on July 14, 2013
amazing how a movie this old can hold up and be so spectacular today. I loved this movie way more than I expected to. The animation is what impressed me as im sure it was with many other people. The stop motion is so fun to watch and since it was made in the 30's it works as an interesting period piece and Is fun to see how creative they had to be with their limited technology. Kong shaking people off a log to their death, fighting dinosaurs, holding onto his love, and of course climbing the empire state building are all super fun and interesting to watch. Ray Harryhausen in incredible and I really need to see more of his movies because this one and clash of the titans both blew me away. I can't wait to dive into more films like this!
on March 14, 2000
I felt that for a movie from the 1930's that the special effects were good. The movie is a favorite of my husbands and mine. I was actually very sorry to see Kong die.
on October 16, 2015
Everyone knows the story, this review is on the Blu-ray. The disc package includes a small book which is embedded into the disc package so it's not removable. The book contains stories on the "Making of...", which includes information on the actors, special effects and of course the producer and director. This is a nice addition to the Blu-ray package.
The disc itself contains a lot of extras including a 7 part Making of..., commentary with Ray Harryhausen and a documentary on Merian C. Cooper. The Blu-ray disc quality for such an old movie varies from grainy to amazingly clear. Its still far superior to the original Steel Box DVD version that was released some years back. Even though its a Blu-ray disc its still shown in its original full frame format of 1.33:1.
There's no doubt about the amount of detail that is revealed with the sharpness of Blu-ray, but as mentioned, sharpness also has a tendency to considerably increase the grain in some scenes. I found the grain to be most noticeable at the beginning and in some of the jungle scenes. Those are the areas of heavy grain that I remember because with the sharpness of the video I became more absorbed in watching the details in the incredible sets and special effects that I forgot about the grain. All in all, even with some of the heavy grain here and there, watching King Kong with all this rich visible detail is like watching it for the first time. Make sure you watch the extra on how they made the jungle scene to really marvel at the inventive technical skill of these incredible special effects artist. And remember this movie was released in 1933!
The basic story is of Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), who makes those cute little animal pictures that are going out of style. If he wants to stay in business he must add a female interest and some excitement. Circumstances forcing him to leave port quickly, he meets a girl Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), that is down on her luck and convinces her that he will make her a star (on the up and up).
Things get complicated as you know it is bad luck to bring a woman onboard a freighter. And Ann really stirs them up including the first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). On top of this she has a large date awaiting her at Skull Island.
I will not tell the rest of the story just incase you are one of the few that has missed the movie. But as you have guessed it includes a big ape named KONG. Not that cheesy thing that is always tussling around in Japanese movies, but a much more convincing Kong that can show great emotion.
You are about to watch the eight wonder of the world.
on July 13, 2004
Interpretations--psychological, anthropological, social, evolutionary, racial--abound about 1933's KING KONG. "King Kong is about our inner animal of rage", "King Kong is a critique of man in modern urban times", "King Kong is about technology killing our true nature..." Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
PUH-LEASE! KING KONG is simply a great story, perfectly directed, with the best animation techniques for its time. While the acting (by humans) is admittedly the weakest link in this film, it has so much else going for it, like suspense, horror, pathos, love, and tragedy. King Kong, the animal, is complex and there are different emotions we experience about him. We don't like him when he gobbles up people or smashes the 2nd Avenue el (an incredible scene!). We admire him for trying to save Fay Wray from the flashbulbs. And we feel incredibly sad when he's killed. Why? I think it's because we see him as a human, at least of having human qualities. But to extend that to some deeper, intellectual level is pointless. It's just an amazing film.
Last comment: The film also has some humor. As a New Yorker, I love the dialogue between the two women at the theater, waiting to see King Kong.
Girl one: "Hey, what's this show about, anyway?"
Girl two: "I don't know. Some big gorilla."
Girl one: (after a clod accidentally steps on her toe): "Aw. Ain't we got enough of them in New Yawk?"
