Monday, February 7, 2005

King Kong (1933) — Holy Mackerel, What a Show!

This is one of my all-time favorite movies and a true classic in its own right. King Kong is a simple story: intrepid filmmaker, Carl Denham, leads an expedition to Skull Island where they discover a 50-foot gorilla who becomes enamored of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). He is captured and brought back to New York City as the "8th wonder of the world" where he inevitably runs amuck with Ann clutched in one hand and meets his death atop the Empire State Building. The skill of the movie makers is such that we thoroughly enjoyed it some 70 years later. Fay Wray has a scream that could stop a freight train; you could hear it over practically anything that the movie threw at it. The animation was star quality at the time and though it put the girls forcibly in mind of the stop animation they've seen in such modern classics as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, it soon was forgotten in watching Kong wrestle with a T-rex.

It also was fun watching with the girls because, as fanciful as this movie was, it opened the door on a bit of history. It is set during the Depression so Denham watches a line of women going to a soup kitchen in searching for his starlet. That made us talk about how all-pervading it was that it was a common setting for this movie. We suddenly realized that love interest "Jack" looked a lot like Harrison Ford and this made us wonder if girls would talk about seeing the movie again to watch this cutie. When it came to the scenes with the island natives, both girls were shocked at how they were negatively portrayed and talked about as a matter of course ... no matter what some may think, we've come a long way in racial equality. Rose loved the way that Carl Denham talked. It was clipped and forceful and full of corny phrases (like the title of this post which is what he said when peeking through the tall grass to see the natives' rituals).

Although terribly predictable, it was a lot of fun watching terror stricken sailors meet their demise in totally clueless ways ... tip: when running from a 60-foot-tall monster, do not climb a tree; then you're just at eye level and easy to pick off. Also, it was a howl watching a variety of herbivores sport sharp, pointy teeth and eat one sailor after another.

I had seen this several times but only on Saturday afternoon "Monster Movies" shows. I did not remember Kong squashing natives underfoot or casually tossing New Yorkers back like a handful of popcorn. We assumed that these sequences had been cut for commercial time but then I discovered this in one Amazon reviewer's comments:
Final Notes: This is the "restored" version of the film, but it still does not include the legendary scene when four crewmen who are shaken off the log by Kong fall into a ravine where they are eaten alive by giant spiders. When first previewed the scene stopped the movie cold and Cooper pulled it from the film. The scenes that were cut in the late 1930s and not restored until the 1970s were (a) where Kong pulls Ann's clothes off; (b) the shots of the Apatosaurus (nee Brontosaurus) biting the sailors; (c) Kong eating natives when he breaks through the gate; (d) Kong stepping on a native; (e) Kong biting a New Yorker after escaping from the theater; and (f) Kong grabbing the wrong woman from the hotel and throwing her to her death. It would be nice if they could find the spider sequence or any of the other bits we know were cut by Cooper before the film was released, but it is probably never going to happen.

The print quality is not very good but that didn't matter as we were caught up in the movie. It's a lot of fun and we wound up talking fondly about it the next day as well ... perfect for a family that wants something different.

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