on April 1, 2011
A number of reviews have complained about this disc -- everything from "it's too grainy" to "it isn't wide screen." While this disc isn't eye-candy on the level of The Wizard Of Oz or Gone With The Wind, it is an excellent transfer of the movie, and a worthy upgrade to the DVD if you are a fan of the film.
First of all, remember a few things -- the film is over 80 years old, and the original negative is long gone. That being said, the restorers did a fine job. There are no scratches, specks or vertical lines to be seen anywhere -- they've all been removed. Contrast and gray scale are excellent with deep blacks. Some scenes (particularly all those scenes in the jungle) really show a remarkable amount of detail -- it's definitely hi-def! Casual viewers might stick with the DVD, but film buffs and Kong fans will find this blu-ray essential.
As far as the complaints are concerned, yes there is grain, but consider it a necessary evil: if they were to scrub it all away, the picture details would go with it. Plus it's not nearly so grainy as some would have you believe. A few scenes -- especially those in the fog on the ship -- are EXTREMELY grainy, but most of the film is far less so, especially considering that the original negative is lost. In any case it's not an issue -- it never interfered with my enjoyment of the film and I'm watching on a 50" plasma from about 10'. And for those don't know, this film wasn't made in wide screen -- the black bars on the side just mean that you're seeing the entire picture as it was filmed.
Over-all, this is an excellent -- and accurate! -- representation of the film, and certainly the best it has ever looked on home video. Remember: blu-ray isn't designed to make everything look like a new movie, it's designed to to give you the most perfect recreation possible of the look of the original film elements.
Hats off to Warner for a job well-done.
NOTE: To those that find the film "unwatchable", check your TV settings. Blu-ray should not have the sharpness turned up -- you're just adding video noise. Also, having your TV set to "vivid" or "sports" will make film look much more harsh and grainy. Having your set calibrated, or setting it to "cinema" will add to your enjoyment of the film.
From the Warner's press release
The King Kong: Two-Disc Special Edition (SRP $26.99) will include the 104-minute restored and remastered B&W film on video in its original full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras will include audio commentary (by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, with Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, Ruth Rose, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong), the 2005 I'm Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper documentary, a gallery of trailers for other films by director Merian C. Cooper, the new RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World documentary by Peter Jackson (featuring the following featurettes: The Origins of King Kong, Willis O'Brien and Creation, Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder, A Milestone in Visual Effects, Passion, Sound and Fury, The Mystery of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence and King Kong's Legacy) and Creation test footage (with commentary by Ray Harryhausen).
The King Kong: Two-Disc Collector's Edition (SRP $39.98) will include all of the above in limited tin packaging that also features a 20-page reproduction of the original 1933 souvenir program, King Kong original one-sheet reproduction postcards and a mail-in offer for a reproduction of a vintage theatrical poster.
The King Kong Four-Disc Collector's Set (SRP $39.92) will include the King Kong: Two-Disc Special Edition along with The Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. It will NOT include the extras in the Collector's Edition tin.
Fortunately, The Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young will also be available separately (as will The Last Days of Pompeii, also by Kong directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack) for an SRP of $19.97 each.
The Son of Kong will include the 70-minute restored B&W film on video in the original full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras will include the theatrical trailer.
Mighty Joe Young will include the 94-minute restored B&W film on video in its original full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras will include audio commentary (by Ray Harryhausen, Ken Ralston and Terry Moore), 2 new featurettes (Ray Harryhausen and The Chioda Brothers and Ray Harryhausen and Mighty Joe Young) and the film's theatrical trailer.
on April 21, 2005
I have always loved the 1933 King Kong for its life-like special effects created by Willis O'Brien. It would be very difficult to reproduce a period piece such as this, yet that's exactly what Peter Jackson is attempting to do. I hope he succeeds, I really do, but...
You just can't beat the original. And it's not just the FX (spectacular for its day), but the slow build up to Kong and Kong's appearance in NYC...all just fantasic.
Here is some important news below! Warner and HP are digitally restoring King Kong for a new theatrical release followed by a multiple DVD release. This couldn't be better news for Kong fans! Since I'm sure Warner wishes to cash in on Peter Jackson's new magnum opus, we'll probably be seeing the DVDs at Amazon within the near future.
Warner Bros. Studios and HP breathe new life into classic motion pictures
Warner Bros. Studios and HP also announced that they have teamed to restore the 1933 classic motion picture "King Kong." One of the American Film Institute's 100 most beloved films and named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, the original camera negative of "King Kong" has long been destroyed, leaving only elements and prints that have been deteriorating over the years.
