Wednesday, 23 November 2016

King Kong (1933)

Fig 1: Film Poster
Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's King Kong (1933) is a black-and-white sci-fi, fantasy movie. The film tells a story, in which director/producer Carl Denham travells to an island called 'Skull Island' to shoot a film, alongside Ann Darrow the leading role lady, Jack Driscoll and adventurer and other crew members. They don't know what to expect on the island as they are met with natives about to sacrifice a young, terrified girl to be the 'bride' of Kong in front of a huge wall and gate. The natives notice the outsiders and the want to offer Ann to the monster, however Carl refuses and they retreat back to the ship. At that night the natives kidnap Ann and tie her to the sacrifice poles outside the gates and call for Kong. The first sighting of Kong is very memorable, as he rushes towards Ann, while bending the trees with loud roars and growls. Kong is fascinated by the woman and instead of killing her, he grasps her and rushes back to the jungle, while Ann's terrified screams ring trough the island. Carl, Jack and a part of the crew starts their journey to find Ann and Kong in the jungle facing many other monsters that inhabit the isolated island. They save Ann and capture Kong, who is brought back to New York to be displayed o the public. Giant, 30 foot tall killer gorilla escapes and tries to find Ann in the concrete jungle of the city, while destroying parts of it and killing some people. when he finally finds her, the giant ape climbs up the Empire State building and is shot down by planes, falling to his death.
Fig 2: Ann is sacrificed to Kong
Fig 3: Kong on the Empire State building
King Kong is an adventure, fantasy and sci-fi film, that is also can be considered as a horror movie (considering the standard when the movie was released). "Co-producers and directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both real-life adventurers and film documentarians) conceived of the low-budget story of a beautiful, plucky blonde woman (Fay Wray) and a frightening, gigantic, 50 foot ape-monster as a metaphoric re-telling of the archetypal Beauty and the Beast fable" (Dirks, s.d.). This shows that the story was built upon the old tale of 'Beauty and the Beast', which is proven numerous factors through the movie. First of all, Ann is a beautiful young woman and Kong is a monstrous beast. As the story goes on, Kong 'the beast' seem to calm down and destroy less as he sees Ann 'the beauty'. The last line in the movie spoke by Carl Denham "Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." (Denham, 1933); this iconic line that has been used in later re-makes, can be analysed differently with finding different meanings behind it. This famous movie line and the events happening in the movie suggest that the beauty has tamed the beast with her beauty and that is what killed the beast (as in the beastly nature) and Kong dying at the end is a metaphor for it. There are many different opinions about the meaning in the film, such as "...seems to suggest that the magnetic beastliness that attracts a woman to a man is, ironically, tamed out of existence through love. Although she feels safe in Driscoll's cerebral embrace, a part of her will always yearn for the beast." (Tabor, 2006)
Fig 4: Dead Kong on the streets of New York
King Kong has received many critiques throughout the years as there has been many issues involved in the film, such as stereotyping. The natives are acting very barbarian and uncivil, with bones through their noses and hair, in grass skirts and chanting. When the chief of the natives sees Ann the 'golden woman' he wants to exchange 6 black woman for the blond, white female. This shows how the women had no value and were treated as objects. Furthermore, Ann (Fay Wray) was displayed as a hopeless, vulnerable woman, who only looks pretty, screams and constantly need someone to protect and save her (She was crowned as one of the first scream queens after the silent era). Not to mention most men on the ship seem to be annoyed with Ann's presence and questioning why is a female the lead role, which Carl explains that they need a pretty face to sell the film.
Fig 5: Ann (Fay Wray) screaming
"The special visual techniques developed for King Kong were numerous." (Obalil, s.d.) This film was the first one that used a safe rear-projector screen (cellulose-acetate), as previous ones were easily broken and injuring actors and actresses.  The screen used in the film was the first ever large sized. Furthermore on this move set was the first one to use optical printers, which helped them to mix mattes, as there was a large amount of mattes involved during the making of the movie, so this method proved to save them energy and time. At the filming they used stop-motion to create scenes, such as Kong and the dinosaurs fighting, where they used puppets to create the images, however stop-motion has been used before. But King Kong was the first full-length movie to create a character with such a method. Additionally, this movie is contains sounds and voice overs, which meant they had to find the perfect sound for the mighty ape that sounded true, but at the same time it was something new. The sound they choose as the 'voice' for Kong was two big cats' roar (lion and tiger) played backwards. Not only, they dealt with the sound of the ape, but they decided not to use classical music, but music that emphasise with the events happening on the screen.
Fig 6: Kong fighting a T-Rex
Overall, this movie is sometimes criticised for some character portraying issues, however the story is very well received and liked. King Kong is considered to be a truly iconic film, that has inspired many following movies, as well as a huge milestone in film-making. "It feels so true!" (Thomson, 2010); even known by audience that the story is only fantasy, Kong is loved by many and has made people cry over all these years as the audience watches their beloved character die at the end of the movie, unlike most movies not having a completely happy ending.
Fig 7: The two original King Kong puppets


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