The most famous monster movie of them all, King Kong premiered in New York in March 1933, the film starred Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot. Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, and written by Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman from a story by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. 100mins (104mins)
King Kong's special effects supervisor Willis O'Brien was previously noted for his groundbreaking stop motion work on the 1925 film The Lost World, animating many varieties of dinosaurs for the film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel. King Kong would be a huge influence on stop motion effects legend Ray Harryhausen, he would work with O'Brien on his first film, Mighty Joe Young (1949).
In the 1930's Fay Wray was Hollywood’s “scream queen”, she recorded all her screams for Kong in one afternoon session during post production. When Fay died in 2004 aged 96, the lights of the Empire State Building were dimmed for 15 minutes in honor of her memory.
A huge bust of Kong's head and shoulders was made of wood, cloth, rubber and bearskin, it was operated by three men who controlled the mouth and facial expressions. This was needed for close-ups of Kong grinning or biting people.
Principal photography on King Kong wrapped in October 1932. In December 1932 to January 1933, the actors were called back to film the process shots which were mostly rear-screen projections. Many of the scenes featuring Fay in Kongs giant hand were filmed at this time. Kong's roars and grunts were created by mixing and distorting the recorded roars of zoo lions.
King Kong was re-released for the first time in 1938 and several scenes were censored due to stricter censorship laws, removed were scenes showing Kong tearing off Fays clothing and sniffing his fingers. Kong biting and stomping on people were also cut. King Kong was successfully re-released in 1942, 1946, 1952, and 1956. Most of the cut scenes have been added back in for it's DVD and Blu-ray release.
King Kong was a resounding success and a sequel was quickly put into production, Son of Kong was released later that same year, Robert Armstrong reprised his role as Carl Denham and the film was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack. With a smaller budget and a comedic tone, the film was only a modest success. Also starring Helen Mack and Frank Reicher. 70mins.
Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama co-star in the movie, they played Sean Connery's leading ladies in You Only Live Twice (1967).
After the success of King Kong Vs Godzilla, a sequel - King Kong Escapes, was released in 1967. Godzilla was absent this time and Kong was up against Mecha-Kong, controlled by master villain Dr. Who (no relation to the BBC Timelord). Directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Rhodes Reason and Mie Hama. 104mins.
King Kong was remade by producer Dino De Laurentiis in 1976, a big budget film directed by John Guillermin and utilizing a man in an expensive gorilla suit (Rick Baker). The film starred Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin. King Kong was one of the biggest hits of 1976 and won an Oscar for it's visual effects. Music by John Barry. 134mins.
Kong is given a heart transplant and revived following his death at the climax of King Kong (1976) only to be killed off again at the end of the pointless sequel, King Kong Lives (1986), directed by John Guillermin and starring Brian Kerwin and Linda Hamilton. 105mins.
King Kong (2005) Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody and Andy Serkis.187mins (201mins). Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was a huge fan of the original 1933 movie and his version of King Kong was produced on a mega budget with state of the art visual effects, Kong was created using photo-real CG and Andy Serkis in a motion-capture suit. The film was over 3 hours long and won 3 Oscars - Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. King Kong cost $207m and has grossed $550m worldwide.