Yesterday’s lament about the reported refusal of Warner Home Video technicians to do anything about diminishing excessive grain in the new Bluray of Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien‘s King Kong reminded me of an observation I shared about five years ago, about how deliciously unreal the old Kong looked due to his white eyeballs.
“Cooper’s Kong didn’t look like any gorilla, chimp or orangutan that had ever walked the earth. He was something between a prehistoric hybrid and an imaginary monster of the id…a raging nightmare beast designed to scare the bejeesus out of 1933 moviegoers.
“O’Brien, the legendary stop-motion photography pioneer, used three slightly different-looking Kong models during filming, but for me the master stroke was deciding to give his Kong a set of gleaming white teeth and a pair of very bright white eyes.
“In some of the darker shots of Kong in the 1933 film those teeth and those eyes just pop right out, and the effect is still primal as hell. Those white eyes and black pupils look so fierce and almost demonic…contrasting as they do with that black bear fur that Kong was covered in…that they almost give you the willies, even now.
“There’s no such aura with Peter Jackson‘s National Geographic Kong [in his ’05 remake]. The realism element is awesome but the guy doesn’t look all that spooky. Not even a little bit. Ferocious and all, but he makes me think of Michael Apted and Sigourney Weaver.
“There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It is what it is, and Jackson is going for his own thing. But in trying for anthropological realism Jackson has thrown out that creepy, better-than-reality, only-in-the-movies element that gives the 1933 film a little-boy’s-nightmare quality.”