King Kong starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot. Son of Kong starring Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, and Frank Reicher. Mighty Joe Young starring Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, and Robert Armstrong.
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (The original King Kong co-directed by Merian C. Cooper)
Released by Warner Home Video
There are few pleasures on Earth quite like watching a timeless classic of a film, or in this case three timeless classics in one monster filled lovingly restored box set. For the first time ever the original King Kong, Son of Kong, and the original Mighty Joe Young have finally come home; and Warner Home Video is not monkeying around when it comes to their treatment and respect of these films.
Kong for all his ferocity is one of the most beloved figures in cinema history. Originally released in 1933, King Kong grabbed moviegoers by storm as it showcased for its time some of the most amazing effects in movie history. There’s no denying the magic and wonder one feels the very first time that Old Brown Eyes makes his first onscreen appearance. Whether you’re an adult or a child, you will find yourself staring wide-eyed at the screen as Kong battles dinosaurs, eats up the locals, and of course climbs the tallest building in the world to knock around a few planes.
There’s a reason that this film is the success that it is. It wasn’t just the directorial talent of Schoedsack or the writing skill of Merian C. Cooper that elevated Kong to its legendary film status. I attribute that feat mostly to the genius of the special effects. Willis O’Brien’s stop motion effects gave birth to dreams that have since launched the careers of F/X legends such as Ray Harryhausen. Kong, though animated, displayed an unequaled range of emotion. You can feel his rage and his tenderness. He was a leading man that stole our hearts, and he still grips them in his large furry paw to this day. I could go on forever singing the praises of this film and the rest in the series, but we’re here to talk about the DVD, so let’s get to it!
I knew when Peter Jackson’s remake of Kong got underway, one of the first things that would happen would be the stellar DVD release of the original films that fans have been screaming for. This set does not disappoint in the slightest. King Kong comes as a two-disc set and is brimming with special features, but before we get to them, let me say this: These films have never looked or sounded better. They have been painstakingly restored, and it truly shows. My hat is off to the responsible parties. No matter how many times you have seen either of these films, if you’re a fan, you owe it to yourself to see them like this. Now then, back to Kong‘s extras. There’s a boat load. One of the showcases is a truly heartfelt commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston with Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray. To hear these legends speak is nothing short of captivating. Along with that you’ll find a seven-part making of Kong that includes an exploration of the now infamous missing spider pit sequence and even some really early test footage with a commentary by Harryhausen. There is no stone that is left unturned in this walk through Kong‘s legacy, and the time and attention that are paid to every detail make this two-disc release an absolute must have.
Of course being that Kong was so successful, another expedition to find that success would be launched just a mere few months later. Son of Kong was released to audiences, and the reaction was pretty lukewarm. It seems that maybe the studio execs felt a bit bad about Kong’s death so this lighthearted romp ended up feeling more like a there there pat on the back than it did a true sequel. Still, it’s worth seeing for the F/X alone as more dinos and of course baby Kong duke it out on the regular. This disc comes sans extras except for the films trailer, but just having this movie as a companion piece to the original seems like an extra in and of itself.
It wasn’t until 1949 that audiences had some more great monkey mayhem to sink our teeth into. Mighty Joe Young captures the magic of Kong and serves as another landmark in filmmaking. In addition to being a great big screen adventure, Mighty Joe Young marks the film debut of then first technician of special effects Ray Harryhausen working alongside his hero, friend, and mentor Willis O’Brien. Though O’Brien received top billing for the film, it was Harryhausen that created around ninety percent of the film’s stop motion effects. Mighty Joe Young also gets the loving treatment of some great DVD extras in the vein of a Harryhausen commentary and a couple of in-depth featurettes.
I don’t think I have ever been more thrilled with a box set. All the classic giant monster mayhem that fueled my youth is here in stunning detail. The best part? Even if you don’t want to shell out the cash for the box set, each of these discs are available as separate purchases! Pick and choose whichever of these treasures that you want. The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of giant monster films, these are the granddaddys of them all. Kong is still very much King.
Commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, with Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray
I’m King Kong!: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper — 2005 documentary
Merian C. Cooper Movies Trailer Gallery
RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World – 7 Part Documentary including…
— The Origins of “King Kong“
— Willis O’Brien and “Creation“
— Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder
— A Milestone in Visual Effects
— Passion, Sound and Fury
— The Mystery of the Lost “Spider Pit” Sequence
— King Kongs Legacy
Creation Test Footage with Commentary by Ray Harryhausen
Son of Kong
Mighty Joe Young
Commentary by Terry Moore and visual effects veterans Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, with interpolated interviews excepts of Merian C. Cooper
A conversation with Ray Harryhausen and the Chiodo Brothers
“Ray Harryhausen and Mighty Joe Young” featurette
Discuss in our forums!