Warner Bros. Studios has brought the best elements and prints from all over the world and has scanned them into a 4K digital file. Using HP's "dirt and scratch" technology, which was developed by HP Labs, the 72-year-old classic will be digitally restored to its 1933 brilliance. A new camera negative as well as new archival elements will be created so that the film will be saved for generations to come. This new, restored version of "King Kong," as it was originally released, will be screened theatrically and broadcast on television, as well as released on Warner Home Video.
As a young child in the nineteen fifties, I used to watch this film whenever it appeared on TV on "Million Dollar Movie". I loved it then. I love it now. Time has not diminished the capacity of this film to mesmerize and hold the viewer in its thrall.
The story line is basic. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker and entrepreneur, leads an expedition to Skull Island where he discovers its deep, dark secret. It is a land where time has stood still, and prehistoric monsters still hold sway over the island and its inhabitants. There, the natives pay homage to the one whom they revere as "Kong", and who is, indeed, king of the island.
Denham, together with his beautiful, budding starlet, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), as well as with the crew of the ship that brought him to Skull Island, investigates the strange ritual being performed on the island by its native population. Before she knows it, Ann finds herself captured by the natives. She is to become the bride of the mysterious "Kong".
When Ann discovers who the mysterious "Kong" is, she starts screaming and doesn't stop. The ship's first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), who happens to be in love with Ann, manages to rescue her from the clutches of "Kong". Notwithstanding the fact that "Kong" has taken a shine to her, Ann is relieved to have been rescued by the man whom she loves.
Denham then arranges to capture the creature, whom he calls "King Kong" and takes him back to New York with them on the ship that brought them to Skull Island. There, King Kong makes his debut, one that movie lovers will long remember.
The special effects of this film were superlative for its time and still pass muster today. The relationship between the beauty and the beast still makes the viewer sit up and take notice. This is an attention grabbing film that is as exciting today, as when it was first released over seventy years ago. It is a truly timeless, cinema classic. Bravo!
on August 28, 2005
Warner is without a doubt, the finest home video label in the industry. No doubt about it. Not even the commendable, but ultimately conventional Criterion label comes close.
So now, 8 years into DVD-dom, WB is finally giving us KING KONG. One of the greatest motion pictures ever made. One of the most popular. One of the most successful.
So why hasn't it been on DVD all this time?
Because Warner wanted to do it right.
Warner owns the RKO library (although the previous owner, General Tire (no I'm not kidding) sold of foreign rights for several years in various countries for various periods of time) and although the foreign labels that have rights to these films quickly released them, Warner didn't.
They knew the RKO library was in terrible shape, and with their near-perfect record of perfection on every release, they sought to find the best original film negatives and create the best extra material.
Many RKO films have finally started to be available from Warner over the last two or three years. In every instance, the Warner RKO DVDs have been heads-and-tails better than those released by the international companies who hold rights in their respective countries. I say this only because I've seen comparisons online between what WB has dome, and what was out previously overseas.
Looking at WB's track record, we can expect a magnificent Kong transfer, the 8th wonder of the world! But there is more, this "collector's tin" comes with something I have always dreamed of seeing, but never have. A reproduction of the lavish opening night souvenir program from the premiere at Grauman's Chinese back in 1933. I read about it and the cover was reproduced in Ronald Haver's great book about David O. Selznick.
Also, the tim comes with postcard sized renderings of original Kong posters, and best of all, you get a mail-in card that gets you a true theatrical-sized (27x41) reproduction of one of the original 1933 posters. Yes, these are reproductions, but considering the original Kong poster goes for I think 100K, an authorized, full-sized repro will look cool in my house.
I am also excited to see the special features I've heard about. Apparently, Peter Jackson (who has remade KONG for release at Xmas) is the original's biggest fan, and contributed to the special features. In addition, Kong's creator, Merian C. Cooper, is also given his own documentary here, and although he may not be a household name(by a longshot!), this guy not only created KING KONG, but also collaborated with John Ford on some of the greatest films ever made, and then went on to be the chief architect of Cinerama. The Cooper documentary has been made (so I've read online) by none other than Kevin Brownlow, who is, without question, the finest cinema documentarian of all time.
The wait is over. Now we just count the days. This tin is mine!
I'll also be buying the other related Cooper movies like LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, THE SON OF KONG, and the original MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (with a tounge in cheek, and a very beautiful Terry Moore).
