Monday, January 11, 2010

King Kong Confidential

If I had a time machine, I would go back immediately to 1933 and physically stop producer Merian C. Cooper from shearing a majority of KING KONG’s animation. At least I’d demand he make a print for history. But Cooper, God bless ‘im, probably would have laughed and blown pipe smoke in my face. Nonetheless, the first cut of Kong included such Willis O’Brien stop-motion miracles as a Kong versus triceratops battle; a snake that threatens Ann Darrow when she’s pinned under the tree; and most famously, a styracosaurus that traps the crew-men on a log over a ravine, followed by Kong shaking them off into the pit below, where they are horribly attacked by giant spiders, lizards and other bizarre critters. This famous scene was only shown at a test screening, where patrons allegedly screamed and fainted. Cooper thought it “stopped the show” and cut the spider pit sequence thereafter, showing his salty dog producer’s cred by likely burning the footage. But that was not all that was sheared. After Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow escape from Kong’s mountaintop lair, the ape angrily chases them down the face of Skull Mountain, replete with misty waterfalls (the photos of this are awesome). Other cuts include Kong jumping from building to building in New York and a comical encounter with a group of poker players. I think of all that lost stop-motion footage and I weep. Amazingly, one of the spiders survived the decades and here it is:

Fay Wray

Although many technological breakthroughs
have enhanced cinema audio, King Kong's
soundtrack remains a powerful reminder
of the crucial value of visceral acoustic

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