This is the original, and by far the best, version of the tale of King Kong. Released in 1933 it is a both a stunning technical achievement and a thrilling film.
Film maker Denham hires a ship to take him to a mysterious island, where he hopes to film wonders previously unseen by man. There they find the mighty Kong and a whole island full of giant prehistoric creatures. Denham's lead actress, Anne Darrow (Faye Wray with her famous scream) is kidnapped by islanders and offered as sacrifice to Kong, who promptly falls in love with her. What follows is a thrilling adventure as Kong takes her to his home in the jungle, fending off several dinosaurs in the process. The ship's crew follow them, with spectacular adventures of their own. Finally Kong is subdued and taken to New York, leading to the final iconic climax on the Empire States Building.
As well as the thrilling adventure, this film is a supreme technical achievement from special effects master Willis O'Brien. Kong is superbly realised, and the fights between him and the dinosaurs are just breathtaking. I'm a bit old fashioned and think that animations like this have a lot more depth and life to them than CGIs. Compare this film with the recent Peter Jackson remake and you will see what I mean.
This isa great edition of the film, with previously lost scenes edited back in. The print has a few scratches and spots on it, but is in general OK. There is an interesting documentary looking at the making of the film.
A really great film with a decent presentation. Highly recommended to all movie lovers!
King Kong is an object lesson in lean, mean storytelling, with nary an ounce of fat in its 100 minutes (104 in the restored Region 1 DVD that includes Max Steiner's oft-dropped four-minute overture). It may take half an hour to make landfall, but once it reaches Skull Island it's almost non-stop action, packing in more action than any of the remakes in a much tighter running time: Kong's first appearance, a charging Stegosaurus, a carnivorous Brontosaurus attack, the log-rolling scene, Kong's battles with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a snake-like lizard and a Pterodactyl, Anne and Driscoll's escape, and Kong's destruction of the village and capture never give you time to stop for breath and still haven't been equalled in 74 years of action cinema for sheer relentless adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Reworking the Lost World formula but adding a stronger narrative and a bigger star role for the beast on the rampage in a modern world far more savage than his island domain, James Creelman and Ruth Rose's screenplay may crack wise but it still takes the story seriously, creating the greatest of all Beauty and the Beast stories. Unlike the remakes there's no effort to make Kong sympathetic - he kills a lot of people just because he's pissed off - nor, more importantly, to imply that Ann has anything other than fear for him. Yet it's that that ultimately makes him sympathetic. He doesn't know any better, but they should. It's easy to see how the enslaved and hunted Kong became co-opted by the Black Power movement...
Unlike most monster movies, it's genuinely spectacular, shot on an epic scale with massive sets and hundreds of extras, and the undervalued Ernest B. Schoedsack's direction still impresses. The no expense spared aesthetic also stretches to Kong, who gets an enormous amount of screen time compared to his more budget-conscious followers. Willis O'Brien's animation is still remarkably detailed - the T-Rex, introduced scratching its head, is a particularly impressive creation from its rippling tail to its slack jaws that so fascinate Kong after he's killed it. Even Kong's rippling fur, an unintended side-effect of animator Willis O'Brien's finger's compacting the fur every time he moved the model, works, almost as if the wind was blowing it. Exciting, funny, savage, frightening, ultimately tragically moving and still the biggest beast in the movie jungle, Kong lives up to his billing as the Eighth Wonder of the World and still rules supreme.
Although the UK DVD is a restored version and does include a half-hour documentary, you're much, much better off seeking out the US NTSC two-disc version, which includes greatly superior picture quality and a wealth of extras on every aspect of the film, from feature-length documentaries on the making of the film and its adventurous producer Merian C. Cooper to a specially-shot recreation of the missing spider pit sequence directed by Peter Jackson. The US Region-free Blu-ray contains all of the same extras except for the trailers for other Merian C. Cooper productions (Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Flying Down to Rio, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 3 Godfathers and The Searchers), with the initial copies coming in a very handsome hardback digibook.
