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King Kong (1933)

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A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.

Directors:

Merian C. Cooper (uncredited), Ernest B. Schoedsack (uncredited)

Writers:

James Ashmore Creelman (screen play) (as James Creelman), Ruth Rose (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Popularity
4,135 ( 446)
3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Fay Wray ... Ann Darrow
Robert Armstrong ... Carl Denham
Bruce Cabot ... John Driscoll
Frank Reicher ... Capt. Englehorn
Sam Hardy ... Charles Weston
Noble Johnson ... Native Chief
Steve Clemente Steve Clemente ... Witch King (as Steve Clemento)
James Flavin ... Second Mate
King Kong ... The Eighth Wonder of the World
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Storyline

Carl Denham needs to finish his movie and has the perfect location; Skull Island. But he still needs to find a leading lady. This 'soon-to-be-unfortunate' soul is Ann Darrow. No one knows what they will encounter on this island and why it is so mysterious, but once they reach it, they will soon find out. Living on this hidden island is a giant gorilla and this beast now has Ann in it's grasps. Carl and Ann's new love, Jack Driscoll must travel through the jungle looking for Kong and Ann, whilst avoiding all sorts of creatures and beasts. Written by Film_Fan

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Awesome Thriller Of All Time See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 April 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

King Ape See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$670,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$10,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (restored) | (original cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Merian C. Cooper had originally planned for Kong to be exhibited in Yankee Stadium, but later decided on a mid-town theater. Special Effects Chief Willis H. O'Brien drew a sketch of Kong breaking loose in the Stadium. See more »

Goofs

There were two Kong puppets, with differently-shaped heads. The "long-faced" Kong puppet was used for many of the dinosaur fighting scenes and at the top of the Empire State Building. The blunt-headed Kong was used in scenes with Ann Darrow tied to the altar and for many of the New York City climbing scenes. There was also a single full-sized mechanical head built for some of the close-ups. This Kong had extremely white teeth. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Charles Weston: Say, is this the moving picture ship?
Watchman: The Venture? Yeah. Are you going on this crazy voyage?
Charles Weston: What's crazy about it?
See more »


Soundtracks

St. Louis Blues
(1914) (uncredited)
Music by W.C. Handy
Whistled by Robert Armstrong
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
They'll have to think up a lot of new adjectives...
28 January 2004 | by ramaken33See all my reviews

There's little new I can probably add here, judging by the amount of comments, but here goes. King Kong is still one of the greatest fantasy films. It has inspired generations of filmmakers, writers, and other artists, all of whom have been awed and thrilled by the level of craftsmanship involved in its creation. The film haunted my nightmares as a child; there was something absolutely frightening about Kong's glaring eyes looming in the windows of the wrecked elevated train. Thanks to television and repeated showings every Thanksgiving for years (thanks WOR) I became smitten with this film. Nearly 30 years later- post the 1976 remake, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, etc, I still sit down every few months to watch Kong. EVERY time, I see something new. The detail they put into this film is phenomenal, considering it was released long before television or VCRs could give viewers a chance to watch it enough to notice the more subtle details. Volumes have been written about this movie's production, but one effect still has me puzzled. When Kong is in his cave, just before he sets Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in a small opening in the rocks, the head of the elasmosaurus can be seen surfacing and submerging in the pool behind him. If it was done in stop motion, it's the smoothest work in the film; even the pool's water actually appears to ripple around the head.

Willis O'Brien is the man primarily credited with bringing King Kong to the screen, but in truth, Kong was the brainchild of Merian Cooper, a truly larger-than-life film producer, on whom the character of Carl Denham was modeled. Cooper had been a fighter pilot in World War I, a POW after he was shot down behind enemy lines, and- with his partner Ernest Schoedsack- had traveled to the wilds of Asia and Africa to film documentaries. Cooper imagined King Kong as the logical extension of his true life exploits; exaggerated but a recognizable caricature of his experiences. Originally he had wanted a real gorilla to portray Kong, and even wanted to have it fight a Komodo dragon! (Call the Humane Society!) We can all be grateful he encountered Willis O'Brien (who was working on his own dinosaur film- Creation) and decided to produce Kong and the monsters of Skull Island using stop-motion. I doubt anyone in 1933 could have tolerated the spectacle of a live gorilla in real combat with a Komodo dragon. I suspect the film would have either been banned outright or been little more than a grisly footnote in motion picture history. The idea was Cooper's, but the majesty and spectacle of the film belong to O'Brien. The miniature jungle settings created by O'Brien's crew with multiple glass paintings created an otherworldly quality to Skull Island that could not be duplicated by shooting on location- as Cooper had originally envisioned.

To be sure, the film is very much a product of a simpler time. However, if the acting in Kong is compared to its early 1930's contemporaries in the horror/fantasy genre, it holds up quite well. Cooper and Schoedsack understood the necessity of establishing the characters before Kong's entrance, but kept dialog to a minimum. The story is told visually, with camera-work furthering plot points that may have seemed didactic otherwise. The film is carried by not only its visual imagery, but by one of the first feature length music scores. This was an innovation that put King Kong ahead its sound contemporaries, which relied quite heavily on the spoken word and direction alone. There is a ten minute sequence in the center of the film- after the death of the tyrannosaurus until the escape of Ann and Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) from Kong's lair- that is told entirely with visuals, music, and sound effects. It is in large part due to the score that much of Kong's emotional impact is conveyed, particularly in its finale atop the Empire State Building. Steiner was able to suggest Kong's emotional state, assisting O'Brien in providing empathy to a creature who in reality was only an 18 inch high puppet.

It is a mistake to compare Kong technically or artistically with films from later decades. Consider the cultural context in which King Kong was produced. America was in the darkest days of the Depression. World War II was seven years away, and nobody outside of a few physicists knew what 'atomic bomb' meant. Kong truly was the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' just as the Empire State Building was at the time considered the greatest technological marvel. As Cooper envisioned it, Kong was an adventure escapist film, offering Depression-Era audiences something that at the time would be considered the 'ultimate in adventure.' Whether or not Peter Jackson's proposed remake of Kong can maintain these qualities of showmanship and adventure is a matter of wait and see: to today's audiences Kong no longer represents something 'all powerful' or able to 'lick the world' as Carl Denham described him back in 1933. Even setting the remake in 1933 will have its difficulties, since the film will then be a period piece rather than a contemporary story, as both the original film and the 1976 remake were, and audience involvement may be more limited.

Like Star Wars, King Kong was a made for the movies myth, not based directly on any previous source other than Cooper and O'Brien's imagination. It spawned one of the first monster movie sequels, one remake, (so far) and countless imitations, parodies, and merchandise. Among fantasy films, only the Wizard of Oz can rival King Kong for the sheer longevity of popularity, but while Oz provided escapist entertainment, it did so in a lighter fashion. Kong provided escapism but of a more disturbing and haunting kind.

Here's to ya, Obie, and Coop!

Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.


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