King Kong (1933)
Released way back in 1933, this monochrome marvel is still pure excellence.
Daring filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) leads a crew to a long lost island in the middle of nowhere. There, leading lady Ann Darrow (the legendary Fay Wray) is kidnapped by locals as an offering to their god, Kong. Kong turns out to be a giant ape, who goes gooey-eyed for the blonde bombshell and fights off numerous prehistoric rivals to keep her safe.
The crew attempt a rescue, but only Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) survives to rescue his sweetheart from her captor. Denham decides that Kong should be central to his new venture; hatching a plan to capture the ape and take him back to civilisation as his star attraction.
It’s incredible that this film isn’t far off being a century old. King Kong has a fantastic story and superb special effects that still hold up to this day. It’s full on entertainment – and one of my favourite films of all time.
But is King Kong horror? Well, Kong features in my old Horror Top Trumps set – so that qualifies as a definite YES.
More black and white thrills next, with another magnificent movie that really should not be missed. F W Murnau’s Nosferatu is a chilling piece of early horror cinema, even after all these years.
The film follows the plot of the book Dracula, with a few alterations to (unsuccessfully) avoid claims of plagiarism. Our hero, Jonathan Harker (or whatever name is used in whichever version you see) is sent to deal with some real estate for the mysterious Count Orlok. The Count, however, is a vampire – who traps the hero in his castle and makes his way back to Harker’s home town, bringing death with him.
In 1922, the art and language of cinema was still being developed, leading to some strange visuals this movie – such as a ghostly horse and carriage speeding along in a bizarre manner. Yet the final film is filled with startling, shadowy imagery that maintains a sense of unease, thanks to some genuinely innovative work.
Murnau manages to create some masterful moments of suspense, and Max Schreck as Orlok – whether rising from his grave, or shadow rising eerily up the staircase (a true iconic moment) – is spellbinding.
An early classic of cinema, Nosferatu helped develop cinematic vampire folklore – and still delivers a sense of dread with its uncanny visuals.