Wednesday, August 22, 2007

King Kong

King Kong; fantasy adventure, USA, 1933; D: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, S: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy

Adventure director Denham, unemployed actress Anne and his film crew leave New York for some unknown Pacific island in a ship in order to make a film. During the ride, Anne falls in love with Jack Driscoll. Once on the island, they meet a group of natives that kidnap Anne in order to sacrifice her to their giant ape, King Kong. Since Kong took Anne away, the crew lead by Jack decide to save her - on their way they meet giant dinosaur monsters and a lot of them dies. Still, they manage to capture Kong and bring him to New York. There he escapes and dies by falling from the Empire State Building.

One of the most fascinating and influential movies of the fantasy genre of the 30s, from the time when the cinema was still young and fresh, achieved a great success and inspired two movie remakes. Despite the fact that there are elements of the naive present, "King Kong" handles the claustrophobia, critique of the media and interracial obstacles in a romance – implied in the relationship between King Kong and Anne - in a virtuoso conceptualized way. The appearances of such monsters like the Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus rex and a giant snake – placed in scene with stop-motion technique – are highly expressionistic, thus it must be truly praised that the film achieved a rarity: it became excellent even though it stepped deep into territory that could have had campy elements. Yet the visual effects are so extensive and so meticulous that they nullify any complaint.

Cooper and Schoedsack direct some adventure sequences with bravura: for instance, the long take in which a Stegosaurus from the far horizon starts chasing directly towards the ship crew, until it reaches close to camera when they are able to shoot and stop it. The fight of King Kong and T-rex without any music. The famous Empire State Building finale. Extraordinary handling of landscapes where the contrast of giant monsters and small humans comes to the full extent, such as the camera tilt of a man hiding below a cliff as Kong tries to reach him from above, and so on. The title monster appears only after some 35 minutes into the film, creating a tone of uncertainty. Even though “King Kong”, a real non-stop fantasy spectacle of old school, is rarely shown today on television, it still became influential to many other films, from Harryhausen’s films up to “Jurassic Park”, yet only few of them had its authentic charm that stirred up cinema with such ease and indulged the human fascination with giant monsters at such a high level.


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