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14 February 2016 @ 09:17 pm
King Kong The Eight Wonder of the World (1933)  
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(continued)



Scene 34: The crew reconvene with lots of random shouting and pushing on the deck to tell the First Officer that Ms. Darrow hasn’t been located.

From the bridge deck, the Captain orders rifles be handed out to the crew and that their launch boats be manned immediately for a retrieval mission.

There is another mad scramble of ‘watermelon-watermelon’ noises as men rush to and fro and the long guns are unlocked.

Charlie volunteers to go also, but is rebuffed as the mission being no place for a cook.


Commentary: Okay, I wanted to ignore it because … again, that whole time/place dissonance. But Charlie’s “me look-ee, me like-ee” is starting to bug me. And the sad thing, is that I think that the film makers weren’t deliberately trying to be insulting to Charlie, despite Jack’s looking like he wanted to slap him and his being rudely rebuffed here by the [?] Third Officer.

He’s the one who finds evidence of their intruders, Ann was very kind to him, and he offers to bravely join the party to get her back. But they just couldn’t resist making sure that he’s “not one of our whites, of course” by those previous actions of the crew and his wanting to add “ee” to every verb.

I’m finding it distracting. This could be also simply because of the amount of time we’re watching men running around yelling incoherently at one another while this shindig is put together. Frankly, we could’ve used a time skip right after our Captain called for the long guns and a retrieval party, and obvs we’re all chomping at the bit to see our Creature Feature show up.

But on the final hand, at least Charlie isn’t a silent, near-invisible servant presence on the ship, chained in the kitchen.



Scene 35: Meanwhile, Ann finds herself knelt in the village, as the natives about her go on with their cheering, dancing, waving torches, and generally working themselves up into a sacrifice-frenzy.

Men climb up the high walls with torches to signal out into the vast forest to their god.

At a signal from the Chief, the heavy gate is opened to the jungle beyond. Just beyond this, we find a raised dais, and Ann is forcibly marched to this platform by our witch doctors.


Commentary: Let me put in a kudo to the set here. The walls are huge, and the native cast is large to fill it. The high, solid wall and the soldiers climbing the scaffolding and running along the top of the high wall with their torches is all impressive looking, even in long shots. This was some great set work, and that huge imposing wall looks just as solid as it’s meant to be.


Scene 36: Ann is taken up the dais and has her arms tied between to columns, terrified over what the native men intend to do with her and what this is all leading to.

Once Ms. Darrow has been secured, the witchdoctors very quickly withdraw to the safety of the huge gate/wall, leaving Ann to wonder.

Our torch bearers line the wall, as well as our Chieftain. He natively gives an inspiring speech/beseeching call to Kong. A giant gong is sounded.

Meanwhile, below, Ann struggles uselessly against her bindings and groans in something which indicates she could still be coming out from under being drugged, or her terror has just reached overwhelming proportions and she’s near a swoon.

The natives along the wall and in the village fall into a deep and disturbing silence. The gong is sounded twice more and the men on the wall and the Chieftain gaze expectantly out into the darkness.

We hear the sounds of roars [which sound a bit too lion-like, actually] and branches being snapped, as the crowd on the wall looks a bit frightened themselves, let alone the stranger who has no idea what is going on.


Commentary: I really liked the way this entire scene was blocked and filmed. They didn’t short on the extras to fill out the village, which helps a lot. But also, the way that there is so much yelling, and chanting and chaos one moment and then a sudden still silence the next was disconcerting, raising hackles and putting us in an expectant and nervous mood for Ann.


Scene 37: Suddenly, tree branches get pushed aside. And we see KONG coming from the forest, to Ann’s continued hysterical screaming.





And he is glorious.

Ann does her best to break her bonds [some excellent acting by Fay Wray here… I don’t doubt that the crew had to really secure those ropes for real to keep her from pulling them out of the posts], Kong roars, beats his chest and wonders at this creature who looks so different from the former “wives” he’s been presented with.

Ann does manage to get free, partly by Kong’s own doing, but she falls down the stairs TOWARD him, rather than backward off of the platform away from him. He quickly scoops her up and stares at the men along the wall.


