Monday, November 15, 2010

King Kong Review

King Kong,

Fay Wray : Ann Darrow
Robert Armstrong : Carl Denham
Bruce Cabot : Jack Driscoll
Frank Reicher : Captain Englehorn
Sam Hardy : Charles Weston
Noble Johnson : le chef indigène
Steve Clemente : le sorcier guérisseur
James Flavin : Lieutenant Briggs
Victor Wong : Lumpy

A precursor to the whole monster horror genre, King Kong uses impressive, for the time, use of stop motion techniques to animate its giant creatures. By superposing the animated screen and the actors playing in front of it, the director is capable of playing with the scale. Directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack, it was an unprecedented feet of visual effects that is still considered today as a masterpiece of monster horror.

An interesting anecdote is that King Kong is a purely cinematographical story, with no prior myth or book related to the subject, though it is influenced by Sir Conan Doyle’s “Lost World”. This can be seen in particular in the scenes involving the dinosaurs. The film also makes interesting references to the Beauty and the Beast story, with Ann Darrow’s blond beauty prodding the lust of the large ape. This sordid metaphor of the white maiden attracting the large black male was one of the negative aspects of the film, along with its primitive portrayal of the African influenced savages. Kim Newman from Empire, says that with “a 30s' racist touch, it's taken as read he was unimpressed by the black girls sacrificed to him over the years and, in a scene censored for years but thankfully restored, peels off her clothes and sniffs his fingers” This dramatic and sexually induced scene where he then smells his fingers, show the savageness and naivety of whatever Kong is meant to depict.

The amazing matt paintings that serve as a background to the film are some noteworthy enough, as they create the atmosphere of Skull Island. The amount of visual superposition present in the film is quit impressive, with at least three montages if not more. The first would be the matt paintings, followed by the scaled stop-motion animations, and finishing with the actors on the foreground, creating an interesting use of fore-ground, mid-ground and background. The animation crew, led by Willis O’Brian, perfected the combat animations by studying human catchers, which gives the very theatrical fight sequences present in the film. The childish and naïve way Kong plays with the jaws of his dead opponents is quit comical, adding to the humanity and emotions of the film. 

The role played by Ann Darrow, allows in the same way she is supposed to do in the film, an important touch of emotion and love to a film which would have been a simple special effect show. This is what makes it memorable to everyone and allowed it to become a monument of cinema history. Though the actors play an important role in the film, Kong is the lead star. As Kim Newman calls her, “scream queen Wray “, Ann Darrow only serves as a plot device for Kong’s story, giving it the emotion required to bring it to a different level than a simple monster horror film. The film is a gold mine of intense cinema scenes. King Kong on top of the Empire State Building is nothing short of mind bogging as it impregnates itself on our memory. One could even see the possible domination of nature over the feeble works of mankind. But not in that film, as Kong is shot down. The film ends on a beautiful epitaph from Carl Denham, who staring down at Kong’s body, responds to a police man who tells him that the planes killed Kong:

No, it wasn't the airplanes... It was Beauty that killed the Beast.

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