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"Beauty killed the beast? Yea, the fall had nothing to with it."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

KING KONG

King Kong is a fictional character, a giant movie monster resembling a colossal gorilla, that has appeared in several movies since 1933. These include the groundbreaking 1933 movie, the film remakes of 1976 and 2005, as well as various sequels of the first two films. The character has become one of the world's most famous movie icons and, as such, has transcended the medium, appearing or being parodied in other works outside of films, such as a cartoon series, books, comics, various merchandise and paraphernalia, video games, theme park rides, and even an upcoming stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero. The rights to the character are currently held by Universal Studios, with limited rights held by the estate of Merian C. Cooper, and perhaps certain rights in the public domain.

The King Kong character was conceived and created by U.S. filmmaker Merian C. Cooper. In the original film, the character's name is Kong, a name given to him by the inhabitants of "Skull Island" in the Pacific Ocean, where Kong lives along with other over-sized animals such as a plesiosaur, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. An American film crew, led by Carl Denham, captures Kong and takes him to New York City to be exhibited as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

Kong escapes and climbs the Empire State Building (the World Trade Center in the 1976 remake) as Denham comments, "It was beauty that killed the beast," for he climbs the building in the first place only in an attempt to protect Ann Darrow, an actress originally offered up to Kong as a sacrifice (in the 1976 remake, the character is named Dwan).

A mockumentary about Skull Island that appears on the DVD for the 2005 remake (but originally seen on the Sci-Fi Channel at the time of its theatrical release) gives Kong's scientific name as Megaprimatus kong, and states that his species may have evolved from Gigantopithecus.

King Kong is a Pre-Code 1933 monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was by Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman from a story by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars (Canadian born) Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong, and opened in New York City on March 2, 1933 to rave reviews.

Before King Kong hit the silver screen, a long tradition of jungle films and books existed. The films, whether drama or documentary, generally adhered to a narrative pattern that followed an explorer or scientist into the jungle to test a theory only to discover some monstrous aberration in the undergrowth. In such films, scientific knowledge could be turned topsy-turvy at any time and it was this that provided the genre with its vitality, appeal, and endurance. The literary tradition of a remote and isolated jungle populated by natives and prehistoric animals was rooted in the "Lost World" genre, specifically Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World, which was itself made into a silent film of that title in 1925 that Doyle lived long enough to see. The special effects of that film were created by Willis O'Brien, who went on to do those for the 1933 King Kong. Another important book in that literary genre is Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1918 novel The Land That Time Forgot .

At the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the Lumière Brothers sent film documentarians to places westerners had never seen, and Georges Méliès utilized trick photography in film fantasies that prefigured that in King Kong. Jungle films were launched in the United States in 1913 with Beasts in the Jungle, a film that mixed live actors with lions, a tiger, and other animals. The film's popularity spawned similar pictures, including a few about "ape men" and gorillas. In 1918, Elmo Lincoln starred in Tarzan of the Apes, and, in Isle of Sunken Gold1925, The Lost World made movie history with special effects by Willis O'Brien and a crew that later would work on King Kong.

The little-known but recently partially rediscovered Mascot Pictures 1927 movie serial Isle of Sunken Gold may have provided fundamental inspirations for story and character elements of King Kong - it featured shipwrecked sailors on a remote island, and a seafaring hero (Bruce Gordon) clad in white who fights to protect the scantily clad heroine (Anita Stewart) from primitive natives and their deity, a cave-dwelling fanged ape named "Kong."

Merian C. CooperMerian C. Cooper's fascination with gorillas began with his boyhood reading of Paul du Chaillu's Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa (1861) and was furthered in 1929 by studying a tribe of baboons in Africa while filming The Four Feathers. After reading W. Douglas Burden's The Dragon Lizards of Komodo, he fashioned a scenario depicting African gorillas battling Komodo dragons intercut with artificial stand-ins for joint shots. He then narrowed the dramatis personae to one ferocious, lizard-battling gorilla (rather than a group) and included a lone woman on expedition to appease those critics who belabored him for neglecting romance in his films. A remote island would be the setting and the gorilla would be dealt a spectacular death in New York City.

The idea of a gorilla kidnapping and lusting for a human woman is an old concept as reflected in Emmanuel Frémiet's sculpture, Gorille enlevant une femme (Gorilla Carrying off a Woman, 1887) Cooper took his concept to Paramount Studios in the first years of the Great Depression but executives shied away from a project that sent film crews on costly shoots to Africa and Komodo. In 1931, David O. Selznick brought Cooper to RKO as his executive assistant, and, to sweeten the deal, promised him he could make his own films. Cooper began immediately developing The Most Dangerous Game, a story about a big game hunter, and hired his friend and former film partner Ernest Schoedsack to direct. A huge jungle stage set was built and Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray were the picture's stars. Once the film was underway, Cooper turned his attention to the studio's big-budget-out-of-control fantasy, Creation, a story about a group of travelers shipwrecked on an island of dinosaurs. The film had special effects wizard Willis O'Brien on board.