Commentary: The thing to note immediately about Kong is the portrayal of him by the justifiably famous work of Willis O’ Brien’s stop motion, as well as a giant puppet head. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but in this production it is swiftly clear that they didn’t cheap on the special effects. Kong, the stop motion figure, is impressive for his facial expressions, especially. This is an animal with feelings and thoughts going on and it’s tremendously realized -- except for a very few points where he, frankly, looks a bit derpy. The giant puppet head is a wonder for its scale and detail, though of course the expressions it can give are limited. But it makes up for this by focusing on Kong’s large teeth and staring, wide eyes.

It’s easy to see why audiences of the early 30’s would’ve been impressed by, and maybe even slightly frightened of, this behemoth on the large screen. Enough cannot be said about the special effects, matte painters and set decorator army that worked on this film. They all deserve the highest praise.

Now, as to Fay as stop-motion marionette… the effects are a bit more mixed. I can really appreciate the hard work to do more than have a stiff, plastic doll in Kong’s grip. This faux-Fay is articulated and waves her arms around dramatically while squirming in Kong’s tight fist. But, still… it’s a bit more obvs than Kong himself, mostly because it’s difficult to simulate waving arms that are stiff with a core of bone when the puppet very clearly doesn’t have any. Her arms look a bit… wobbly/wavey… when they’re being moved around between shots. I can forgive all of this simply due to the attention to detail, the extremely hard work and the focus and patience it took to put together these sequences.



Scene 38: As Ann is being swept up to be crushed or devoured, our hero Driscoll is leading the men in an assault to get her back from the native population. This is all about waving their guns around and shouting inarticulately and noisily.

While the men are locked outside, Jack is able to look through a portal in the giant fencing to see the Giant Ape Monster walking away. He looks on in a grimace of shock.


Commentary: No, he looks on in a “grimace” of ridiculousness… it was a really unfortunate reaction shot, nearly as derpy as some of Kong’s model-face expressions.

But give it up to Fay’s stunt-puppet… that chick doesn’t just faint away. She keeps screaming, and screaming, and… OKAY! Pass out already!



Scene 39: As the native population are distracted with watching their personified deity strolling away with his offering, our men are proving why you shouldn’t only have a gate locking things out with one wall.

They’re able to slide open the large wooden beam securing the gate below our native cheerers.

Jack rushes in with most of the crew, while the Skipper and a half dozen more secure the gate so that it can’t be blocked behind them. They’re spotted running off into the jungle on Ann’s trail… Jack Driscoll not mentioning the giant monster he got a glimpse of.

Above them, Chieftain notices the intruders. He orders them stopped, but we fade-cut before we can see if the Skipper and his crew are overwhelmed or not….


Scene 40: In the deep jungle, Jack glows in his white outfit while he and Carl share random remarks.

[How the trail wouldn’t be pretty clear, being made as it is by a ginormous monster ape, I’ve no idea but apparently the Hollywood-Darkness is making it difficult to stay on the track.]

Denham then comments on the bird song, telling John it must be nearing dawn so they’ve been after Ann all night. They run across one of Kong’s huge foot prints, warning everyone else about just how large Ann’s abductor is to their various looks of worry and surprise.

They continue to make as much noise as possible so their quarry will know he’s being hunted, including by our Great White Hunter Carl Denham being sure to instruct our crewmen to “keep those guns cocked!” because… uh… they’re deeply stupid?


Scene 41: Our men continue following Kong’s trail, when off in the distance, they see a real live Stegosaurus! The men try to stay semi-quiet, but the dinosaur sees them anyway [well, all that Bright White in a virtual sea of dark green…], and charges.

One of Dunham’s grenades sends the beast into a confused, circle before it falls over with roars of pain. Dunham has the men go around the heavily breathing creature, the grenade’s payload of knock out gas having done its job.





Commentary: Now, again, the dinosaur is handled via stop motion, and again you can tell how they did it, but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying the scene or the critter. And the detailed work on the modeling of the dinosaur, especially in the long shot of its back as our fearless rescuers are approaching it is wonderful.

