Sunday, 25 October 2015

Space Oddities - King Kong

Exploring unseen continents and unlocking the mysteries of the world, documentary expeditions in the early 20th century where cataloguing foreign cultures and aesthetics bringing the “armchair traveller” to the western worlds population, letting them escape into new worlds from the great depression of the 1930’s. Merian  C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933 action-adventure blockbuster “King Kong”  blends the ever popular documentary explorer, with the spectacle of turning scientific belief on its head and finding a 60ft ape, extinct dinosaurs, unseen African magic and sacrifice. 

Willis O’Brien special effects artifice impressively creates a engaging environment of size and stature.  Where man and beast can occupy the same space in a seamless plane. “In adhering to the proper perspectives the technical crew has never missed. The illusion of comparative size is splendid”

fig. 1.

O’Brien used multiple layers of back projections, glass paintings and models, creating depth and believability that the live action cast where in the heart of the jungle, where the impossible live and not in a Hollywood studio sets. Cleverly devised miniature puppets are used to trick the viewer to think that a inanimate 6inch model is a emotional, addictive, living breathing  60ft brute and that dinosoars do in-fact exist in the real world.

King Kongs political racial underpinning provides some uncomfortable viewing in today’s social conformities, referring to miscegenation and the slave trade. I’m not sure how to word this section, so a selection of quotes will explain the racial difference at the time of King Kong.

“It doesn’t require too great an exercise of the imagination to perceive the element of race in KING KONG. Racist conceptions of blacks often depict them as subhuman, ape or monkey-like. And consider the plot of the film: Kong is forcibly taken from his jungle home, brought in chains to the United States, where he is put on stage as a freak entertainment attraction” 

“Carl Denham’s introductory speech here highlights the uncomfortable parallels this film draws with the US slave trade, and the ensuing years of civil tension between black and white Americans. Released 35 years before the end of segregation and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the film offers up a disturbing portrait of the dominant white racial ideologies of the time, implying that the idea of America (as represented by Manhattan’s iconic topography) would be destroyed if the black man were given total freedom.”

Even the Curvaceous victim Fay Wray  was caught up in the racial politics at the time. “How would you like to star opposite the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood?” Being victimised by Kong, It’s a 96-minute screaming session for her, being man-handled and sniffed by the addictive brute. But Kongs fascination with the carcseon female and the ability not to let her go, brings him to his capture and downfall. Being transported and secured in chains, again reference to slave trade at the time, Kong is publicised as the “Eighth wonder of the world” back in New York, showing the white dominance over primitive people “I’ll tell you, there’s something that no White man has ever seen”

But Kongs fatal attraction to the beauty causes the beast to break his chains and recapture the blonde causing carnage and destruction on the way only to be felled by New Yorks Air forces. 
 “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.”


•  Woods, P. A. (ed.) (2005) King Kong cometh!: the evolution of the great ape. London: Plexus Publishing


Illustration List:
•  Fig. 1.

•  Fig. 2.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark,

    Good, the quotes are italicised :) Now you need to make sure that they are referenced directly afterwards, with the author's surname and the year, in brackets.
    Try not to write in the first person, so for example where you say ' I'm not sure how to word this...' The whole point of using the quotes is to underpin your discussion or argument, so you should introduce them (something like 'As Bloggs explains in his review...blah blah blah' , and then you need to 'unpick' them - so say why the quote is relevant.

    Please could you increase your font size a bit... it's really tough on the eyes at the moment!