I can't get enough of this classic film.
on May 25, 2004
This movie never fails to please because it is just basically good story telling, a solid buildup for the first 40 or so minutes and then action that never lets up and never lets you catch a breath untill the end. Some of the dialogue hasn't aged too well: "Gee,... I guess I love you" makes me cringe every time, and does anybody say "swell" anymore? "These seats cost me twenty bucks!" is a hoot and I use this movie as proof positive that it's not just Canadians who say "eh?" at the end of their sentences. (By the way, I didn't catch Alberta-born Fay Wray saying it but Cabot and Armstrong did a couple of times.)
I am looking forward to the DVD release this year but my 60th anniversary VHS copy is okay for now. It's missing the spider scene and the questionable dialogue and the film source has a bit of artifacts but I find that the transfer to video tape is done a lot better than a lot of my newer movies on VHS.
I find that Fay Wray's acting is probably the best of any actor in this movie and it's a shame her career did not grow beyond this movie. All things considered this creature feature is not one to be missed. Long live Fay Wray!
on June 18, 2003
This has to be the father of Scifi. Consider this movie was made in 1933. The stop motion animation of Willis O'Brien can not be better. To this day most people are amazed with the special effects, cast, sets, story, direction, and music. As one reviewer astutely wrote it is an incredible look at the lifes of common people of the 30s. Is it any wonder that it is a classic and usually rated in the top one hundred of all time SciFi favorite polls.
The only question is why isn't this incredible classic, that even the American Film Institute recognizes in a special on Heroes and Villains, isn't on DVD yet? This is one of those movies that can be watched time and time again and you never tire of it. You catch something new each time. I am always intently watching this movie, the parts where they are tracking Kong in the jungle is an unforgettable adventure and horror. If you haven't watched it in several months or even a year it is all the more entertaining when you see it again. When I think of those movies ahead of their time I always think of this and The Wizard of Oz.
on March 13, 2003
Most great works of world literature can all be traced, I believe to either The Bible or Homer's Odyssey. When closely scrutinized, all classic works contain some sort of quest. That quest can either be for the truth or to return home.
The original King Kong, is not only one of the finest fantasy films ever made, but a great piece of literature because it encompasses those two quests.
Granted, many of the film's elements have dated. Certainly that is the case with some the hammy, overwrought, stereotyped and even at times wooden performances. In our "enlightened", post Marlon Brando-Actor's Studio, age of acting appreciation I think we are all to eager to lay such a criticism on films from that quaint period known as the 1930's. And even though Kong gives the best performance in the film, the actors do their job and tell a believable and captivating story.
Filmmaker Carl Denham's quest for truth and his odyssey is what fantasy films are all about: a journey into a fantastic and strange new world. His desired exploitation of that savage and innocent world is what tragedy is all about. Kong's quest for safety and dominance in his natural habitat makes for a great metaphor for our modern age. So many of us have been uprooted by forces seemingly beyond our control and we all want to find our place back where we came from.
Unfortunately that quest often leeds again to tragic results, Kong, unlike Dorothy ( a story that obviously greatly influenced the screenwriters of Kong), dies.
So much has been already written about this great influential film, nothing I say here will be original or enlightening necessarily. It is just that in this day and age of CGI and garbage like ID4, Armeggedon, Wild Wild West, XXX, and so on it is (or at least once was possible) to use special effects to enhance a story as opposed to letting the screen technology engulf any semblance of humanity.
And also too . . . please release this in a gloriously remastered DVD. Please.