So the ultimate question is, what will be the greatest DVD classic of 2005. This seemingly magnificent uber-KONG from Warner, or the new Ultra-Resoltion 3 Disc mega set on WIZARD OF OZ. Likely it will be a tie. Admittedly, I'm a huge fan of Warner. 3 years ago, there were very few Warner DVDs on my shelf, as they seemed to ignore their library. Since then, it's been Xmas almost every month. Those folks sure do a great job, and I'm sure their KING KONG, in that irresistable tin, will be worth the wait.
on September 9, 2005
People that did not grow up watching this on Sunday TV matinees may not appreciate this movie as much. Anyone born in the last twenty years probably thinks Star Wars, Blade Runner, or some other SciFi is the best of the Century. I myself must vote for King Kong. My reasons are simple. I have probably seen about every SciFi movie made in the last seventy plus years, and none were so well done for their time as King Kong. This movie influenced many people in the industry to strive for their best in the genre.
Ray Harryhausen who was the best stop motion animator was greatly influenced by Willis O'Brien's work in this movie. Ask directors like Peter Jackson, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg and they will tell you it had a profound impact on them. Everything seemed to come together in this 1933 movie. The acting although a little corny has a nice appeal. The music is a nice touch of glitz in the city and foreboding danger in the jungle. It's the adventure the movie takes us on that we love most. The sets were done masterfully and the big ape himself was remarkable. The creatures truly frightened people many years after it's original release in the theater.
This set includes many extras like a theater guide, poster, documentary, et cetera. I am very pleased with the care Warner took in the reproduction of King Kong. The picture and sound quality are excellent. I have complained for many years that this movie should have been put on DVD. I am glad to see it is finally released. The last remake of King Kong was not very successful, it will be interesting to see if the Peter Jackson remake becomes a classic.
When a boy in the 50's there were only 3 stations in N.Y. There was a show called 'The Movie of the Week' and they would play the same movie 4 or 5 times a day, every day, for the week. If it were King Kong, I watched it every single time that I was not in school or didn't have to be somewhere. King Kong caught everyone's imagination and I have seen it 100's of times, never being bored.
So how is the quality of this BluRay transfer. Remember that this movie was released in 1933 so the technology was no where near what it is today. My mother told me that her father took her to see the opening premier at Radio City Music Hall. It's an old film. However, with the discovery of an uncensored archive of the movie in the UK, the transfer quality to Blu Ray is about the best you can expect it to be. There are some scenes early in the movie and a few with much daylight in them that do have plenty of grain but, at least for this movie, the grain brings you back to those old times and you never really notice it. The jungle and stop motion scenes are beautiful to watch without artifacting and aliasing and without the film damage of dust and tears that we normally would come to expect. The blacks are deep and unmolested. In fact, in some areas they look a touch crushed. Never the less, this is the best quality version of King Kong I have ever seen. All censored scenes have been restored to the film as well.
The audio is mono but the score fills the room and is clear and easy to understand so no complaints here that we do not have a 5.1 channel mix. Heck, back in 33 the word stereo had not been invented yet.
This brings me to my only complaint about the DVD itself. I found that switching to sections of the menu was quite difficult. When I first put it in the player the movie started with the subtitles running. I went back to the menu but could not direct the highlighter to 'none' and had to pop the disc out and put it back in again to go to the default. This occurred a few times. Same thing with the special extras, I found it very difficult to actually use the remote arrows to go to a specific extra. I found that the easiest thing to do was just hit enter, and the extras played in order.
The documentaries of the film makers and their inspirations were very interesting and informative and Peter Jackson's recreation( and how he went about it) of the lost spider sequence was just brilliant and, for me, well received. He did the original film proud.
For anyone even remotely considering the purchase of this Blu Ray DVD, go ahead, as a King Kong fan, you will be glad you did.
All my movie reviews are of this nature and focus only on the quality of the transfer to BluRay so check them and see if they are of help as well.
Hopefully, this review has been of some help to you in determining your purchase, hope I am on the correct path with a review of the transfer quality as opposed to providing plot summaries.
on November 9, 2005
So much has been written about this classic, but one aspect that is never touched upon, as far as I am aware, is the contribution by the actors who played the sailors, the natives, and the New Yorkers fleeing in the wake of the escaped Kong. Whole scenes from motion pictures were further improved by how well extras did in crowd scenes especially those involving intense emotion. Frank Capra knew the importance of extras. It has been noted that he would assign to them mini character biographies as a way to help the extras get into a particular scene. In "King Kong", the sailors seem to be right off of a real freighter, though many of them (Dick Curtis, Charlie Sullivan, Ethan Laidlaw, etc.) were actors who appeared in everything from W.B. gangster films to Three Stooges 2-reelers to Saturday matinee westerns. Their general demeanor, as well as their terror when they are set upon by dinosaurs, brings an extra depth to the proceedings. The frenzy of the island natives, preparing Ann for the sacrifical altar, pushes the excitement to a fever pitch. Be aware of the fantastic job of horror exhibited by the extras in the 3rd Avenue el sequence. The contribution by the extras in "King Kong" profoundly contributes to the quality status of this movie. The little things count as much as the big things in making a movie. Great film makers know this fact.
