You may not be getting your promised King Kong vs. Godzilla smackdown next month, but something even better is about to stomp into your multiplex: the original King Kong movie from 1933! Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies announced the humongous news on Thursday, revealing that the big ape will have his moment for one day, and one day only, on March 15.
Even if it’s for an afternoon, this also marks the first nationwide rerelease of King Kong 64 years with the film will play on over 600 screens across the country.
“Last given a big-screen re-release in 1956 – when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the average movie ticket cost 59 cents, and not a single manmade item was orbiting the earth – the original theatrical version of King Kong is back to dazzle the digital era with its all-analog marvels,” Fathom crowed about the event.
The film will screen at both 1pm and 4pm at participating theaters and will include an intro and outro from primetime Turner Classic Movies host, Ben Mankiewicz.
King Kong is of course the legendary adventure movie from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. An original story that has lived on for nearly a century due to its imagination and at-the-time groundbreaking stop-motion special effects, courtesy of Willis O’Brien, the film remains a marvel in any age.
Its famed story—a somewhat unique take on “Beauty and the Beast”—follows a film crew who dares charter a ship to journey into the unknown. In search of an island said to be on no map, director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) will find the “nature drama” of his life when he and his team stumble upon Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!
The king is a giant gorilla hidden behind an even larger wall, and he’s appeased by natives of his island offering human sacrifices. As soon as Denham’s film crew sets foot there, the most prized sacrifice becomes Denham’s leading lady, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). Thus kidnapped by the charmed big guy, Ann’s plight forces her compatriots to launch into a rescue mission that follows Kong into the jungle facing dinosaurs, giant monsters, and an unsteady log… and that’s all before the movie’s most iconic third act which features Kong climbing the Empire State Building!
King Kong remains a classic for many, often intangible reasons. It is not the first stop-motion film, nor the first O’Brien worked on. However, the movie pulsates with an infectious gusto thanks in part to its directors Cooper and Schoedsack, who lived lifes as adventurous as Denham and company, previously shooting their own “nature dramas” one expedition at a time. It also is one of the last great examples, for better and worse, of Victorian era pulp that was built around the ideas of exploration, colonization, and often primitive bigotry. Nonetheless, it imagined a lost ancient world which when juxtaposed with modernity—as exemplified by an Empire State Building that was the newest and tallest skyscraper on the planet in 1933—becomes mythic.
To this day, it’s a potent allegory, including in ways that likely eluded its filmmakers and initial audiences. The film is definitely worth seeing on a big screen, but you can decide that for yourself by going to Fathom now.
David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of both the Critics Choice Association and the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.