Cinematic Spaces Film Reviews: King Kong (1933)
King Kong is a Giant monster Adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The film tells the story of a gigantic ape creature called Kong who dies in an attempt to possess a beautiful young woman. King Kong is notably praised for its stop motion animation by Willis O'Brien. The film considered one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. In 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry. It has also been remade twice: once in 1976 by John Guillermin and again in 2005 by Peter Jackson, which is perhaps one of the main reasons this 1933 classic has been released to dvd and bought back into the spotlight.
Figure 1 - Kong vs Dinosaur
“Long before computer generated animation, the original King Kong stands as a colossus for modern filmmaking. Billed as the "8th wonder of the world," Merian C. Cooper wasn't using too much hyperbole since his film pioneered previously unexplored territory.” (John A. Nesbit, 2010)
The film is a thrill ride with special effect techniques and visuals that until King Kong had never before been seen in the film industry at the time. The use of miniatures and stop-motion animation create intense battles between Kong and the other prehistoric dinosaurs that live on the island, but it did not stop there. A wide Range of other effects were used during the movie too, such as matte paintings combined with live action recordings, rear screen photography, and multi-layered miniature backgrounds.
Figure 2: The Chase
“It’s clear that they must have melded various shots together at some point, especially when there is any shot of King Kong interacting with humans–given that the Kong model was no larger than the typical action figure–Yet I’d swear it’s near impossible to tell where one ends and where the other begins.” (James Blake Ewing, 2010)
On a few occasions a single frame may contain a combination of up to 5 or 6 effects. Figure 2 showcases the use of stop motion mixed with live action rather well, even though it is a miniature, the viewers are left in awe and disbelief over how big King Kong Seems compared to the human characters on screen. And it is indeed quite difficult to break down the scene and understand how it was done to look so real.
Figure 3 – Kong vs the world
“While not believing it, audiences will wonder how it's done. If they wonder they'll talk, and that talk plus the curiosity the advertising should incite ought to draw business all over. "Kong" mystifies as well as it horrifies, and may open up a new medium for scaring babies via the screen.” (Joe Bigelow, 2007)
The ending is the best-known part of King Kong. The scene with Kong holding the top of the Empire State Building with one hand while trying to attack the planes with the other, perhaps making a statement about man's destruction of nature. Kong was king of Skull Island, but, in Manhattan, he is a rampaging beast to be dealt with. In the world of man, a mythical beast like Kong has no place.
Figure 1 - Kong vs Dinosaur:
Figure 2 - The Chase:
Figure 3 – Kong vs the world:
Quote 1 - John A. Nesbit, 2010:
Quote 2 - James Blake Ewing, 2010:
Quote 3 - Joe Bigelow, 2007: