King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World
Starring: Robert Armstrong, Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot
DIR: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Blurb [imdb]: A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal giant gorilla who takes a shine to their female blonde star.
My Blurb: IMDB insists that Ann’s love interest is named John Driscoll. Throughout the film, though, he’s called Jack. We’ll be going with Jack to fit in with the crew better. Also, spoilers of course. And also, also -- crazy amount of screen caps ... SRY.
Scene 01: After the Overture is done playing, and then the titles have finished, we open on a proverb, stating that the beast looked upon the face of beauty and stayed his hand from killing and from that day forth, it was as one dead.
Which it holds on… and holds on… and holds on….
Scene 02: From there, we skip over to a cityscape at night from presumably the Hudson River, espying upon New York City [1933 version].
Our focus seems to be a ship at dock.
Scene 03: We skip to the dockside and watch a bearded man walking along in the dark beside the ship. He’s the watchman.
The gentleman on his rounds is called out to by a sharply dressed businessman who asks after the ship, wanting to verify it is the “motion picture ship”. The watchman asks if he’s planning on boarding the “crazy ship”.
Our businessman wasn’t to know what makes it a crazy voyage to plan on. The watchman indicates that the gossip is that the man who is in charge of this upcoming voyage is a nutter. Apparently Carl Denham has a reputation for engaging in extremely risky behavior in order to get his shot.
The watchman goes on to say that the cargo loaded aboard was unusual enough to get tongues wagging, and the ship has about three times more crew than her size indicates she’d need. It’s all quite mysterious.
Scene 04: From above the men’s heads, a voice shouts down wanting to know who the gentleman is loitering about his ship. We find out that our heavy suited stranger is the talent agent who is supposed to be working with Mr. Denham. He’s told to come on aboard, as he’s been being waited for.
Aboard ship, her Captain is warning Denham that they’ll need to pull out soon or the news about the explosives he’s brought aboard will surely bring the Fire Marshall down on them. Denham jokes that despite his papers, they’d be tied up for months and the Captain agrees that since he’s brought enough on board to blow up the harbor, that’s a safe bet.
Captain reaches out and picks up a grenade and asks what the Marshall would make of his gas bombs.
Carl isn’t wild about the Captain handling the bomb casually, and quickly snatches it to put it back in its case, while the Captain is wondering about Carl’s claims that just one could knock out an elephant… it makes one wonder why he’s packed so many onboard.
Denham instead focuses on ensuring the Captain can get them to their island location before the start of the monsoon season. His worry is that they’ll get caught in the heavy storms which will make a huge and costly headache as far as filming outdoor pictures go.
Commentary: This scene is expositioney, but it isn’t badly done mostly because they avoid the “as you know… [proceed to repeat everything that the person does in fact already know for the audience’s benefit]” while still sketching out certain facts. Denham is a film director, he’s packed equipment one wouldn’t necessarily equate with motion pictures, in addition to explosives on board - he’s also packed away knock out gas grenades of unusually large size and quite potent formulation, and he’s on a time and money crunch.
If there is any problem with this opening scene, it’s more to do with us. We already know we’re headed for Skull Island to collect Kong who is going to rampage because of when we are in relation to when the movie was first shown.
So yes, it’s a bit awkward and slow to sit through since we really want to see the Giant Ape instead of the people-stuff. But this sort of exposition could’ve been far more painful.
Scene 05: The Theatrical Agent, Weston, is invited into the galley along with First Mate Driscoll. The reason the agent is there at all is to update Denham on the attempt to find an actress to join them on the voyage to their shooting location. Weston tries to tell Denham that it’s a no-go, but Carl isn’t hearing that. He complains that Weston is the only talent agent that hasn’t shut his door in his face yet and that somebody out there has been out to get him by interfering with his reputation.
It’s not interference though, it’s Denham’s own doing. He’s earned his reputation for being fearless in getting the shot - right up to being reckless, and he’s none too concerned about the risks to his crew or actors. It’s making it a challenge to find anybody who is willing to sail to some secret location for an unknown amount of time for a part being kept under wraps….
The agent tells him that even if there were such a young woman willing to take the risk, he’s not sure he could in good conscience let her take such a job. Not when she’ll be the only woman aboard, and not after he’s seen for himself the rough seadogs aboard.