In addition, despite the scene using more back projection, the B&W helps to cover the flaws inherent in the technique. You can still tell that the Dino is a mat shot, but it isn’t nearly as fakey as we’ll see in later color movies [you know what I’m talking about… all those driving scenes where the scenes through the car’s back window are shaky and smeary…].



Scene 42:  As the men approach, the Stego kicks around, not quite unconscious after all.

[Somehow, nobody seems all-that-shaken about a DINOSAUR and GIANT APE running around the island, however. I guess saving the dame overrides shock and awe.]

Driscoll tells Denham to “give him another one” but instead Carl shoots the lying Stego. That puts a pep in its step and it lunges back to its feet. But our He-Man-Dino-Hunter’s Club fill it full of lead, knocking it down again.

It kicks a few more times feebly, as Carl leads the men around it. He comments that it’s still alive. Carl takes care of that with a rifle shot to the eye, encouraged by Jack. And a living artifact of time apparently dies with a bleeding eye and a bullet in its brain.

[Thank you, Gentleman. Really.]

However, as Carl and Jack walk by the dinosaur, it’s tail keeps twitching and rising. [Which is even more horrid… ugh, that poor beast with the blasted brain isn’t dead!! Put it out of its misery, you bastards!  …  They don‘t. … Bloody Bastards.]


Scene 43: Sometime later, they hear soft grunting of an ape and conclude they’re getting closer to their target.

[White outfits continue to glow -- obvs a limitation of the equipment, but one could - if one wished - conclude that the plant life gives off a soft phosphorescent glow, perhaps.]


Scene 44: Kong is tracked toward the island interior where they hear the sounds of splashing and more soft ape chuffs.

Carl continues to shout orders like, “c’mon guys” and “that’s him we hear” as loud as possible.


Scene 45: The men descend down a hill into a marshy, swampland. Jack points out that Kong must’ve swam across. Carl observes they can’t do that with all of their guns and bombs. Jack suggests trying to bind logs together into a raft.


Scene 46: Fade to later, where the raft has been bound together using logs and vine.

[I like the detail as we go through this “find the girl” portion of the film, too. Notice that as we go along, more and more rips and tears are appearing in our extra’s clothing. It’s such a small thing, but it adds to the illusion that we’ve been tracking through forests and jungle, rather than a back lot. I’m so impressed with the work and attention that the movie’s crew put in.]


Scene 47: In the middle of the lake, our explorers/rescue party are again engulfed in a thick fog. Worse though, Kong has stopped making noise to indicate whether they’re even headed in the correct direction.

From the gloom, yet unnoticed, a dinosaur head slowly rises from the still waters.

Jack hears the noise, but the dino sinks back into the drink before they’re close enough to see it. The dinosaur helps them by rising up with a hiss from the side of the tiny raft!





What follows is a lot of shouting, and gunfire before the giant dinosaur sinks below the calm waters again. He makes another appearance however, and this time from beneath the lashed together raft. This sends everyone into the drink.

The dino doesn’t like the taste of Man though, and seems more intent on simply tossing them around like dolls to punish them for trespass. They lose at least four men.


Commentary: This scene was also darned well done for the age, though the dolls are a bit obvious, but at least they’re also well articulated, so that their arms and legs flop about. It’s far more ambitious than rigid plastic Ken dolls, and the dinosaur diving and surfacing from the lake is well realized, with the help of the thick fog. I liked it.


Scene 48: Our men, now without all of their heavy equipment and their guns run headlong through a swampy marsh to retreat from the Lake Beast.

But it turns out their not safe --- The Lake Beast isn’t a Macroplata, but a Brontosaur … explaining the lack of consumption of our unfortunate mauling victims… and is now chasing them across the muddy flats of the marsh!





Scene 49: One of our more lumpy guys can’t move his ass as fast as his compatriots, and so chooses to race up a tree to escape the enraged dinosaur. Considering the dino’s neck stretches higher than the tree he chose… well… I’m not sure how that was a better plan and than tossing himself down the nearby hill to escape the critter.

