Wednesday, January 18, 2006

King Kong


I still haven't seen Peter Jackson's new King Kong, but I did finally get to see the wonderful new DVD of Cooper and Schoedsack's 1933 King Kong.

First of all, the DVD is beautiful. The picture is crisp and the contrast is sharp, the sound is bold and powerful. You should see this, whether you've seen the movie before or not. I've seen it a number of time and have never experienced it quite that beautifully.

The movie is at least as good as its considerable reputation. Fay Wray is stunningly beautiful. Robert Armstrong's cocky drive is both charming and annoying. The dialogue is sharp. Never brilliant, but easily plausible and witty. Obviously, the key now, as always, is Willis O'Brien's brilliant special effects work.

The result of all those elements is a movie that's so unbelievably imaginative and powerful. You can see how it was that this inspired generations of creative people to want to make movies. It's so clear and yet it leaves me wonder what's out there now that will do that for the next generation? With few exceptions, American movies especially have become so banal and made from cookie-cutter formulas from the storylines to the special effects to the entire way everything is shot. Those formulas are what I'm struggling against in filming... figuring out how many of those formula bits I need to hit to not seem too foreign, but enough that it stands out...

But I'm off point. The documentary is also excellent. One of the best explorations of why a movie deserves the respect it gets, how it came to be and how it affected the world and how all of those things came together. Wonderful and fascinating.

This is a marvelous set. I can't recommend it enough.

Footnote: I am really pleased that the "Lost Spider Sequence" recreation was done as a fan film to be watched as an extra. I don't want it "back" in the film. My only disappointment is that I'd like to see it in context just once. I suspect that Merian Cooper's assessment that it would slow the movie down too much was correct, but I'd like to experience it.

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