When Cooper screened O'Brien's stop-motion Creation footage, he was unimpressed but realized he could economically make his gorilla picture by scrapping the Komodo dragons and costly location shoots for O'Brien's animated dinosaurs and the studio's existing jungle set. It was at this time Cooper probably cast his gorilla as a giant named Kong, and would have him die at the Empire State Building. The RKO board was wary about the project but gave its approval after Cooper organized a presentation with Wray, Armstrong, and Cabot, and O'Brien's model dinosaurs. In his executive capacity, Cooper ordered the Creation production shelved and put its crew to work on Kong.

Merian C. Cooper wanted King Kong to be more of an ape, but Willis O'Brien wanted King Kong to be more of a human being. A compromise was met with King Kong being made into an apeman. This was Brien's third time creating an apeman, as he had previously created an apeman for his short film The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy and The Lost World.

Cooper assigned recently hired RKO screenwriter and best-selling British mystery/adventure writer Edgar Wallace the job of writing a screenplay and a novel based on his gorilla fantasy. Cooper understood the commercial appeal of Wallace's name and planned to publicize the film as being "based on the novel by Edgar Wallace". Wallace conferred with Cooper and O'Brien (who contributed, among other things, the "Ann's dress" scene) and began work on January 1, 1932. He completed a rough draft called The Beast on January 5, 1932. Cooper thought the draft needed considerable work but Wallace died on February 10, 1932 just after beginning revisions. Cooper insisted however that Wallace died having written "not one bloody word," and that he gave the writer a screen credit simply because as producer he had promised him one.

Cooper called in James A. Creelman (who was working on the script of The Most Dangerous Game at the time) and the two men worked together on several drafts under the title The Eighth Wonder. Some details from Wallace's rough draft were dropped, notably his boat load of escaped convicts. Wallace's Danby Denham character, a big game hunter, became film director Carl Denham. His Shirley became Ann Darrow and her lover-convict John became Jack Driscoll. The 'beauty and the beast' angle was first developed at this time. Kong's escape was switched from Madison Square Garden to Yankee Stadium and (finally) to a Broadway theater. Cute moments involving the gorilla in Wallace's draft were cut because Cooper wanted Kong hard and tough in the belief that his fall would be all the more awesome and tragic.

Time constraints forced Creelman to temporarily drop The Eighth Wonder and devote his time to the Game script. RKO staff writer Horace McCoy was called in to work with Cooper, and it was then that the island natives, a giant wall, and the sacrificial maidens entered the plot. When Creelman returned to the script full time, he hated these 'mythic elements', believing the script already had too many over-the-top concepts. RKO head Selznick and his executives wanted Kong introduced earlier in the film (believing the audience would grow bored waiting for his appearance), but Cooper persuaded them that a suspenseful build-up would make Kong's entrance all the more exciting.

Cooper felt Creelman's final draft was slow-paced, too full of flowery dialogue, weighted-down with long scenes of exposition, and written on a scale that would have been prohibitively expensive to film. Writer Ruth Rose (Mrs. Ernest Schoedsack) was brought in to clean things up and, although she had never written a screenplay, undertook the task with a complete understanding of Cooper's style. She streamlined the script and tightened the action. Rather than explaining how Kong would be transported to New York, for example, she simply cut from the island to the theater. She incorporated autobiographical elements into the script with Cooper mirrored in the Denham character, her husband Schoedsack in the tough but tender Driscoll character, and herself in struggling actress Ann Darrow. She rewrote the dialogue to give it some zip and created the film's entire opening chunk showing Denham plucking Ann from the streets of New York. Cooper was delighted with Rose's script, added the Arab proverb seen on the screen at the beginning, and approved the script (now called Kong) for production. Cooper and Schoedsack decided to co-direct scenes but their styles were different (Cooper was slow and meticulous, Schoedsack brisk) and they finally agreed to work separately with Cooper directing the miniature and special effects scenes and Schoedsack directing the live-action scenes.

After the RKO board approved the production of a test reel, Marcel Delgado constructed Kong (or the "Giant Terror Gorilla" as he was then known) per designs and directions from Cooper and O'Brien on a one-inch-equals-one-foot scale to simulate a gorilla 18 feet tall. Four models were built: two jointed 18-inch aluminum, foam rubber, latex, and rabbit fur models (to be rotated during filming), one jointed 24-inch model of the same materials for the New York scenes, and a small model of lead and fur for the tumbling-down-the-Empire-State-Building scene. Kong's torso was streamlined to eliminate the comical appearance of the real world gorilla's prominent belly and butt. His lips, eyebrows, and nose were fashioned of rubber, his eyes of glass, and his facial expressions controlled by thin, bendable wires threaded through holes drilled in his aluminum skull. During filming, Kong's rubber skin dried out quickly under studio lights, making it necessary to replace it often and completely rebuild his facial features.

A huge bust of Kong's head, neck, and upper chest was made of wood, cloth, rubber, and bearskin by Delgado, E. B. Gibson, and Fred Reefe. Inside the structure, metal levers, hinges, and an air compressor were operated by three men to control the mouth and facial expressions. Its fangs were 10-inches in length and its eyeballs 12-inches. The bust was moved from set to set on a flatcar. Its scale matched none of the models and, if fully realized, Kong would have stood thirty to forty feet tall.

