Friday, 18 November 2011

Space: King Kong 1933 Review

Fig. 1

King Kong (1933) on the surface can be seen as a classic adventure movie with a damsel in distress and a hero out to save her from the savage beast. However doing so would be neglecting the brilliance and complexity of both the story and the characters therein. There are many reasons as to why King Kong is known as a landmark film in terms of both story and filming technique, as It could be seen as the first movie to  use stop motion to create not just a monster but a character in the film.

King Kong was a huge scale production even in modern terms, as the techniques and special effects used were time consuming and, at the time, were state of the art. The Stop motion used to create the beast Kong required 2 sized models, one for the shots on ‘Skull Island’ which was around 18 inches tall, and another for the streets of Manhattan around 26 inches, so that Kong did not seem dwarfed by the towering skyscrapers.  “While Kong was a monkey-size doll, the parts of him that engaged with human actors were built on a massive scale.  These included a foot, lower leg, and giant furry paw, a crane like device about 8 feet long, in which Fay Wray writhed sexily and was lifted 10 feet over the studio floor for her big scene atop the Empire State Building” (Levy 2000) The sheer effort that went into creating these various limbs shows that the scale of the production was huge, and the outcome was one brilliant film. It’s no wonder that King Kong became an iconic image for film in the early 1900’s and remains to be today as everybody knows who the big ape is on top of the Empire State building.

There are many ways in which the film can be read, but one if the most discussed is whether Kong is the beast in the film; after all he is just an oversized gorilla. He is only seen as a monster as the humans fear him since they do not know what he is, and the same could be said for Kong in his situation. “In the great tradition of movie monsters, we identify with him as much as with the human; to some extent we even root for him – not only when he is fighting carnivorous reptiles on Skull Island but also when he is fighting modern machinery in New York. Kong is undoubtedly a monster – he’s seen stomping natives mercilessly into the mud, when he’s not popping them into his mouth! – yet he manages to win our sympathy, too. This combination of horror and pathos has kept him alive in the public imagination ever since his debut, and will no doubt continue to do so for decades to come.” (Biodrowski 2007) Can Kong really be called a monster when he fights to the death to protect the thing that he loves, maybe he is just misunderstood. Whereas the humans throw brute force at the creature, capturing and chaining him up to show him off as a ‘wonder of the world’, surely this is animal cruelty. Kong is a mighty beast of a lost world and his character is one to be respected When Kong kills the T-Rex by breaking open its jaw, we wince at the brutal realism of it. Kong's longevity began when O'Brien gave the 18-inch-tall puppet more humanity and personality than we see from the flesh-and-blood actors onscreen. After the climax's Manhattan rampage, when Kong plummets off the Empire State Building toward 34th and Fifth, we don't feel triumph for our side. No Death Star explosion hurrahs here. Whether Kong or Denham is the movie's genuine monster remains an open question.”  (Bourn) Instead of feeling a sense of triumph when we see Kong lay dead on the ground, we sympathise for him, as he was forced into a world which he does not know and then murdered. “It was beauty that killed the beast”


Biodrowski, S. (2007) (Accessed on 14/11/11)

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