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King Kong 1933 Film Review

This review will cover Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s well known science fiction film
King Kong (1933), looking specifically at censorship and how it affected the film. This review will also
go over how film censorship has changed over the years. It will include how censorship came about
and the rules around it, and how society has affected censorship due to what they thought was
acceptable at the time. Key sources are Chris Kaltenbach’s article, ‘How Hollywood went from naughty
to nice Censorship’ which talks about how the Hollywood Production Code came about, and Michael
Brooke’s article ‘Hayes code’ which talks about what the Hayes code is. This review will argue on how
censorship has an impact on the film and will be looking at how the Peter Jackson remake differs from
the original.

Fig 1; King Kong (1933) [Poster]


King Kong (1933) is an American monster adventure film which tells the story of a film-maker who
hires actress Ann Darrow to be the leading woman in his film. They set out to skull island where they
meet a huge, ape-like creature called Kong, who takes Ann after she is sacrificed to him by the natives
on the island. He later perishes after being taken to New York and trying to possess Ann after breaking
free.

The first attempted to introducing film censorship in the US was in March 1930 through the Motion
Picture Production Code or as it was also known as the Hayes Code after its creator, Will H. Hay’s. The
Hayes code was a set of rules that enforced censorship on the American cinema in response to the
increase of public complaints about the lewd content of movies and the scandalous behavior of
Hollywood movie stars, for example Roscoe Arbuckle, where in September 5, 1921, he attended a
party where Virginia Rappe said he hurt her and later died. In 1930 Will Hays produced a list of rules
and guidelines called "The Don'ts and Be Carefuls" which the Hays Code was based on. The code
sought to introduce the world of cinema to censorship, giving films guidelines as to what they could
create that was considered to be moral. The code was based on the concept “If motion pictures
present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the
improvement of mankind’ (The Motion Production Code 1930 J. Spring 2003).

In saying this, it clearly implied that films, such as King Kong (1933) were signally failing to achieve
these lofty aims and as a result, specific scenes were removed due to what was deemed inappropriate.

One such scene in King Kong (1933) that got removed was a scene with Ann and Kong. In the scene, it
depicts Kong curiously peeling off Ann clothes while she is unconscious. Due to scenes like these ones,
it raised debate amongst some audiences about the sexual relationship between Kong and Ann. This
bought the Film’s mortality into question and that the relationship between the two characters was
immortally wrong, leading them to bring cut until 1972 where an uncut version was found and was
bought back.

Fig 2; King Kong (1933) Kong peeling Ann clothes [Still]

In the 2005 remake of the film, most scenes that were cut in the original were added back into the
film except the scenes which hinted a relationship between Kong and Ann. This was due to Jackson
hating the idea of the relationship between the two characters that was sexual. In King Kong the 2005
remake Jackson said, “We didn't want to emphasize the sexual element of the story," (P. Jackson 2005)
and "The love and connection needed to real and pure and paternal." (P. Jackson 2005) supporting
this. These is shown greatly through how different the Two female Leads are to each other. Ann in the
original was shown as submissive, weak and objectified, having no control over her situation while in
the 2005 remake, Ann was not equal to Kong yet still maintain some control over the situation. For
example, instead of having Kong peeling off her clothes like in the original, Jackson has Ann entertains
by performing to Kong, leaving her with a sense of control over her situation. This also changes the
audiences outlook on their relationship as Jackson makes Kong show more emotions than in the
original making him seem more humanized, allowing the audience to be more compassionate to him.

Fig 3; King Kong (2005) Ann entertaining Kong [Still]

In conclusion, censorship has had a massive impact on how the original King Kong film was viewed and
presented to the public. Censorship was heavily impacted by what society deemed acceptable, which
bled over into the film. A lot of the censorship in the film happened around the relationship between
Kong and Ann, as many throught that it was immortal. This made the film go against the morals of the
Hayes code, leading to scenes being cut or censored.

Illustration Bibliography:

Fig 1; King Kong Poster 1933. (2018). [image] Available at:

https://www.atthemovies.co.uk/gallery/484-king-kong-1933 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Fig 2; King Kong 1933 Still. (2018). [image] Available at:

https://www.yougotta.watch/blog/2017/4/15/king-kong-1933 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Fig 3; King Kong [2005]. (2018). [image] Available at:

http://www.scifimoviezone.com/imagekingkong/kingkong078.jpg [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Bibliography:

American-historama.org. (2018). Hays Code: Rules, Censorhip and Hollywood Movies ***. [online]
Available at: http://www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/hays-code.htm
[Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Brooke, M. (2018). BFI Screenonline: The Hays Code. [online] Screenonline.org.uk. Available at:
http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/592022/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].
Kaltenbach, C. (1997). How Hollywood went from naughty to nice Censorship:. [online] tribunedigital-
baltimoresun. Available at:http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1997-06-
23/features/1997174097_1_risque-business-fay-wray-king-kong [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

The Sydney Morning Herald. (2015). No monkey business for Watt in King Kong. [online] Available at:
https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/no-monkey-business-for-watt-in-king-kong-
20051204-gdmkz8.html [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

TV Tropes. (2018). Fatty Arbuckle (Creator) - TV Tropes. [online] Available at:


https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/FattyArbuckle [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].

TV Tropes. (2018). The Hays Code / Useful Notes - TV Tropes. [online] Available at:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/TheHaysCode [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].