Two versions of Kong's right hand and arm were constructed of steel, sponge rubber, rubber, and bearskin. The first hand was nonarticulated, mounted on a crane, and operated by grips for the scene in which Kong grabs at Driscoll in the cave. The other hand and arm had articulated fingers, was mounted on a lever to elevate it, and was used in the several scenes in which Kong grasps Ann. A nonarticulated leg was created of materials similar to the hands, mounted on a crane, and used to stomp on Kong's victims

The dinosaurs were made by Delgado in the same fashion as Kong and based on Charles R. Knight's murals in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. All the armatures were manufacted in the RKO machine shop. Materials used were cotton, foam rubber, latex sheeting, and liquid latex. Football bladders were placed inside some models to simulate breathing. A scale of one-inch-equals-one-foot was employed and models ranged from 18-inches to 3-feet in length. Several of the models were originally built for Creation and sometimes two or three models were built of individual species. Prolonged exposure to studio lights wreaked havoc with the latex skin so John Cerasoli carved wooden duplicates of each model to be used as stand-ins for test shoots and lineups. He carved wooden models of Ann, Driscoll, and other human characters. Models of the Venture, subway cars, and fighter planes were built.

King Kong was filmed in several stages over an eight-month period. Some actors had so much time between their Kong periods, they worked other films. Cabot completed Road House and Wray appeared in the horror films, Dr. X and Mystery of the Wax Museum. She estimated she worked ten weeks on Kong over its eight-month period.

In May–June 1932, Cooper directed the first live-action Kong scenes on the jungle set built for The Most Dangerous Game. Some of these scenes were incorporated into the test reel later exhibited for the RKO board. The script was still in revision when the jungle scenes were shot and much of the dialogue was improvised. The jungle set was scheduled to be struck after Game was completed so Cooper filmed all the other jungle scenes at this time. The last scene shot was that of Driscoll and Ann racing through the jungle to safety following their escape from Kong's lair.

In July 1932, the native village was readied while Schoedsack and his crew filmed establishing shots in the harbor of New York City. Curtiss O2C-1 Helldiver fighter planes taking off and in flight were filmed at a U.S. Naval airfield on Long Island. Views of New York City were filmed from the Empire State Building for backgrounds in the final scenes and architectural plans for the mooring mast were secured from the building's owners for a mock-up to be constructed on the Hollywood soundstage.

In August 1932, the island landing party scene and the gas bomb scene were filmed south of Los Angeles on a beach at San Pedro, California. All of the native village scenes were then filmed on the RKO-Pathé lot in Culver City with native huts recycled from Bird of Paradise (1932). The great wall in the island scenes was a hand-me-down from DeMille's The King of Kings (1927) and dressed up with massive gates, a gong, and primitive carvings. The scene of Ann being led through the gates to the sacrificial altar was filmed at night with hundreds of extras and 350 lights for illumination. A camera was mounted on a crane to follow Ann to the altar. The Culver City Fire Department was on hand to do their job should the set go up in flames from the many native torches used in the scene (the wall and gate were destroyed in 1939 for Gone With the Wind's burning of Atlanta sequence). Kong's rampage through the village was filmed (again, with hundreds of extras) and filming was completed with individual vignettes of mayhem and native panic.

Meanwhile, the scene depicting a New York woman being dropped to her apparent death from a hotel window was filmed on the soundstage using the articulated hand. At the same time, a scene depicting poker players surprised by Kong's face peering through a window was filmed using the 'big head'; the scene was eventually dropped. When filming was completed, a break was scheduled to finish the interior sets and to allow screenwriter Ruth Rose time to finish the script.

In September–October 1932, Schoedsack returned to the soundstage after completing the native village shoots in Culver City. The decks and cabins of the Venture were constructed and all the live-action shipboard scenes were then filmed. The New York scenes were filmed, including the scene of Ann being plucked from the streets by Denham and the diner scene. Following the interior scenes, Schoedsack returned to San Pedro and spent a day on a tramp steamer to film the Driscoll-slugs-Ann scene and various harbor atmosphere scenes. The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was rented for one day to film the on-stage scenes with Kong in chains and the backstage theater scenes following his escape. Principal photography wrapped at the end of October 1932 with the Driscoll-rescues-Ann scene at the top of the Empire State Building. Schoedsack's work was completed and he headed to Syria to film outdoor scenes for Arabia, a project that eventually remained uncompleted.

In December 1932-January 1933, the actors were called back to film the optical effects shots which were mostly rear-screen projections. Technical problems inherent in the process made filming difficult and time-consuming. Wray spent most of a twenty-two hour period sitting in a fake tree to witness the battle between Kong and a T. rex. She was sore for days after. Many of the scenes featuring Wray in the articulated hand were filmed at this time. In December, Cooper reshot the New York woman falling to her death scene. Stunt doubles were filmed for the water scenes depicting Driscoll and Ann escaping from Kong. A portion of the jungle set was reconstructed to film Denham snagging his sleeve on a branch during the pursuit scene. Originally, Denham ducked behind a bush to escape danger but this was later considered cowardly and the scene reshot. The final scene was originally staged on the top of the Empire State Building but Cooper was dissatified and reshot the scene with Kong lying dead in the street and a crowd gathered about him.

