Blu-Ray Review: Timeless ‘King Kong’ Given Gorgeous HD Treatment

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CHICAGO – Is there any better metaphor in the history of film for technology taking over nature than the planes that shoot down King Kong at the end of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 classic? At the height of the depression, when 25% of the workforce was unemployed, the two adventure-seekers and his team took that metaphor and spun it around an amazingly slice of entertainment that would become one of the most influential and enjoyable films ever made, now available on Blu-ray. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

When Peter Jackson remade “King Kong” in 2005, Warner Brothers released a beautiful special edition DVD with physical collectibles, an amazing transfer, newly-discovered footage, and incredible behind-the-scenes detailes captured in a theatrical-length documentary. It was a must-own at the time and it’s somewhat shameful that the company has taken this long to import it to Blu-ray. And that’s essentially what this is: A straight-up import. In other words, if you own the DVD and don’t mind the upconvert over the true HD then you probably don’t need to upgrade. However, if you have yet to add “King Kong” to your collection, what the heck are you waiting for?

King Kong was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 28th, 2010
King Kong was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 28th, 2010
Photo credit: Warner Bros

It’s simply impossible to overstate the importance and influence of “King Kong.” It paved the way for escapism, showing audiences something not only that they had never seen before but that they had never even imagined. With the modern technology we’re so used to today, it’s difficult to comprehend what “King Kong” must have looked like in 1933. Take that experience you had watching “Avatar” and multiply it ten-fold. “King Kong” lived up to its subtitle — “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

As the HD transfer is the only new feature on the Blu-ray release of “King Kong,” we should probably start there. Luckily, the film has not been too overly-polished as is often the case with classic films on Blu-ray. There’s an appropriate amount of grain visible in the picture, meaning that the film doesn’t have that plastic look that it could have with too much remastering. Having said that, the contrast levels are not spectacular (it looks a bit too bright at times), but it’s only occasionally noticeable. For a film that’s three-quarters of a century old, “King Kong” still looks spectacular.

King Kong was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 28th, 2010
King Kong was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 28th, 2010
Photo credit: Warner Bros

The DVD version of “King Kong” came in a collector’s ten with a 20-page original souvenir program, embossed cover, and postcards. Sadly, all of those collectibles have been jettisoned for the “book format” that Warner Brothers seems to love so much in the era of Blu-ray. So, the case for “King Kong” includes some fantastic photography and trivia but doesn’t quite have that “pop” as the 2005 DVD.

The special features, however, are still spectacular. The stand-out remains an extensive documentary entitles “RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World” but the commentary track with Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston also shines, as does the previously-lost footage of the spider pit and the original test footage from “Creation,” the ancestor of “King Kong” with another commentary track by Harryhausen.

A classic film fan who doesn’t own “King Kong” is a poser. However, if you own the 2005 DVD, we’ll let it slide if you don’t want to upgrade. Everyone else, stop making excuses.

“Captured on blu-ray at last comes ‘the greatest of all horror films’ with ‘masterly special effects’ (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic). Memorable moments abound: a moviemaking expedition on a fantastic isle filled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures; the giant simian’s lovestruck obsession with the film shoot’s blonde starlet (scream queen Fay Wray); Kong’s capture; his Manhattan rampage; and the fateful finale atop the Empire State Building, where Kong cradles his palm-sized beloved and swats at machine-gunning airplanes. ‘It was beauty killed the beast.’ But in these and other great scenes, King Kong lives forever.”

Special Features:
o Commentary by Visual Effects Veterans Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, with Interpolated Interview Excerpts of Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray
o I’m King Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper Profiles the Original King Kong’s Guiding Hand
o 7-Part Documentary RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World
o Original Creation Test Footage with Ray Harryhausen Commentary
o The Lost Spider Pit Sequence
o Theatrical Trailer

“King Kong” stars Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot. It was written by Ruth Rose and James Creelman and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. It was released on September 28th, 2010 and is not rated. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

enica24's picture

Love that movie

Amazing! I really love that movie. It’ very touching.

Anonymous's picture

satellite tv for pc

I really like that part in the movie when King Kong hold the girl in his hands and they played on the snow. It’s so cute. It portrays great love and friendship.

Rob's picture

I have hundreds and hundreds

I have hundreds and hundreds of dvd’s! Even more vhs movies! Working on blu-ray also! Never really got into king kong! Watched it on tv a few times! Give me Godzilla any day! The original was way better than king kong! I take offense to being called a poser! King King is boring! They build him up so much then he falls of the empire state building!

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