Sunday, October 16, 2005

eyeCandy: King Kong (1933) 4/5

In preparation for Peter Jackson's highly anticipated reinvisaging of the King Kong movie, coming this Christmas, I decided to go back and take a look at the original 1933 King Kong so as to truly appreciate how far we've come (Note: the one I watched was the colourized version, which includes several scenes subsequently removed from the original).

It's a fascinating film when viewed in the context of today's movies. The use of stop motion animation, miniature models, matte paintings, back projection, and more, all over 70 years ago, sets the stage for the evolution of special effects and shows how motion pictures could capture more than just what we do in everyday life - they could capture almost anything we can imagine.

The story itself is quite simplistic: a movie-maker finds a young woman to star in his next picture - a movie that is to be filmed on a far off jungle island. When ship and crew arrive on the island, they find it inhabited with prehistoric creatures and the great ape Kong. After a botched sacrificial offering (of the movie's starlet Fay Wray) by the island's natives, and several impressive fights between Kong and the island's inhabitants (creatures and humans alike), the ape is subdued and brought to New York to be shown to the public for great profit. Kong's subsequent escape, triggered by his desire to defend Ms. Wray, and legendary biplane fight from the Empire States Building follows.

One aspect of this movie that can't be ignored is how, although he is seen by many as a monster, Kong is actually depicted as a caring and protective guardian of his beloved Fay, despite his primitive nature. As the film progresses, there are many opportunities for the audience to actually sympathize with the plight of the great monster and consider the tragedy of his capture and demise. This theme is as poignant today, in our era of rampant commercialism, as it has ever been.

Much of the entertainment value of 1933's King Kong comes from knowing its historical context and place in movie history - its technical feats, though corse by today's standards, are remarkable for the time and are the ancestors of many of the techniques we use today. The story is simple, but the underlying message it evokes is a powerful one. I don't expect everyone to see this as a 4-star movie. In fact, some may not enjoy it at all. But if you are interested in the history of film, or film effects, I think you'll find it a rewarding 100 minutes.
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10/16/2005 06:50:00 p.m.  


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