The original King Kong (1933) makes its long-awaited DVD debut this week, riding on the early buzz for Peter Jackson’s upcoming remake. Or maybe it’s the other way around, with Jackson hoping for a boost from a newly stimulated Kong fan base. Indeed, Jackson is all over the extra features of Warner Brothers’ two-disc special edition. Among other things, he supervised the re-creation of a long-lost special-effects sequence deleted from the original film, and now included in a seven-part documentary about the 1933 movie’s making. (Other extras include an extensive commentary by stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen, a protégé of Willis O’Brien, the special-effects pioneer who brought the first Kong to life.) Whichever two-ton gorilla is scratching the other’s back, however, it’s nice to see that some of the littler guys in the DVD jungle are able to get in on the symbiotic simian action. Milestone Film & Video has taken the opportunity to re-release two early silent works by Kong creators Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack: Grass: A Nation’s Battle For Life (1925) and Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927). Documentaries both, Grass and Chang find in reality the same spirit of adventure that so informs the fantasy of Kong. In Grass, Cooper, Schoedsack, and journalist Marguerite Harrison record the mass migration of 50,000 Persian tribespeople through fearsome, yet stunningly gorgeous, terrain to find fertile grazing land for their livestock. In Chang, the life of a farming family at the edge of a Siamese jungle teeming with critters great and small provides the directors with plenty of material for a riveting saga of man versus beast. Getting up close and personal with wild tigers and a herd of rampaging elephants, Cooper and Schoedsack tap into the primal fear and fascination with the natural world that they would later expand to gargantuan proportions.
Other recommended new releases: Black Girl/Borom Sarret (DVD); House by the River (DVD); Punishment Park (DVD); Scarlet Street (DVD); Sins of the Fleshapoids (DVD)
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VHS/DVD: Polar Express; War of the Worlds.
DVD: 8mm 2 (Rated); A Dog’s Life; Á Double Tour; Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection; Andy Griffith: The Complete Fourth Season; Architectures IV; Batman vs. Dracula; Cheaper By The Dozen: Special Edition (2003); CSI: Miami: The Complete Third Season; The Fernando Arrabal Collection: Viva La Muerte, I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse, The Guernica Tree; The Fifth Reaction; Havoc; The Honeymooners; King Of The Hill Season 5; Kong: King Of Atlantis; La Ronde; Life In The Freezer; Mighty Joe Young; Naked City: Box Set 2; The Ninth Day; Novo; The Official 2005 World Series DVD; Old Believers; Ran; Ringers: Lord Of The Fans: Special Edition; Seinfeld - Season 5; Seinfeld - Season 6; Shirley Temple Collection Volume 2: Bright Eyes, Baby Take A Bow, Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm; Skeleton Man; The Son of Kong; Spike & Mike: Sick And Twisted Festival Of Animation - Contagious; Steve + Sky; The Tales Of Hoffman; Therese Raquin; The Woman of the Port; Tracey Takes On: The Complete First Season; Vasya; Wall.