Thursday, 15 October 2015

Space Oddities: King Kong (1933)

When talking about classic stand out, revolutionary films, King Kong (1933) will appear on the majority of peoples list. This timeless classic has a story so different to anything prior to it viewers found it extremely intriguing and it was a completely new cinematic experience. Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, King Kong was different from many of the films of the time such as Metropolis (1927) in the way that even though it was only produced 6 years later it actually contained dialogue sound, whereas Metropolis was a silent film with a score put over it for dramatic effects. We can see this point backed up from Almar Hifladason " "King Kong" defies such limited expectations because it was so ahead of its time."(Almar Hifladason 2001) This is a huge just in cinema history, even though Kong was not the first film to contain dialogue it was one of the bigger original ones making it stand out to viewers everywhere.

Fig 1.
When watching King Kong there are a few things that particularity stand out. One of these was the use of different background objects to portray depth and also allowed Cooper and Schoedsack to take the viewers to different lands that didn't exist and would have been hard to travel to or to build at the time of production. The way in which they would do this is by having the front of the stage filled with actors on a set within a studio. They would then use smaller objects in the distance to try and use perspective to make it appear to be in some cases hundreds of meters away. Then behind this layer of smaller objects we would see the main background of  the set created by a matte painting. The use of these three different factors allowed scenes to take place and not just appear to be a different setting but it would draw the viewer in to try and inspect to see what was causing these visually enticing effects.  
Fig 2.
Another aspect of King Kong that stands out to the modern viewer is how trapped in time this film is. We can see the racial stereotypes of the time come through with the portrayal of both Kong and the people of Skull Island. At the time of filming people of different races where in segregation. People of colour where seen as less of a person then white people. We can see this from where Rodger Ebert said "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"(Rodger Ebert 2002) When watching this film in our current times you can immediately see how the time difference comes into play with the portrayal of the Asian man on the ship, he was dressed in stereotypical clothing and was made to preform stereotypical actions. We can also see this racial divide when it came to portraying the people of Skull Island. They where shown preforming actions which can be seen as very offensive and if this film was produced in modern times then it definitely would not have been produced the way in which it was. As disturbing as the stereotypes and segregation is it is also very interesting to watch as it is almost a window back in time. You get to see the attitudes towards different people over 80 years ago. 

Fig 3.

We can also see the obsession with race, that was going on at the time of production, within the relationship between Kong and Fay Wray, the blonde hair woman. It is said that Kong's obsession with Fay Wray is to represent the desire of interracial relationships of the time.

Regardless of all of these outdated stereotyping and controversy King Kong is still seen as one of the all time greatest monster films made. This is clear in the simple face that the story has been remade twice to allow viewers to see the spectacle in better quality. Even though the remakes have been in better quality it is hard to remake the nostalgia from the original and just knowing that is what set the ways for so many of today's blockbusters. As Mark Smith from the LA Times said " "King Kong" has come to epitomize one of Hollywood's earliest, best and funniest (often unintentionally so) attempts at horror fantasy--it's evolved into monster kitsch. The story, like "Frankenstein" and "Dracula," has taken on the significance of a modern folk tale, layered with obvious moralizing and as familiar as personal history." (Mark Smith 1991).

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HAFLIDASON, A. (2001) -

EBERT, R. (2002) -

SMITH, M. (1991) -

1 comment:

  1. Another thoughtful review Ian...good stuff :)

    Please read the comments on your 'Metropolis' review re removing the highlights, and my comments re checking your bibliography construction.

    Looking forward to what you made of '2001' :)