King Kong was settled upon as the title and the film cut from 125 to 100 minutes with scenes that slowed the pace or diverted attention from Kong deleted. Probably the most infamous deleted scene was what later became known as the "Spider Pit Sequence", where a number of sailors from the Venture survived a fall into a ravine, only to be eaten alive by various large spiders, insects and other creatures. In a studio memo, Merian C. Cooper said that he cut the scene out himself because it “stopped the story”. Aside from some still photographs and pre-production artwork, no trace of it has ever been found. Peter Jackson later did a reimagining of this scene for his King Kong movie, and he also shot another version of the scene for fun using stop-motion animation, which was included among the bonus features of the two-disc DVD of the 1933 original.

Kong's roars and grunts were created by manipulating the recorded roars of zoo lions. For budget reasons, RKO decided not to have an original film score composed but directed composer Max Steiner to simply reuse music from other films. Cooper thought the film deserved an original score and paid Steiner $50,000 to compose it. Steiner completed the score in six weeks and recorded it with a 46 piece orchestra. The studio later reimbursed Cooper. The score was unlike any that came before and marks a milestone in the history of film music. Steiner experimented with a number of new film scoring techniques, such as the use of leitmotifs

King Kong opened at the 6,200-seat Radio City Music Hall in New York City and the 3,700-seat RKO Roxy across the street on Thursday, March 2, 1933. The film was preceded by a stage show called Jungle Rhythms. Crowds lined up around the block on opening day, tickets were priced at $.35 to $.75, and, in its first four days, every one of its ten-shows-a-day were sold out setting an all-time attendance record for an indoor event. Over the four day period, the film grossed $89,931. Variety thought the film a powerful adventure. The New York Times gave readers an enthusiastic account of the plot and thought the film a fascinating adventure. The film's subtextual threat to Aryan womanhood got Kong banned in Nazi Germany.

Kong did not receive any Academy Awards nominations. Selznick wanted to nominate O'Brien and his crew for a special award in visual effects but the Academy declined. Such a category did not exist at the time and would not exist until 1938. Sidney Saunders and Fred Jackman received a special achievement award for the development of the translucent acetate/cellulose rear screen — the only Kong-related award. The film has since received some significant honors. In 1975, Kong was named one of the 50 best American films by the American Film Institute, and, in 1991, the film was deemed "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 1998, the AFI ranked the film #43 on its list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.

KING KONG (1933)

In New York harbor, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong); a fierce independent film director famous for shooting animal pictures in remote and exotic locations, has recruited a bunch of macho seamen, but is unable to hire an actress for his newest project. His usual agent, Charles Weston refuses to supply anyone because of the dangerous nature of the expedition, so Carl goes wandering in the streets of New York searching for a suitable girl. He chances upon starving unemployed Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and tries to convince her to join him on the adventure of a lifetime, offering her the lead in his project. Although Ann is apprehensive, she has nothing to lose and agrees.

They set sail aboard the Venture, a tramp steamer, and travel for weeks in the direction of Indonesia, where Denham claims they will be shooting. Despite his ongoing declarations that women have no place on board ships, the ship's first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) is obviously becoming attracted to Ann. Denham informs Driscoll he has enough trouble without the complications of a seagoing love affair. Driscoll sneers at the suggestion, reminding Denham of his toughness in past adventures.

Denham's reply outlines the theme of the movie he is making: "The Beast was a tough guy too. He could lick the world, but when he saw Beauty, she got him. He went soft. He forgot his wisdom and the little fellas licked him."

After maintaining secrecy for weeks, Denham finally tells Driscoll and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) that they're searching for an uncharted island shown on a map in Denham's possession. Denham then describes something monstrous connected to the island, a legendary entity known to the islanders only as "Kong".

As the Venture creeps through the fog surrounding the island, the crew hears drums in the distance. Arriving at the island's shore, they see a native village on a peninsula, cut off from the bulk of the island by an enormous stone wall. A landing party, including the filming crew and Ann, goes ashore and encounters the natives, who are about to hand over a girl to Kong as a ritual sacrifice.

The native chief spots them, getting a clear look at Ann, and proposes to swap six native women for her. Denham delicately declines as he and his party edge away from the scene, assuring the chief that they will return tomorrow to get better acquainted.

However, later that night, a stealthy contingent of natives captures Ann, takes her back to the wall, where she is presented to Kong in an elaborate ceremony, leaving her tied to columns behind the wall. Soon after, Kong emerges through the trees and is revealed to be a giant gorilla, who carries off Ann deep into the jungle.

The Venture crew returns to the village and open the huge gate on the wall; half of the crew then go after Kong in hopes of rescuing Ann from his clutches. While venturing through the dense jungles, the crew discover that not only does Kong live on the island, but also prehistoric dinosaurs that have somehow escaped extinction, such as enraged Stegosaurus, a territorial Brontosaurus, and a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex who tries to eat Ann, but Kong fights and eventually defeats it.

Jack, after braving through the many obstacles the island has to offer, rescues Ann and takes her back to the village, but Kong chases after them, breaks through the large door in the wall and rampages through the village, killing many natives. Denham hurls gas bombs at Kong, knocking him out, whereupon he exults in the opportunity presented: "We're millionaires, boys! I'll share it with all of you! Why, in a few months, his name will be up in lights on Broadway! Kong! The Eighth Wonder of the World!"

The next scene shows those last words in lights on a theater marquee. Along with hundreds of curious New Yorkers, Denham, Driscoll and Ann are dressed in evening wear for the gala event. The curtain lifts, and Denham presents a subdued and shackled Kong to the stunned audience. All goes well until photographers, using the blinding flashbulbs of the era, begin snapping shots of Ann and Jack, who is now her fiancé. Under the impression that the flashbulbs are attacking Ann, Kong breaks free of his bonds and escapes from the theater, as the screaming audience flees.

