Growing up, I remember watching movies where the only special effects available for movie monsters were the fun of herky-jerky stop-motion animation. One day a movie came on television that introduced me to this world. My first movie monster was also the first famous movie monster in cinematic history: King Kong.
King Kong, the 1933 film directed by Merian C. Cooper, was a huge hit. Kong was a giant ape that could pick up a screaming Fay Wray in his hand and look menacing, yet also protect her from dangerous dinosaurs. I was terrified but entranced. I was also hooked because my mother would explain that Fay Wray was a distant relation of mine. Wow, a relative of mine met King Kong!
Distant relations aside, a moody film about a movie crew heading off to a mysterious island where they might find…something…has enough of a plot to get us to one of the best entrances of a movie character ever. Trees crash and shake as something large nears the captured Ann Darrow (Wray, my distant cousin a couple of times removed). Kong appears! I imagine my little heart pounding away at my first sight of the monster.
Of course, Kong still gets screen time and has appeared in a number remakes. The special effects to portray Kong would improve each time, but the original King Kong film was the one that made Kong a memorable movie monster. Willis O’Brien’s stop-motion animation made a character out of a monster.