Carl scoffs at the worrywarts aboard, stating that there are dozens of women that very night in much more danger being in New York City, than they’d be going on this trip.
Weston asks why he needs a girl anyway, since his other pictures got along just fine with men only casts. Carl complains that the public wants a pretty face in their films nowadays, or he wouldn’t even consider it.
He goes on to complain that his last few pictures have received all kinds of raves, except for mentioning every time that “if only there was some romance, the film would gross twice as much”. Well, this time he’s going to give ‘em what they’re complaining for.
Weston repeats though, that finding such a young woman who’d be willing to risk going with a bunch of strange men to she-knows-not-where seems impossible.
Carl insists that they have to be out of the harbor by dawn, and if Weston can’t find a girl with a backbone, then he’ll just go out and find her himself. He tells him that they’ll have to come up with new adjectives for his brilliance when they get a load of this next picture - it’ll be the greatest film ever made.
Commentary: Jeeezus, that was a loooong scene. And despite the rather magnetic presence of Robert Armstrong and the somehow-cute First Mate, it’s awfully repetitive as well.
I do like seeing how driven Denham is, as it’ll explain why he’ll go so far for fame. But this scene could easily have been cut down by a third and still gotten point across.
Scene 06: Off of Times Square, Denham goes to a Woman’s Shelter to find his starlet in the rough.
He gazes at the women finding a bed for the night to shelter in, but none of them are what he has in mind. He goes walking down the block.
Scene 07: Denham stops at a street vendor for a paper, and while there a timid woman reaches out and takes an apple. Before she has a chance to actually try to steal it, the vendor barrels past Carl and grabs her wrist. He accuses her of being a thief and tells her he’s going to summon an officer to deal with her.
Denham intervenes by first offering that he didn’t see “the kid” try to pocket anything. But vendor goes on about how he’s already been stolen from three times that week. Carl puts a buck in his hand and tells him to scram.
Meanwhile, the young lady is taken with her hunger and swoons in a near feint. Carl has to scramble to her side to keep her from falling to the sidewalk.
Our young lady smiles at him for his assistance, and Carl gets a lightbulb moment as he realizes he’s found his starlet. He rushes her off to a taxi.
Commentary: Although, one has to wonder what Ann is thinking, since she just barely flashes a weak smile for his help, and then this stranger is manhandling her to the nearest cab!
It’s got Predator-Vibes all over it.
Scene 08: Thankfully for Ann, she’s not whisked off to a cheap motel room but to a diner for a hot cup of coffee. Carl has also bought Ann something to eat, and she’s feeling much better, for which she offers thanks for his kindness.
Carl pulls out the Creeper-Vibe to tell Ann that she shouldn’t be so naïve, and he’s not helping her out of a sense of kindness. Ann doesn’t appear too fazed by this, even when he tells her how pretty a girl she is [I’m all kinds of “Please get to the point, you sound like one of those guys hanging out at the Chicago train station, chatting up young looking college students on their way home, looking for fresh meat to pimp out!!” Ahem…].
He asks after her circumstances and finds out that she’s hit a rough patch. He asks after any acting background, and she admits to playing an extra a few times back on Long Island. Now, she’s doing some modeling, but it hasn’t been regular enough to keep up with the costs of living in New York.
Carl tells her he has the opportunity of a lifetime for her and hurries her to get themselves to a clothing shop for new threads and to get ready for a voyage. All of this is, of course, coming as wildly odd to poor Ann who knows nothing about Carl and ergo can’t keep up with his shorthand.
Ann offers that she needs more information… she wants the job, whatever it may be but….
Carl gets a look of understanding at her nervous hesitation and assures her that she’s gotten the wrong impression. He tells her that he’s speaking strictly business here. He introduces himself, and she recognizes him as a maker of “jungle pictures and such”. With this confirmed, he re-offers her a part in his next picture but explains again that they need to leave first thing in the morning for a long sail to their shooting location.
All of this is a whirlwind to Ann Darrow, of course. But she’s obvs excited by such an opportunity literally catching her in its arms. She decides “Why not?”
