Thursday, 16 October 2014

Film Review - King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, 1933)

Fig 1. King Kong Poster

King Kong, the classic beauty and the beast story translated into film. It is seen as such an iconic film for many reasons. One would definitely be the special effects that were used. Stop-motion animation was used for the beast (King Kong) and also for the dinosaurs. Although by todays standards, the special effects were rough and somewhat unrealistic, in 1933 they would no doubt have been considered state of the art and perhaps even frightening to audiences. This is most certainly the view of film critic Mordaunt Hall ''Through multiple exposures, processed "shots" and a variety of angles of camera wizardry the producers set forth an adequate story and furnish enough thrills for any devotee of such tales.'' (Hall, 1933).

In terms of the plot, the film follows Carl Denham who is a film director and looking for his next big film. He is eager to go off in search of an uncharted island with a wall cut across it, which is said to be home to a colossal beast. Carl wishes to film the beast for his film. At the beginning of the film he has already arranged for transport to the island and most of the other parts for his film are already in place, however he has no leading lady for his film and must go into the streets of New York to find her. It is here that he finds Ann Darrow who after seeing, realizes that she is perfect for the role. With everything in place, the cast and crew for the film set off for the island that Carl has told them about.

Upon arriving at the island they encounter the island natives, who are in the process of a ritual for 'the wife of Kong'. After the crew disturbs their ritual, the chief of the natives sees Ann and decides she would be a good women for Kong. Carl and the others decline the chiefs offer of a trade and head back to the ship, assuring the natives of their return the next day. While they are onboard the ship, the natives capture Ann and take her back to the island for their ritual. After finding that Ann is missing, everyone onboard discovers that she has been captured and rush back to the island to rescue her.

However, soon after the party's arrival, Kong takes Ann with him back into the dense forest beyond the wall. The party then rush off in pursuit of the ape. They have encounters with Kong and more and more of their party die, until eventually they rescue Ann and capture the beast through the use of gas bombs.

After they capture Kong, Carl Denham decides that he will bring the beast back with them to New York and show him on Broadway. This, unfortunately does not go to plan and Kong escapes the shackles built for him and captures Ann once more. The following scene is the most iconic in the film, as Kong climbs the empire state building with Ann in hand and makes his final stand against fighter planes. After he is shot many times, Kong eventually loses his strength, lets go of Ann and falls to his demise.

''the characters are (even by the standards of the day) half-baked, and the performances - with the exception of Armstong as the P.T. Barnum-alike - wooden.'' (McCabe, s.d.) This is something that could be attributed to the fact that the actors were often expected to react to things on command instead of working off of the other actors. The special effects used could have been a fairly new experience for many actors to work with at the time.

Fig 2. Island Natives

Fig 3. King Kong 2005

''There have been two remakes of King Kong (one had Jessica Lange; the other was directed by whiz kid Peter Jackson), but the original is still the best.'' (Thomson, 2010) In Peter Jacksons 2005 remake of the film there are many references to pay tribute to the original hidden in plain sight. One of which is when (in the 2005 remake) the beast is captured and the show on Broadway features actors portraying the natives (See Fig 3.). In the original, the natives are dressed in the exact same way and performing the exact movements when they are performing their ritual for Kong (See Fig 2.).

Illustration List
 Cooper, M.C (1933) Figure 1. King Kong Poster. (Accessed on 16/10/14)

Cooper, M.C (1933) Figure 2. Island Natives. (Accessed on 16/10/14)

Jackson, P (2005) Figure 3. King Kong 2005.
vfx/King_Kong.jpg (Accessed on 16/10/14)

McCabe, B (s.d.) (Accessed on 16/10/14)

Thomson, D (2010) (Accessed on 16/10/14)

Hall, M (1933)
668388629EDE (Accessed on 16/10/14)

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