The story of King Kong should start with the creator of a huge gorilla, Merian K. Cooper – fortunately, his life itself is like one big adventure film. He was a hero of the First World War and the Soviet-Polish War, he was wounded several times, and once he had to escape from a prisoner of war camp. In the 20s, Cooper returned to the United States, but not for long: the desire for adventure was too strong. So he got a job in a research group that traveled to the most exotic places on our planet.
During these expeditions, Cooper met Ernest B. Shodsak, the future co-director of King Kong, and together they decided to record their travels on camera. However, the simple documentation of the expeditions quickly bored them, and the partners came up with what would later be called natural dramas (“Hunter X Hunter Season 7“). Rather than just showing viewers the life of different animals, Cooper and Shodsak edited their recordings to create a compelling storyline.
Later in “King Kong” this is exactly what the character Carl Denham, who has assembled an expedition to Skull Island, will do. It turns out that the directors have made their own alter ego one of the main characters of the picture. And by the way, just like Denham’s fictional films, Cooper’s and Shodsak’s “natural dramas” were hugely popular with audiences.
The birth of a king
In the early 1930s, Cooper went to work as an assistant at the RKO film studio, where he helped decide which films to take into production. Once, stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien approached him with his project: he wanted to make a picture called Creation. In the story, a research team somewhere in South America finds surviving dinosaurs and brings one of them to London. But he, naturally, escapes and begins to destroy everything around.
Cooper liked the way O’Brien worked with time-lapse animation, but the plot of the film, in his opinion, required improvement. He remembered his old idea with a gorilla and a monitor lizard: let, Cooper decided, instead of monitor lizards there will be dinosaurs with which a huge monkey fights. And let the primate steal the white girl at one moment: this way it will be easier for the audience to worry about what is happening on the screen (it’s funny that in King Kong, Denham takes the main character on an expedition for exactly the same reason).
The kidnapped girl story is not Cooper’s original idea. It is inspired by the scandalous and extremely famous in the early 30s film Ingagi (“Ingagi”). It was an exploitative movie in which a gorilla would steal and rape a girl. And, what is most interesting, it was advertised as a documentary about the customs of African peoples. The public was disturbed by the story of the connection of a wild primate with a civilized lady (partly for xenophobic reasons), and Cooper decided to use this to the benefit of his picture.
He generally assembled “King Kong” from many dissimilar parts. Here is the influence of “Overlord Anime Season 4” by Conan Doyle, and the postcolonial interest in African exoticism, and the fear of the wild and the unknown, as well as an interesting reflection on the exploitative essence of art. Because of this, “King Kong” is now perceived as not less interesting than in 1933, when it came out. It’s just that if then people were surprised by a huge gorilla that came to life on the screen, now you are rather amazed at how smart this movie is.
Under the shell of an entertaining action game about giant monsters, it contains a caustic commentary about American racism, a satire over Hollywood with its craving for cheap entertainment, and, finally, a textbook story about the collision of a destructive civilization with pure, primal power. How consciously Cooper and Shodsak put these meanings in is not so important anymore.
Son of Kong
The success was so great that the studio, without hesitation, launched a sequel into production. And already in the same 1933, just 9 months after the original picture, “Son of King Kong” was released. It was filmed by Ernest B. Shodsak already without Cooper, but with the same animator Willis O’Brien and Robert Armstrong as Karl Denham (he also played the character in King Kong). Moreover, the actor later stated that he liked King Kong’s Son even more than the first film.
Despite such a rushed production, it really is a pretty good movie. Shodsak, realizing that he would never keep up with King Kong in terms of entertainment, made the sequel more action-adventure comedy-oriented. Karl Denham leaves here for Skull Island not for the sake of filming a film, but because the American public finished him off after all the pogroms perpetrated by a huge primate. Plus, he accidentally discovers that a large treasure may be hidden on the island.
The son of Kong himself appears in the picture only in the second half – and, unlike his furry parent, turns out to be friendly (and for some reason an albino). If the first film was a terrible tale about an oversized civilization, then the sequel was made rather with a conciliatory intonation. He makes Denham, who dragged King Kong to New York from self-interest, go through a laborious emotional path – from the perception of wildlife as a hot commodity to a sincere affection for the baby Kong.
King Kong in Japan
When Toho Studios (the one that made Godzilla) turned 30, the producers decided to organize the greatest crossover kaiju to celebrate the holiday. They took as a basis the very idea of O’Brien with Kong and Frankenstein, but replaced the latter with their main symbol. This is how King Kong vs. Godzilla appeared in 1962 – a film that pitted two famous movie monsters on one screen. And for the first time, by the way, he showed them in color.