Commentary: This was a bit of a cute scene, I think. I mean - I’m a bit wore out on the “cute meet”, but the way that Denham kept talking like Ann had any clue what he wanted her for, and the rather risqué implication that she thought he was looking for a mistress/adult model for some less-legit work felt a bit open for 1933. And I liked how Carl finally caught on that she didn’t recognize his face and had no clue what he was going on about but was obviously considering that he was offering her some sort of quid pro quo casting couch opportunity. It was charming the way he nipped that in the bud by making it clear this was a professional opportunity and then finally introducing himself.
Scene 09: The next morning, the menfolk are hard at work getting the deck squared away when Ann arrives aboard. Driscoll backhands her on accident while gesturing wildly at his men because they’re not working fast enough to his liking. This is their first introduction.
Ann introduces herself, but Driscoll isn’t impressed. In fact, he finds women-on-ships to be a bother, and when she tells him that she’ll try to stay out of the way, he tells her she’s already been.
After a few moments, he finally apologizes, sort of, for hitting her in the chin.
[Ugh. Here’s our Official Cute Meet of Cuteness… complete with the woman-hater-he-man’s club member who will find himself falling for the naively sweet young woman who is so excited to experience something totally new -- blah, blah… get sailing already.]
Scene 10: Six weeks later, and the ship is still in the middle of nowhere, making one wonder just how much money Denham is spending this whole time and he doesn’t even have one minute of film done yet.
Ann is on deck and she asks the cook about the potatoes he’s had to peel in that time. Charlie’s reply is too many. He also jokes that one day he’ll return to China and not have to look at another potato.
Ann comments on how wonderful the vast ocean is. The First Mate joins them and he and Ann do some light flirty chit-chat. Jack is a bit of a jerk again about women on ships and how it ain’t right and so forth, while Ann insists that she’s done everything she can not to be a bother. But wimmins can’t help but be a bother, what with getting in the way of all of the homoerotic action of sweaty men in close compartments and all… y’all know how it is.
Commentary: Yes, yes… “You’re so mean, but I loves ya anyway.” “And you’re such a pain in my tough, salty man-ass but I just find you so swell.” Blah-blah.
I will say though, that I really do like the chemistry being displayed by Fay and Bruce. Sure, the cliché is thick in the salty ocean air but the two actors are mostly charming and while this scene is again one that seems like it could’ve been trimmed a bit to get us to the island and adventure part of the tale, it’s not so painful that I’m cringing or anything.
I do need to point out that Fay, while she’s trying to play the innocent, naïve, ingénue - you can sometimes see in her eyes that she’s (the actress) isn’t, and it does sometimes jump out at me and make me wonder if Ann (the character) is trying a little too hard to also play the young innocent for benefit of manipulation. I don’t think she is… I think it’s just that trying to maintain that “rainbows and sunshine, gee-whiz-wilikers” personality is a bit tougher for Fay Wray to maintain than we might think.
It would be a little more interesting if Ann Darrow’s past was a little more nuanced though, and to think that she is somewhat playing up her youth to get her way….
Scene 11: On board the ship also, is a mascot. A monkey, who Ann seems to have a rapport with. It’s what Carl comments on with a “beauty and the beast” comment when he also now arrives on deck.
He’s arrived to ask Ann to start costume testing, as he’d decided the light is about right outdoors. He repeats his “beauty and the beast” comment as Ann walks away - and one wonders if he’s writing a few more scenes in his head for this movie shoot.
Commentary: Or they’re just going to hammer home this whole Beauty/Beast angle so it’s tattooed on our brains before Kong shows up….
Scene 12: After Ann goes below to pick out a test costume, Driscoll approaches Denham with a complaint. His issue is with the length of this voyage and not knowing what the crew can expect upon their arrival to wherever it is.
Carl now hints heavily that he doesn’t know what they’re walking into. His entire picture seems to be on spec to himself, let alone anybody else as he wants to see the location with his own eyes before he cements his plans.
Denham asks if Jack is going soft, but he disputes this. He is worried though about Carl’s “seat of his pants” style film making when it is involving a girl. Carl accuses him of falling for his actress and warns him against making everything more complicated but Jack again disputes this. He insists that he’s always stuck by Carl’s dangerous films before and Carl admits he’s one tough guy.
But then he brings up what happens when ‘beauty gets ya’ before stopping himself, and joking that he’s moving into a theme song now.
