|King Kong Poster|
King Kong, Directed by Merian cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, is a 1933 American film said to be revolutionary to the Hollywood film industry. While not as appealing as it was near to 80 years ago the film consisted of new and innovative techniques that were used to get around the technological limitations of the time. In the end this achieves “sophistication and beauty that eclipsed anything that went before” (Ebert, 2002).
One mentionable scene realising this is shown in fig. 1. This shot overlooking Skull Island shows a large wall, forest and mountains which appear to have depth. It is only when the image is further examined that the backdrop hints that it is a painting.
Several artists including Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe were hired to create assets for the film set. The effect is assisted by the use of additional foliage along the matte paintings adding an extra layer of depth. Use of an effective background helps to create a more immersive world for the viewers to be drawn into.
The story begins with a shot of New York City from the sea. Continuing from this the next few shots focuses on filmmaker Carl Denham who is struggling to find a female actress. Ann Darrow is seen by Denham who offers her a role in his next film where she is then introduced to the crew of S.S Venture. Shortly after they set out, landing on Skull Island where they find out about King Kong. This results in Kong’s capture and his rampage in New York.
Alongside the matte painting backgrounds a myriad of camera tricks were used to produce the total film. Arguably the most important trick was that used to bring King Kong to life. A number of layers are used in conjunction with live action and stop motion to make multiple creatures move as if they were alive. This alone though is not enough to create King Kong as he is around 21 metres tall. As Ebert stated, “The movie plunders every trick in the book to create its illusions” (Robert Ebert, 2002) with a camera trick being used to increase the size of the creatures thanks to a translucent screen that was used to capture a projection.
With the realisation of the background and foreground the scale of the creatures is brought out. Fig. 2 shows a memorable scene with King Kong fighting the T Rex in the foreground the heroine looking onwards as the monsters fight in the mid ground and the forest fades into the distance. With this the layers lead to a well composed shot that has a lot going on and seems to carry on.
Another revolutionary attribute of King Kong is the use of score specifically designed for each character. “Max Steiner's music adds fantastic atmosphere (it also helped lay down some of the basic rules of motion pictures scoring)” (Haflidason, 2001), written by Almar Haflidason this highlights the importance of the music in creating the correct atmosphere. This laid the foundation for future score as music is now created specifically for certain characters.
The film seems to have a heavy emphasis on the concept of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ as it is foreboded by Carl Denham early on in the film. This creates a conversation piece that has lasted to this century. The heroine, Ann Darrow, is seen as the epitome of female beauty is protected and kept by Kong, a sign of masculinity. Similarities can be seen in these two stories as a beast protects a woman; Kong may be a monster but not that in the traditional sense. Kong feels compelled to do right rather than seek out destruction. It is only the action of Carl Denham that angers him, as he tries to capitalise Kong. It is in Kong’s death that we question who was the true monster reflected in Haflidason’s review “the beast is seen, not as a monster of destruction, but as a creature that in its own way wants to do the right thing” (Haflidason, 2001). This adds to the moral complexity of the film while having breath taking shots making up for the lack in story.
Two other revolutionary firsts in King Kong is the giant monster genre and the city destruction. Both rather new ideas at the time it was seen as a rather fearsome depiction as Kong ravaged the city with his sheer size and strength. While it may seem rather strange back at the time of release both genres have become more popular with today’s media. Much like an exotic fairy tale, “One is reminded of Defoe's "Gulliver's Travels." (Hall, 1933) a mystical beast of great size is presented and engages combat with other creatures such as the T Rex. This was so ridiculous at the time that it would have been accepted as epic and full of awe as the two giants clashed. The large beast also rampages around New York leading to a scene of city destruction. Any future movies involving both of these can be traced back to “King Kong” showing its impact on the cinema industry.
Haflidason’s comment, “"King Kong" was created to grip and thrill like no movie before, and these basic principles hold surprisingly true today” looks into the influence of this 1933 film on today’s films. The film is so revolutionary that it can be stated that it was the start of a golden age of Holly Wood Cinema setting down principles that are still used in today’s cinema.
Ebert, R. (2002) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-king-kong-1933
Haflidason, A. (2001) http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/01/30/king_kong_1933_review.shtml
Mordaunt, H. (1933) http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F03E3DC173BEF3ABC4B53DFB5668388629EDE
Fig. 1 http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/poohadventures/images/d/df/Skull_Island.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130916204024
Fig. 2 http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/kingkong/images/2/25/King-Kong-1933-Tyrannosaurus-Rex-fight.png/revision/latest?cb=20150801002814&path-prefix=en