In the early 1900’s, every adolescent minds all over the world had but one obsession, THE KING KONG. This tall mighty creature ruled the fantasy of many as he went about living his own life on an island protecting in a rather daunting manner his blonde infatuation. Borrowed from a comic, this character went to fascinate the world so much that a movie just had to be made. The first one to do any justice to the character came out in the year 1933. The only adjectives that seemed to do justice to the movie were that of excitement, romance, danger, and impending doom plus the superlatives of the same.
It wasn’t until this movie, that the world actually saw the truly limitless nature of film making. And the endless trickery that can be employed to create an escape route from the real world that you so desperately seek. So many techniques were brilliantly sculpted into the making that it was hard to notice yet very quick to inspire. Stop motion was needed to bring the 18ft giant to life, miniatures we used to great effect in some shots involving the jungle creatures and the actors but the one that is least spoken of are the matte paintings. The very story of the Kong would be nothing without the dark, scary, and haunting jungle that he lives in. Could there be a real location in the world were this movie could have been shot successfully yet safely? Most unlikely. So how do you create the illusion of being at a location without actually being there? Matte paintings! But what make these matte paintings truly special is not that they just give a backdrop to the movie but they make the movie stand out even today.
Before we get into the different matte paintings that made the movie, don’t you want to know how movie was even conceptualized? Back in those days, around 1933, the great depression was hitting the film industry hard as it got tougher and tougher to attract audience. Radio-Keith-Orpheum was one of them. To dig themselves out of near bankruptcy, they brought on board the highly regarded producer David O. Selznick from Paramount pictures to revive the creative structure. He was the one who first noticed the dying project creation and was fascinated by what trick cinema can do! This project was then remade into the might KING KONG. Now that you know whom to thank for this movie, let’s move on the topic in focus, the matte paintings.
This composite photo of many layers of glass art/shot or as we know it, matte paintings, was put together for the purpose of publicity. And it worked like a charm. This image of the men being forced to cross the log after coming face to face with a rather scary dinosaur certainly got the attention of the masses!
It is very much suspected that this shot of New York from the introduction of the movie in reality was a matte painting!
Skull Island. This painting lent authenticity to the arrival of the crew to the location and the perfect backdrop to the native drum beating and Max Steiner’s near perfect musical cues.
Can’t you see the trouble brewing? This scene is most probably the result of a combination of matte art and flaming torch elements into a rear projection.
This scene of the Kong arriving is a result of Williams travelling matte process. Kay on a very limited set is matte into a miniature environment!
All this is well and good but here are a couple of matte shots of what you have been waiting for! The jungle that is home to the Kong.
And here is a peak at the men at work who made all these wonderful matte paintings happen!
Visual effects in this movie is till date some of the best ever seen. And the matte paintings also till date are among the best you will ever see.