KING KONG ’33

Posted: January 18, 2006 in 2006 NEW Reviews

DVD REVIEW by Brian Roper
for file 23 Magazine

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Screw each and every person I’ve read so far this last month or so for describing the original KING KONG’s special effects as primitive. Comparing them to the new CGI lookit-that version is like comparing a fully-loaded Escalade to a 1933 Ford V-8; it’s just unfair. They HAD to do it the hard way; it’s not like Willis O’Brien had a CHOICE during 1932 pre-production. That being said…

When I think of Hollywood magic, KING KONG is one of the first films that comes to my mind. I didn’t actually see this until I was fifteen when somebody found some “lost” footage, re-inserted it and booked it as a midnight movie in the mid-70’s. Peter Jackson has said this film is what sparked his interest in making films, as well as many other people who work in Hollywood today.

Forrest J. Ackerman and the late William Gaines (both of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet) have both cited this film as somehow twisting them as youngsters. A childhood dream came true for me in 1997 when my friend Baird Blanton and I toured Forry’s Hollywood mansion and got to see the rotting remains of the stegosaurus that attacks Carl Denham and his crew as well as the brontosaurus that chases them through the jungle.

My grandparents saw this on their honeymoon in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall theater in 1933. Travelogues that showed jungles and other exotic locations that most people in Depression-plagued Thirties America couldn’t afford to visit were very popular with movie audiences at the time. Hollywood responded with Tarzan movies and any other excuse they could cook up to place characters in the jungle. KING KONG simply took that concept and ran with it.

I’ve read term-paper-like manifestos by psychiatrists on why this movie has held a grip on the publics’ imagination for over 70-plus years and I won’t go into that here. But it’s hard to resist; blond woman kidnapped by black savages. Tied to a post in the jungle and sacrificed to a monster. They return to the concrete jungle. Kong takes blond woman and climbs the phallic Empire State Building….I better stop here, I’m making one of my favorite movies sound like a cheesey exploitation flick.

Big fat bottom line: is this 73 year-old movie worth my hard-earned twenty bucks today? Hell yes it is! This is movie magic and despite some of the originals’ clunky acting and dialogue, there is still so much in it that still works today and as the slip-cover says: in glorious black and white, no less. The print has been digitally restored from a pristine uncut British print (which looks great) and Max Steiners’ soundtrack roars like Kong on my home theater.

There’s two discs in the package, the first being the feature itself and a Merian C. Cooper trailer gallery. The second disc has a documentary “I’m King Kong!-the Exploits Of Merian C. Cooper” and a 7-part documentary “RKO Production 601: the Making Of King Kong” Semi-hidden in this is a just-for-the-fun-of-it re-creation by Peter Jackson of the lost spider pit scene in KING KONG of which only a couple of still photos, its’ mention in the original version of the script and some pre-production sketches are all that remain of the scene today.

There were over two dozen cuts in the original print some of which were made because they were considered too violent, others simply for continuity reasons. Many have been since restored, but an original film print of the spider pit sequence has yet to re-surface. Jackson and his crew used blue screens, vintage equipment and stop-motion photography to make it look as much as possible like the original film, and it’s nothing less than a magnificent effort for KONG fans to rejoice about. So until the new CGI version is collecting dust on the 7-Eleven shelf six months from now, pick this up this disc and re-experience true Hollywood magic at its best.

BR

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