In ‘King Kong,’ love will destroy you


RKO's 1933 classic, "King Kong," opens with a fake Arabian proverb: "And lo! The Beast looked upon the face of Beauty, and it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead."

Less than two hours later, the movie famously ends with another unforgettable quote: "No, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty that killed the beast," a coda to the narrative that the film drives home: Love will destroy you.

After the portentous proverb, viewers are introduced to the men who will soon be embarking on a journey into the unknown. The leader of the expedition is Carl Denham, a reckless, ambitious, and successful filmmaker. The ship captain is Englehorn, a taciturn and sensible man, and Jack Driscoll is the rugged, tough, "ideal" male, the ship's first mate.

The only woman is the beautiful, kind and adventurous Ann Darrow, played by the platinum-haired Fay Wray. Denham brought Ann aboard the Venture to bring her star power to his next film, which was to be shot at a secret location. Denham's ultimate destination is unknown to her and the rest of the crew, but the Depression is on and they are putting their fortunes, and their lives, in the hands of the strong-willed filmmaker.

Jack, who is ultimately drawn to Ann, tries to push Ann away at first. He literally hits her in the face, accidentally, in their first scene together. But Ann's good nature and, of course, beauty, charm him, just as he feared.

Jack recognizes that Denham's mysterious plans could put Ann in danger, while Denham accuses Jack of going soft for "some dame." He warns Jack against love by sharing the thesis of his movie (which is also the thesis for the actual movie), "The Beast was a tough guy, Jack. He could lick the world. But when he saw Beauty, she got him. He went soft, he forgot his wisdom, and the little fellers licked him."

When their steamship Venture arrives at Skull Island, the crew disrupts inhabitants who are engaged in a ritual at the gates to a colossal wall – and want to offer Ann as a bride for Kong. Tension over this mythical beast has been growing, and based on the size of the wall, Ann and as well as the crew are clearly in danger.

Back on board, Jack confesses his love to Ann – almost immediately after which she is kidnapped, and given as a bride to Kong.

When Kong takes Ann deep into Skull Island, Jack and the crew follow. But the violent Kong is careful with Ann – fascinated, curious and childlike.

Jack finally rescues Ann, but Kong – who can't let her go – smashes the colossal wall to rampage through the village in search of her. The beast is finally captured, and taken back to New York, where Denham tells reporters: "Beauty and the Beast. Kong could have stayed safe where we'd never have got him, but he couldn't stay away from Beauty."

Kong never considered safety, not his own at least. He was a beast, a monster, a wild powerful creature that Ann and Jack are safely reunited, while the wild creature that is Kong must be kept far at sea, on an island, behind a wall. Who could love such a beast? I think we all did, more than a little, and shed a tear at his demise.

"King Kong" will be screened at Schuylkill Banks in Center City on Thursday, June 13 at 8:30 p.m.