King Kong (1933)

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The strangest story ever conceived by man.

King King – the original, mind you- not one of the remakes or the ‘sequels’ if you will, has an extremely high reputation in the world of film. Strangely perhaps, I’ve never really cared for it. In spite of that there is no way in which one can refute the innovation and excellence that it has.

The plot, for any who don’t know it is fairly straightforward in a long line of traditional jungle films. On a remote island man encounters a strange beast – in this case Kong. Kong is captured and brought to New York City for display, but not before first becoming smitten with Ann Darrow (portrayed in a career defining role by Fay Wray.). As you can imagine, once in the Big Apple Kong escapes, captures Darrow, and is ultimately hunted down and killed in a climatic battle.

The story of Kong, however isn’t so much in the plot, it is in the breathtaking new ground it covers along the way. Although not recognized at the time with any awards, it has since continually been towards the top of many well respected film lists. The special effects were so innovative that executive producer David O. Selznick suggested a special Academy Award be given. This suggestion was refused, however, and awards for special effects were not awarded until 1995.

Even better is the backstory of the movie, which is filled with odd tidbits of really neat trivia. Like how composer Max Steiner was originally asked just to recycle previous music for Kong, but director Merian Cooper felt the film deserved better, and paid Steiner $50,000 for original music. Also the reported questionable duping of the hiring of Fay Wray, who was told she would be starring opposite the “largest and darkest” star of all-time. She of course thought of Clark Gable, who was, of course nowhere to be found.

Kong has been out on standard DVD for awhile, and as of September 28, it is available on blu-ray as well. As usual from the leaders in classic film releases- both on demand, standard DVD, and blu-ray, the presentation is exemplary. Available as usual at your usual retailers or at (hint, hint) the WB Shop. Also available for you more technical folks like me from iTunes at King Kong on iTunes.

The big question is, as always, how doe the film stack up on blu-ray? Sadly, the disc isn’t any great improvement over the standard DVD edition. Sadly is perhaps an overstatement simply because of the age of the film and perhaps the challenge of the HD format. Some scenes do appear to have better detail than the standard DVD edition but there is significant grain and any improvements over the preexisting release is minimal. The sound quality (and video for that matter) is to be expected. This is a film that is over 75 years old- and there are, last time I checked, still some limits to what technology can do.

That being said, if you do not have this on DVD (which you should FYI), then the blu-ray (or download) is a worthy addition to your collection, as Kong is required for any worthwhile collection. Should you have the existing release on standard DVD you may want to look carefully at this one as improvements are really difficult to identify. The extra content is ported over from the preexisting DVD release as well, although bits of it are in HD.

Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!

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