Whatever his thought process, it doesn’t work. Five men down.


Commentary: This was actually QUITE the brutal scene. The poor man is acting the hell out of his terror and when his stand-in is plucked from the tree around his abdomen, he SCREAMS several times before he finally dies.

It’s um… wow… just brutal.



Scene 50: For the rest of our crew though, it’s safety with their compatriot’s screams for help, and then a hideous death echoing through the trees after them.


Scene 51: Meanwhile, Kong is striding across a natural fallen log bridge over a chasm with the unconscious Ann held firmly in his grasp.

Our men continue to follow John Driscoll while making enough noise for every predator [including a giant ape and a rampaging Brontosaurus] to know exactly where they are.

Kong sets Ann down in the crook of a tall, dead tree while he hears the men catching up and making a racket behind him.

Our men continue the chase, making said racket. The also dash across the fallen log bridge, apparently not realizing just how close they’ve come to Kong. Meanwhile, he’s wandering near another lake and hearing the men’s shouts and hollers closing in on he and his prize.


Scene 52: This sends Kong back to the log, where the men already cross try to do a sudden about-face, running into the men following. While John crawls down a vine to seek shelter in a depression in the cliff side, the random crew of yellers tumble all over themselves on the log bridge, keeping them from getting back to the possible safety of the other side. Meanwhile, another small group of men and Denham haven’t caught up with the others yet, as they were huddled down and watching for the chasing Brontosaurus.

We watch another four men fall screaming to the cliff bottom below, their limbs twisted up and the bodies bouncing on the hard ground, as John/Jack can do nothing but watch. Meanwhile two other men have been able to hold onto the log, as King Kong now roars and makes swipes at them with his massive hands.

He makes another play to force the last two men off of ‘his bridge’, and another man plunges to his death. Our last man is a monkey himself though, and manages to hang on. But Kong has an answer to that… he tips the entire log down into the canyon, where our last man is crushed.


Scene 53: With the last man down, Jack starts to ease his way forward to look down into the gorge below. But above him, Kong catches the movement and begins to stalk the First Officer.





Kong starts reaching down to grab Jack and put an end to him too. But Jack has the advantage of being able to see what is happening, while Kong has to grasp blindly. In addition, Jack didn’t lose his knife in the previous confrontation and uses this effectively on the King’s sensitive fingertips.

But this entire expedition couldn’t buy a break. As Jack and Kong are playing their test of wits, a giant lizard is climbing up the cliff face toward the preoccupied Driscoll.

Thankfully the lizard was using a hanging vine to help itself scale upward and this is something that Jack can cut, sending the critter crashing down the cliff face. But this also allows Kong to catch another glimpse of him, and so continue the hide and feel.


Scene 54: In the meantime, Ann is coming to and finding herself stuck in a dead tree top with no way down. She’s brought to by the sounds of a rumbling hiss, which turns out to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex [or an Allosaurus]. It spots Ann flailing around in the tree top and that looks like easy eatins.

Ann screeches.


Scene 55: Kong hears Ann’s horrible screams and leaves Jack to race back and save his ‘bride’. Far, far too close to Ann’s fragile perch, the dinosaur and ape have a throwdown.

It’s an extended battle sequence in which Kong and the Carnivore fight for dominance and in the midst of this, the old tree is tumbled over, sending Ann falling to the jungle floor.

As she continues to scream, she finds herself pinned by the leg under the fallen tree trunk, and continues yanking to free herself. While in the background, Kong and the Dinosaur continue wrestling around, threatening to fall over on her at any time and crush her to death.

Kong finally wins when he’s able to break the Dinosaur’s jaw by yanking them apart from their sockets, presumably tearing arteries along with it and causing the Dino to bleed to death.

Kong retrieves Ann, despite her obvious resistance to that idea.


Commentary: Again, there is some absolutely wonderful work being done with this sequence, if you can overlook that Ann can’t really be in the same scene as Kong and the Dinosaur. There is back projection, but it’s been done far worse in other movies. And there is Ann turning into a puppet, but again, I’ve seen inarticulate, plastic dolls used in other movies, and this done far, far more gracefully.

