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King Kong (1933)

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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #30 on: August 25, 2007, 11:01:55 pm »




Willis O'Brien always dreamed of making a color sequel to King Kong. He had many ides for a script but was very fond of one he called King Kong vs Frankenstein which pitted Kong against a giant Frankenstein monster. During the 1920's he tried to make a film verison of Frankenstein using his animated models but couldn't get backing.

To interest producers in his proposed film, O'brien created this and other sketches showing how he thought Kong would look next to the Frankenstein monster. Although this film was never made, the Japanese studio, Toho, did use his story idea for their film King Kong vs Godzilla where Godzilla took the place of the frankenstien monster.

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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #31 on: August 25, 2007, 11:51:39 pm »



Kong wrestles a Tyrannosaurus rex to protect Ann Darrow in a famous scene from the original King Kong film. Of all the scenes in the movie, this was the most difficult and time consuming to animate.

Production

•   In the original script, the gorilla is named "Kong". The film was then entitled "The Eighth Wonder" and press booklets were sent off to thousands of movie theatres in 1932 to excite the theatre owners into placing "The Eight Wonder" into their theatres. The "King" was added to the title by studio publicists. Apart from the opening titles, the only time the name "King Kong" appears in the picture is on the marquee above the theater where Kong is being exhibited — and the marquee was in fact added to the scene as an optical composite after the live footage of the theater entrance had been shot. However, Denham does refer to Kong in his speech to the theater audience as having been "a king in his native land".
•   The giant gate used in the 1933 movie was burned along with other old studio sets for the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind. The gate was originally constructed for the Babylonian segment in D. W. Griffith's 1916 film Intolerance and can also be spotted in the Bela Lugosi serial The Return of Chandu (1934).
•   Some jungle scenes were filmed on the same sound stage set as the jungle scenes in The Most Dangerous Game (1932); others were filmed on Catalina Island[5].
•   One of the several original metal armatures used to bring Kong to life, as well as other original props from the 1933 film, can be seen in the book It Came From Bob's Basement, a reference to one armature's long-time owners, Bob Burns, who lives in Los Angeles. One armature (Burns'?) was on display in London until a few years ago in the now-closed Museum of the Moving Image. Burns recently sold his armature to Peter Jackson, who also bought all the original Kong dinosaur armatures from Forrest J Ackerman (editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine).
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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #32 on: August 25, 2007, 11:53:02 pm »

Significance

Although King Kong was not the first important Hollywood film to have a thematic music score (many silent films had multi-theme original scores written for them), it's generally considered to be the most ambitious early talkie film to showcase an all-original score, courtesy of a promising young composer, Max Steiner.

It was also the first hit film to offer a life-like animated central character in any form. Much of what is done today with CGI animation has its conceptual roots in the stop motion model animation that was pioneered in Kong. Willis O'Brien, credited as "Chief Technician" on the film, has been lauded by later generations of film special effects artists as an outstanding original genius of founder status.

At the end of the scene where Kong shakes the crew members off the log, he then goes after Driscoll, who is hiding in a small cave just under the ledge. The scene was shot using the miniature set, a mockup of Kong's hand and a rear-projected image of Driscoll in the cave. This is not the first known use of miniature rear projection, but certainly among the most famous of early attempts at it.

Many shots in King Kong featured optical effects by Linwood G. Dunn, who was RKO's optical technician for decades. Dunn did optical effects on Citizen Kane and the original Star Trek TV series, as well as hundreds of other films and shows. In the 1990s, in his 90s, Dunn co-invented an electronic 3-D system now used for micro-surgery in hospitals and in the military, as well as co-inventing a video projection system with better resolution than 35mm film that is used in modern cinemas.