As a young child in the nineteen fifties, I used to watch this film whenever it appeared on TV on "Million Dollar Movie". I loved it then. I love it now. Time has not diminished the capacity of this film to mesmerize and hold the viewer in its thrall.
The story line is basic. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker and entrepreneur, leads an expedition to Skull Island where he discovers its deep, dark secret. It is a land where time has stood still, and prehistoric monsters still hold sway over the island and its inhabitants. There, the natives pay homage to the one whom they revere as "Kong", and who is, indeed, king of the island.
Denham, together with his beautiful, budding starlet, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), as well as with the crew of the ship that brought him to Skull Island, investigates the strange ritual being performed on the island by its native population. Before she knows it, Ann finds herself captured by the natives. She is to become the bride of the mysterious "Kong".
When Ann discovers who the mysterious "Kong" is, she starts screaming and doesn't stop. The ship's first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), who happens to be in love with Ann, manages to rescue her from the clutches of "Kong". Notwithstanding the fact that "Kong" has taken a shine to her, Ann is relieved to have been rescued by the man whom she loves.
Denham then arranges to capture the creature, whom he calls "King Kong", and takes him back to New York on the ship that brought them to Skull Island. There, King Kong makes his debut, one that movie lovers will long remember.
The special effects of this film were superlative for its time and still pass muster today. The relationship between the beauty and the beast still makes the viewer sit up and take notice. This is an attention grabbing film that is as exciting today, as when it was first released over seventy years ago. It is a truly timeless, cinema classic. Bravo!
on 20 January 2006
I love the new Peter Jackson remake of Kong, but we as an audience must NEVER forget that this exciting, original and still grounbreaking movie was the start of it all. Practically every movie about monsters, adventure or exploration has something to owe to Kong. Not to mention the Special FX. Sure, they are a little creaky (being over 70 years old will do that to you), but even the original 1977 STAR WARS has a couple of creaky moments (polystyrene space garbage, alien creature masks that, er, don't move). It took the advent of CGI to sort those out. Go and see the 2005 Kong and be amazed, but before you do, see the original and witness the dawn of a new age of movie making. Excellent!
on 2 October 2004
King Kong is one of those genuinely iconic movies that transcend classification and time. This is not to say it isn't dated; as an early talkie - and a special effects driven one at that - it inevitably is. Yet its primitivism actually adds to its enjoyment. By the standards of any generation 'Kong', once it gets going, is still pretty much the most sustained, fast-paced and imaginative action adventure ever made.
Examined against modern CGI monster movies, the stop-motion techniques of Willis O'Brien may now look jerky and crude, but the sheer scale and ambition of them is still way ahead of anything done since. Think about it, in all the Jurassic Park's and Godzilla's of the last generation, it's more the conviction and naturalism of the monsters themselves that we admire rather than what they actually get up to. A triumph of muscle and tissue co-ordination, they run around a bit and attack people and let out deafening surround sound-roars, but do any of them manage the kind of big scale action Kong does? Within an hour of screen time our great ape fights three separate monsters, brings down a native village, rips up New York and becomes a cinematic martyr atop the Empire State Building. Beside this the activities of our snorting, sweating, salivating CGI creatures seems quite passive.
Its this giddy ambition of the film that still keeps it ahead of the pack. Despite all the money chucked around, no recent monster movie has ever delivered quite so much. If we can see beyond the squeaky soundtrack, the dodgy acting and fuzzy monochrome we can still shake our heads and marvel at the fact that it was even attempted, let alone done.
And lets not ignore the other aspects that make Kong great. The fantastic art direction creating what is still the scariest, most mysterious jungle ever put on screen. Max Steiner's fantastic music score that set the template for movie soundtracks to come. The detailed, atmospheric sound-effects that were years ahead of their time and belie the technology available. The seamless editing once Kong appears and the no-nonsense direction of Cooper and Schoedsack that never wastes a shot once we get the static preliminaries out of the way. If ever there were two 20th century adventurers who deserved their own biopic it is surely Cooper and Schoedsack - they were the Indiana Joneses of their day.
