King Kong (1933)

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“…it was Beauty killed the Beast.”

The granddaddy of giant monster movies.  The story of King Kong is a well known one in American culture, and the picture of Kong battling biplanes atop the Empire State Building is one of the most iconic in cinema history.  “King Kong” utilized a method of visual effects called “stop motion”, in which a miniature model is photographed, moved, then photographed again to create the illusion of movement.  The process was painstakingly long, but in the right hands, the results could be very impressive.

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The movie begins with a filmmaker named Carl Denham preparing a ship for his next jungle picture.  At the last minute, he discovers a starving young actress named Ann Darrow and enlists her to star in his movie.  As the ship sails, Denham reveals that he is searching for an uncharted island called “Skull Island” that he discovered on an old map.  Of particular interest is the mysterious entity worshiped by the natives named “Kong”.

Upon reaching the island, the crew is kidnapped by the natives and Ann is set up as a sacrifice to Kong, who appears from behind a large wooden gate and takes the frightened woman into the jungle.  The ships crew, led by Denham and Ann’s love interest Jack Driscoll, follow the giant ape into the jungle, only to find that it is populated by a variety of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

Eventually the crew saves Ann from Kong, who chases them back past the main gate, where Denham manages to subdue the beast with a gas bomb.  Seeing the perfect opportunity, Denham has Kong tied up and brought back to New York City to be displayed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.  During his premier showing, Kong is agitated by the flashbulbs and manages to escape into the city, looking for Ann Darrow.

He eventually finds her, and in an attempt to hide her away, Kong climbs to the top of the Empire State Building.  Biplanes are called in, leading to the iconic battle as Kong swats planes out of the sky.  Eventually, Kong is successfully shot by machine gun fire, and falls to his death after placing Ann safely on a perch.

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I have fond memories of watching this movie when I was young.  I really enjoyed the stop motion dinosaurs, and Kong himself was a sight to behold.  The stop motion animation used to create him was done so well done that Kong is able to display a variety of emotions.  He goes from frightening and angry to curious and introspective at the drop of a hat.  It is a great testament to the filmmakers that they were able to create such an impressive creature with only a metal frame, clay, and lots of patience.

“King Kong”, while not the first giant monster movie (that would arguably be the silent film “The Lost World” from 1925), was very influential to the genre.  This movie would go on to inspire other filmmakers, such as Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda, to create their own screen titans.  The movie spawned a sequel, released the same year, as well as two remakes, released in 1976 and 2005.  Kong himself also appeared in two Japanese movies, one in which he went toe to toe with Godzilla himself!

Trivia

Several scenes were cut after the original theatrical release, and even more scenes were cut in subsequent re-releases.  Most were scenes of Kong eating villagers and New York citizens, as well as a scene of him peeling off Ann Darrow’s clothes.  These scenes were eventually restored after being found in 1969.

A scene in which  giant spiders eat several crewmembers was cut after the original preview showing and has been lost.  Peter Jackson later created his own version of this missing scene for the 2005 DVD release.

The pilot of the plane that shoots Kong down is played by director Merian C. Cooper.  After spending so many painstaking hours filming the monster, he was more than happy to “kill” him on screen!

The large wall holding Kong in his jungle home was originally created for Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings” in 1927.  It was later used (and destroyed) for the “burning of Atlanta” scenes in “Gone With the Wind”.

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~ by Chris on April 8, 2014.

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