It was shot by Isiro Honda, the author of the original Godzilla. Moreover, if the first film about a radioactive reptile was a serious statement about the trauma of World War II, this picture turned out to be absolutely comedic. In the story of Kong, two employees of a pharmaceutical company are kidnapped from his home island, whose boss, dissatisfied with the TV ratings of the shows he produces, yearns for a new sensation. At the same time, Godzilla wakes up somewhere in the ocean and also heads for Japan. The result, I think, is clear.
“King Kong vs. Godzilla” is an example of the comedies about salarymen, popular then in Japan: this was the name of ridiculous characters who were ready to go on even the most absurd tasks at the whim of idiot bosses. The film works both as a spectacular kaiju blockbuster and as a witty satire on the entertainment industry – in this sense, it is closer to the original King Kong than to the first Godzilla.
The final of the picture remained open: after the underwater battle, Kong floats away somewhere in the direction of the house, and Godzilla remains in the depths of the ocean, in order to rebel in Godzilla against Mothra a couple of years later. Studio Toho was going to fully integrate into its cinematic universe and a huge primate, but the script called “Happy Season 3” was refused by the American copyright holders.
The Japanese still got to Kong – but in a slightly roundabout way. In 1966, American producers Rankin and Bass, together with Toyi Studios, launched the King Kong anime series. In it, the primate does not destroy cities, but, on the contrary, fights against evil – a little boy named Bobby Bond helps him in this matter
King Kong and the Roaring 70s
While the Japanese were pitting Kong against Godzilla, in other countries they also exploited the image of a huge monkey in different ways – and regardless of whether the creators had the rights to the character or not. In 1949, for example, the picture Mighty Joe Young was released, where a large gorilla helped a simple American woman save her ranch. The film was made by creators of the original King Kong, Ernest B. Shodsak and Merian K. Cooper. In 1961, the film Konga appeared, in which the gorilla becomes huge due to the action of some special chemical. In 1977, Hong Kongers tried their luck with the film The Mighty Peking Man, in which a giant monkey also raised a blonde European as a daughter. Earlier, in 1976, the South Koreans also filmed their “New King Kong” (originally just Ape), where a giant monkey, among other things, showed people the middle finger.
In the same 1976, the same Hollywood King Kong returned to the screens in full – in a remake from the famous producer Dino de Laurentiis. The fact is that a year before that, ” Jaws” thundered all over the world , and different studios also took up pictures about large monsters terrorizing people. Studio Universal remembered just in time that they just have such a monster. The new King Kong departs quite a bit from the plot of the original. The film crew and adventure director Carl Denham were replaced here with an oil company that decided to visit Skull Island in search of minerals. There was also a hippie scientist with the face of Jeff Bridges, who opposed the siphoning of natural resources.
The theme of the confrontation between man and the elements in this version becomes paramount and obvious. But what’s more interesting is that de Laurentiis’s King Kong is also a very sexualized movie. The gorilla’s relationship with an actress named Duan (originally named Anne Darrow) is highly controversial. With all these glances and languid sighs, you will inadvertently remember the very Ingagi that once inspired Merian K. Cooper.
Return of the King
After the failure of the film “King Kong Returns”, the character again left the big screens in animation. In 1998, the cartoon Mighty Kong was released, where the classic story was retold in the form of a musical in the spirit of Disney. The picture did not win much success.
A couple of years later, at the dawn of the 21st century, Kong: The Animated Series appeared on TV, repeating the plot of the Japanese anime series: a huge gorilla fights evil side by side with a little boy. But this attempt to revive the character failed – the series was closed after just two seasons.
A full-fledged Cong-Renaissance had to wait until 2005. Then Peter Jackson, just recovering from 11 Oscars for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King , took up a remake of the classic blockbuster. For the New Zealand director, it was a dream project: from childhood, from the very moment he first saw King Kong on TV, he wanted to make a film about a huge gorilla. And he even shot it frame by frame using plasticine animation with his parents in the attic.
As a die-hard fan should, Jackson hasn’t changed much of the original’s story. His “King Kong”follows the plot of the 1933 film step by step, but expands each episode. Especially, understandably, this applies to action scenes, which, thanks to the advanced technologies of 2005, have become the most effective and expressive, and at the same time very long. As a result, the story that the first “King Kong” told in 100 minutes, for Jackson, stretches for a gigantic 3 hours. Aside from the bloated timing, though, this is the perfect remake, meticulously recreating the aesthetic of the 1930s, but enhanced with modern technology. Thanks to them, for example, Kong here looks like a much more lively and sane character than ever. After all, now this is not an animated doll or a man in a monkey costume, but a CGI hero(The Asterisk War Season 3) with facial expressions of Andy Serkis – who, for the sake of the role, lived for several months in Africa and studied the habits of gorillas.