5 Stars

King Kong Blu-ray Review


There was a time, not too long ago, when people wanted to pay top dollar to see a special effects film.  It, too, was at the height of a serious economic depression.  The year was 1933.  The film that the rich and the poor alike paid to see was the latest production from the creative minds behind The Lost World.  It was King Kong and there was no stopping its dominance and influence upon the young and the old.  Immediately hooking its audience with the symphonic strings of Max Steiner’s famous mood-enhancing overture, King Kong, produced and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, delivered on its promise of being the technical future of movies and, now, it finally makes its stunning Hi-def debut courtesy of Warner Brothers.

Based on idea by Edgar Wallace and Cooper, King Kong is more about spectacle at the darkest period of The Great Depression than anything else.  It is pure escapism for a population that had ceased to believe in anything beyond the next paycheck.  They were broken and this picture gave them hope.  Quite simply, it healed the national psyche and provided them with something to believe in; something to revel in.  Starring the absolutely lovely Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot, King Kong is the story of an ape out of his element.  It could be argued that his character is the only developed character as the rest of the roles are stereotypes at best.  The dialogue is corny and slightly stale, but that might be part of the charm of the picture.

"Six decades later, King Kong has proven to be a timeless masterpiece.  It’s a reminder – more so than any other film Hollywood has produced in the last six decades – of what film and its filmmakers can achieve."

Essentially, King Kong is a retelling and retooling of the classic Beauty and the Beast storyline with a few modernizations, but you already know that.  You know its well-meaning heart concerning a world gone mad over a king-sized ape, once monstrous and mighty on Skull Island and, when captured and brought to America, confused and fierce and aims only to protect the damsel in distress.  It’s Kong and it lives!

There’s a certain amount of childlike awe and giddiness that washes over me whenever I see this film.  Perhaps it’s because of the amount of sheer joy and brashness that Cooper and Schoedsack infused into their project.  They were courageous souls and nearly every frame of this masterpiece attests to that fact.  While the plot is reasonably straightforward, the gem within this production is its special effects.  Kong, as designed by stop-motion guru Willis O'Brien (mentor to the one and only Ray Harryhausen), is a true delight; bursting through the screen with an energy that defies to be dated by its year of birth.  This is pure movie-making magic, painstakingly created by hand…not the gloss and sheen of computers.

There is an unpretentious poetic movement to the story arch of King Kong.  In the final moments of the film, an unexpected stillness in the action causes one to pause.  It’s brief, but it’s enough to suggest real intelligence and real heart in the actions of Kong.  In those few moments, the tragedy of Kong’s encounter with man is revealed as a rivalry between progress and the past, uncovering the story’s true allegory.  Not about the plight of black slavery, but more about the time of his “birth”: The Great Depression.  Bleak times, indeed.  For Anne Darrow.  For Carl Denholm.  For Kong.  For everyone.  Six decades later, King Kong has proven to be a timeless masterpiece.  It’s a reminder – more so than any other film Hollywood has produced in the last six decades – of what film and its filmmakers can achieve.

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars
5 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 21, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono
50GB Blu-ray Disc Single disc (1 BD); DigiBook

This is the Hi-Def transfer of the 2005 DVD release and, let me tell you, NOTHING COMPARES to its detailed brilliance.  Yes, folks, there is a difference between the two.  The film still looks old, but the detail reveals a sharper contrast than 2005.  The picture has a pure balance, too.  More stable, if that’s even possible to improve in a transfer.



  • Ray Harryhausen and effects supervisor Ken Ralston, with archival input from producer Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray, provide the film’s only commentary.  Again, this was recorded for the DVD release, but it is intriguing and entertaining and worthy of a listen to more than once.

The Blu-ray comes packaged like a book, complete with a flashy 32-page essay written by Rudy Behlmer.  This is truly a wonderful read full of some great and seldom reported history behing the movie.


  • The multi-part “Making-Of” documentary RKO Production 601 is once again included with this release.  This is a fascinating feature that includes interviews with producers, directors, and visionaries all influence by the movie.  It also details the lengths the crew went to with this production.
  • There is also a fascinating 60 minute documentary on Cooper entitled I'm King Kong! because – let’s face it – he really was a King among men.
  • The Blu-ray also showcases the aborted Creation movie narrated by Ray Harryhausen.  It’s simply an animated reel, but it is intriguingly nonetheless.
  • There is also a stand-alone recreation of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence, helmed by Peter Jackson.

Trailers: The original trailer is also included.