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HAPPY BIRTHDAY KING KONG! This month marks the 70th anniversary of the release of the classic 1933 movie King Kong. Produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, King Kong is a tragic tale of a giant ape that is taken from his jungle home and put on display in the big city of New York. He escapes while pursuing a girl he has become enamored with and dies a tragic death at the hands of a squadron of Biplanes. Who among us can forget the classic ending line `It was Beauty that killed the beast'. King Kong played to record numbers during its East Coast release in the first week in March 1933(It was released in April on the West Coast). In two theaters in New York the film grossed $89,931 smashing all records. Keep in mind this was during the depression! Many film makers have drawn inspiration from King Kong's tragic tale. Craftsman such as Godzilla director, Ishiro Honda , Ray Harryhausen,( who worked with King Kong effects artist Willis O'Brien on his film MIGHTY JOE YOUNG for which O'Brien won the very first special effects Oscar) and
Peter Jackson have claimed to be inspired by Kong's dynamic presence.
Willis O'Brien who created the incredible stop motion effects in King Kong tried to create interest in an idea he had been working on that had King Kong battling a creature like Frankenstein only larger. He hoped to make the film by using his stop-motion process to animate both Kong and the Frankenstein monster. He was unable to interest any of the U.S. Studios in his idea so he approached a Japanese studio, Toho, with his concept. The project fell through and Willis O'Brien passed away in 1962 his dream unfulfilled. Shortly after his death, Toho released King Kong vs. Godzilla which featured a story line almost identical to his King Kong vs. Frankenstein script except that the Frankenstein monster was replaced by Godzilla.
Little did Cooper and Shoedsack realize what an impact their film would have on the American culture. After the events of 9/11, the internet was bombarded by images of King Kong perched atop the twin towers defending them from the terrorists airplanes. Kong can be found in just about every New York souvenir shop on everything from pens to T -shirts. Todd McFarlane released his own more sinister version of King Kong in his Movie Maniacs line of action figures. Even now Peter Jackson is planning to remake this classic film. King Kong was voted as one of the top 100 Classic American films of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI) and TV Guide named King Kong atop the Empire State Building the Fourth Greatest Movie Moment.
Even 70 years later, King Kong continues to enthrall millions of new fans due to the extensive showings on television and video. King Kong has been shown on television more than almost any other film. Surprisingly, King Kong has never been released on DVD in the United States although a brand new DVD is planned for release in 2004 including never before seen footage and enhanced video and audio.
Merian C. Cooper said it best-"'Kong' was never intended to be anything but the best damned adventure film ever made, which it is; and that's all it is." Happy Birthday King Kong and thank you keeping the child in all of alive.