Sunday, 24 April 2016

King Kong | 1933 | Film Review

When people think of King Kong, they are more prone to remembering the 2005 remake with the likes of Jack Black and Naomi Watts in rather than the original 1933 film by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Having seen both versions, it's hard not to compare them to one another, due to the way that the remake mirrors the original in so many ways.

Fig 1 - movie poster

Another weak point to the movie that audiences sigh at, is being resigned to seeing another 'heroine' only being portrayed on screen as the maiden in distress who seems to have no regard for her safety, not attempting to escape even after the giant ape lays her gently on the ground several times. We are so used to seeing these leading ladies fight for themselves in todays world but once again, this is just a trait from the era of the film's origin.

The effects for the time are extronadinary. The capability to produce a film were a giant ape (not forgetting the giant dinosaur) in 1933 would have left audiences gobsmacked at what they were seeing on screen. The time and effort put into these scenes alone are astounding. Mixing live action and stop motion animation was a hit and created some of the most iconic scenes from the film.

It soon develops that the savages, who offer up sacrifices in the form of human beings to Kong, their super-king, keep him in an area surrounded by a great wall. Kong has miles in which to roam and fight with brontosauri and dinosauri and other huge creatures. (Mordant Hall - 1933)

Fig 2 - King Kong trying to get rid of the men following him

In the original version it is impossible in today's world to not see the racial undertones which, unfortunately, were very normal for the time that it was created. You will see a lot of reviews talking about this controversial take on the ethic minorities and their portrayals in this film, whereas this is just a more publicised film from the era which highlights what was the norm of the times.
Modern viewers will shift uneasily in their seats during the stereotyping of the islanders in a scene where a bride is to be sacrificed to Kong... (Rodger Ebert - 2002)


Fig 3 - King kong at the gates

Reviews from this era are also prone to racial slurs and derogatory terms such as savages but the audience at the Time would have accepted these without the blink of an eye. Of course, the audience of today cannot avoid these facts before making a decision on the obvious racial discomfort it would cause if it was released a mere 70years later in 2003. The tribes men that we see before us on screen, appear to be based upon the slavery of the 'african american' individuals, whom only 60years earlier were released from slavery. Is this a play on the underlying tones of the time in America?

The movie plunders every trick in the book to create its illusions, using live action, back projection, stop-motion animation, miniatures, models, matte paintings and sleight-of-hand. (Rodger Ebert - 2002)

Overall, King Kong was a ground breaking film and helped pave the way for many more of our 'classic' films and helped to inspire so many film makers and animators. It is just unfortunate that we are subject to an endless repetition of racial references, bigotry, an acting style that would now be left to theatre performers and censored scenes left on the cutting room floor. At the end of the day we still see it is a classic movie and a piece worthy of greatness but a sad reflection of our history. 

3rd March 1933 - Mordant Hall

3rd February 2002 - Roger Ebert

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  1. Hi Beckie!

    The curse of the white highlighter strikes again! Your first quote is completely obscured... You also have a variety of fonts happening here - I guess from where you have copied and pasted the quotes in. You should always go back at the end and reformat the text, so that everything is consistent.
    Your last sentence is quite negative in tone... I understand what you are trying to get across, but using the words '...subject to an endless slurry...' conjures up an image of the audience having a really miserable time watching this film !

    1. Whoops! Thanks for letting me know! Hopefully thats now resolved although I think blogger has just jumbled a few words/paragraphs about. I've also edited the final paragraph too :)