Willis O’Brien. The man who taught Harryhausen where there be monsters.
Staring Fay Wray as Ann Darrow, Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham and Bruce Cabot as John Driscoll, "King Kong" tells the story of an expedition to an uncharted island, known as Skull Island, in search of a mythical beast said to rule the island. Carl Denham’s secret plan is to capture the beast and use it as a money-making scheme.
The native population of the island worship the beast and want to use Ann Darrow as an offering to their god. The beast becomes infatuated with the blonde gift and will do anything to keep her. Driscoll manages to rescue Ann from the monster as Denham and the ship's crew subdue Kong with ether. Denham then takes Kong back to New York City to exploit him. Kong, however, is not easily subdued. At least not for long.
“King Kong” was released in 1933, to the unsuspecting public, during the great depression. The film was written and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. This spectacular piece of film making history thrilled audiences and still does today. A story of love and greed, “King Kong” tells the age-old tale with flair and, surprisingly, heart.
King Kong's roar was a lion's roar and a tiger's roar combined and run backwards at a slower speed. The eighteen-inch model of King Kong was made from a metal mesh skeleton, a mixture of rubber and foam for the muscle structure, and rabbit fur for Kong's fur.
The special effects are from Willis O’Brien. His talents have inspired generations of film makers and visual effects masters. The animated models had to be shot one frame at a time, with minute adjustments between each shot. It often took an entire afternoon to get the 24 exposures needed to fill one second of screen time. The battle between King Kong and the pterodactyl took seven weeks to film. This method of stop-motion photography proved to be a time-honored method of visual effects and was used for many decades by other effects artists like Ray Harryhausen and Phil Tippett.
Like a lot of monster movies, "King Kong" is told in two parts. Once Kong shows up, the first half of the film is on the island. Here he is definitely king battling creature after creature to save the object of his affection. There are many perils in his kingdom, and he ensures that Ann is safe. The second half of the film takes place in New York City. A different kind of jungle with different kinds of creatures and perils. Kong again uses the tools he knows to keep Ann safe. He is more than willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure that Ann is not hurt. Although beauty is blamed for the death of Kong, the real enemy is mankind. The wanton destruction of anything that man cannot understand or control. Lessons never learned.
“King Kong” is thought to have been one of Hitler’s favorite movies.