The greatest and most famous classic adventure-fantasy (and part-horror) film of all time is King Kong (1933). Co-producers and directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both real-life adventurers and film documentarians) conceived of the low-budget story of a beautiful, plucky blonde woman (Fay Wray) and a frightening, gigantic, 50 foot ape-monster as a metaphoric re-telling of the archetypal Beauty and the Beast fable. (Fay Wray mistakenly believed that her RKO film co-star, ‘the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood,’ would be Cary Grant rather than the beast. Later in her life, she titled her autobiography On the Other Hand in memory of her squirming in Kong’s grip.)
This remarkable film received no Academy Awards nominations—it would have won in the Special Effects category if there had been such a category. The film contained many revolutionary technical innovations for its time (rear projection, miniature models about 18 inches in height, and trick photography, etc.), and some of the most phenomenal stop-motion animation sequences and special effects ever filmed (by chief technician Willis O’Brien, famed for his first feature film The Lost World (1925)).
The film has numerous memorable moments, including Kong’s battle with a giant snake in a misty cavern, his struggle against a flying pterodactyl, the screaming beauty (Fay Wray, known as the “Queen of Scream”) held captive in Kong’s giant clenched palm, and the finale with the defiant Kong atop the Empire State Building while circling aircraft shoot him down.
King Kong launched the “giant beast” subgenre of science-fiction, inspiring the 1950’s atomic mutant creature features and the Japanese giant movie monsters like Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan, etc. Godzilla and King Kong actually faced off in the Japanese film King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).