Stop-motion animation was invented long before movies learned to talk. In the mid-1920s Willis O'Brien became the first great master of the form, and in 1925 THE LOST WORLD became the first feature-length film to display it. The film was a sensation, but the stop-motion process was laborious and extremely expensive. The early 1930s found O'Brien at RKO, where he worked on a stop-motion film tentatively titled CREATION. As the Great Depression deepened, however, studio executives became increasingly wary of the cost involved and ultimately canceled the project.
This would have likely been the end of O'Brien's career--but for a quirk of fate. Production partners Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, famous for such exotic films as GRASS, CHANG, and THE FOUR FEATHERS, had arrived at the studio, and Cooper had a fantasy project: a movie about a gorillas. When Cooper saw O'Brien's footage for the scuttled CREATION, he had a brainstorm that would become one of the most celebrated films of the decade: KING KONG.
Much of KING KONG's fascination arises from O'Brien's stop-motion animation process. At the time, it was the only way in which a film such as KING KONG could be realized, and the frame-by-frame animation process is "hand made" in a classic sense; adding to this fascination are the models themselves, beautifully rendered, and the miniature sets they inhabited. But KING KONG would go quiet a bit further than stop-motion; it was made with considerable technical creativity, a film of rising technology that utilized everything from rear-projection to in-camera processes to laboratory techniques. It captures a sort of critical mass in state of the art of its era.
1933 audiences reacted to the film with amazement--and much may be said for contemporary audiences, albeit for considerably different reasons. Where 1933 audiences found the film frightening real, modern viewers are stunned by the meticulous detail of its pre-digital accomplishment. But if KING KONG were only a window on past cinematic technology, it would not be as widely embraced today as it is.
The film has considerable merit in its directness, its pace, its score, its cast, its script, and the way in which the overall setting for O'Brien's stop-motion animation operates. It has tremendous charm, a strangely innocent quality, and it deals in archetypes that boil in our culture as powerfully today as they did more than seventy years ago. But most particularly, O'Brien and his artists and technicians succeed in endowing Kong with personality, and even today we relate to Kong in an emotional way.
The recent double disk "collector's tin" package as a great deal going for it. KING KONG is one of the most frequently censored films in Hollywood history, with bits removed in virtually every re-release. With the exception of the "Spider Pit" sequence, which is likely forever lost, these cuts have been restored, and the quality of the restored cuts is as fine as the quality of the picture as a whole, something not always the case in previous video tape releases. As for the visual quality of the release, it is quite fine indeed, easily the best I have seen. Some complain that the sound has not been bumped into stereo, but I have no complaints on this point; KING KONG was filmed before the advent of stereo recording, and we hear it here very much as audiences heard it in 1933.
The "collectors tin" is quite nice and the various paper items are enjoyable, but the bonus DVD material is of mixed quality. Two documentaries are available, and both "I'm King Kong!: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper" and "RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World" are quite good. I found the latter particularly interesting inasmuch as it demonstrates how difficult modern film makers found it to reproduce the stop-motion animation process used in the 1933 film. Peter Jackson, director of the 2005 remake, also spearheads a recreation of the lost "Spider Pit" sequence to extremely interesting effect, and stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen offers commentary on the surviving and very interesting snip of the aborted CREATION.
Unfortunately, the audio commentary is chiefly remarkable for being utterly dismal. Archival comments by Merian C. Cooper are interesting, but Ken Ralston clearly has only very superficial knowledge of the film and effectively leads Ray Harryhausen away from making any interesting remarks of his own. As for archival comments by Fay Wray, you'll have to pay very close attention to catch them; they are so short and so insignificant that it seems likely the producers of this package included them only in order to put her name in the commentary line-up.
This seems a tremendous pity, for Wray gave numerous interviews over the years concerning KING KONG; it is an opportunity missed. But most shocking of all, once again Willis O'Brien gets the short end of the stick. He figures prominently in the two documentaries, but he is never given the same level of interest as Cooper. It is an opportunity lost. But even with such drawbacks to the overall package, KING KONG remains KING KONG. One can only hope there will be a more comprehensive package in the future. Until then, we will have to make do--and with such a beautiful print of the film itself, "making do" is a pleasure.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on August 31, 2005
I agree 100% with "Ohio Guy" Eric's comments (please read them). The only other company out there doing DVDs right is Criterion. I knew when Warners was to release "King Kong" it was going to be done right. This release seems to be the definitive "Kong." I am quite happy it is coming out November 22nd as I will be able to have a "Kong" marathon Thanksgiving Day just as I remember my local TV station doing when I was a kid. Would you like a little ape with your turkey?