Saw the movie Public Enemies, a superior fairytale/biopic about the 1930s bank robber John Dillinger. It carries off a convincing verisimilitude even if the script makes numerous major adjustments of reality (for eg, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson both outlived the real Dillinger).

The use of real historical Dillinger locations intrigued me – especially the Hotel Congress in Tucson, where a fire in 1934 led to the arrest of a holidaying Dillinger and where I once somehow fell into spending a night drinking with a disparate trio of homeless drifters. It was one of those after-hours encounters which kept ricocheting between amiable and surreal and almost sinister. But that’s another story.

Johnny Depp’s screen-Dillinger is the last of the old-time bandits, a relic from a more primal time, romantically blind to his obsolescence, his rampage a product more of injustice than true criminal instinct. His downfall – at the hands of the heartless mechanistic efficiency which has supplanted his kind – is his love for a girl that ties him to an urban jungle where he has nowhere to hide.

I saw all this again, around midnight, when I chanced upon a television repeat of the original King Kong. Essentially it’s the same story – beauty killed the beast is how Kong’s conqueror sums it up, pinpointing the ape’s Achilles heel rather than providing a complete appraisal of the forces marshalled against him.


Like many a sympathetic movie villain, Kong and Dillinger are our vicarious howl for freedom, their doom the Superego’s ritual slaughter of the Id so that civilisation may endure. King Kong, of course, is so protean and dreamlike its meaning is as malleable as any dream. But its charm remains undimmed because Kong, whoever he is, is also forever some deep, dark part of us, our longings, our turmoil, our innocent energy and power.