He rampages through city streets, destroying an elevated train and killing several citizens. He looks into windows, his glaring eyes looming in the windows of the wrecked elevated train Kong sees Ann in an upper floor hotel room, he reaches in the window, grabs her, and carries her to the top of the Empire State Building. He gets into a battle with a squadron of military airplanes and despite taking one of them down is wounded by gunfire and falls to his death. Ann is reunited with Driscoll. Below on the street, Denham makes his way through the gathered crowd to look upon the fallen Kong. A police lieutenant says to him, "Well Denham, the airplanes got him." The film ends with Carl Denham's famous reply, "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes... it was Beauty killed the Beast."

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While one of the most famous movie icons in history, King Kong's intellectual property status has been questioned since his creation, featuring in numerous allegations and court battles. The rights to the character have always been split up with no single exclusive rights holder. Different parties have also contested that various aspects are public domain material and therefore ineligible for trademark or copyright status.

When Merian C. Cooper created King Kong, he assumed that he owned the character, which he had conceived in 1929, outright. Cooper maintained that he had only licensed the character to RKO for the initial film and sequel but had otherwise owned his own creation. In 1935, Cooper began to feel something was amiss when he was trying to get a Tarzan vs King Kong project off the ground for Pioneer Pictures (where he had assumed management of the company). David O. Selznick suggested the project to Cooper, and a flurry of legal activity over using the Kong character would follow. Pioneer had become a completely independent company by this time and access to properties that RKO felt were theirs was no longer automatic. This gave Cooper pause as he came to realize that he might not have full control over the figment of his own imagination.

Years later in 1962, Cooper had found out that RKO was licensing the character through John Beck to Toho studios in Japan for a film project called King Kong vs Godzilla. Cooper had assumed his rights were unassailable and was bitterly opposed to the project. In 1963 he filed a lawsuit to enjoin distribution of the movie against John Beck as well as Toho and Universal (the films U.S. copyright holder). Cooper discovered that RKO had also profited from licensed products featuring the King Kong character such as model kits produced by Aurora Plastics Corporation. Cooper's executive assistant, Charles B FitzSimons, stated that these companies should be negotiating through him and Cooper for such licensed products and not RKO.

Cooper and his legal team offered up various documents to bolster the case that Cooper had owned King Kong and only licensed the character to RKO for two films, rather than selling him outright. unfortunately Cooper had lost key documents through the years and his rights were relegated to the Lovelace novelization that he had copyrighted. He was able to make a deal for a Bantam Books paperback reprint and a Gold Key comic adaptation of the novel, but that was all he could do. Cooper lamented: "It seems my hassle over King Kong is destined to be a protracted one. They'd make me sorry I ever invented the beast, if I weren't so fond of him! Makes me feel like Macbeth: 'Bloody instructions which being taught return to plague the inventor'."

The rights over the character didn't flare up again until 1975, when Universal Studios and Dino De Laurentiis were fighting over who would be able to do a King Kong remake for release the following year. De Laurentiis came up with $200,000 to buy the remake rights from RKO. When Universal got wind of this, they filed a lawsuit against RKO claiming that they had a verbal agreement from them in regards to the remake. During the legal battles that followed, which eventually included RKO countersuing Universal, as well as De Laurentiis filing a lawsuit claiming interference, Colonel Richard Cooper (Merian's son and now head of the Cooper estate) jumped into the fray.

During the battles, Universal discovered that the copyright of the Lovelace novelization had expired without renewal, thus making the King Kong story a public domain one. Universal argued that they should be able to make a movie based on the novel without infringing on anyone's copyright because the characters in the story were in the public domain within the context of the public domain story. Richard Cooper then filed a cross-claim against RKO claiming while the publishing rights to the novel had not been renewed, his estate still had control over the plot/story of King Kong.

In a four-day bench trial in Los Angeles, Judge Manuel Real made the final decision and gave his verdict on November 24, 1976, affirming that the King Kong novelization and serialization were indeed in the public domain, and Universal could make its movie as long as it didn't infringe on original elements in the 1933 RKO film, which had not passed into public domain. Universal postponed their plans to film a King Kong movie, called The Legend of King Kong, for at least 18 months, after cutting a deal with Dino De Laurentiis that included a percentage of box office profits from his remake.

However, on December 6, 1976, Judge Real made a subsequent ruling, which held that all the rights in the name, character, and story of King Kong (outside of the original film and its sequel) belonged to Merian C Cooper's estate. This ruling, which became known as the "Cooper Judgment", expressly stated that it wouldn't change the previous ruling that publishing rights of the novel and serialization were in the public domain. It was a huge victory that affirmed the position Merian C. Cooper had maintained for years. Shortly thereafter, Richard Cooper sold all his rights (excluding worldwide book and periodical publishing rights) to Universal in December 1976. In 1980 Judge Real dismissed the claims that were brought forth by RKO and Universal four years earlier and reinstated the Cooper judgement.

