Who Killed King Kong?

Who Killed King Kong?

THE ORDEAL and spectacular death of King Kong, the giant ape, undoubtedly have been witnessed by more Americans than have ever seen a performance of Hamlet, Iphigenia at Aulis, or even Tobacco Road. Since RKO-Radio Pictures first released King Kong, a quarter-century has gone by; yet year after year, from prints that grow more rain-beaten, from sound tracks that grow more tinny, ticket-buyers by thousands still pursue Kong’s luckless fight against the forces of technology, tabloid journalism, and the D.A.R. They see him chloroformed to sleep, see him whisked from his jungle isle to New York and placed on show, see him burst his chains to roam the city (lugging a frightened blonde), at last to plunge from the spire of the Empire State Building, machine-gunned by model airplanes.

Though Kong may die, one begins to think his legend unkillable. No clearer proof of his hold upon the popular imagination may be seen than what emerged one catastrophic week in March 1955, when New York’s WOR-TV programmed Kong for seven evenings in a row (a total of sixteen showings). Many a rival network vice-president must have scowled when surveys showed that Kong—the 1933 B-picture—had lured away fat ,segments of the viewing populace from such powerful competitors as Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, and Bishop Sheen.

But even television has failed to run King Kong into oblivion. Coffeein-the-lobby cinemas still show the old hunk of hokum, with the apology that in its use of composite shots and animated models the film remains technically interesting. And no other monster in movie history has won so devoted a popular audience. None of the plodding mummies, the stultified draculas, the white-coated Lugosis with their shiny pinball-machine laboratories, none of the invisible stranglers, berserk robots, or menaces from Mars has ever enjoyed so many resurrections.