The entire sequence is actually harrowing, starting with those poor men being sent plummeting to their deaths, and ending with the horrible cracking noises of the Dinosaur’s jaw being torn apart.



Scene 56: In the meantime, Jack has finally decided that Kong isn’t returning and starts his climb back up the cliff side. In the distance, he can hear Kong’s grunts and Ann’s screams.

From the other side of the gorge, Denham shouts over to Jack with relief. After the two monster attacks, Jack and Carl are all that remains. Denham points out he can’t get over, but Jack tells him not to worry about that now - what they need is more gas bombs, and he needs to go back and fetch them.

Driscoll tells Denham that he’ll stay on Kong’s trail and either find a time to slip Ann away from him, or set up a signal to let him know where they are.

How they’ll be able to coordinate a rescue mission either way is left for later.


Scene 57: With this semi-settled, Carl runs off to find Captain Englehorn, while Jack Driscoll continues hunting down Ann.

We follow Jack as he spots Kong in the distance, and slips past the dead T-Rex, already being fed on by a giant crow. Meanwhile, Kong is continuing to carry Ann along -- who has again fallen silent, and possibly unconscious.


Scene 58: Meanwhile, Carl has returned to base camp where he has to tell the Captain of losing most of his crewman. He also informs them of Jack’s plan to provide a signal when Kong stops.

One of our crewman looks about ready to tear the head off of Mr. Denham but he’s too busy waiting for the Captain’s opinion to notice.

The Captain is sure they’ll not see Jack or Ann again, but Glaring Crewman insists that Jack not be written off so easily. Carl assures the Captain that his gas bombs can take out Kong if they can get close enough. He asks about the villagers, and the Captain tells him that they had to fire a few volleys over their heads right after Jack and he disappeared into the jungle. Right now, they’re hiding in their huts.

Formerly Glaring Crewman, Briggs, is ordered to the top of the wall to watch for any signs of Jack’s signal, while Denham states that he’ll lead another party after Jack at dawn.


Scene 59: Kong finally makes it to his hideaway in the interior of the island. Ann remains still, as Jack follows along behind them. Kong goes into a cavern as Jack follows close by.

He sets Ann down on a rock ledge and stares at her as Ann -- conscious but trying not to antagonize him - wonders what her fate is to be. Kong wanders away, possibly for water in the cavern lake, when wouldn’t you know it… there’s a Plesiosaur-like creature who begins slithering up the wall toward the helpless Ann.





Commentary: Oh fer fuck’s sake… this island is a death trap! How in the hell did a population of people survive long enough to erect their giant wall?


Scene 60: Ann screams again, though the finned serpent seemed more interested in sneaking up on Kong than dealing with her less-than-a-bite-full anyway. It immediately attacks the Great Ape, winding its body around him and trying to bite him, like a constrictor -- despite being an aquatic dinosaur.

While Kong and the Snake wrestle, Jack tries to get to Ann, but the two behemoth’s are in between them.

While the thing tries to strangle/squeeze Kong into submission, Jack looks for his moment to get to Ann, while she’s simultaneously looking for her chance to try to climb down the rock formation and make a run for it. Ann doesn’t see Jack hidden behind a stone outcropping and neither can do much of anything because of the closeness of the combatants.





Kong finally manages to uncurl the thing from around him and then bashes its head against the rocks, disabling or killing it. Poor Ann is once again unceremoniously scooped up and carried off and exhausted Jack Driscoll is once again forced to give chase.


Scene 61: Kong carries Ann out onto a ledge overlooking the island valley below. He gives a few chest pounds and roars out into space to show his dominance, while Ann huddles against the rock wall. As he stands over her, Ann is overcome in a faint, and he - yes - scoops her up again.

Kong sits down and looks over the unconscious Ann in his fist. He is fascinated with her gauzy dress and begins to strip the garment from her, leaving her in her delicates.

Ms. Darrow manages to come to again, and starts squirming to be released. Kong meanwhile, brushed a few fingers over her hair and scents them.



TBC


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