KING KONG (1976)

The 1976 King Kong movie was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by John Guillermin. It is a remake of the 1933 classic film of the same name, about a giant ape that is captured and imported to New York City for exhibition. The remake's screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on the original story written by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, which had been adapted into the 1933 screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose. It stars Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and Jessica Lange in her first film role, playing the part made famous in the original by Fay Wray.

Set in the 1970s, King Kong tells the story of Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), an executive of the Petrox Oil Company, who forms an expedition based on infrared imagery which reveals a previously undiscovered Indian Ocean island hidden by a permanent cloud bank. Wilson believes the island has a huge deposit of oil. Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a primate paleontologist, sneaks onto the expedition's vessel and attempts to warn the team against traveling to the island, citing an ominous final message about "the roar of the greatest beast" from previous doomed explorers. Wilson orders Prescott locked up, claiming that he is really a spy from a rival corporation. The ship happens upon a life raft which carries the beautiful and unconscious Dwan (Jessica Lange). Upon waking, Dwan tells Prescott that she is an aspiring actress who was aboard a director's yacht which suddenly exploded. During the rest of the ship's voyage, Prescott and Dwan become attracted to each other.

Upon arriving at the island, the team discovers a primitive tribe of natives who live within the confines of a gigantic wall, built to protect them from a mysterious god known as Kong. The team finds that while there is a large deposit of oil, it is of such low quality that it is unusable. The natives kidnap Dwan, drug her, and offer her as a sacrifice to Kong. A monumental ape grabs Dwan from the altar and departs back into the jungle.

Although an awesome and terrifying sight, the soft hearted Kong quickly becomes tamed by Dwan, whose rambling monologue calms and fascinates the monstrous beast. Kong takes Dwan back to a waterfall. He washes her, and uses great gusts of his warm breath to dry her.

In the meantime, Prescott, and First Mate Carnahan (Ed Lauter) lead a rescue mission to save Dwan. The rescue party encounters Kong while crossing a log bridge, and Kong rolls the huge log, sending Carnahan and the rest of the sailors falling to their deaths. Prescott and Boan are the only ones to survive. Kong takes Dwan to his lair. A giant snake appears and attacks the pair, and while Kong dispatches the snake, Prescott escapes with Dwan. Kong chases the pair back to the native village, only to fall into a pit trap and be smothered with chloroform.

Without any of the promised new oil, Wilson decides to transport Kong to America as a promotional gimmick for his company. When they finally reach New York City, Kong is put on display in a beauty and the beast farce, bound in chains with a large crown on his head. When Kong sees a group of reporters pushing and shoving Dwan for interviews, the ape breaks free of his bonds and goes on a rampage throughout the city. Wilson trips while running away and Kong steps on him, killing him instantly. The ape also destroys an elevated train in his search for Dwan. Prescott and Dwan flee across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan while Kong pursues them. At an abandoned Manhattan bar, Prescott calls the military and tells them to let Kong climb to the top of the World Trade Center. Kong locates Dwan and she allows him to take her; he begins to make his way to the World Trade Center, with Jack and the military in hot pursuit.

In the climax, Kong climbs the South Tower of the World Trade Center. After being attacked by men with flamethrowers while standing on the roof, Kong flees by leaping across to the North Tower. Later, he is attacked by military helicopters while Dwan is trying to stop them. The fatally injured Kong falls from the roof to the World Trade Center plaza, where he dies from his injuries. Dwan is bombarded by a sea of photographers. The crowd is so big though that Dwan can't even get close to Jack. She stands still and is photographed relentlessly by reporters while Kong lies dead in a pool of blood and broken concrete.

Although the film received mostly mixed reviews from critics and Kong fans and is often described as being a financial flop, King Kong was commercially successful, earning Paramount Pictures back over triple its budget. The film made approximately $80 million worldwide on a $24 million budget.

In 1982 Universal filed a lawsuit against Nintendo, which had created an impish ape character called Donkey Kong in 1981 and was reaping huge profits over the video game machines. Universal claimed that Nintendo was infringing on its copyright because Donkey Kong was a blatant rip-off of King Kong. During the court battle and subsequent appeal, the courts ruled that Universal did not have exclusive trademark rights to the King Kong character. The courts ruled that trademark was not among the rights Cooper had sold to Universal, indicating that "Cooper plainly did not obtain any trademark rights in his judgment against RKO, since the California district court specifically found that King Kong had no secondary meaning." While they had a majority of the rights, they didn't outright own the King Kong name and character. The courts ruling noted that the name, title, and character of Kong no longer signified a single source of origin. The courts also pointed out that Kong rights were held by three parties: RKO owned the rights to the original film and its sequel, the Dino De Laurentiis company owned the rights to the 1976 remake and Richard Cooper owned worldwide book and periodical publishing rights.
The judge then ruled that:

Because Universal misrepresented their degree of ownership of King Kong (claiming they had exclusive trademark rights when they knew they didn't) they were ordered to pay fines and all of Nintendo's legal bills from the lawsuit. That, along with the fact that the courts ruled that there was simply no likelihood of people confusing Donkey Kong with King Kong, caused Universal to lose the case and the subsequent appeal.

