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King Kong (1933) SE
DVD disk
Nov 30, 2005 By: Scott Weinberg
King Kong (1933) SE order
Director:
M. Cooper & E. Schoedsack

Actors:
Fay Wray
Robert Armstrong
Bruce Cabot

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It's about the world's biggest ass-kicker of a gorilla who ultimately finds himself done in by the ignorance of modern man ... and a really hot blonde.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
It's the great-great-granddaddy of all adventure movies! It's a fantastic horror movie! It's got romance, drama, comedy...

Friends, It's KING freakin' Kong here. The original. More words have been written on KING KONG than have been written on Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton combined. Everyone's seen it; everyone loves it. It was a groundbreaking film in the areas of special effects, musical scoring, and pure, blissful spectacle. It's inspired millions of folks to become lifelong movie geeks, and hundreds to become filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

It's KING. KONG. Eighth Wonder of the World. Lover of Ann Darrow, hulking nemesis of Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll. Ruthless dispatcher of rabid stegosauruses, creepy giant snake-asours, and unintelligent pterodactyls. (Seriously, Kong kicks a lot of prehistoric ass in this movie.)

KING KONG was one of the very first movies that helped to transform me into the ravenous movie junkie I am today, and it's wonderful to note that the movie holds up just as well today as it did for me 20-some years ago. The thing's got a nifty premise, a fantastic cast, a wonderful score, and a tone that wavers between adorably dashing and colorfully carnal.

Plus once the movie hits the 40-minute mark, it just flies like a breeze, offering not one wasted frame in its final hour. KING KONG is a movie you can watch again and again, and still marvel at the old-school FX techniques while your mind simply boggles over how hard this production must have been.

One of the finest adventure movies ever made, and the true prototype for all monster movies to follow, KING KONG is, even after 83 years, still the one true ruler of high-end escapist cinema, and I'm absolutely among those who think it's one of the best movies ever made.

THE EXTRAS
The first extra goodie is a feature-length audio commentary with special effects maestros Ray Harryhausen & Ken Ralston. Interspersed throughout their chat-track is a series of archival interview clips with KONG co-director Merian C. Cooper and leading lady Fay Wray. Regarding the commentary, I really wish WB had gone and found themselves a good film historian or two, because (no offense to Mr. Harryhausen and Mr. Ralston) this track is fairly FX-centric, with little to no attention paid to the film's genesis, production, or overwhelming impact. The men do offer a solid share of interesting insights and tidbits, but there are some film critics & historians out there who could have delivered a true blue-ribbon commentary track. It's KING KONG, after all.

Also included on disc 1 is a Merian C. Cooper Trailer Gallery, where you'll find the coming attractions for KING KONG, SON OF KONG, FLYING DOWN TO RIO, FORT APACHE, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, 3 GODFATHERS, and THE SEARCHERS.

Moving on to disc 2 we find only two options, but they're both pretty stocked with Kongtastic goodness.

I'm King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper is a 57-minute "Biography"-stlye documentary that focuses on the amazingly eventful and adventurous life of the soldier / filmmaker / aviator / adrenalin junkie. Well-produced and entirely fascinating, this is a great expose on a filmmaker who deserves remembering.

The main course of the supplemental menu has got to be the deliciously entertaining and amazingly extensive RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World, which is a 7-section mega-doco that runs over 2.5 hours! Interview subjects include Peter Jackson, Frank Darabont, Fay Wray, Ray Harryhausen, Stan Winston, John Landis, The Chiodo Brothers, Ben Burtt, and various authors, FX gurus, film historians, and well-informed Kong junkies. Far from your standard "making of" piece, "601" delivers the basics and also branches off into a variety of glorious directions. (Watch as Jackson and his Weta gang re-create one of KING KONG's most legendary "lost" sequences!) Even at 2 hours and 25 minutes, this piece simply flies by. A fantastic documentary on a film that really deserves one.

The chapters for "601" are as follows:

Pt. 1: The Origins of KING KONG
Pt. 2: Willis O'Brien and CREATION
Pt. 3: Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder
Pt. 4: A Milestone in Visual Effects
Pt. 5: Passion, Sound and Fury
Pt. 6: The Mystery of the Lost Pit Spider Sequence
Pt. 7: King Kong's Legacy

Rounding out the second disc is Peter Jackson's Lost Spider Pit Sequence accessible independently of the documentary piece, and a collection of CREATION Test Footage with Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, in which the legendary animator doles out the scoop on the failed film that allowed Willis O'Brien to work on KONG.

If you drop the extra sawbuck for the "Tin Box" edition, you'll also get a 22-page booklet that's a facsimile of the one handed out at KONG's 1933 premiere, a collection of five (reallllly nifty) postcard-sized poster reproductions, and a coupon to send away for a free* full-sized KONG poster.

(*You pay the $3.50 S&H charges.)

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
WB gets a huge thumbs up for finally releasing KONG to DVD in freakishly fine fashion. Were it not for a curiously off-base commentary and a minor lack of smaller features, this would be the DVD of the year. As it stands, it's only one of the year's very best DVDs, and it's one that no true movie geek should be without.

And I'm not just basing all my ravings on the flick's stature and reputation; I just really do love it that much.

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