Tuesday, October 14, 2014

King Kong (1933 film)

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/13/05 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions

Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack from a story Cooper and Edgar Wallace and screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose, King Kong is a simple tale of an ape going bananas for a girl only to try and protect her from her own world and the creatures in his world. Using stop-motion animation to create the effects of King Kong, the film remains a technical masterpiece of all levels while proving to be more powerful in its story which features something for everyone. Starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot. King Kong is a spectacular film from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

It's 1933 as megalomaniac film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is hoping to go an island to shoot his next movie. Already had film movies about wildlife, Denham hopes to go for something big until his producer Charles Weston (Sam Hardy) tells him he’s got no star. Denham decides to try and find a female lead for his movie when he catches a woman named Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) trying to steal an apple. Enchanted by her looks and desires to be an actress, Denham hires her. Already joining the ship with a crew full of men including an Asian cook (Victor Wong) and a brooding but handsome man named Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), they set for the mysterious Skull Island. After hearing about legends of this monster called Kong, Denham hopes to capture that creature on picture but the ship's captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) is suspecting trouble.

Upon landing on the island, they catch a ceremony by the tribe until the chief (Noble Johnson) catches them. After Englehorn does the translation of negotiations, the witch doctor (Steven Clemente) wants Ann for a sacrifice as a bride for Kong but Driscoll refuses as Denham and crew leave to return to the ship. After Ann gets kidnaped for the sacrifice, Driscoll, Denham, Englehorn, and a bunch of sailors try to retrieve her only to learn that she's been taken by the giant ape known as Kong. Driscoll and Denham decides to go after Kong only to catch up with dinosaurs while Kong fights them along with killing a bunch of sailors. With Driscoll and Denham the only survivors, Driscoll decides to catch up with Kong while Denham waits for him at the wall gates. After Driscoll successfully retrieves Ann, while Kong breaks into the gate walls where he is hit with a gas bomb by Denham. Realizing that he's got a gold mine, he takes the unconscious Kong back to New York City for a huge event. Instead, it becomes a disaster as Kong takes Ann and terrorizes New York City before a huge climax on top of the Empire State Building against some fighter planes.

While it's a film that maybe a product of its time due to some off-colored dialogue with a lot of awful stereotypical references along with a sense of sexual creepiness in Kong's infatuation with Ann Darrow. It is a film that manages to be entertaining in the sense that Kong doesn't know any better. He's a giant ape basking in his testosterone physique to beat up monster and destroy things. It's not really an art film, it's just pure entertainment and it's a lot of fun to watch. It's got adventure, romance, action, comedy, whatever any fancies. This is something directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack were aiming for. It's not hard to follow and it's not dull either. The script pretty much goes for simplicity while a lot of the dialogue, though stylized for its time, is pretty catchy especially with some memorable moments with the final scene that has the great last line.

The directing is wonderful since it's just trying to capture a simple tale but on a technical scale, it's astounding in the way it mixed stop-motion animation with live-action. With the special effects created by Willis O'Brien, the stop-motion animation is amazing in the way it brings a realness to the movements and faces of the creatures, especially King Kong. While the work on stop-motion is hard and tedious, it's worth it to capture a three-dimensional feel of the creatures to the point where Kong becomes a character. It is very groundbreaking work for the times while its technical achievements, particularly the work of Willis O'Brien should be noted.

While the film is black-and-white, the full-screen cinematography of Eddie Linden, J.O. Taylor, and Vernon Walker is amazing for its look, especially in the mix of animation and live action. Ted Cheesman also does nice stylized editing of dissolving, fade-in, fade-out cuts while playing into the film's suspense with some well-paced methodical rhythms. Alfred Herman does some great work in the art direction for the film's native scenes as well as costume designer Walter Plunkett who does nice work on the dresses of Ann Darrow. Finally, we have Max Steiner who is one of the first composer to belt out an original film score and he does an amazing job with the score to capture the action and drama of the movie.

The film's cast is wonderful with some nice small performances from Steve Clemente and Noble Johnson as the tribe leaders along with great character actor Victor Wong in a stereotypical yet funny role as the Asian chef. Also memorable in some scenes are Sandra Shaw as a woman dropped by Kong, Vera Lewis as a theater patron, and Paul Porcasi as the fruit vendor. Frank Reicher is wonderfully memorable as the ship's captain who kind of serves as voice of reason for the megalomaniacal Carl Denham while having a memorable scene as the translator for the tribe chiefs. Robert Armstrong is brilliant as egomaniacal, ambitious Carl Denham with his desires to make it big and score a lot of money as he has some great one-liners. Bruce Cabot is also great as the brooding turned heroic Jack Driscoll with love for Ann while using his smarts to outwit and outrun Kong.

The best human performance is Fay Wray as the beautiful Ann Darrow who has an innocence and desire to become a great actress while most of the performances requires her to just scream her lungs out as Wray brings a lot of imagination to her performance. The best performance is hands down, goes to King Kong. Sure it's a monster who loves to beat up dinosaurs and other sorts of creatures but he's a lovable ape. Sure, he doesn't really know how to treat a woman by stripping her a bit and sniffing her clothing but he's learning. It's a hell of a character who just cares for this young woman and will do anything to protect, even from her own kind and those awful camera bulbs. Still, Kong remains one of those old-school bad-asses and how can anyone not love an ape who beats up T-Rexs and other dinosaurs?

King Kong is a phenomenal film from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack that features great performances from Fay Wray and the titular ape. It's definitely a film that is full of terror but it's also so entertaining as it showcases what was done in terms of special effects as they manage to be very exciting to watch. In the end, King Kong is a remarkable film from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

© thevoid99 2014


Wendell Ottley said...

Even after 80 years this is still an amazing film. Most impressively, the special fx look better than a large number of movies released well into he 1960s.

thevoid99 said...

Oh totally. It's a reason why there's a need for stop-motion and miniatures to be around since they look more realistic than CGI.