Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The other Kong

FYI. The original Kong was just rereleased on DVD, digitally remastered, two disk treatment with plenty of extras.

If you haven't seen the original, it's worth checking out. It holds up surprisingly well.

I don't use the word 'surprise' lightly. For one thing, it's violent. Explicitly, casually violent. Kong crushes men in his jaws and stomps them into the mud. It's character development, yeah, but Merian Cooper didn't hold anything back. Another thing is...whew. It's, uh, sexy. I've got more remaining questions about Naomi Watts's anatomy than about Fay Wray's.

Not what you expect for a picture made in 1933.

The extras are great, too. If you already know who Willis O'Brien, Marcel Delgado, and Ray Harryhausen are, settle in for a smorgasbord. If you don't, well...you will now. The highlight is a segment called "The Mystery of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence", in which Peter Jackson and crew explain what the titular sequence is, why it's important, and where it might have ended up, and then proceed to recreate it, using the script, concept art, and set photos from the original movie. They even X-rayed one of the stop-motion puppets used in the movie to figure out how its metal skeleton was built, and then built their own authentic miniature monsters to film what they cheerfully describe as a "fan production". It's cool to see the reigning king of fantasy movies so awed by the work of the pioneers who preceeded him.

If you get a chance, watch the original before you see the new one. There are some nice homages in the new movie. Tasteful and understated, not the usual frying-pan-upside-the-head pop culture references you're used to from things like Independence Day and Shrek.

I've never seen the 1976 version. Homework. Stay tuned.


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