Watching Old Movies: King Kong (1933)


Highest Grossing Film: Cavalcade- $3,500,000 (although King Kong later overtook it with $5.3m in re-issues

Best Picture: Cavalcade

What happened this year?

Well, some guy named Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. That significant enough for ya? In addition, barely a month later, the Reichstag fire happened, giving Hitler the opportunity to pass through several sweeping laws that allowed him to take dictatorship of Germany and largely cause much of the horror that he would later be known for. The rest of was more or less punctuated by an increase in assaults, boycotts and general shittiness towards Jewish owned properties in Germany. Oh, and the first Concentration Camp was finished in Dachau.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, the first modern ‘sighting’ of the Loch Ness Monster happened, Prohibition was finally ended (although marijuana was banned in the same year, so…) and the Lone Ranger radio show started airing. Oh, and also Monopoly was invented.

As for famous births, we’ve got Yoko Ono, Michael Caine, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joan Collins, Joan Rivers, the late great Gene Wilder, Julie Newmar, living embodiment of why ‘Separating Art from the Artist’ is a thing Roman Polanski, Larry King and Mako, from the Avatar: The Last Airbender tv series

Got all that? Good. And now it’s time for the preshow and our first look at a character who you all might recognise….

Pre-Show: Popeye the Sailor- Blow Me Down

My Thoughts:

This. Was. Glorious.

No joke, I loved every fucking minute of this and arguably not always for the right reasons. Every single moment of it is unrepentantly dumb and fun and silly and I loved it so so much. From Popeye’s ridiculously over-the-top walk and grimace, to Bluto’s magnificent entrance shooting fucking everything and somehow missing, to Olive Oyl apparently having no bones in her limbs, to the fight scenes that were clearly just the same few frames repeated over and over, to the way everyone constantly bobs up and down like they’re in a fighting game, to the ridiculous overdubbing that sounds like it’s being adlibbed by the actors in the recording studio (and adlibbed badly at that), to the fact that Popeye apparently doesn’t have any teeth, it’s all just so ridiculously goofy and I adore it for that. It’s the sort of movie where the flaws kind of actively make it better? Even the awkward racial stereotypes.

Seriously, I can’t undersell how much I freaking loved this cartoon. I was cackling like a hyena almost all the way through, both at what it did right and what it did probably really wrong. The animation ranges from great to bad in a great way and it’s just impossible not to have a good time. I hadn’t seen many Popeye cartoons before this, but if they’re all as amazingly entertaining as this one, I really want to check them out.

To sum up, there are definitely cartoon shorts that I’ve seen thus far that are technically ‘better’ than this one. Flowers and Trees from last entry, for example, was a short that I’d consider, from an objective point of view, better than this, both in terms of storytelling, animation and general imagination. But if we’re solely talking about what entertained me most, then this takes the prize, the biscuit, the spinach and everything else you can imagine. It’s dumb, but it’s exactly my kind of dumb movie. A+

Main Feature: King Kong


Plot:  Y’all should know this one. Big monster, deserted island, pretty woman, awkward racial stereotypes, Empire State Building, yadda yadda.

Trivia: Merian C. Cooper’s first vision for the film, was of a giant ape on top of the world’s tallest building, fighting airplanes. He worked backward from there, to develop the rest of the story.

My Thoughts:

Man, this movie was dumb. And I mean that in like a 70% positive sort of way.

Honestly, this really feels like the genesis of the dumb entertaining blockbuster. It’s littered with stupid moments, effects that haven’t really aged that well and overall isn’t exactly a paragon of intelligent and thoughtful filmmaking. But then again, if my adoration of the preshow above proved, not everything needs to be. And in that regard does that resolve this movie of its sins in my eyes? …Eh, not quite.

Honestly, if I wanted to (and a small part of me does), I could pick this movie apart until the cows come home. From the awful romantic dialogue (that I entirely don’t blame Peter Jackson for parodying in his remake) to the hamhanded shooing in of the ‘Beauty kills the Beast’ theme (that only really makes sense at the end but appears like 10 times in dialogue), to how the film clearly suffers from not being able to show more adult-rated gore and material, (take a drink every time a giant monster ‘kills’ someone (in stop motion figure form) via picking them up in its mouth, shaking them about a bit and then putting them gently back down.) Also the main female protagonist, in spite of having some interesting set-up in the first third, spends most of the movie screaming obnoxiously and getting attacked by stuff. (I’m pretty certain I actively shouted ‘Oh come on!’ when the pterodactyl turned up.) And don’t even get me started on the racism and stereotyping (seriously, why is that such a reoccuring theme today?)

That said, while all of these criticisms are perfectly legitimate, there’s still a pretty big part of me that enjoys the general dumb blockbusterness of it. Are there better dumb blockbusters out there? Definitely. Hell, the recent Kong: Skull Island I thought played into its dumb blockbuster-yness way better than this did and was tons more fun to boot. But this was still at least fairly enjoyable to watch. Even if, as mentioned, it was really really dumb. B-

Feature Rankings (1930s):

  1. All Quiet on the Western Front- A/A-
  2. M- B+
  3. King Kong- B-
  4. Vampyr- C

Short Rankings (1930s):

  1. Popeye the Sailor Man in Blow Me Down- A+
  2. Flowers and Trees- A
  3. Swing, you Sinners- A
  4. Egyptian Melodies- C-


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