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Same Places, Same Sets, Same Actors


CaveGirl
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Films that have an exotic and jungle-like terrain often seem to me to be about people’s dreams or an entry into their inner consciousness. The past week I was the proud possessor of the dvd for the 1932 version of the Richard Connell prize winning story, “The Most Dangerous Game”. Both this film and “King Kong” have similar pedigrees with Ernest Schoedsack being co-director for each, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong starring in both, and magnificently aided by Noble Johnson, who is the native chief in King, but plays a white servant to Count Zaroff in TMDG, named Ivan. These films utilize the same jungle motif and there is a sense of déjà vu when viewing TMDG after seeing Kong so often.
 
Entering the locale of TMDG, it starts off with a bang, with a fist extended towards the knocker of a giant baronial door, a knocker which depicts a woman being held in a gorilla-like creature’s paw, not unlike Kong’s. To knock, one must grasp the woman’s body in a horizontal way and rap, while enveloping her. Thus the whole storyline is encapsulated in this erotically filmed opening sequence.
 
Zaroff’s island is located in the Mediterranean and is legendary to sailors as Shiptrap Island, due to many sailing vessels being wrecked there. With a thick jungle, surrounded on all sides by jagged rocks and quicksand on the S.E. corner called Death Swamp, one knows better than to accept the hospitality of the welcoming lighthouse beams which in this case do not indicate safe passage, as some seaworthy veterans fear it is a trick to lure the fledging sailor to his death.
 
Residing in the midst of this decay and danger on a bluff, is the most prominent castle of the Russian Count Zaroff, which is decorated in a ghastly Baroque style with heads acquired though his hunting exploits and with some mounted below in the tunnel to the dogs’ quarters, those of human prey. Giant wall tapestries also illustrate the perverse nature of the Count’s exploits.
 
The courtyard and outer vestiges of the Count’s domicile are guarded by the ferocious and fierce mastiffs he uses for hunting, now that he has taken up man as his sole game. But be forewarned, an unwitting visitor to the island is only given three hours headstart and then is hunted for three days to his death.
 
Also master of his island domain is Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World. Kong presides over Skull Island which is S.W. of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. On the West front, Skull Island extends in a sandy peninsula for over a mile, and is cut off by a precipice from the mainland. Rising in the center of dense vegetation is a mountain which resembles a skull, and at its foot is a lake into which flow the streams running down the slopes. The flora and fauna are of gigantic proportions due to the tropical nature of the land, and are home to dinosaurs, huge lizards, flying reptiles, snakes and vultures. A wooden wall over 130 feet in height connects both coasts and separates the peninsula and the precipice, by means of two stone pillars and a huge gatelike entrance, constructed by the ancestors of the present natives. Their deity is Kong and their native chief pays tribute to him occasionally by offering him a bride, who is bedecked in florals and given into the hands of the witch doctor and twelve men, dressed in apelike couture and furry skulls, who place the bride on Kong’s altar plate. One knows it is time to climb the high wall to view the ceremonies and acceptance of the gift, when the gong is sounded and the bar is slowly threaded through the latches.
 
Forgetting for once the sexual undertones inherent in both these films, it is instructive to focus on the dreamlike elements in each film. Both islands appear to be from some ancient time period, and allow one to be immersed in a more primeval and primitive thought process. Reaching into the subterranean strictures of the brain, the islands perform a function that becomes cathartic, chthonic and oneiromantic. More so than modern films which brag on their special effects being so lifelike, these two films achieve greater levels of participation with the viewer enmeshed in the tale, and their more fully realized accomplishment of simulating a dream or fugue state.
 
One other aspect which completes the dream symbiosis is that just like in dreams where things are where they should not be, to watch TMDG is to wonder why now Denham is masquerading as Ann Darrow’s brother and why is Kong not in the same jungle, that appears to lie beyond the mansion. These films create a mental diptych where one is the counterpoint to the other. Open the latched doors of the diptych and risk entering into the deeper state of your diaspora towards moral disintegration and cosmic unconsciousness.
 
Has anyone noticed that Bruce Cabot’s facial structure with his big wide grin and gleaming teeth, looks a lot like Kong’s?

By the way, for sheer diabolical power and unparalleled use of something accidental, Leslie Banks uses a war injury which paralyzed the left side of his face, to delineate Count Zaroff’s dual persona. As the Count, Banks is photographed from the left in conventional scenes, but full face during more frightening close-ups to utilize the disparity between the sides of his face as metaphors for his unhinged personality. He represents the unchallenged Id in its sheer monomania and selfish lust for power and control. And he is one of the most superb and blood curdling villains on screen, that one ever has the pleasure to observe.
 
Favorite scenes. Denham in full view of the natives with his giant camera saying “Uh oh, I think they’ve seen us.”
 
Kong ripping the poor lizard’s jaw open and then playing with it.
 
The native baby, left all alone during Kong’s rampage.
 
Kong getting his fingers hurt by Driscoll’s knife and his bemused look.
 
All the cool birds and vultures and bats flying overhead.
 
The idiot from the boat who climbs the tree and then Kong chews him up. Kong literally rubbing out two natives with his giant footpaw in the mud. Kong in New York pulling the woman out of bed, seeing she is not to his taste, and dropping her like a hot potato.

I see I have a lot of messages here, so I'll be back later to see if anyone else posts about movies using the same sets, clothing, actors or whatever.
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Here is a bit of trivia that's interesting,  Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ was the mansion movie set in "Annie" (1982)  where Aileen Quinn teaches today as an adjunct theater professor..

 

A movie set became her future place of employment. That's beyond deja vue.

 

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I know of people who have homes underwater and open them up to film crews for extra revenue. Especially if its a second home. It can pay its note without the owner being there.

 

I know of someone who lives down the street from a home like this. And every month, the streets are clogged with film crews at that house. It can become a nuisance. 

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I would like to comment on this but am I expected to READ ALL THAT.

;)

 

CG, in that earlier thread of yours where you exhort us to come out with the REAL REASONS why we visit the site here, I took that as an invitation to exert a little levity. My first one was, "I come here because I want to see how many threads CG will start in day" something like that. I was just joking, as I was with the others on the list. Perhaps you realized that already. The complete omission of emoji in that post was necessary

 

Although you are prolific in that department, I feel your subject matter is consistently interesting and your intros to match.

 

I'm not kissing up, just wanted that clarified.

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Well I couldn't slog through that OP....after all, this is the internet. We have short attention spans.

 

But I will comment that this is one of the reasons I'm not so enamored with Universal "monster" titles. They just seem like the same actors, same sets, same MUSIC, even. The formula just kind of bores me. 

 

It's the curse of today's technology, the ability to watch anything any time you want. I'll bet back in their heyday moviegoers WELCOMED the familiarity. Most likely it gave Universal a consistency fans came to expect when they bought a ticket.

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Well I couldn't slog through that OP....after all, this is the internet. We have short attention spans.

 

But I will comment that this is one of the reasons I'm not so enamored with Universal "monster" titles. They just seem like the same actors, same sets, same MUSIC, even. The formula just kind of bores me. 

 

It's the curse of today's technology, the ability to watch anything any time you want. I'll bet back in their heyday moviegoers WELCOMED the familiarity. Most likely it gave Universal a consistency fans came to expect when they bought a ticket.

Exactly right Tikisoo. WAy too long to read.

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