King Kong â€“ First of the American Monster Movies
The way I’ve learned about cinema genresâ€”and films in particularâ€”is by asking specific questions about them. I thought we’d start studying monster movies by looking at arguably the first of its kind made by Hollywood. Documentary filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack were adventurers who turned to fiction and used state-of-the-art special effects to tell the tale of an adventurous filmmaker much like themselves, Carl Denham, who brings home a monster, with disastrous results. He uses a beautiful actress, Ann Darrow, as bait, just as she is falling in love with Jack Driscoll, the first mate of the ship used to capture the monster.
First, the monster movie as a genre. Monster movies often fall under larger categories such as science fiction, horror, thriller, disaster, fantasy, captivity narrative and even comedy. The late scholar Robin Wood said that “the relationship between normality and the monster . . . constitutes the essential subject of the horror film.” Another oft-cited finding is that a film monster is the last of its kind and is a lonely and tragic creature. At the Golden Globes 2018, director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, The Shape of Water) said, “Monsters are patron saints of our blissful imperfection.”
Monster movies have been with us since movies began. A Trip to the Moon (Georges MÃ©liÃ¨s, 1902 â€“ see color-tinted 15:36 version on YouTube) has moon monsters, the Selenites â€“ this film contains the template of many (space-)monster movies to come: Expedition from earth â€“ futuristic new technology â€“ patriotism â€“ difficult journey â€“ encounter with monster â€“ kidnapped and taken to monstersâ€™ king â€“ overthrow king and monsters â€“ escape and return to earth â€“ triumphant celebration
The Selenites are unusually delicate, but monsters in later films are usually large and frighteningly strong â€“ indiscriminate in who they kill â€“ not especially intelligent. Do they have an agenda? Think of monsters in the form of vampires, werewolves, zombies, dinosaurs, primates, insects, mutants, the Xenomorph (Alien) . . .
Watch Cooper and Schoedsack’s 1933 film King Kong. For a second viewing, turn on subtitles and listen to the commentary track, which could greatly enhance your answers. As you watch, answer these basic topics and questions in your headâ€”and take notes. I don’t need to see your notesâ€”just keep them handy for future use. You might jot down answers to the following:
pre-appearance mentions of the monster
initial glimpses of the monster
sounds the monster and others make
monster’s attention paid to specific people
monster’s gender orientation (if any)
monster’s possible motivation
monster’s methods of destruction
the geographical path the monster takes
people who discover the monster first
people who track down the monster
people who destroy the monster (if they do)
human relationships around the monster (parent-child, lovers, mentor-disciple, co-workers, triangles, conflicts)
the monster’s meaning/moral
A. Answer the following questions with 2-3 full sentences:
- What constitutes a hero in this film? What acts make the person a hero?
- This film was released in 1933, one year before the Motion Picture Production Code (or “Hays Code”) was enforced in 1934. Subsequent re-releases of this film deleted certain scenes or shots from the original (which we are watching). Which ones do you think were deleted and why? To answer this question, you should Google “Production Code 1934” and see the prohibitions.
- How does this film address the Great Depression?
- The film begins with an “Old Arabian Proverb.” How does this film address it?
- According to this film, how does a man and/or monster in love behave?
- What dangers do women face, according to this film?
- Name 3 shots that promote racial stereotyping.
- How does this film refer to war?
- Describe one special effect that either is or is not effective, in your opinion.
- Analyze one aspect of the sound design. Choose from music or sound effects emitted by humans or monsters.
B. Respond to at least one other student’s post with polite agreement or disagreement, giving evidence for your point of view.
Peer’s post:( write response to this)
- Someone who has a strong sense of justice and goodness and acts upon that sense constitutes a hero in this film. Also saving the damsel in distress constitutes a hero in this film. Doing good courageous things for other people without being asked makes the person a hero.
- I believe scenes that were deleted were scenes that were made to look as realistic as it could be. Scenes that involved racism, nudity, strong profanity, etc. the list goes on. Film makers before production code 1934 created their films to make the viewer feel like it the movie wasnâ€™t fake by showing what would truly happen in those graphic events that occurred in the film. They deleted scenes with racism maybe to make the film be able to be view by all people. They deleted scenes of nudity because they wanted it to be more appropriate for more viewers. I believe the main reason production code 1934 was created so more people of all ages groups and ethnicities could view the film so the film maker could make more money and have more people view their work.
- This film addresses the Great Depression by showing scenes of people in poverty and struggling in society. In the beginning of the film Ann tries to steal an apple because she has no money, and this is because her studio closed down. Many people paid money to see King Kong during the great depression even with their own struggles, this showed that the film King Kong was an escape from reality for everyone.
- The Old Arabian Proverb speaks about how a beast looks upon beauty it becomes incapable of killing and is as good as dead. At the end of the film King Kong wasnâ€™t able to protect himself fully because he was protecting Ann because he had a deep love for her which ended up getting King Kong killed by the airplanes.
- According to this film a man and/or monster in love behave almost recklessly. They both will do anything no matter the conditions to save their love one and would risk their own body or life also.
- Woman face many dangers in the film such as, being sold and being kidnaped, Many men in the film believed woman were a bother, an example is when Ann is on the ship with Jack and he simply believes she would be a bother on the voyage, implying something would happen to her during the voyage.
- Three shots that promote racial stereotyping in the film is when the tribe says they want to trade the golden woman for six of their women. Another racial shot is when King Kong ripped of Annâ€™s clothing while she was unconcise. Another racial scene is when King Kong is on a stage chained to a wood lock in front of a white audience.
- This film refers to war by all the action in the film. Many weapons and tactics they used in the film were used among war. At the end of the film there was airplanes involved also which was a big part of war at the time, airplanes played a big role in the war.
- One special effect that is effective is King Kong himself. In 1933 special effects were not big or as good in most films, however in King Kong they created a giant gorilla that was capable of running, fighting, and just having lots of movement. For having a special effect like King Kong in 1933 it was outstanding.
- One aspect of the sound design I chose from the film is King Kongâ€™s sound effects. King Kong sound affect is from an animal; however, I donâ€™t believe itâ€™s from a gorilla. King Kong sound effects are almost similar to a lion or a tiger, it sounds like roars.