Jack notes something in Carl’s voice and asks him just what his deal is this time out. Carl now reveals that his picture is about The Beast going soft at the sight of Beauty and how the little guys can bring down the big, bad tough guy as soon as he loses his heart to a dame. He suggests Jack start giving that lesson some thought.
Scene 13: Carl is then summoned away to meet with the skipper, as they’ve reached the coordinates marked by Carl on the navigator’s map. Carl invites Jack to the bridge, as he’s ready to give everyone [except Ann - who is right about now standing on the deck of the ship in a costume wondering where everybody went to] some more information about where they’re landing.
The Captain is annoyed because he’s come to waters he isn’t familiar with and there isn’t any clue as to where they’re supposed to be hitting land. Carl pulls out a map with an otherwise uncharted island and tells the Captain and First Mate this is their destination.
Carl now goes into how he found out about this island, and received the map of it. It came from a Norwegian Captain, who had to rescue a small craft lost at sea. There was only one survivor who later died, but before this, he’d described to the captain the savage island that the lost crew had thought was their salvation.
Denham is so fascinated with this island because not only is it remote and “lost” but the briefly rescued man described a giant wall cutting off the sandy point of a beach from the interior of the island. A wall which was not a natural formation. It’s a wall that the natives keep in immaculate repair, as if they’re afraid of something on the island.
Captain blows this off as another hostile tribe, but now Denham goes into the tale of Kong.
Scene 14: To everyone’s surprise, our Sea Captain has in fact heard of Kong. It’s a native legend referring to some sort of god or spirit. Both our Captain and Jack are a bit taken aback to say the least, as Denham describes his belief that Kong is a physical monster of some type and is located on this heretofore lost to history island.
With the grin of amusement and disbelief from Jack and the side-eye of the Captain, Carl insists that there is something on that island which white men’s eyes have never seen. Whatever it is, he’ll be the first person to bring it to the world on film. And that is why he’s become so insistent on coming out so far from civilization for this movie.
Jack jokes about what they’ll do if Whatever decides that it doesn’t like having his picture taken. Carl responds with a reminder about the gas bombs loaded aboard.
[Meanwhile, Ann is still out on deck wondering What-The-Hell.]
Scene 15: Back on deck, Carl has gotten a camera set up for the test shots of Ann. He describes the gown she’s chosen to try first as the “Beauty and the Beast” garment… [because, lord forbid we should almost forget the theme of our actual movie as well as our film-within-our-movie].
The crewmen watch over this and describe the whole business of making movies as looking a little silly up close. Ann asks Carl if he always films his own movies behind the camera, and Carl relates how he lost a shot of a charging rhino one time because the cameraman chickened out, despite Carl having a rifle trained on the animal. Ever since, he’s not been willing to risk depending on a camera operator and likes to just do it himself so he knows he’ll get what he wants.
Scene 16: Above, Jack and the Captain watch. Driscoll asks Skipper if he thinks Carl is crazy, but the reply is that he’s just enthusiastic.
Scene 17: Down on the deck, Carl has inserted a filter and instructs Ann to look up slowly as he’s cranking the camera. As she does so, Carl talks her through looking mystified, then amazed and finally frightened with the sort of fear that traps her scream in her throat.
He tells her to shield her arms over her eyes and scream for her life.
Commentary: This scene was actually wonderful. It’s such a small thing, but Robert Armstrong’s delivery was terrific and Fay’s acting through it was enough to actually send a thrill up my spine! And it was just a test run!
That was amazing work on this faked scene of terror, and left me feeling both amused and foolish at the goosebumps. And of course, it’s giving us a feel for what is going to happen later when Kong is found and it’s not fake anymore.
Scene 18: Up above, Jack instinctively reacts to Ann’s harrowing scream by grabbing his Captain’s elbow with a troubled look on his brow. The Captain gives him a “get a grip, fool” look.
But Jack isn’t reacting to the fake terror of Ann, after all. His mind is on what Carl thinks Ann is really going to see when they reach Skull Island.
Scene 19: Later, the ship enters a dense fog bank.
Everyone is nervous as they know that they’ve got to be approaching the island they’re after and nobody wants to hit bottom. A depth sounding is done and a sailor reports that they’re shallowing fast.
Captain orders ahead slow.
