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FANTASTIC companion piece for 'KING KONG';
on 6 September 2008
Made in tandem [in 1932] with RKO true classic 'KING KONG'-----[the two movies were shot 'day-and-night' using much of the same studio jungle sets]------this is a teriffic early talkie horror/suspense effort that is up there with many of the finest UNIVERSAL horrors from the same period.
Feauturing prime performances from FAY WRAY [no explanation of who she is neccessary] and ROBERT ARMSTRONG ['DENHAM', KONG'S showbiz charlatan captor] this views almost as a seperate thread to the classic events of KONG.
Also containing a memorable appearance by NOBLE JOHNSON [the tribal leader of the natives in KONG], here unrecognizable as baddie ZAROFF'S mute leading manservant. The plot recounts the tale of shipwrecked victims marooned on COUNT ZAROFF'S [LESLIE BANKS, in career-defining demonic form] tiny island, and after charmingly entertaining them [complete with 30s 'dinner suit' garb and choice wine]forces his victims to become his quarry in a sadistic jungle shooting chase.
I cannot overstate just how effectively staged the melodramatic atmosphere is presented here; practically every frame [discounting a routine first 3 minutes or so] is steeped in gothic, eerily-effective, relentless period drama, a true feast for fans of this material, with a driving pace, fantastic matte paintings and process shots clearly recognizable as being crafted by the selfsame team responsible for KONG: indeed, all that's really missing here [that would have cemented this movie's status] would have been a quick appearance from KONG himself!
Great to see a quick, stunning shot of the LOG RAVINE itself ----still clearly recognizable here------but this movie has plenty of merits of it's own accord, including a teriffic scene where hero McCREA stops abruptly on a vast staircase, taking in a startling mural of a lurid cyclops: PRICELESS! This version contains at least one scene usually missing from TV prints [involving one of ZAROFF'S lackeys being gruesomely impaled in a jungle trap]and happily, the celebrated scene of decapitated victims in the trophy room remain intact.
All that I lamented being missing here was the iconic RKO 'beeping tower' logo...though I can't confirm for sure if it was ever officially present.
Some points on the DVD quality itself: this disc is from a company called ALPHA VIDEO, and the transfer on offer here is truly superior, crispily clearer than the finest KONG print thus far, and it's glowing qualities are a credit to ALPHA: the ultra-clear picture puts many much-touted releases from major studios in the shade.
Lastly, I'd like to point out that there is another version of this DVD available, [with a 'colourized' option supervised by Ray Harryhausen]that I haven't yet seen, but may yet indulge in: the cover on this one has lettering created by stick on a beachfront.
Overall, though, if you want early 30s thrills and melodrama framed in cheerily gothic gloom, look no further: FANTASTIC!