Saturday, 6 November 2010

King Kong (1933) Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

The plot of this movie is simple but classic, filmmaker Carl Denham and crew travel to a mysterious island to shoot a movie. When they get there they find a lost world populated by giant prehistoric creatures, including a huge gorilla named Kong. The natives of the island sacrifice the leading lady Ann Darrow to Kong. The ships crew sets out to rescue her. Eventually Kong is captured and brought to America were he causes chaos.    

There is wonderful stop motion animation by Willis O’Brien who also worked on films like The Lost World (1925) and Mighty Joe Young (1949). The effects were revolutionary at the time probably more so than Avatar was in 2009. It’s impossible not to appreciate the sheer amount of effort that must have gone into this movie. There was lots of new techniques used like rear projections that make the monsters look huge.There is a great scene when Kong fights a T-Rex its surprisingly brutal for a 1930’s film. It ends horrifically when Kong breaks the dinosaurs jaw by pulling its mouth apart. There is a scene in Jurassic Park III (2001) were two dinosaurs fight that is almost exactly the same as the fight scene in King Kong.  This entire movie is actually fairly brutal for the time you see a lot of people die horribly.    

King Kong vs. T-Rex

Stop motion puppets from the movie

As well as the stop motion animation there is also full size animatronics. These are used mainly for close up scenes of Kong’s face, hands and feet (normally because some unfortunate person is being crushed or eaten by Kong). 

  Full size Kong face (i love the crazy looking grin)

This movie has a really suspenseful atmosphere this probably has a lot to do with the music score by Max Steiner. It’s really dramatic and provokes a great sense of adventure. 

This movies plot is remenisent of Victorian boys adventure books like H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and more obviously The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It has similar themes about adventure and discovering new unknown worlds.

The film undeniably has some raciest elements. Although it’s likely this can be put down to the general ignorance of the times rather than any real raciest agenda. The natives of Skull Island are perhaps the most obviously raciest part of the film, It is fairly embarrassing to watch. Some critics even go as far as to say there is a raciest subtext to the movie. They say that Kong is a metaphor for black men coming to America and seducing white women. They even say that the empire state building is a giant "phallic symbol". However it’s more likely someone simply thought it would be cool to see a giant gorilla climbing the empire state building.
There is also a fantastic remake King Kong (2005) directed by Peter Jackson. Apart from a few over dramatic moments it’s a real solid film. It’s almost like the true story of the adventure on Skull Island, with far more believable characters and monsters. This idea is reinforced by the fact we see the characters filming a scene from the original movie. It also removes the raciest stereo type natives in favour of more creepy fantasy based natives. Jackson also introduced a strong black character to the main cast in an effort to remove the raciest stigma surrounding the film.


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