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King Kong (1933)

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NOTE: This commentary is only available on the November 2005 "Special Edition" DVDs. A different commentary track (the first commentary track ever released) was available on the Criterion Collection King Kong laserdisc.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston with interview excerpts with Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray Rating:7.5/10 (10 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by mikl on January 31st, 2006:Find all reviews by mikl
Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston dominates this commentary. It's great to hear old Harryhausen speak, but they don't come up with that much information that you can't find in the documentaries. There's a lot of "this is a great scene" and talking about the impact of the movie etc. which is of course ok, but it's pretty much covered in the docs.

There are a few excerpts from an interview with Merian C. Cooper which is kind of cool. He talks about how they did some of the scenes and tells fun tales from making the movie. It's very fun to listen to, but the clips are few and far between.

Fay Wray says very little, I think that she says two sentences during the whole movie and they are like "We were very good friends" and "this is a remarkable movie". To bad, and I guess it's only included because they had the clips lying around and had some space to fill.

The track is recommendable mostly if you are a Harryhausen or King Kong nut.
Reviewed by Magneat-o on January 31st, 2015:Find all reviews by Magneat-o
This is one of the first commentaries I ever heard. It got me wanting to hear more. It's still one of my favorites.

I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of these two men and their memories of events from so long ago. Ray is razor sharp mentally even though he's in his mid to late 80's. He acts as the stand-in for Willis O'Brien as he had some of the insider information being a personal friend of and being mentored by O'Brien, as well as his general working knowledge of the effects used.

Very good commentary for people that love the film or are interested in special effects.
Reviewed by Therealmrspock on September 25th, 2016:Find all reviews by Therealmrspock
I wish I could say that Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston made a great commentary, but they fall just short of that mark. As someone already pointed out, they mention "this is a great scene" too much, instead of giving an in-depth analysis. I liked how they inserted a few clips from the director, since it was a great chance to hear him comment in person (he mentions how the scene where Kong takes Wray's dress off and smells it was controversial by the producers, but when he screened it during preview audiences, he was relieved that they didn't find it offensive it all - in fact, they had a good laugh!). Harryhausen and Ralston exhaust themselves in the last 25 minutes, when they have nothing more to say, sadly, except for commenting what is going on in a certain scene. Still, it was great to hear from Harryhausen how it was like to watch the film in cinemas when he was 13, and what a great impression it left on him. The fight with the T Rex was interesting, too. 7/10
Reviewed by TylerMirage on January 1st, 2017:Find all reviews by TylerMirage
Rary is joined by Ken Ralston (who worked on the original "Star Wars" trilogy, as well as supervised the VFX in films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", "Forrest Gump" and Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland) and they splice in excerpts of audio interviews with Director/Writer/Producer Merian C. Cooper and Actress Fay Wray.

Ray comes off as a lot more enthusiastic, youthful and knowledgeable in this track than he does for his own movies (like "It Came From Beneath the Sea", "7th Voyage", etc.), which is nice to hear. He has a habit of repeating himself a bit, and both he and Ken unfortunately devolve into a lot of "This is great", "That's great", but they do their best to at least describe why they feel that way. You can tell that it's more of a chummy conversation with two friends rather than an in-depth, critical look at the movie. And while it's nice to hear VFXerpts talk about the movie, they don't offer much that can't be inferred or read about in making-of books or documentaries.

I believe there's only two clips of Fay, and they're both very brief. There is, however, a surprising amount of Merian that they include. Probably 5-10 instances of clips with him that are relatively substantial. They're humourous anecdotes about the film and he explains his process a lot. And what's nice is that they're edited into the track in an appropriate manner. What I mean by that is if Ray/Ken are discussing a particular topic (like, say, the Kong stop-motion model or the extras or the sets), the clip of Merian is also about that topic.

It's also interesting to read between the lines of the conversations between Ray and Ken. You can really feel the "hero and fanboy" aspect of their relationship, as Ken is very hesistant to offer anything but blind praise for the film (not that there's a whole lot to diss) and even agreeing with the more Luddite-esque attitude of Ray where "things were better back in the good ol' days", criticizing modern filmmaking in a very subtle way (Gee, Ken, it's not like you're also involved in modern filmmaking). But hey, I'd probably do the same thing too if I was in a room with a legend like Ray.

One comment in particular was Ken seemingly dismissing many modern day directors (without giving any names) with a comment like this: "These days you have action films from directors who do MTV, who have no sense of life. But then you have a film like King Kong that was done by guys who had adventures, done in a time when taking those adventures was hard, and you can read that authenticity in this film". It's such an odd statement that I had to take note of it. He's referring to the fact that filmmakers like Merian C. Cooper and Schoedsack were explorers and actually went to places like Africa to film and lug around all of this equipment, so a character like Carl Denham was basically a real-life representation of them, while I guess criticizing modern day directors for not doing that? I dunno'. Like I said, it's such a weird criticism. Like, sorry, Ken, that someone born in 1975 hasn't had the same lifestyle as someone born in 1890 and hasn't gone on African safaris to film and then hunt lions. O.o

As others have said, this is a good track if you're an FX fan, King Kong fan, Ray Harryhausen fan or even just a movie buff in general.