The Cooper estate retains publishing rights for the content they claim. In 1990 they licensed a six-issue comic book adaptation of the story to Monster Comics, and commissioned an illustrated novel in 1994 called Anthony Browne's King Kong. In 2004 and 2005, they commissioned a new novelization to be written by Joe Devito called Merian C Cooper's King Kong to replace the original Lovelace novelization (the original novelization's publishing rights are still in the public domain) and Kong: King of Skull Island, a prequel/sequel novel that ties into the original story. They are working on an upcoming musical stage play due out in 2013 called King Kong Live on Stage with Global Creatures, the company behind the Walking with Dinosaurs arena show.

RKO (whose rights consisted of only the original film and its sequel) had its film library acquired by Ted Turner in 1986 via his company Turner Entertainment. Turner merged his company into Time Warner in 1995, which is how they own the rights to those two films today.

Dino De Laurentiis (whose rights were limited to only their 1976 remake) did a sequel in 1986 called King Kong Lives (but they still needed Universal's permission to do so). King Kong Lives starred Linda Hamilton, and had Kong surviving his original fall from the sky and requiring a coronary operation. It includes a female member of Kong's species, who, after supplying a blood transfusion that enables the life-saving surgery, escapes and mates with Kong, becoming pregnant with his offspring. Trashed by critics, this was a box-office failure. Today most of DDL's film library is owned by Studio Canal, which includes the rights to those two films. The domestic (North American) rights to King Kong though, still remain with the film's original distributor Paramount Pictures, with Trifecta Entertainment & Media handling television rights to the film via their licence with Paramount.

Since the court case, Universal still retains the majority of the character rights. In 1986 they opened a King Kong ride called King Kong Encounter at their Universal Studios Tour theme park in Hollywood (which was destroyed in 2008 by a backlot fire), and followed it up with the Kongfrontation ride at their Orlando park in 1990 (which was closed down in 2002 due to maintenance issues). They also finally made a King Kong film of their own, King Kong (2005). The Universal Pictures remake was set in the original film's 1933 time period by Academy award-winning New Zealand director Peter Jackson, best known for directing the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The most recent incarnation of Kong is also the longest, running three hours and eight minutes. Winner of three Academy Awards for visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing. It received positive reviews and became a box office success. In the summer of 2010, Universal opened a new 3D King Kong ride called King Kong: 360 3-D at their Hollywood park replacing the destroyed King Kong Encounter. In 2012, Universal will open another King Kong ride, a King Kong-themed dueling roller coaster at Universal Studios Dubailand.

KING KONG (2005)

The 2005 King Kong is a fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson and is a remake of the classic 1933 film. It stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Andy Serkis, through performance capture, portrays Kong.

The film's budget climbed from an initial $150 million to a record-breaking $207 million. The film was released on December 14, 2005 and made an opening of $50.1 million. While the film performed lower than expectations, King Kong made domestic and worldwide grosses that eventually added up to $550 million, becoming the fourth-highest grossing movie in Universal Pictures history. It also generated $100 million in DVD sales upon its home video release. The film garnered generally positive reviews from film critics and appeared on several 'top ten' lists for 2005, though some reviewers also criticized it for its 3 hour, 7 minute running time. It won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression in New York City, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) has lost her job as a vaudeville actress but is hired by troubled filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) to act in his new motion picture. Ann signs on when she learns her favourite playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) is the screenwriter. As their tramp steamer SS Venture sails to the mysterious Skull Island, they slowly fall in love. As for Carl, a warrant is out for his arrest and Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann) begins to have second thoughts, following the fears of his crew about Skull Island and its strange creatures that have evolved alone from the outside world. Despite his attempt to turn around, the ship is lost in fog and runs aground on the rocks encircling the island.

Carl and his crew explore the island to film and are attacked by the vicious natives. Mike (Craig Hall), the sound technician, is speared, one of the sailors has his head bashed in, and Jack is knocked out. Ann screams as she is captured, and a roar beyond the wall responds. The matriarch of the tribe vows to sacrifice her to "Kong", a 25 ft (8m) tall gorilla, and the last of its kind. Englehorn and his crew break up the attack and return to the stranded ship. They lighten their load to steer away, but Jack discovers Ann has been kidnapped. On the island, Ann is hung from a balcony on the side of the wall. The crew comes armed, but is too late as Kong takes Ann into the jungle.

Captain Englehorn organizes a rescue party to find Ann and hunt down the beast. The rescue party is caught up in a Venatosaurus pack's hunt of Apatosaurus, and Herb (John Sumner), the cameraman, is killed along with three sailors. The rest of the rescue party come across a swamp where Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) and two others leave the group. Meanwhile, Ann manages to entertain Kong with juggling and dancing. The survivors stumble across a log, where Kong arrives and attacks, shaking them off the log into a ravine. He returns to rescue Ann from three Vastatosaurus Rex, and takes her up to his mountain lair. Englehorn and the rest of the crew rescue what is left of the rescue party from the pit of giant insects, and as Jack decides to continue to search for Ann, Carl decides to capture Kong. Jack goes to Kong's lair, waking him. As Kong fights a swarm of flying Terapusmordax, Ann and Jack escape by grabbing the wing of one of the bats and then jumping into a river. They arrive at the village wall with the angry Kong following them, and Ann becomes distraught by what Carl plans to do. Kong bursts through the gate and struggles to get her back, but he is eventually knocked out by chloroform.

