King Kong (1933)

USA,
98m
35mm film, black and white, 1.37:1
mono, English

An American fantasy film directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

Plot Summary

An team of film-makers mount an expedition to a remote South Seas island discover a massive gorilla, worshipped by the locals as the deity Kong. The team take the ape to where it falls in love with a beautiful young actress who was part of the original expedition and breaks free of his chains to be with her. Pursued by the authorities, Kong goes on the rampage, abducts his beloved, and heads for a fateful climb up the

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
A Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack production
© not given on screen
Radio Pictures presents a Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack production
Executive Producer: David O. Selznick
Screen Play by: James Creelman and Ruth Rose
From an idea conceived by: Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper
Photographed by: Eddie Linden, Vernon Walker, J.O. Taylor; Kenneth Peach *
Film Editor: Ted Cheesman
Music by: Max Steiner
Recorded by: Earl A. Wolcott
Make-up Supervisor: Mel Berns *
Chief Technician: Willis O'Brien
Settings by: Carroll Clark, Al Herman; Van Nest Polglase *

Cast
Fay Wray (Ann Darrow)
Robert Armstrong (Carl Denham)
Bruce Cabot (Jack Driscoll)
Frank Reicher (Capt. Englehorn)
Sam Hardy (Charles Weston)
Noble Johnson (native chief)
Steve Clemento (witch king)
James Flavin (second mate [Briggs])
(The Eighth Wonder of the World)

Alternative Titles

The Beast – working title
The Eighth Wonder of the World – advertising title
The Eighth Wonder – advertising title
King Ape – working title
Kong – working title

Sequel
The Son of Kong (1933)

Remakes
King Kong (1976)
King Kong (2005)

Extracts included in
100 Years at the Movies (1994)
Precious Images (1986)

See also
Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
American Tickler, or the Winner of 10 Academy Awards (1976)
Edo ni arawareta Kingu Kongu: Henge no maki (1938)
Edo ni arawareta Kingu Kongu: Ôgon no maki (1938)
Godzilla vs Kong (2020)
Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (1962)
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong (1977)
Wasei Kingu Kongu (1933)

Press

1933
Kine Weekly no.1356 (13 April 1933) p.15
The main action of the picture is staged on the uncharted island, and the conflicts with the prehistoric denizens leads to a brisk succession of sensational thrills, all of which are presented wit realism. The rescuing of the girl and the bringing of the ape to New York makes a pleasant break in the narrative, shortly to be followed by even greater thrills depicting the running amok of the ape and its spectacular shooting from the tower of the Empire State Building. Although the picture is the last word in ingenious and imaginative sensationalism, the popular essentials are not ignored, and there is lots of good, entertaining by-play, together with the essential modicum of romance, to keep the audience on the qui vive and give effective contrast to the stupendous thrills. […] Points of Appeal: Exciting, imaginative story, brilliant execution, camera work, ad workmanship, fie cast, stupendous thrills, and box office title. – from an uncredited review

1986
Films and Filming no.384 (September 1986) p.36
Since it's the and their like that tend to crowd out the film's quieter scenes from the memory, the courtship aspects of King Kong are perhaps its greatest revelation for today's viewer. The three males in Fay Wray's life, all courting her in their three very different ways, are the showman (Armstrong), the sailor (Cabot) and the ape (said, by Mrs O'Brien, to have assumed Obie's every gesture and expression). In a series of quite lengthy, carefully written, and visually static scenes, the first drags her from starvation with promises of money, adventure and fame […], while the second regards her as a nuisance on ship and has to be won over. Interestingly, the romantic attachment has only to be acknowledged with a clinch for the lady to be dragged over the side by a pack of natives and presented as victim/partner to the forces of nature. One of the readings of the film, accordingly, might be that Kong represents good honest passion of which Beauty, who appears to have seen little enough of life, even in the gutter, is singularly ill-prepared. – from a review by Philip Strick

2006
Starburst no.332 (January 2006) p.84
Cooper and Schoedsack's classic set the template for blockbuster movies as we know them today. Its ambition is remarkable, the quality of the effects and the sheer scale of the visuals are impressive, and King Kong presents an island populated by dinosaurs many decades before Steven Spielberg would dare attempt Jurassic Park with CG effects. Seventy-two years on, this Kong is still king. – from an illustrated DVD review by David Richardson

References

Periodicals

  • Alien Worlds no.15 (May 1965) pp.10-14 – illustrated article (Kong.. Classic or catastrophe by John Ramsey Campbell and Mike Parry)
  • L'Incroyable Cinema no.2 (Summer 1969) pp.20-24
  • Shock Xpress no.4 (May-June 1986) p.8-9, 16 – illustrated article (Alone in the Pacific with my 10 best films by Ramsey Campbell)
  • Supernatural no.1 (January 1969) pp.30; 44-46 – note (Round the cinema's zoo of horrors with Supernaturalist); illustrated article (Television fantasy by Stan Nicholls)

Newspapers

  • Daily Mirror 23 March 1976 – illustrated interview with Carmen Nigro (I Was King Kong)
  • The Guardian Section 2 5 November 1998 p.9 – illustrated interview with Fay Wray (Kong was only 18in tall by David Robinson)
  • The Sun 9 January 1976 – illustrated article (War of the Kongs by Brian Wesley and Ross Waby)

Books

  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror (2nd edition) by Phil Hardy (ed) p.56 – illustrated credits, review
  • Beasts and Behemoths: Prehistoric Creatures in the Movies by Roy Kinnard pp.15-34
  • Earth vs the Sci-fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews by Tom Weaver pp.45-60 – illustrated interview with Merian C. Cooper
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.21, 30
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.42, 48
  • The Films of Fay Wray by Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich pp.87-103 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography, 1931-1939 by Bryan Sennp.169-184
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.213
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.273
  • RKO Radio Pictures Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1929-1956 by Michael R. Pitts p.166-171
  • by Walt Lee pp.242; 243 – credits; stills
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester p.302-304
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.391-409
  • Vintage Science Fiction Films, 1896-1949 by Michael Benson pp.156-157

Other Sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide October 2011 p.9 – illustrated listing
  • BFI Southbank Guide April 2014 p.5 – illustrated listing
  • BFI Southbank Guide February 2020 pp.30; 47 – illustrated listings