Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's King Kong (1933)

Fig1. King Kong Poster

King Kong is a movie of action, set on an island of prehistoric monsters including a huge ape named Kong. Carl Denham, a filmmaker wants to film the island and hopes to find something spectacular and film it. He takes a young girl named Ann with him to be the lead in his film however when they get onto the island the natives ask for her to be the sacrifice for Kong. They refuse and leave but the natives kidnap Ann and Kong takes her further into the island.

Fig 2. Jungle Set
The sets of the island are particularly impressive. Each set is realistic and particularly in the forest scenes the illusion of a deep forest is given. A realistic set is pretty important to this film because they were creating creatures that weren’t real but because of its realistic sets the audience can relate better to the film.

Fig 3. Kong Fighting
King Kong is notable for the way Kong is made and J, Anderson says that “Technicians made the giant ape from a combination of oversize body parts, small models and stop-motion animation.” (Anderson, J). At the time this technique of making Kong would have astounded the audience and they certainly would have been thrilled by the fighting scenes which were probably thought to have been impossible before. Though as E, Levy notes in his review “By today’s standards, the film’s special effects look primitive, but “King Kong” was the first film to pioneer the basic machinery and techniques that modern filmmakers, such as Spielberg and Jackson, later refined with the help of electronics and computers.” (Levy, 2011). It’s important to note that without the special effects in King Kong many modern films we love today wouldn't have been made.

Fig 4. Ann and the Natives

Though King Kong is celebrated for its use of set and special effects it is often criticised for its portrayal of the natives and the character Ann. Smith states in his review that “Beyond its pure escapist value, Kong has been interpreted as a symbol for persecuted blacks and seen as a metaphor for man's destruction of the environment, natural order and other things.” (Smith, 1991). One interpretation is that Kong is a metaphor for the slaves that were taken to America, on the island he is a king and is free however in America he is treated badly and is there to be a slave for their entertainment. The natives are also presented in a racist way showing them to be uncivilised and of lesser people, there culture is in no way respected by the crew. Ann, the only lady of the crew, is also disrespected. Jack who clearly finds her attractive treats her badly saying that she has no place among them. Later Jack tells her that he loves her and they kiss- it clearly shows the primitive thinking of men being able to do what they like to a woman and for them to still get the girl like she’s some sort of prize. This film shows Ann to be helpless and she has to be saved every time, this sexist portrayal will surely have you rolling your eyes.

However though this film is quite clearly sexist and racist I don’t think it should be forgotten about, it’s important to remember that this is how people thought back in the 1930’s and denying yourself of acknowledging it’s existence is also like denying that we didn't have these problems in society at all.

Illustration List 

Cooper, M/ Schoedsack, E (1933) Figure 2. Jungle Set (Accessed on the 12/10/14)
Cooper, M/ Schoedsack, E (1933) Figure 4 Ann and the Natives (Accessed on the 12/10/14)


Anderson, J (2005) (Accessed on the 12/10/14)
Smith, M (1991) (Accessed on the 12/10/14)


1 comment:

  1. Hi Kayleigh,

    Just a quick note on your formatting - at the moment you have your text centralised, and this makes it feel like verse, rather than prose... you should either align it to the left, or justify it (the other option that isn't left, right or centre!)