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|Featured CED VideoDisc No. 39 - Winter 2006|
With the hoopla over the awesome CGI special effects in the recent remake of this classic, this season's feature looks at the two earlier versions of King Kong, both available on CED. These earlier movies were also noted for their special effects at the time of their release. The 1933 version is notable for the revolutionary stop motion animation used with Kong and the dinosaurs on Skull Island. The 1976 version employed a mechanical Kong, which at forty feet tall, is the largest mechanical creature ever to appear in a movie, even if the giant robot only had about a minute of actual screen time.
The two movies are also notable in climaxing atop some of the highest architectural structures of their time. The Empire State Building was completed in 1931 and was the world's tallest building until it was surpassed by the World Trade Center towers in 1972 and 1973. The twin towers were each about 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building. But they only held the world's tallest buildings record for about a year when they were surpassed by another 100 feet by the Sears Tower in Chicago. With the loss of the twin towers in 2001, the Empire State Building, at 1250 feet, is again the tallest building in New York City (for the time being) and the second tallest building in the United States. By comparison, the nearby RCA Building (now called the GE Building) is 850 feet tall, and is the 30th tallest building in the U.S. Interesting enough, the Empire State Building appears on the cover of both CED titles, although it appears rather small from the perspective of Kong atop the World Trade Center Towers.
The CED cover from the 1976 movie is derived from the movie poster, which in its entirety, show Kong straddling the twin towers. A tiny portion of the south tower is still visible at the very bottom of the CED cover. Showing Kong to be this large is completely out of sync with the movie, as he would truly have to be enormous to straddle the towers, and the movie actually makes a big deal out of his ability to leap from the top of one tower to the other.
The 1933 version of King Kong was one of the first 100 CED titles announced by RCA on March 22, 1981 and has the classic Nipper on the cover as well as the original SelectaVision fanfare derived from Mussorgsky. By contrast, the 1976 version was released in November 1983 and has the text-only "RCA VideoDiscs" logo and the fanfare at the start of Disc 1 is the updated version RCA began using in 1982.
In 1983, on the 50th anniversary of the movie, RCA used the event to derive some publicity for the CED VideoDisc system. A giant inflatable Kong was installed atop the Empire State Building, and RCA had a VideoDisc player installed in the Fifth Avenue lobby showing scenes from the movie of Kong's encounter with the building. Unfortunately, the inflatable Kong didn't turn out very well as it only achieved 85 percent inflation for a short while, appearing most of the time only half inflated. Here he is in 1983 at about the maximum inflation they were able to achieve. Note that his left hand appears to be broken at the wrist due to the partial inflation.