The Reich Stuff: ‘King Kong’ vs. ‘Producers’


Showbiz legends both, King Kong and The Producers feature sleazy, manipulative impresarios as a means to get at the exploitation essence of popular entertainment. “Monsters belong in B movies,” someone tells Jack Black, who, after spotting King Kong in his natural habitat, happily brays, “The whole world will pay to see this.” Each in its way concerns a quest to become the biggest thing on the Great White Way, and each evokes a moment when New York City might have imagined itself the center of the entertainment universe. There’s a common subtext suggesting that as hard-boiled and callous as New York is, it is still a metropolis in which everyone has his or her place, even if it’s atop the Empire State Building. The Producers is the more domesticated of the movies, with Leo playing timorous white woman to Max’s obstreperous jungle ape. Their aesthetic offspring turns out to be a Nazi pageant, not unlike the original King Kong—which, opening three days after the Reichstag fire, was released in the Reich as King Kong und die Wei Frau and is said to have rivaled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as Hitler’s favorite Hollywood movie.