During the film's original 1933 theatrical release, the climax was presented in Magnascope. This is where the screen opens up both vertically and horizontally. Cooper had wanted to wow the audience with the Empire State Building battle in a larger-than-life presentation. He had done this earlier for his film Chang (1927) during the climactic elephant stampede.
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« Reply #33 on: August 25, 2007, 11:55:17 pm »



Actors Cabot, Wray and Armstrong react in a promotional photo for King Kong.
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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #34 on: August 25, 2007, 11:56:24 pm »

Censorship

The first version of the film was test screened to a sample audience in San Bernardino, California, in late January, 1933, before the official release. Apparently, at that time the film contained a scene following that in which Kong shakes several sailors off a log into a crevice, showing them eaten alive by a giant spider, a giant crab, a giant lizard, and an octopoid. The spider-pit scene caused members of the audience to scream, some fainted and left the theater. After the preview, the film's producer, Merian C. Cooper, cut the scene. However, a memo written by Merian C. Cooper, recently revealed on a King Kong documentary, indicates that the scene was cut because it slowed the pace of the film down, not because it was too horrific. According to "King Kong Cometh" by Paul A. Wood, the scene did not get past censors and that audiences only claim to have seen the sequence. On the 2005 DVD, nothing is mentioned as to the sequence being in the test screening. Stills from the scene exist, but the footage itself remains lost to this day. It is mentioned on the 2005 DVD by Doug Turner, that Merian C. Cooper, the director, usually relegated his outtakes and deleted scenes to the incinerator (a regular practice in all movie productions for decades), so many presume that the Lost Spider Pit Sequence met this fate as well[1]. Models used in the sequence (a tarantula and a spider) can be seen hanging on the walls of a workshop in one scene in the 1946 film Genius At Work, and a spider and tentacled creature from the sequence were used in O'Brien's 1957 film The Black Scorpion. Director Peter Jackson, and his crew of special effects technicians at Weta Workshop, created an imaginative reconstruction for the 2005 DVD release of the film (the scene was not spliced into the film but is intercut with original footage to show where it would have occurred, and is part of the DVD extras). The scene is also recreated in their 2005 remake, with most men surviving the initial fall but having to fight off giant insects to survive.

King Kong was released four times between 1933 and 1952. All of the releases saw the film cut for censorship purposes. Scenes of Kong eating people or stepping on them were cut, as was his peeling off of Ann's dress. Many of these cuts were restored for the 1976 theatrical release after it was found that a film editor had saved the trims. Later, an uncensored print of much higher quality was discovered in the United Kingdom (which was not covered by the American Production Code).
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« Reply #35 on: August 26, 2007, 12:01:19 am »

Critical reaction

The film received mostly positive reviews on its first release. Joe Bigelow of Variety claimed that the film was a good adventure if the viewer is willing to suspend disbelief and "after the audience becomes used to the machine-like movements and other mechanical flaws in the gigantic animals on view, and become accustomed to the phony atmosphere, they may commence to feel the power." The New York Times found it a fascinating adventure film: "Imagine a fifty-foot beast with a girl in one paw climbing up the outside of the Empire State Building, and after putting the girl on a ledge, clutching at airplanes, the pilots of which are pouring bullets from machine guns into the monster's body".
More recently, Roger Ebert wrote in his Great Films review that the effects are not up to modern standards, but "there is something ageless and primeval about King Kong that still somehow works."

In modern times, currently King Kong holds an average score of 100% "fresh" based on 39 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and has an average user score of 8.0 on the Internet Movie Database, featured in their Top 250 films list.

