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Old Films for New King Kong

By Edited Dec 8, 2013 0 0

Produced during the great depression King Kong (1933) is an interesting example of effectual production. It incorporated a number of themes which gave it a comprehensive audience such as the popularity of jungle films, a combination of genres, exploitation and a clash of primitive nature and technology.

The process began with a concept from Merian C. Cooper of a monster story featuring Komodo dragons fighting a gorilla, but after Cooper had seen some of Willis O'Brien's stop motion footage and built a jungle set for a different project. Cooper realised that he could lower production costs by using this dinosaur animation and appropriating the jungle set.

This was an important era for film with the introduction of 'talkies' and colour films and stars (including the notorious platinum blonde film star). King Kong played both sides of this by casting veterans actors Fay Wray (in a blonde wig) and Robert Armstrong for two of the leads and populating the rest of the cast with bit part actors or stuntmen (reducing the need to hire doubles for stunt work). During marketing they concentrated more on the romantic sub-plot of the film, as animal films had not recently been well received and featured Robert Armstrong on the posters even though he was not the love interest in the film. Cooper employed the writer Edgar Wallace to write a screenplay and novel based on his idea primarily so that he could use his name prominently in the promotional material, though he died early on in production.

The film is renowned for it's at the time ground breaking special effects and its precedent setting musical score. Models were created to depict Kong including miniatures to use with the scaled down version of New York, to be moved about during filming, to simulate the fall and finally a bust to enable Kong facial expressions. Furthermore two right arms and a leg were created and mounted on cranes. Some dinosaur models were recycled from an earlier film, additionally the wall and the natives huts had been recycled from other productions. In post production Cooper personally paid for an original score to be created and some scenes were removed (including the spider pit scene). The film was released several times(sometimes cut differently); 1933, 1938, 1942, 1946, 1952, and 1956. It was then sold to television where it has been occasionally shown colorized.

Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong remake creates an interesting contrast. Produced at a time of boom and prosperity it cannot claim to have feed off the same atmosphere, perhaps being one of the reasons that it was also set in 1933 rather than in the contemporary time period. While the original was given a low-budget the remake was given a larger one, which it exceeded becoming the most expensive film yet made. Peter Jackson uses the increased budget and technology to better bring to screen the story instead of changing it. The remake had to go to greater lengths in order to represent 1930s New York, extra money would need to be spent on obtaining or recreating the clothes and technology of the era, leading to greater difficulty in producing the film.

They both show different depictions of Kong. The original was much more manlike perhaps due to difficulty in accurately depicting a giant gorilla in 1933, whereas Peter Jackson has Kong as looking and acting like a giant silver-back gorilla. Instead of models CGI and motion capture is used. Andy Serkis an expert in motion captured extensively studied gorillas in their natural habitat and modelled Kong's behaviour on them. This included Serkis providing the facial movements for Kong as well to give the character a wider array of expression. Also a greater number of stars were cast in this film all well known actors such as Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrian Brody and Jamie Bell.

This use of high level CGI and other more modern cinematography effects also relate to the higher expectations of the audience. The inclusion of slow motion, fast pace action sequences, prospect of 3D, accompanying books, comics and a multi platform game shows how the audience has changed since the original. The remake performed satisfactory in the cinema, with its DVD sales accounting for a large amount of its profits. Unlike the original which initially had to rely on its cinema performance, the remake had a greater range of distribution. Also while original film was restricted to being shot mostly in a studio, Peter Jackson included a number of cinematic landscape shots in his film often partially or completely CGI. He also used old photographs to recreate sections of 1930s New York and a digital rendering of the city was created to make it look more like the city at the time.

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