For Reel

King Kong (1933)
July 16, 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
5 Stars
King KongIn King Kong, Carl Denham is dedicated to not only deliver the world a spectacle heretofore unseen, but to create the greatest motion picture ever produced. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to draw comparisons between Denham’s search for the beast and the production of this 1933 adventure classic, which similarly was made with lofty ambitions and presented itself as a mammoth of cinema. Beyond the special effects, the film boasts a bombastic score, including an overture—something not commonly seen in films of this genre at the time. Before Kong arrives on the screen, the film sells its import to you. And, once the great ape does arrive, the action doesn’t let up. After the arrival on Skull Island, King Kong is structured as one set piece after another, with many of them introducing a new monster for audiences to gawk at. This provokes a consistent feeling of rediscovery—by the time the pterodactyls swoop to terrorize the human characters, Kong itself feels like an old friend. If Kong’s personality is sometimes overstated by fans of the film—his relationship with Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) plays as nothing more than a dog who is particularly fond of its new toy—there is something undeniably mesmerizing about the beast. One of the great achievements of the special effects work is its ability to convey Kong’s sheer mass. When Kong splits the tyrannosaurus’ skull open, the sense of force is palpable, and the crack still sends shivers down an audience’s spine. To bring Kong to life is an achievement in itself, but to make audiences cringe at the brutality of a puppet’s actions is something else entirely.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
June 27, 2012, 7:10 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Ernest B. Schoedsack & Irving Pichel

At just over an hour in length, The Most Dangerous Game is a lively thriller made by many of the same minds behind the following year’s special effects landmark, King Kong. Adapted from Richard Connell’s short story, the picture concerns a big game hunter who dwells on a small island and longs for a challenge. When several men and women wash up on his shore, he tells them that should they successfully evade his lethal pursuit for a day, he will aid them in their escape. Years later, when the Production Code began to strictly inhibit what could be seen in Hollywood, the revealing outfits worn by Joel McCrea and Fay Wray would make revival screenings nigh impossible. Narratively, the picture goes just about where one would expect it to in the most blunt manner imaginable – early on, McCrea chides, “This world’s divided into two kinds of people: the hunter and the hunted. Luckily I’m the hunter and nothing can change that.” – but its joys can be found in the tight, suspenseful editing and the impressive sets. Cinematographer Henry W. Gerrard, who passed away at the age of 35 in 1934, perhaps sought to mimic the aesthetic of Universal’s popular monster pictures, with dense fog and dark shadows establishing a gothic mood that makes tangible the dread of the victims. The final shot – in which the devious Leslie Banks falls to his fitting end as the heroes depart the island – is a masterful display of economical storytelling.