In New York around Christmas, Carl presents a chained Kong - the Eighth Wonder of the World on Broadway, starring Baxter and an imprisoned Kong. Ann has become an anonymous chorus girl and a double of her is no replacement in Kong's eyes. Camera flashes from photographers enrage the gorilla. Kong breaks free from his chrome-steel chains and chases Jack across town, where he encounters Ann again. They share a quiet moment on a frozen lake in Central Park, before the army attacks. Kong climbs with Ann onto the Empire State Building, where he fights off planes sent to attack him, downing three of them. Ultimately, Kong is hit by several bursts of gunfire from the surviving planes, and gazes at a distraught Ann for the last time before falling off the building to his death. Ann is greeted by Jack, and the reporters gather around Kong's carcass. Carl takes one last look and says, "It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."

Peter Jackson was a nine-year-old in the New Zealand town of Pukerua Bay when he first saw the 1933 version of King Kong. He was in tears in front of the TV when Kong slipped off the Empire State Building. At age 12 he tried to recreate the film using his parents' super-8 camera and a model of Kong made of wire and rubber with his mother's fur coat for the hair, but eventually gave up on the project. In 1996, he developed a version that was in pre-production for 6–7 months, but the studio cancelled it. This is most likely because of the release of Mighty Joe Young and Godzilla the same year. No casting was ever done, but he had hoped to get George Clooney and Robert De Niro for the roles of Jack Driscoll and Carl Denham, respectively.

He then began work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. With the overwhelming box office and critical success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Universal contacted him during production of the second film, and he was paid $20 million to direct this film, the highest salary Hollywood ever paid a director.

Jackson has stated that the script significantly changed between the 1996 and 2005 drafts. He described his first rough draft as a "tongue-in-cheek comedic film with elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other films", and in retrospect he is glad that Universal pulled the plug on this version of the film, as he was able to rework the screenplay into something better.

In Jackson's original 1996 draft of the script, Ann was the daughter of famed English archaeologist Lord Linwood Darrow exploring ancient ruins in Sumatra. They would come into conflict with Denham during his filming, and they would uncover a hidden Kong statue and the map of Skull Island. This would indicate that the island natives were the last remnants of a cult religion that had once thrived on the mainland of Asia. Instead of a playwright, Jack was the first mate and an ex-First World War fighter pilot still struggling with the loss of his best friend, who had been killed in battle during a World War I prologue. Herb the camera-man is the only supporting character in the original draft who made it to the final version. The fight between Kong and the three T. rex also changed from the original draft. In the draft, Ann is actually caught in the T. rex's jaws, where she becomes wedged, and slashed by the teeth; after the fight, Kong gets her out but she is suffering from a fever, from which she then recovers.

The rewriting of the script between 1996 and 2005 involved basing the characters more closely on the 1933 ones, but adding more detail (the screenplay takes no material from the 1976 version).

References to earlier versions of King Kong:

Fay Wray, the original Ann Darrow, was asked by Peter Jackson to do a brief cameo in which she would utter the film's final line: "It was beauty killed the beast." At first she flatly refused, but then seemed to consider the possibility. However, she died shortly after her meeting with Jackson. The line ultimately went to the character of Carl Denham, as in the original.

An ad for Universal Pictures is visible while Kong is tearing up Times Square. In the original film, an ad for Columbia Pictures appeared in the same spot, and the production designers replicated it, but Columbia asked for a large amount of money for its use, so effects artists replaced it.

When Denham is considering who to play the part before meeting Ann, he suggests "Fay", but his assistant Preston replies, "She's doing a picture with RKO." Music from the 1933 original is heard, and Denham mutters, "Cooper, huh? I might have known." Fay Wray starred in the 1933 film, which was directed by Merian C. Cooper and released by RKO.

When Carl Denham calls Bruce Baxter and Ann Darrow to film a scene on the deck of the ship, the shot is essentially identical to a scene between Ann and Jack Driscoll in the 1933 version.

In the original film, Merian C. Cooper made up an "Arabian proverb" about "beauty and beast". The 2005 remake repeats the fake proverb.

Kong's New York stage appearance looks very much like a re-enactment of the sacrifice scene of the 1933 film, including the posts the 'beauty' is tied to and the nearly identical performance and costumes of the dancers. In addition, the music played by the orchestra during that scene is the original 1933 score by Max Steiner.

The 1933 film featured an extended sequence in which several members of the party were devoured by massive spiders and insects after being shaken off a log into a ravine by Kong. This scene was pulled before release when Cooper decided it slowed the film down. Peter Jackson recreated the scene for the 2005 remake. He also paid homage to the spider pit sequence by recreating the scene using stop motion photography, which he included as an extra for the deluxe DVD release of the original 1933 film.

The battle between Kong and the final T-Rex is almost move-for-move like the last half of the fight between Kong and the T-Tex in the original 1933 film, right down to Kong playing with the dinosaur's broken jaw and then standing, beating his chest and roaring victoriously.

After the crew captures Kong on the beach, Denham speaks a line from the 1933 film: "The whole world will pay to see this! We're millionaires, boys! I'll share it with all of you. In a few months, his name will be up in lights on Broadway! KONG, THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD!"

In the original film, director and co-director Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack appear in cameos as the pilot and rear-gunner who shoot Kong. In the 2005 film, Jackson plays one of the gunners; the pilot is played by Rick Baker, who played Kong (in a rubber suit) in the 1976 remake.

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