attitude represented here, Ann is only worried that Kong will get killed, instead of being hysterically afraid that he’ll get his hands on her again. Then we pause to do a ‘comic’ bit with Denham and a doofus cop who sports an atrocious Irish accent. (Because it’s the ‘30s. Get it?) Kong then escapes from the theater and goes walking through the city, changing scale in pretty much every shot. He stops to punch a water tower (?!), which sends a cascade of water down the side of a building. This hits a snooty lady and a doorman and washes away their outer garments. Ha. Ha. Then, in a bit so stupid that I about fell over, Kong grabs up the fruit stand of the guy Ann tried to steal an apple from. Apparently this is his comeuppance for not letting Our Heroine steal his merchandise. That’ll teach ‘im! Furthermore, as fruit rains from the sky, the guy is hit on the head by…an apple. (Had Newton seen this he might have posited the Laws of Thermomoronics.) Boy. An apple. There’s some poetic justice for you. Hey, he’s just lucky he didn’t stop Ann from stealing his car, or Kong might have dropped that on him, too.
Needless to say, Kong doesn’t kill masses of people as he did in the real movie. Instead, he does zany things while being accompanied by comedy music. He knocks over a hydrant, and gets splashed with water. He kicks over a garbage can and we hear a screeching cat noise. At least I’m assuming it’s a garbage can, since a mailbox probably wouldn’t have a cat in it. Not that you can tell from the animation. Then Kong finds a ball (or something, as it more looks like a round, basketball-sized stone) on the street and breaks loose a street lamp. He hits the ball with it and it goes into an open manhole. Why a manhole would be open in the dark of night is left to our imaginations. From this a guy sticks his head up with a comical expression. Now, the ball made stone-like noises when hit and when it landed. But when the guy appears he’s holding his head, and if a hundred pound stone fell on him he’d be dead. So I don’t know what the heck is happening here.
And so we continue. At the Automat, the shaking caused by Kong’s steps forces food to jump out of their compartments and hit people in the heads. Then some cops indignantly tell Kong he’s under arrest, and he smashes their squad car. Then Kong grabs a longhaired hippie-type with an The End is Near sign (in the ‘30s?!) and hangs him on a flagpole. Then he pokes him in the belly. Next a giant smoke ring from a cigarette billboard hits Kong in the face and makes him cough. He retaliates by punching the sign and wrecking it. Take that, Big Tobacco! Cripes, even Kong is politically correct these days. Then he picks up a car and put it on a train track, where a train smashes into it. (Are you telling me the car’s occupants weren’t killed?) Then my head explodes.
Kong finally arrives at Ann’s hotel. When she arrived there, presumably quite a while ago, we saw her drop her coat to the ground. It’s still sitting there in the hotel’s doorway, because New York City is deserted at ten o’clock at night, or whatever time this is. (The virtually empty streets shown during Kong’s misadventures confirm this notion.) It can’t be too late, as Kong escaped maybe half an hour into his show. Then his short rampage, an hour or two at the outside. So we’re talking midnight here at the latest. Sniffing the coat, Kong in two seconds locates Ann’s room and grabs her through a smashed window. Tanks (!) arrive maybe five seconds later, ones that look rather sophisticated for the early ‘30s. However, seeing that Kong has a captive, they hold their fire. Kong decides to escape the hullabaloo by heading over to the Empire State Building.
As he ascends Denham arrives. Driscoll tries the elevator, but it’s shorted out. (??) Meanwhile, biplanes start strafing Kong, per tradition. Then, in a bit so moronic I could hardly credit it, Ann falls from her perch and is shown plummeting literally twenty or thirty stories or more. However, she’s then able to save herself by grabbing a railing on her way down. (!!!) Meanwhile Kong smashes a plane and we hear a crashing sound immediately after it’s offscreen. I’m not sure what it hit, as there was nothing nearly as tall as the Empire State Building in that vicinity at that time. Also, again, are we supposed to believe that the pilot wasn’t killed here? Of course, in a universe where you can grab a railing after achieving terminal velocity, I suppose that anything’s possible. Then Kong hits another plane (using the same footage) and this time we see the pilot parachute to safety and see the plane, tremendously out of scale, flying harmlessly into the river. Now, we heard the earlier plane hit something solid, and too soon for the pilot to get out, but let’s just forget that.
At this point we see that Driscoll has made his way up to the 72nd floor – via the stairs! Meanwhile, down below a cop reports through binoculars that they’re putting Denham’s “harebrained” plan (I’ll say!) into effect. This involves capturing Kong in a big net strung between two blimps, all of which equipment someone luckily had on hand. In one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a while, one of the blimp pilots spots Kong standing on the Empire State Building and shouts “That’s him!” Are you sure? You wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions. In any case, the guy’s a better detective than a pilot, because he drives his blimp right into Kong, who crushes it in his hands. (?!) This he tosses to the ground, and again, I can only assume we’re to believe that no fatalities resulted. Anyway, Ann finally starts calling for Kong’s help, as she’s still hanging from the building (!) all these minutes later. People on the street react to her danger with gasps. This is pretty astounding, considering that no human being could possibly see her way up there, especially at night.
Anyway, the net snags Kong, only it breaks, and he plummets to the ground. Then Driscoll suddenly appears (how the heck did he locate her position from inside of an interior stairwell?) and grabs Ann just as she finally loses her grip. By the way, she’s now being shown as being literally hundreds of feet higher than she was shown falling. Despite this, she’s still too far under the apex of the building to make her arrested descent in any way credible. I swear, I haven’t seen anything this sloppy in a long time. And I just watched Bats again. In any case Driscoll, who just trotted up over a hundred stories of stairs, pulls her to safety. I have to say, the guy’s in shape.
Reflecting on Kong’s fate, Ann cries. And Chips cries. And I cry, “End this stupid movie already!” Denham gives the inevitable ‘Beauty killed the Beast’ line and then, guess what, Kong opens his eyes. Yep, he survived the one hundred plus story fall. Well, that’s no more unlikely than a man falling twenty stories onto pavement and concrete and not being killed. Except that Kong has far greater mass, especially given the square-cube law, and fell a greatly longer distance, thus building up far more kinetic energy…anyway. Oh, and everybody cheers Kong’s survival. This despite the fact that we were just shown the mass destruction Kong left in his path. And luckily, I guess, Kong is too tired, or sore, or something, to start rampaging again. And I’m sure the city fathers won’t call for Kong to be destroyed. No, Denham promises to find another island home for Kong, although I’m not sure how he’ll afford that after he gets his ass sued off.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. “Ken, aren’t you going to rant about how they ruined the whole story by removing its tragic ending.” Normally, I’d say yes. It’d be like Romeo and Juliet sneaking off and living happily ever after. But hey, unlike you, I’ve actually seen this movie. And believe me, it’s tragic enough the way it is.