Looked at historically, Kong is a fascinating example of other aspects of 30s cinema. Dialogue is hard-boiled and minimalist in the crime reporter way so beloved of the time. The acting is stagy and cartoonish but oddly endearing in this fantasy setting. Men are men - they bark at each other, discuss nothing personal, are largely sketched in and generally get about things with minimum fuss. No wonder movies are so much longer these days, with all the analysing, character development and soul-searching that goes on. For her part, Fay Wray is no plucky heroine, she is just there to be beautiful, fragile and in need of constant rescue. Wray may have become an iconic blonde image through this picture (despite actually being a brunette), but she is no feminist advancement, nor is she ever meant to be.
Kong himself is largely treated unsympathetically. He moons over Wray but she hates him from beginning to end, and it's only in his final moments against the by-planes that the audience is allowed to feel sorry for him. This is absolutely right * Kong should for the most part be dangerous and terrifying, not some cuddly ape. He is the stuff of nightmares and should not be a familiar if overgrown gorilla from some nature programme. This is where model work and stop-motion really do have it over on the naturalness of CGI * the lack of realism works to its advantage. It will be interesting to see how Peter Jackson handles this crucial aspect of Kong's success in his upcoming CGI-heavy remake.
on 24 January 2006
Pete Jackson's superb remake may be the king of swingers now (and so it should be with a $200 million budget bankrolling it) but we certainly must NOT forget the original monster movie classic that inspired it.
You know the story by now Im sure. Film maker Carl Denham needs a leading lady for his new project & finds the perfect girl in Ann Darrow, a struggling movie actress. Soon she's whisked away on a ship heading to the movie's location - the as yet undiscovered Skull Island. Of course the fun starts once they hit the island with any number of horrors awaiting them - unfriendly natives, prehistoric creatures and one giant ape with a thing for blondes....
Made way back in 1933 on a shoestring budget, King Kong emerges as a triumph largely down to the excellent special effects that were groundbreaking for their time. It's certainly not the acting which is hammy at best and although much has been made of the relationship between Ann & Kong we never see any such relationship developing in the original. Fay Wray somehow managed to become the first woman to scream her way through an entire movie (though would later be surpassed by Kate Capshaw in Indy & the Temple of Doom.
However one thing that is genuinely startling about the movie even to this day is how much emotion the animators managed to bring to the character of Kong and his range of expressions and reactions. This is what really makes the movie work and ensured its lasting appeal for years to come. Come the famous ending on top of the Empire State Building don't be surprised to find a small tear in your eye as the big chimp goes head to head with those nasty biplanes.
A classic that has stood the test the time - don't expect it to match Jackson's epic but the original Kong is nevertheless a monster movie masterpiece and set the standard for others to follow.
on 30 November 2004
Without a doubt the first, the greatest and the best action film of all time. Nothing keeps you on the edge of your seat as much as the scene of the brontosaurus in the swamp chasing the sailors into the jungle to only meet Kong who shakes them from the log bridge to their deaths.
Truly a masterpiece! I agree that today's special effects are without a doubt great but Kong tops them all. The techniques used were so visionary for the time.
If you are a true film collector, you must have this dvd.
on 2 December 2005
Apparently this is a special edition? Rubbish. How dare they re-release this classic legendary movie with absolutley no extras to compliment it. Of course if you have a region one player then you can buy the region one 2 disc version which IS a special edition, with numerous documentaries on how this great movie was made. Once again the region two buyers are shafted as always.
on 12 February 2006
This film has been released before in the UK, atleast the previous release had an "Extra", the documentary "It was beauty killed the beast".
This re-release has nothing at all, the picture quality is very bad (as stated in a previous review) so why is it released?
Can't universal get hold of the restored version like the Region 1 set is? The region 1 set doesn't actually appear to be region 1, it has no problem playing on any of my friends region 2 DVD players, so i don't think you will need a multi-region DVD player for it, or a TV compatable with NTSC for that matter (because it's black & White anyway) so, get the American DVD release, it really is much better, excellent value for money, you will definitely not be disappointed.