on August 14, 2002
When film lovers discuss the merits of KING KONG, they often focus on the 'big' scenes, Kong on the Empire State Building, Kong bursting out of his shackles on stage in New York, Kong battling a series of prehistoric beasts on Skull Island. KING KONG surely is deservedly known for these, but the movie's enduring power to enthrall each new generation of viewer is based on the movie's more subtle, yet equally mesmerizing lesser scenes, not all of which involve him. What is astounding to a generation of contemporary audiences jaded by computer enhanced special effects is the way the movie has held up over the decades. The stop-motion animation of Willis O'Brien shows a Kong as seamless as any computer could project today, and certainly as far superior to the 1976 King that groped Jessica Lange. One of the reasons that this more recent Kong failed to resonate with modern audiences is that the somber, brooding mood of the original was reflected in the gauzy, hazy photography that showed the jungle of Skull Island to be every bit the Jurassic danger that Spielberg envisioned for his theme park. Repeated viewings of the sailors that slug their way through the jungle to find Ann Darrow emphasize the lurking monsters behind every tree and hill. Directors Schoesdsack and Cooper (both of whom had bit parts as the pilot and machine gunner who shot Kong off the Empire State Building) would introduce each succeeding reptilian threat from a distance, almost lulling the sailors and the audience into a false security that the beast was not a threat. But then, they would focus the camera on a twitch of the beast's head. One could see and hear the beast sniff the air as a preparation to attack. When it did attack, the assault came on like a runaway train. Sometimes the guns of the sailors killed or drove it away, and sometimes they didn't. It is this constant sense of menace that permeates Skull Island that serves as a prelude to meeting the King himself. The sailors and natives saw Kong first, of course, when he grabbed Ann Darrow, but they had to experience the power of those outsized simian thews as Kong rolled them off the log into an unknown, dank horror below. As many scenes of subtle, psychological power as there are on Skull Island there are an equal number in New York, a city which contains more deadly dragonflies than his home stomping grounds. As one sees Kong rage over his abducted girlfriend both on Skull Island and in New York, one can see that Kong is not much more different from any guy who sees another dude swipe her. His reaction each time is predictably violent. As his violence increases, so does his ability to think rationally decrease. Kong is a beast, sure, but he is a thinking, rational one who in the parlance of lawyers seeking to explain the murderous behavior of their clients, has 'lost it' since he was pushed beyond the limits of simian endurance. But what elevates Kong beyond his more human killer counterparts is his inner sense of inherent nobility that comes out at crucial moments. There is no doubt that he is a self-sacrificing creature who would unhesitatingly lay down his life for his mate. He proves that on Skull Island and on the Empire State Building. When Kong lays Ann down to face the swirling attack planes, he meets them as one king to another. He beats his chest, roaring out his defiance, knowing full well that the power that overwhelmed the prehistoric beasts on Skull Island would fail him here. For that brief moment, Kong transcends a beast out of his element. The audience applauds a creature who in years to come would morph into John Wayne, Rocky, and every other hero worshipped by audiences in the theater with every bit of the fervor worshipped by the natives behind their huge wooden gate. Kong was the king in every sense of the word in both his island in the Pacific and the island off the Atlantic.
As a young child in the nineteen fifties, I used to watch this film whenever it appeared on TV on "Million Dollar Movie". I loved it then. I love it now. Time has not diminished the capacity of this film to mesmerize and hold the viewer in its thrall.
The story line is basic. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker and entrepreneur, leads an expedition to Skull Island where he discovers its deep, dark secret. It is a land where time has stood still, and prehistoric monsters still hold sway over the island and its inhabitants. There, the natives pay homage to the one whom they revere as "Kong", and who is, indeed, king of the island.
Denham, together with his beautiful, budding starlet, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), as well as with the crew of the ship that brought him to Skull Island, investigates the strange ritual being performed on the island by its native population. Before she knows it, Ann finds herself captured by the natives. She is to become the bride of the mysterious "Kong".
When Ann discovers who the mysterious "Kong" is, she starts screaming and doesn't stop. The ship's first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), who happens to be in love with Ann, manages to rescue her from the clutches of "Kong". Notwithstanding the fact that "Kong" has taken a shine to her, Ann is relieved to have been rescued by the man whom she loves.
Denham then arranges to capture the creature, whom he calls "King Kong" and takes him back to New York with them on the ship that brought them to Skull Island. There, King Kong makes his debut, one that movie lovers will long remember.
The special effects of this film were superlative for its time and still pass muster today. The relationship between the beauty and the beast still makes the viewer sit up and take notice. This is an attention grabbing film that is as exciting today, as when it was first released over seventy years ago. It is a truly timeless, cinema classic. Bravo!