Tuesday, 9 November 2010

King Kong 1933

King Kong is an action adventure monster flick from 1933 about a director, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), and his film crew’s accidental encounter with a giant gorilla. Although all the action begins on the secluded Skull Island, the first scenes are set in New York, where Carl is looking for an actress to play the lead in his new project which will be shot on a mysterious island near Singapore. A young blonde, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), catches Carl’s eye when she steals an apple from a grocer. He approaches Ann and offers her a lead in his latest production. After assembling a group of seamen and a film crew they all set sail for the mysterious Skull Island. After weeks of sailing their ship enters a dense fog which surrounds an island Carl believes to be his uncharted peninsula. The fog gives the illusion of a veil which separates the reality of Carl and his crew’s rational minds from their irrational thoughts. When they venture through the fog to the other side a world without reason becomes open to them, and where fear now has a physical face. The crew gaze upon a dark island dimly lit with fires blazing at the foot of a mountain in a crude shape of a skull. This iconic scene sets the tone for the rest of the film on Skull Island. The island bellowing rhythmic drumming from the natives beckons Carl to enter, resembling the lair of an evil scientist or villain that invites the hero to meet his doom. Carl and a small party venture to the island and they encounter the natives in a ritual to a god-like Kong. “The prototypical ‘wilds of Africa’ horror film (although Skull Island isn't supposed to be in Africa), King Kong features wild, black natives (led by chief Noble Johnson) jumping around and going ‘ooga booga’, kidnapping white women, worshiping Kong, and proceeding to get stepped on by the monster from aforementioned ‘wilds’. Only the lily-white ‘beauty’, Fay Wray, can tame the beast” The destination of Carl and his crew was supposed to be somewhere in Indonesia, but the natives were Black Africans. This detracted the magic of the island from the film. The director in wanting to portray the primitive, but virile black man and his worship of nature in a certain light was obviously a more important aspect for the director to highlight, than the correct geographical placement of different races and cultures. Nevertheless, the natives intrigued by Ann and her golden hair want to purchase her to be the next bride of Kong. At this point Carl becomes worried for the safety of Ann and the crew as the natives become more aggressive to their unwanted visitors. Safely back onboard their vessel, Carl discusses with the captain a return visit in the morning to engage the natives in further discussions, but as they talk a small group of natives board and kidnap Ann. She is taken back to the village to be prepared for her ritual wedding to Kong. With excessive drumming and dancing the villagers draw not only the attention of the crew, but of the mighty Kong, who is now on his way for his prize. “Modern viewers will shift uneasily in their seats during the stereotyping of the islanders in a scene where a bride is to be sacrificed to Kong (it is rare to see a coconut brassiere in a non-comedy), but from the moment Kong appears on the screen the movie essentially never stops for breath In an astonishing outpouring of creative energy, O'Brien and his collaborators (including RKO's legendary visual effects artist Linwood Dunn and sound man Murray Spivack) show Kong in battle with two dinosaurs, a giant snake, a flying reptile and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Later, in New York, he will climb to the top of the Empire State Building and bat down a biplane with his bare hand.” 
 This is true; the pace of the film is quadrupled when Kong makes his appearance, and Carl with his crew go in pursuit of the gigantic gorilla. Trawling through the densely packed jungle, all created on a sound stage, they encounter a variety of sets made to challenge the crew but also made to portray a mystical land of perils with great beasts of a time long-ago hidden behind its foliage, crevasses and within its waters. With every scene plunging them deeper into the jungle and with every scene a crew member is lost to the environment. The crew make a final stand against the jungle beside a chasm bridged by a fallen tree, but this time, Kong, the jungle’s greatest champion is there to greet them. The majority of the search party is on the fallen tree, apart from Carl and his first mate John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), who is romantically involved with Ann.
Kong lifts the tree throwing the crew one-by-one into the chasm to their deaths. The film’s adrenaline-rush monster mash spills over into another epic battle between monkey and reptile, when Kong hears the screams of Ann and rushes to her assistance, only to be attacked by a T-rex. This classic scene is replicated in Godzilla, Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, an entire film dedicated to one iconic scene from King Kong. The scene’s set is a little different from the rest, the others being more enclosed and confined to allow the viewer to envisage the trappings of a tropical jungle. Whereas, the fight between Kong and the T-rex is in a well lit open clearing, which was more appropriate to show this tremendous battle in its entirety.
The audience could be forgiven for thinking Kong is tired as he retreats back to his lair with Ann in hand, and as soon as he puts her down a giant river serpent rushes out to eat her. Kong, with the energy of a 100 Duracell bunnies bursts into action, but this time there is very little space and light, giving a silhouette feel to this action scene. Kong’s abode is very cave-like, dark and dingy, with great long stalagmites hanging from the roof and jagged rocks at almost every turn. The serpent wraps his body around Kong’s neck squeezing the life from him but to no avail; Kong is just too strong, wrestling himself free and then beating the serpent senseless. Driscoll, who has been on the trail of Kong and Ann ever since the chasm looks for an opportunity to rescue Ann from the ape’s clutches. There is no time for Kong to relax, with Driscoll looming around the crevasses of the cave and then a pterodactyl trying to carry Ann away, Kong reacts with purposeful energy.
The terrace of the cave - Kong has a penthouse cave unit with an adjoining terrace on a mountain side that overlooks the entire jungle - is where the battle ensues. This is perfect for Driscoll, who uses this opportunity to rescue Ann and exit the jungle with some urgency. The story within Skull Island draws to end, with only the capture of Kong and the total destruction of the natives’ village left to witness. The film moves to New York where we see Carl Driscoll and Ann at the opening of their exhibition of Kong, The Eighth Wonder Of The World. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I'm going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive - a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!” This is Carl’s electrifying speech to his audience, which is followed by Kong breaking free of his shackles and demolishing an entrance to the streets of New York. Like a tsunami Kong leaves a trail of destruction in his wake, rampaging through vehicles and subway lines alike. Kong abducts Ann once more and heads for the empire state building, where he climbs to the top. Another iconic scene unfolds here, Kong, this colossal ape, clutches the sceptre at the top of the building with one hand and Ann in another and roars at the city, proclaiming his dominance.
The scale of the miniature set used to portray the height at which Kong was convincingly accurate, giving this scene a lofty, airy-feel to it, as fighter planes surrounded the great ape. The entire scene was lit to give a panoramic view, showing Kong’s relentless demeanour. It reminded me of Kong’s encounter with the T-rex but on a bigger scale. This was Kong’s final battle, It had to be on a grand scale - civilisation verses nature – with the outcome a foregone conclusion. “The film endures because of the timelessness of its central story and the care that went into its creation. Using then state-of-the-art special effects - rear projection and stop-motion animation, overseen by effects maestro Willis O'Brien - the film creates a wholly integrated world where the appearance of magical creatures makes absolute sense”


