Sunday, 19 October 2014

Film Review - King Kong (1933)

Fig. 1 King Kong (1933) Movie Poster

Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's "King Kong" (1933) remains as one of Hollywood's most well-known stories. The idea of a large and scary monster, that you almost feel sympathetic for at times, is a story that the modern audience has become familiar with. King Kong also manages to highlight issues with equality in the early 20th Century.

Fig.2 King Kong and Ann

Before we actually see "the monster" at first, a sense of fear is created by the directors and makes us feel tension when Ann is about to meet King Kong, but as the story progresses it becomes somewhat apparent that he does actually care for Ann and does fight off a horde of creatures to protect her. It is a strange feeling that we feel sympathy for him when he is imprisoned and later being attacked. This is an idea that the 1933 audience wouldn't have been too used to. Roger Ebert also touches on this point in his review: "It is also a curiously touching fable in which the beast is seen, not as a monster of destruction, but as a creature that in its own way wants to do the right thing" (Ebert, 2002). Kimg Kong shows the limitations of effects that were available in 1933, but as Laurie Boeder says in her review "Kong was an "animatronic" movie star before the word was minted, and while stop-motion animation had been done, no one had ever pulled it off on the scale of King Kong" (Boeder, 2010) it showed what can be achieved on film. 

Fig. 3 King Kong on the Empire State Building

King Kong spans from two different locations. First with New York, then Skull Island and then back to New York again. The directors show New York as a busy city where the men are the much more dominant gender. This is shown in the film when Carl Denham (Played by Robert Armstrong) is looking for a woman to go to Skull Island and so walks into the street, grabs Ann (Played by Fay Wray) and calls a taxi. This is something that is not accepted in today's world, so it highlights how small women were seen to be and weren't allowed to, necessarily, make their own choices. Mourdant Hall mentions in their review of how small women were seen to be by saying "Her body is like a doll in the claw of the gigantic beast" (Hall, 1933) This point proves that women were seen as people, but more like a possessionSkull Island is a jungle, much like New York. It's vast collection of creatures and plants is very remarkable due to the lack of resources in 1933. Skull Island possesses a series of threats to the characters with it's complex layout and monsters around every corner. These creatures are either adaptations of existing animals, like snakes, or are entirely new or are extinct, e.g. Dinosaurs. These creatures are a lot more dangerous than King Kong himself, so it shocks the audience as going into film they would have expected King Kong to be the main threat.

Fig.4 Natives

It can be argued that the creatures weren't meant to be seen as the main threat by the directors. Racism is a topic that still, unfortunately, exists today but in the early 20th century people of a different race were not well treated or well liked. One such argument that the film has raised is that King Kong represents black people coming to America and being a threat to the city. In the film, the natives are seen as slaves of Kong, and so steal Ann and give her to him. This was a view that was normal in 1933, so it wasn't as controversial back then as it would be now.

Ebert, Roger (2002) King Kong (1933) Review - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Hall, Mourdant (1933) King Kong (1933) Review - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Boeder, Laurie (2010) King Kong (1933) Review - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Illustration list:
Fig. 1 King Kong (1933) Movie Poster - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Fig.2 King Kong and Ann - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Fig. 3 King Kong on the Empire State Building - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

Fig. 4 Natives - (Accessed 19/10/2014)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dan,

    See my comment on 'Metropolis' re the quotes!
    Also, make sure that you italicise the film name - this is especially important when the name of the film is also the name of a character, as in this case. This sentence, for example, sounds as though it is King Kong himself that is highlighting the issues, rather than the film -
    'King Kong also manages to highlight issues with equality in the early 20th Century.'