King Kong

Discussion in 'Classic' started by speanroc, Nov 5, 2004.

  1. mgfred

    mgfred Guest

    I've got the Turner/MGM LD of this that was made from a pristine print that was discovered in France in the early 90s. It totally blows away the Criterion LD transfer wise. The Criterion and TV versions up to the time that re-inserted the edited footage had a bright 35mm print for the main body of the film and a very dark 16mm print on the cut scenes.

    Since Warner owns the Turner library, I'm really confident that's what they will be using for the DVD over the older less pristine materials.
  2. Alexander

    Alexander Guest

    Warner is totally RESTORING the movie frame by frame.

    And looks like they found a lot of still images of the spider sequence.
  3. A digital restoration of "King Kong" will certainly improve it's imagery on video although it does alter the grain structure and resolution for film prints. The best results in film restoration are still generated by utilizing original negatives and other motion picture pre-print as Robert Harris did with his re-issues of "Lawrence of Arabia", "Spartacus", "My Fair Lady" and so on.

    Of course, the proviso is that the original negatives of those films still existed. In the case of "King Kong" they were lost years ago so digital
    is really the only way to make it look better even though it lacks the
    'film' quality of the other type of restorations.

    Here's the background of "Kong". The movie was photographed on the highly volatile nitrate film stock and released in 1933 with nitrate release prints struck directly off the negative. At the time, the duplicating stock was very poor so all theatrical copies were first generation. This, of course, was the best type of quality for a release print but it did put excessive wear on the camera negative. "Kong" turned out to be a smash hit and thus became victim of it's own success with literally hundreds of prints struck from the master negative.

    In 1938, the film was re-issued. However, the year after "Kong" was released, the new Production Code was adopted which was more restrictive than the 1930 code under which the production was released. The new Code was designed by Will Hays to ward off
    threats of Federal censorship by Eleanor Roosevelt who was reacting
    to complaints from various pressure groups over the content of movies.
    Since the Roosevelt administration began the "Red Decade" which meant that there were no restrictions over Federal control of the economy (neo-socialism), Eleanor's threats were to be taken seriously. The studios were terrified of
    government control over show biz (most moguls were Republicans) so they decided to go along
    with Hays restrictions.
    As a result, films made prior to 1934 (erroneously called 'pre-code' although really referring to the less restrictive 1930 code) had to
    be re-cut to conform to the newer guideline. "King Kong", "Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde" and "Frankenstein" were cut at this time for re-issue. The censored scenes in these movies became a famous topic for film buffs
    who had seen the uncut originals. In all cases, the original camera negatives were cut and new prints were made off of them. To ward off further censorship, RKO darkened the timing of the movie so audiences couldn't see the blood in a few scenes. These new darkened "Kong" prints further wore out the censored camera negative.

    In the late forties, eccentric millionaire, Howard Hughes bought RKO
    and used it to toy with the film business. He ended up running the studio into the ground with self indulgence. He got bored with show biz and sold off the RKO studio to Desilu (where Arnaz and Ball made their famous shows) and licensed the library to General Tire (with the exception of some of his pet movies like "Jet Pilot"). General Tire then licensed the entire RKO library to CRC television syndicators who sold 16mm prints of the classics to independent TV stations around the country. This move infuriated the other studios who were holding back their "A" titles from television broadcast to avoid conflicts with exhibitors who didn't like competing with the usurping medium. However, the sale actually made Hughes a profit from his motion picture endevour even though he destroyed one of the major studios.
    The other studios saw how profitable broadcast TV could be and ended up selling their backlog to syndicators which began the glut of movies on TV and programs like "The Late Late Show".

    CRC needed materials to broadcast. At the time, 16mm was the standard for stations who aired the prints via a film
    chain. They took the original 35mm nitrate negatives of the RKO features and made tri-acetate 35mm B&W fine grain masters. Unfortunately, when they made the FGM of "King Kong" from the nitrate camera negative, they used the darker timing from 1938 rather than the original brighter timing from 1933. The new FGM was cut since the camera negative was cut. The negative was quite worn and a great deal of dirt and scratches was copied into the new pre-print. From the 35mm FGM they made 16mm dupicate negatives and then prints for broadcast. These dark prints are what played for decades on TV. Somewhere along the line, the original nitrate camera negative either decomposed (the fate of all nitrate materials), was lost in the nitrate fire that destroyed the camera negative of "Citizen Kane" or was accidently or intentionally junked.

    An original 16mm print from the early thirties resurfaced in the interim
    that had the cut scenes. The print was very scratchy and they blew it up to 35mm. Janus had sublicenced the theatrical rights in the interim and made a new tri-actetate 35mm B&W duplicate negative (timed very dark again) and release prints. They physically spliced in the blow up scenes into the release prints. The quality difference was obvious.
    Fortunately, a 35mm uncut nitrate print surfaced and they duped off the missing scenes again with somewhat better results and cut them into the duplicate 35mm negative this time rather than just the release prints. However, the quality was still quite variable since there was so much wear had accumulated over the generations of pre-print.

    Since original materials on the film are long gone, the best results obtainable now to make the feature look good would be to scan in the best surviving elements and digitally brighten the image so it's not too dark and more detail is apparent then frame by frame get rid of the dirt and scratches and match the cut scene footage so it looks like it's part of the movie. It will look very good on video but on film will have a 'flat' appearance like all digital imagery since the unique grain structure of motion pictures is what gives them their dimensional appearance.

    Since no one actually knows what happened to the nitrate camera negative there is always a distant hope that it actually does exist
    and is either sitting in a film collector's archive or is sitting in a vault somewhere forgotten about or mislabled. If by some miracle it does survive and has not decomposed, a wet gate FGM could be derived that would look spectacular and far superior to any digital restoration.
    I did hear one of the those notoriously unreliable film collector rumors that a collector does have the negative of this movie but it's not been confirmed. On the other hand, who thought that nitrate pre-print of the original uncut Laurel and Hardy's "Babes in Toyland" would be discovered. For years, everyone assumed only the cut re-issue version titled, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" existed and the missing scenes and original credits were lost. Now they've been restored.
  4. mgfred

    mgfred Guest


    Turner put out back in 94 or 95 a LD that used a "pristine" 35mm uncut print that was found in France that totally blew away the Criterion LD. There was total continuity between the "cut" footage and the rest of the film. Since Warner now owns Turner's share of the MGM film library I suspect that's what will be used for the DVD.

    I have that LD and can dig it out to confirm the history of the print if anybody is interested?
  5. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

    May 13, 2002
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    I'm always interested in details of this movie. Let's face it, because it doesn't have an R1 release, people tend to ignore it. Bring it on!
  6. SaviniFan

    SaviniFan I Have A Fetish

    Mar 17, 2002
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    On the cutting room floor.
    Easily my most anticipated DVD of next year. I'm tempted to buy other region releases of the film in the meantime, but I think if I hold off, it will be that much sweeter when I finally own it.
  7. It sounds like they found a good condition nitrate original print to work with. Still, it's not negative materials so while it will look very good on video it will not replicate the 'film look' if they make a digital negative from it and strike new prints. Of course, I'm one of the few people concerned with have pre-print on film for the long term. No matter how good they clean up the image on digital, digital is not archival and will not last nor will the nitrate print they derived it from. I hope they are at the very least outputting a new 35mm negative of the digital master.
  8. fceurich39

    fceurich39 Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2004
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    Ira's Toys store
    I Like The King Kong 1976 Better Just Because It Is One Of The First Movie I Have Ever Seen

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