Fig. 1. King Kong poster.
Ernest B.Schiedsack and Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong (1933) is an pioneering film for VFX, jam packed with action and special effects almost from the get go. Filled with love, danger and giant monsters it is easily understandable why King Kong had such an impact on viewers not only in the 1930’s but even today. Kong truly is the ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’.
This being said the film has a serious underlying issue of racism and sexism, it’s possible that due to the films age the audience may have viewed it differently to how a modern audience does, as Larsen states ‘Such sexism. (“Women can’t help being a bother.”) Such racism. (Those silly pagan villagers and their human sacrifices.) And yet, such magic. King Kong casts so primal a spell that it seems essential to excuse its dated transgressions. This is the stuff – good and bad, ugly and gorgeous – of which the movies are made.’ (Larsen, 2011). It’s understandable that because of its age, many of the viewers in the audience back in the 1930’s would have been horrified by the state of the arts effects, where as a modern audience will experience a completely different take on the film. Its strong sense of racism and sexism does leave you feeling quite uneasy and baffled at just how narrow minded people were, although these points can make the film hard to watch, it is a must see monster of a film that is inspirational for its time.
The film constantly references ‘Beauty and the Beast’ throughout, Kong himself being the beast who falls deeply in love with the young blonde, Ann Darrow played by Fay Wray who is better known as the scream queen, ‘Arguably the monster movie of all time, this abiding take on Beauty and the Beast has a mythic power that belies its years.’ (Collins, 2013). Carl Denham played by Robert Armstrong often brings the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ reference to the audience’s attention, referring to women as being a males one true weakness. This is something that is expressed with not only Kong but with John Driscoll as well, there love for Ann makes them vulnerable to the events that happen throughout the film.
Fig. 2. King Kong fighting still.
The stop motion special effects are truly stunning for their time and have aged remarkably well, compared to todays state of the art effects obviously they’re not as realistic however they have a certain charm about them that makes them enjoyable to watch, as Vasquez Jr states ‘Featuring some of the most beautiful special effects of its time with stop motion from Willis O’Brien, Kong is his last film, a film that opened the door for protégé Ray Harryhausen. Though the effects are ancient by today’s standards O’Brien’s stop motion creature models are very charming.’ (Vasquez Jr, 2013). The fight scenes between Kong and the various dinosaurs and other monsters are fast paced and very explosive (see fig. 2.). They cram so much action in to a short film that as a viewer you almost feel like the film may never end, you don’t get time to rest and recap over what Kong had killed last before he’s busy fighting another giant monster.
Fig. 3. Empire state building still.
It’s possible that the most iconic scene in the history of film is when Kong ascends the Empire state building with Ann in his hand, even if you haven’t seen the film or the remake, chances are you’ve heard of this truly iconic scene (see fig. 3.). It really shows the struggle of love; Kong was a king in his home but due to his affection for Ann he was captured and brought to New York as an exhibition. The Empire state building scene was the last chance Kong had to fight for his love, although he gets shot down, literally. They reinforce the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ point here, where Carl tells the news reports that it was in fact beauty that killed the beast.
King Kong is definitely a must watch for any film lover, it really is a stepping-stone for many of the modern films we have, filled with love, action and almost screams the whole way through. It really is a creative piece that is still inspirational to this day and age.
Schiedsack, E. Cooper, M. Figure 1. King Kong poster. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Kingkongposter.jpg (Accessed on 12/10/2014)
Schiedsack, E. Cooper, M. Figure 2. King Kong fighting still. http://www.monsterislandnews.com/files/king_kong_1933.jpg (Accessed on 12/10/2014)
Schiedsack, E. Cooper, M. Figure 3. Empire state building still. http://www.filmfreakcentral.net/.a/6a0168ea36d6b2970c016306044d55970d-pi (Accessed on 12/10/2014)
Collins, A. (2013). radiotimes.com. http://www.radiotimes.com/film/cfm44/king-kong (Accessed on 12/10/2014)
Larsen, J. (2011). larsenonfilm.com. http://www.larsenonfilm.com/king-kong-3 (Accessed on 12/10/2014)Vasquez Jr, F. (2013). cinema-craved.com. http://cinema-crazed.com/blog/2013/10/09/king-kong-1933/ (Accessed on 12