Tuesday, 2 November 2010

King Kong (1933)

Directors Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack created this stop-motion animation feature about a crew of film makers set on making the best film of them all, by travelling to Skull Island which is enhabited by strange natives who worship a giant gorilla. Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) gets captured by the natives and offered to Kong who takes her deep into the jungle. The rest of the crew rush to her aid, but most fall victim to the many perils of the island. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) succeeds in capturing Kong, and takes him back to New York to be shown as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World!' Kong escapes and takes Ann to the top of the Empire State bulding, where he is eventually shot down by biplanes.

Although dated, this film can be compared to todays standards as the stop-motion makes this film seem more sinister as the movements are more unpredictable and jerky. IMDB had this to say about the relationship between the director and animator: 'Steiner was able to suggest Kong's emotional state, assisting O'Brien in providing empathy to a creature who in reality was only an 18 inch high puppet.' The painted backgrounds blend seamlessly with the set, as can be seen in the battle with the T Rex when Kong protects Ann from the carnivorous dinosaur.

Kong's fascination with Ann can be seen as being quite primal and testosterone- fuelled, especially in the scene where Kong starts stripping Ann's dress off and sniffing the fabric. NYT put this quite well saying: 'Her body is like a doll in the claw of the gigantic beast.' There is also the analogy of the Empire State building being a giant penis, which i didn't really see or understand how that worked. Another moment that could be described as being sexual is the part where Kong jumps onto the back of the Tyrannosaur and starts moving up and down on it before breaking apart its jaws. (Love that bit in the remake!)

This film can also be seen as being quite racist, Kong being perceived as an African black man preying on a white blonde woman, using her to fulfill his fascination and desires. Also, the way the natives are portrayed is that they are quite wild and unnatural as they dance round in practically nothing with their faces painted with white streaks. The white men in the film however are shown to be sophisticated, wearing suits and talking proper English.

In conclusion although this film is very dated, its techniques still make this film enjoyable to watch to this day. Film4 also agreed by saying 'The film endures because of the timelessness of its central story and the care that went into its creation.'

Quotations: http://www.film4.com/reviews/1933/king-kong



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