Monday, March 17, 2014

Ape of the Geek: King Kong (Original)

kong03With the conclusion of “Dog of the Geek,” I figured I should switch to a different animal to take its place in the lineup. Since Siskoid's covered “Cat of the Geek” on his own blog, Siskoid's Blog of Geekery (in fact, that series inspired me to start “Dog of the Geek”), I figured the next likely way to go was with apes! I'll admit from the beginning here that I'm planning to cheat and include all sorts of primates in this category, such as monkeys and the like. So you'll see monkeys, gorillas, chimps, and so forth!

Species: Giant gorilla

First Appearance: King Kong (1933), RKO Studios

Other Appearances: The original Kong has appeared in a Volkswagen commercial. To the best of my knowledge, the original Kong hasn't made any other TV or movie appearances outside of showings of his film, unless one counts the cameo appearance in Yellow Submarine!

Merchandising: The original Kong has been immortalized in probably dozens if not hundreds of forms, from the novelization of the original script, to the Movie Monsters book series by Crestwood House, to toys, model kits, and more.

Biography: Kong's background is shrouded in mystery. We don't know if his size is natural, or caused by some sort of mutagen, but given the population of dinosaurs on Skull Island, I'd say it's pretty likely that the gorillas on that island evolved to larger size to enable them to better compete for resources. In the film, Kong is apparently the last of his kind. He has a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the human natives of the island, as they routinely provide him with human (female) sacrifices while he leaves them unmolested. A gigantic fence is intended to keep Kong separated, but who built it isn't certain (the natives of Skull Island don't appear to have the aptitude for it, but I could well be wrong). Kong's regular existence was altered forever by the arrival of Carl Denham's film crew, which included Ann Darrow, a pretty blonde actress. Denham and company came to capture Kong on film. The natives kidnap Ann to use as the latest sacrifice, and Kong develops a genuine affection for her. When Ann is rescued from Kong, Kong goes on a rampage until he's stopped by gas grenades. Inspired, Denham has the unconscious Kong brought to New York City to appear live on stage, but when Kong misinterprets the flashbulbs of photographers' cameras as a threat to Ann, he breaks free, eventually captures Ann again, and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building, where he was killed by machine gun fire. Later, Denham led a new expedition to Skull Island, where a large white ape was discovered, which Denham somehow determined to be Kong's son. This “son of Kong” sacrificed his life to save Denham.

Powers: Kong's strength is what would be expected for a gorilla of his size (usually presented as about 40 feet tall), making him strong enough to battle dinosaurs and win. He appears to have very high intelligence for a gorilla, given that he's able to recognize the difference between Ann and another blonde woman he encounters.

Miscellaneous: Who else would I start off this first installment with but Kong, the greatest movie primate of them all? As noted in the installment of “My Favorite Movies,” his film influenced many movies as well as popular culture. The Toho Kong of King Kong Vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes will be treated in a later installment, as will the animated version from the 1960s.

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