Review - King Kong Collector's Edition (1933) (DVD-2005)
The Crew
Featured Audio
Past Guests
The Wider Angle
FIlm Festival Coverage
Banners & Graphics
Fact Sheet
Contact Us

Listen to the MP3  (5:10) 3.6 mb


King Kong Collector’s Edition (1933) (DVD-2005)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski


King Kong is one of the most popular and influential films of the past 73 years and it finally makes it debut on DVD in a two-disc special edition from Warner Home Video. 


The story of the legendary gigantic ape living amid dinosaurs on mysterious, uncharted Skull Island, who becomes obsessed with a beautiful blond woman played by Fay Wray, before being captured and brought to New York City where he escapes and creates havoc before a final heroic stand atop the Empire State Building is one of the iconic and defining moments of American cinema.


Kong is the brainchild of director Merian C. Cooper, a fearless adventurer and documentary filmmaker, and his partner Ernest Schoedsack who served as co-director of the film.  They utilized the brilliant stop-motion animation of special-effects wizard Willis O’Brien, whose effects for King Kong were groundbreaking, masterly and spectacular.  The film’s music score came from the father of film music, Max Steiner, who, along with sound designer Murray Spivak, contributed greatly to the experience of a powerful and unforgettable film.


Indeed, Steiner’s music constituted the first great score written for sound motion pictures.  Most films of the time used music only for the opening and end titles.  Steiner’s brilliant and influential score permeates the film and is one of his few modernistic compositions.  Murray Spivak’s stunning sound design is still the template for sound on film to this day.  In addition, Spivak adjusted the pitch of the sound and sound effects in order to have the sounds harmonize with Steiner’s music. 


Two of the characters in the film, Carl Denham, who captures Kong, and ship’s first mate Driscoll, are actually modeled on the film’s directors.  In fact, the film’s makers, Cooper and Schoedsack, actually have cameos in the film as two of the pilots in the planes that attack Kong on top of the Empire State Building.


The film’s transfer to DVD comes from a newly discovered nitrate film element.  It is pristine and superb—sound and picture have never been better.


King Kong is available in a number of sets—the special edition DVD, a collectors edition which includes poster art and the original theatre souvenir program, and in an expanded set which includes discs of the sequel, Son of Kong, and a later film, Mighty Joe Young.  Pick and choose as you will.  All the sets are terrific and they all contain the bonus extra footage.


The extras include a phenomenal two and a half hour documentary on the making of the film featuring director Peter Jackson, whose own Kong film is about to open, and who is one of the original film’s biggest fans.  Jackson’s New Zealand special-effects crew even recreates for this DVD a lost special effects scene from the original film: the spider pit sequence.  Jackson’s team uses only the stop-motion animation techniques available in 1933 for the sequence instead of modern day CGI.  The result is fascinating and welcome, but, as good as the attempt is, the original film’s effects are superior in their grandeur.


The documentary also examines in detail an earlier planned Willis O’Brien effects film that was never completed called Creation.  Although it was never finished, its concepts were featured extensively in both King Kong and Son of Kong. 


A further bonus is a documentary focusing on Kong’s creator, Merian C. Cooper, directed by renowned documentarian Kevin Brownlow.  It reveals fascinating information on Cooper who helmed not only Kong, but who helped develop three-strip Technicolor and later, Cinerama.  He also got David O Selznick to film Gone With the Wind in color instead of black and white and he worked with the great director John Ford on several films, including The Searchers.  Cooper’s life, as a soldier, adventurer and filmmaker is so dramatic that you will be blown away.  Another bonus is the informative film- commentary track by special effects wizards Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston with select comments by both Merian Cooper and Fay Wray. 


For sheer energy, pacing, images, narrative, storytelling economy, imagination, audacity, sound, music, effects, and excitement, King Kong remains unsurpassed.  Warner Home Video’s special edition DVD will win many fans’ votes for DVD of the year.  It is a wonderful way to experience the original 1933 film classic, King Kong.  


2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams



All content including Celluloid Dreams name, logo and tagline© 1996-2018 CELLULOID DREAMS/ Tim Sika, Larry Jakubecz 

Web site design by JAK