Further along the deck, one sailor complains of approaching an island they can’t see and another defends the Captain that Carl is the problem and he won’t let the Skipper stop the ship.
[Nice of him to defend the Captain, but nope… The Skipper can tell Carl to leap overboard and swim for it while the ship anchors if he wants.]
The Sounder reports breakers ahead and the ship finally is halted in its forward momentum with anchorage. But, Jack then tells the Captain, Carl and Ann that it isn’t the sound of breakers they hear, but drums.
Scene 20: When the fog finally lifts, the shipmates find themselves staring at a large mountainous island. The Captain looks for signs of life as Carl joins him at the rail. He reports nothing moving and Denham expresses confusion that the islanders haven’t gathered on the beach to find out what the strange vessel is doing in their waters.
Just then, another series of drumming is heard drifting across the waves and Carl suggests maybe they were spotted and the natives are signaling.
Scene 21: With signs of life, Denham decides it’s time to talk to the islanders. He asks the Captain to come with him, and to load up the boats with men and supplies, including rifles, the gas bombs and his camera equipment.
Ann excitedly asks if she’s going to go ashore, too, which Carl confirms. Jack objects, at least until they know what they’re walking into, but Carl is adamant. You never know what images he’ll run across and he wants his cast with him [so… wait… I just realized - Was Carl Denham always planning on having only one cast member? ‘Cause thus far, Ann is the only one we’ve seen who is actually planning on being in this movie - whatever it’s going to be about].
Scene 22: At the shore, we see the impressively high and solid wood gate and stone walls with the equally impressive “Skull” landmark rising majestically beyond that. The villagers are shore dwellers and the wall apparently encloses them to the shoreline, making the wall a bulwark against the forests beyond but leaving the seaside of the village wide open for easy travel.
Once ashore, our explorers waste little time in trooping their way into the village.
Scene 23: As our intrepid group make their way through the village, a sing-song chanting is heard which gets louder as they go. Denham and company hide behind some tall grass in order to spy on whatever ceremony is currently taking place.
Jack repeats to Ann that he wishes they’d left her behind on the vessel until they know more. He seems to be the only one considering that the natives may be hostile to intruding strangers.
Scene 24: As men in ape-inspired outfits dance around, other natives play drums [and apparently other musical instruments not in evidence going by the soundtrack]. A chieftain stands on a raised dais over a kneeling woman who is being adorned with flowers.
For being the center of attention and adornment, she doesn’t seem all that happy [for obvs reasons that aren’t hard to guess].
Carl unwisely chooses to get out his camera on its tripod and sets up to film, while no longer hidden. It doesn’t take but a moment for the Chief to realize they have an unexpected and uninvited audience. This brings everything to a stop, while Carl tells his side to come out into the open.
The two sides stare at one another and wait to see what the other is going to do.
Fortunately for Denham, the Captain can speak a version of language that is close enough to the native speech for the two sides to communicate. Although the Chief is basically only interested in saying, “Get out”. Carl, naturally, doesn’t take this as the Chief’s final word.
When the Captain tries to find out what the display they’ve butted into means, he’s told that the girl is “the bride of Kong”. This pleases Denham who very much wants to find out just what Kong is, but the natives seem less than pleased with witnesses to their rites.
Things start to get tense, until Chief gets a gander at Ann. He’s taken aback by “the golden woman”, and wonders if she is a gift to Kong. He goes on to make an offer to Carl and the Captain to purchase Ann as a tribute from the tribe to Kong.
Jack looks about ready to start a native massacre, already.
The Chief goes on to offer six native women in exchange for Ann, but Captain tries to - as friendly as he can - say that she’s not for sale. Jack decides it’s time to get Ann back to the ship, and the Captain agrees and also suggests that they should all be on their way. Carl agrees - for the moment - but has the Captain tell the Chief that they’ll return the following day to make friends.
They’re stared after, but the tribe lets them go unmolested… for the moment.
Scene 25: Late that night, Ann is on deck again in the cloudy moonlight when Jack finds her gazing out across the water. He asks why she isn’t asleep and she tells him that the drums are making her jittery. He complains … again… about her going ashore that day, and she admits that she was afraid for a few moments there. She wonders what they’re supposed to do the following day, and Jack tells her that is what is keeping him up. He complains some more about Carl and his penchant for boneheaded risk taking.