Theatrical Re-Releases

King Kong was a great box office success, as it became the highest grossing film of 1933 and the fifth highest grossing film of the 1930s. This was an impressive feat considering King Kong came out during one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Due to popular demand, King Kong was re-released numerous times through the years.
•   In 1938 King Kong was re-released for the first time, but suffered some censorship. The Hays Office, in accordance with stiffer decency rules, removed a few scenes from the film that were considered violent or obscene. These include:
o   The Apatosaurus biting men to death in the swamp
o   Kong peeling Ann Darrow's clothing off
o   Kong's violent attack on the native village
o   Kong biting a New Yorker to death
o   Kong dropping a woman to her death after mistaking her for Ann Darrow
•   In 1942 King Kong was re-released again to great box office success. However it was altered again by censors as various scenes were darkened to 'minimize gore".
•   In 1952 King Kong saw its greatest release to date. Not only did it gross more money then any of its other releases, but it brought in more money then most new "A-List" pictures did that year. Due to this success, Warner Brothers was inspired to make a giant monster film of its own called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. This movie in turn ended up kicking off the "giant monster on the loose" film boom of the 1950s.
•   King Kong was sold to television in early 1956 and pulled in an estimated 80% of all households with televisions in the New York area that week. In summer of 1956, King Kong was re-released theatrically (mainly drive-ins) based on its great TV success.
•   In the late 1960s, all the censored scenes that were cut back in 1938 were found, and restored back into the film. Janus Films gave the restored King Kong a brief theatrical re-release in 1971. This was the first time since its original run in 1933 that King Kong was seen in its complete form.

Awards

The now classic film was not nominated for any Academy Awards, although it is reasonable to speculate that it could have been nominated for Special Effects for its many groundbreaking techniques, if the award had existed at the time. As it was, however, the Special Effects category would not be introduced until 1939, with The Rains Came receiving the honor.
The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1991 and was ranked at 43 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years… 100 Movies in 1998 and 41 in 2007.
In April 2004 Empire magazine ranked King Kong the top movie Monster of all time, citing the 1933 model and in Issue 181, was introduced in their "Masterpiece" film section.
In May 2004 Total Film magazine ranked the final scene fall from the Empire State Building the third "Best movie death" .
King Kong was also listed by Time Magazine in their "All-Time100 best movies" feature
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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #36 on: August 26, 2007, 12:04:07 am »



Kong battles a pterosaur on Skull Island.

Dinosaurs and reptiles

The dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals depicted on Skull Island are never precisely identified in the film. O'Brien based his models on well-informed reconstructions, particularly on those of Charles R. Knight, which were exhibited in major museums at the time (in particular, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the Chicago Natural History Museum). The reconstructions are surprisingly accurate for their time: paleontologist Robert T. Bakker has commented that despite their anatomical inaccuracies, the depiction of the Apatosaurus coming out of the swamp and moving on land, and the Tyrannosaurus being a swift, active predator are actually more accurate than what scientists at the time were teaching. Even so, there are many inaccuracies when compared with 21st century knowledge. However, it is important to realize that King Kong is not a documentary on prehistoric life; it is a movie made for public entertainment, and is not meant to be perfectly accurate.

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« Reply #37 on: August 26, 2007, 12:05:50 am »

Video releases


 
The colorized version.

The film was released officially for the first time on DVD in the U.S. in November of 2005, after long being available only on videotape releases, and bootleg VHS and DVD releases.

Warner Home Video and Turner Entertainment (the current copyright owners of King Kong) have released the film in a two-disc special edition that has been released both with regular DVD packaging and in a Collector's Edition featuring both discs in a collectible tin can which also includes a variety of other printed extras exclusive to the Collector's Edition. As of 2006 the US Special Edition has not been released in the United Kingdom.

At the same time that these two solo editions of King Kong were released, Warner Brothers also released a DVD box set featuring the original 1933 King Kong, as well as the films The Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young, which were also released separately.

King Kong when it was released on a Criterion laserdisc in 1985 featured the first ever audio commentary track, by Ron Haver, on a home video release.

The film was also part of the film colorization controversy in the 1980s when it and other classic black and white films were colorized for television. In recent years, the colorized version has become highly prized among Kong collectors, and there have even been bootleg DVD releases that have appeared on eBay, some containing both versions of the film. Although the colorized version was released officially on the 2004 PAL-format Region 2 DVD from Universal (UK only), it has never been made available on DVD officially in the Region 1 NTSC format.
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