Monday, January 02, 2006
1933 King Kong Now on DVD
As you're probably well aware, I'm a big King Kong fan. It remains one of the most engrossing variations of the Beauty and the Beast story. Almost no film today has matched the lushness of Kong's jungles, fierce Skull Island creatures, or emotion exuded by an animated lead character. King Kong is also a movie that proved to be the key inspiration to more animators, palaeontologists, archeologists, artists, and filmmakers than any other motion picture. And that inspiration continues today as each new professional inspired by Kong fires up the imaginations of the young viewing audience. Let's not forget King Kong came out during the The Great Depression, which makes its associated box office achievement and high praise even more amazing.
Over the Christmas holiday, I received a DVD Box Set of King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and Son of Kong and finally had a chance to sit down and watch the new print of the film and included documentaries. RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World, is nothing short of outstanding. Arguably, it's easily one of the best "making of" DVD features yet and is on par with Peter Jackson's legendary behind-the-scenes material included on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and newly-issued Director's Cut DVD of The Frighteners. Despite having one of the greatest films of all time now available in a beautiful new presentation, the documentary alone was worth the long wait for Kong's arrival on DVD.
Found on the second disc of the King Kong Collector's Edition DVD set, RKO Production 601 features a running time of just over 2 and a half hours, (worthy of even Peter Jackson's new lengthy remake), and does an exemplary job of telling the story of the film's creation. Jackson, Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippet, Alan Funke, Frank Darabont, Randall Cook, Ben Burtt, Joe Dante and others explain and analyze how the film was realized. From painstaking recreation of the King Kong armature and lost Spider Pit Sequence, to multi-plane set formation and projection, to the actual stop-motion animation process, and even the pioneering Max Steiner's score, the documentary is not to be missed by any true animation and King Kong devotee.
King Kong has become bigger than the lovable beast himself. Though he is considered one of the most recognizable silver screen characters of all time, the film proved to be the new apex of fantasy and adventure storytelling on film. So, when you head out to watch Peter Jackson's version, or the latest big-budget special effects blockbuster, think back to the incredible achievements of Willis O'Brien, Cooper and Schoedsack, and a giant ape, who was in reality, less than 20 inches tall.
King Kong artwork © 1933 RKO Pictures and 2005 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.