When Ann says that she’d take any chance that Carl asks after what he’s done to help her out, Jack is even less happy. He warns her that Carl is crazy enough to get her hurt and things that day could’ve gone really badly. She jokes that he’d not have had to put up with a woman on board in that case, but Driscoll’s not in a joking mood. He tells her that he’s afraid for her.
It takes a lot of hee-ing and haw-ing but Jack finally out and tells Ann that he’s fallen for her, and asks if maybe she might feel something similar back at him. Her answer is lusty, yet coy, looks until he finally smiles, grabs her and kisses her passionately.
Commentary: Okay, this is about as clichéd as you can imagine, and one cannot understand what exactly Ann is seeing in Jack. This is especially true when he admits that he still doesn’t like women in general and after his already showing a penchant for trying to interfere in her career this entire voyage…? Well, I’m having a hard time believing this can lead to happily ever after for either one of them.
Scene 26: The declaration of luurve is interrupted by the Captain calling for Jack to join he and Carl over some more maps.
Ann tells him he better go, but promises to wait for him there. She’s all starry-eyed.
Scene 27: Below in the sea, however, a couple of stealthy outriggers are pulling silently up to the tied off row boat at the side of the ship. A native raiding party slips silently aboard the rowboat, which gives them access to the rope ladder leading up the cargo ship‘s side.
Meanwhile, Ann dreamily gazes up at the dark night.
She’s startled when a hand clamps over her mouth, and two men start dragging her toward the side of the ship.
Scene 28: While a night guard slumps sleepily at the other side of the ship, Ann is [somehow, which we’ll not see] gotten over the side and down the rope ladder in utter silence. She’s [appearing unconscious now] loaded aboard one of our raider outriggers with no one the wiser.
In the struggle, one of the natives loses his bracelet of shells.
Scene 29: On the bridge, Jack and the Captain are finishing up their consult. Carl comments on how it must be midnight sleepily, before noticing that the native drums are coming across the water.
He and the Captain notice that there is something going on, as torches are lighting up the whole village. Meanwhile, Jack takes the distraction as his chance to slip back on deck to the waiting Ann.
Carl tells the Captain that he wishes he could film in such low light, he’d sneak a few shots of the ceremony but the Captain tells him to be sensible and insists no one is leaving the relative safety (*cough cough*) of the ship.
Scene 30: Out on deck, Jack looks eagerly for Ann but all he gets is the Asian cook.
[Bruce Cabot looks most unfortunate in his high-waist slacks and white shoes. ‘Ew’.]
Jack asks Charlie if he’s seen Ann, but Charlie says he hasn’t seen her in a few hours. He’s more concerned anyway with knowing when they can leave this place.
Jack looks for a moment like he may backhand Charlie, before rushing back for the ladder in a near state [If you think this is coming off like Driscoll has an emergency hard-on and needs Ann, like, right this second… you’d be right. He’s acting like an overeager teen boy. It’s embarrassing].
Scene 31: Jack rushes to Ann’s cabin and gives an eager knock on the door. He invites himself to open her door, but is surprised to find that she’s not there waiting for him in her delicates.
Scene 32: Meantime, Charlie is stretching his legs, when he happens to kick the lost bracelet. He shouts out an alarm after a moment.
As everyone is ‘watermelon, watermelon-ing’ on deck. Charlie rushes to his Captain with the native bracelet. The Captain tells Carl and Jack that someone has been aboard his ship. Jack immediately asks after Ann’s whereabouts and Carl tells him she’s in her cabin. But Jack knows this not to be the case.
He orders the crew to search the ship.
Scene 33: In the galley, Carl and Jack run into each other during their race to locate Ann. Jack asks if he’s found her… which… you have to think if he had, she’d be standing there wondering what all of the hoopla is about and apologizing for being a silly girl and daring to slip out of the men’s [read Jack’s] immediate sight. But, she isn’t.
Commentary: Yah, yah. I know. It’s the ‘30s. But I’m having a tough time accommodating Jack’s attitudes. Now, usually I can do so because of the time/place but - and I don’t have anything solid to explain it - Bruce Cabot just isn’t helping me out here. There is something about his acting that is putting me off and I don’t really wanna forgive his 1930’s ‘tude.