In "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" they ask the musical question, "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?" Tonight we know the answer since the actress passed away at the age of 96 and of course every single notice of her death mentions the role that made her immortal as the beauty loved by the beast in the 1933 classic "King Kong." Wray had been noticed in a few films before that, such as Stroheim's "The Wedding March" (1928), "Thunderbolt" (1929), "Doctor X" (1932), and "The Vampire Bat" (1933). Then came her rendezvous with the biggest leading man in history and Fay Wray made her claim to the honor of being the greatest screamer in movie history.
Fay Wray is remembered not just because she played opposite King Kong but also because as Ann Darrow she was both sexy and vulnerable. Plus she had the big ape's lung capacity beat six ways to Sunday. Granted, the special effects by Willis O'Brien are enough to make this a classic film, the cinematic forefather of "Jaws," "Jurassic Park" and other celluloid monster movies that involve something other than an actor in makeup. But every time you want to reduce "King Kong" to pure technical achievement, you hear Fay Wray screaming her head off.
The story was pretty much a cliché the moment it was set down on paper. Movie director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) has heard the legend of Kong and hires a ship to find Skull Island. Ann Darrow is starving and destitute, but photogenic and he hires her to be the beauty part of the equation in the film he has planned. Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), the first mate of the tub they are traveling on takes an interest in the young girl's safety, and she responds with guarded affection. Then they get to the island and he discovers that he is indeed involved in a love triangle, but the third party is not Denham, but a giant ape.
One thing you have to give directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack credit for in this film is that they give Kong a big build up and then they deliver. On the way to the island Denham was making a film test with Ann and had her scream. Then she sees Kong for the first time and takes it to a whole new level. At that point the film becomes a series of action sequences as Kong takes the girl into the jungle, Driscoll leads a rescue party after her only to have Kong follow them back to the native village (the look of terror on Wray's face as she runs for her life through the jungle is equally memorable), which Kong proceeds to destroy before being captured. Then there is the final act of the drama as King Kong, the 8th Wonder of the World is put on display in New York City, only to break free, once again capture Ann, and take her to top of the Empire State Building (whose lights will be dimmed tomorrow night in Wray's honor).
I think the T-Rex attack sequence in "Jurassic Park" is one of the greatest in any monster movie ever made, and I have argued that in addition to the special effects and the masterful cutting of the scene, the sound of the T-Rex is an integral part of what makes the scene work so well. Tonight I am going to make the same argument for Kong's first appearance in "King Kong." After all, we are talking about mixing stop motion animation with a giant mechanical head, but such "primitive" special effects are forgiven because Fay Wray's screams convince you it is really happening. She was not remembered just because she was the girl in "King Kong" (quick, name the actresses who had the female lead roles in "Dracula" and "Frankenstein"). She was remembered because she was an integral part of the film's success (To save you the trouble of looking up the previous trivia point: Helen Chandler and Mae Clarke).
You might have heard that Peter Jackson, as his next project after "The Lord of the Rings," is doing a remake of King Kong for 2005. The cast has Jack Black as Carl Denham, Adrien Brody as Jack Discoll, Andy Serkis as both King Kong and Lumpy the Cook (?), and Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow. Watts is a fine actress, but can she scream like Fay Wray? I don't think so. But then Jessica Lange was not exactly a great screamer and her career turned out okay.
Final Notes: This is the "restored" version of the film, but it still does not include the legendary scene when four crewmen who are shaken off the log by Kong fall into a ravine where they are eaten alive by giant spiders. When first previewed the scene stopped the movie cold and Cooper pulled it from the film. The scenes that were cut in the late 1930s and not restored until the 1970s were (a) where Kong pulls Ann's clothes off; (b) the shots of the Apatosaurus (nee Brontosaurus) biting the sailors; (c) Kong eating natives when he breaks through the gate; (d) Kong stepping on a native; (e) Kong biting a New Yorker after escaping from the theater; and (f) Kong grabbing the wrong woman from the hotel and throwing her to her death. It would be nice if they could find the spider sequence or any of the other bits we know were cut by Cooper before the film was released, but it is probably never going to happen.