  1. Interim Online Review 09/11/10

    Hey Kolade,

    A great 'Kong' review - except for the Duracel Bunnies image! I'm asking students to now approach their film reviews with all the third person formality of their written assignments - you're pretty much there, with some killer quotes, sincere analysis and an eye for the symbolic complexities at swim below the surface of even the most 'absurd' of stories.

    Not much on show regarding the creative project itself - I hope this isn't a reflection on your engagement/enjoyment of the unit? The photoshop image you've produced of the grotto reminds me of 1950s Disney - Fantasia especially - and this isn't a criticism at all. I've spent the majority of my time today reminding students that they're devising spaces for an animated version of their classic stories - so bold, non-photorealistic styles are absolutely welcome - to be encouraged even. There is something satisfying about that image of yours, because it does not purport to be the world as it 'really is' - it is it's own world. I have also reminded students that, come crit day, the question I'm specifically interested in having answered is 'what was your visual concept?' Not only are you concept artists, you are also, perhaps more importantly, production designers. You are not creating illustrations for scenes in a book - you are devising spaces in a world governed by a visual concept.

    Currently, I'm unsure of your visual concept - your aesthetic system - I think perhaps, you are too. I don't see much evidence of your research into the book, into its author, into the world of the author, and I don't see you putting any influence maps to work - using them to sieve and filter image-grit until you find conceptual gold... Make no mistake, there is a big conceptual 'ask' sitting beneath this project. I look forward to seeing more from you in terms of addressing this.

    Oh yeah - let me know if you want Barbarella - I'll put it in your pigeon hole just incase.

  2. Here is a list of links back to the CGAA Group Blog, where I have recently uploaded loads of information regarding the way I want students to tackle their written assignments. As you now prepare your unit 2 assignments on production design, pay close attention to the advice given. I will be looking for clear improvement in terms of use of language, academic ‘voice’, use of conventions, argument structure and correct methods of referencing.

    Academic style/Do’s & Don’ts


    1st Person to 3rd person conversions


    Use of footnotes


    How to satisfy essay criteria/assignment presentation/hyperlink to referencing methods


    Also – be sure to check out the 2 student essays uploaded to myUCA/Space/Unit Materials – good examples of degree level written assignments. Take the time to read them.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, I will take onboard your comments and cut out the personal aspects in my writing. I’ve got 60 other thumbnails waiting for you to peruse, just need to use the A3 scanner at uni, and haven’t had the chance as yet. Now with so many ideas not sure which one works, need an objective eye to give me a fresh perspective. Will try and get these on my blog and wait for your input.