Saturday, October 6, 2012


"The ape must beat his breast and growl!" - Murray Spivack, Sound Effects for KING KONG (1933)

There have been abundant volumes written abou the 8th Wonder of the World, KING KONG. Just Google the big ape's name or run it through the search engine at and you'll see that there is no shortage of information about the most feared denizen on Skull Island. One of my personal favorites is THE GIRL IN THE HAIRY PAW edited by Gottesman and Geduld, which is out of print but still readily available.

Of course, no reading is by any means equal to watching one of the finest monster movies of all time. While other films by Willis O'Brien and others had come before it using stop-motion animation, nothing matched KING KONG for the sheer jaw-dropping wonderment that screen viewers beheld when it was released in 1933.

There's also no surprise that a film like KING KONG is loaded with visual effects. Today's audiences are commonly treated to the benefits of the latest and greatest in the rapid advancement of technology. For example, moviegoers can nearly get lifted off their seats with the booming sounds bellowing forth from the goliath systems of any stadium-style theater. The relative ease of creating sumptuous digital soundscapes are making this experience commonplace in the industry.

The sound design for the original KING KONG was an entirely different story. Cunningly cobbled together by craftsmen experimenting with the early tools and techniques of sound design, the results were nothing short of miraculous. When we first hear the roar of Kong rumbling through the jungle with Max Steiner's energetic score thundering in the background, the effect is nearly earth-shattering. The combined efforts of the animation crew including O'brien and Marcel Delgado, and the sound crew headed by Murray Spivack are still one of the most memorable achievements in film history.

RKO's KING KONG premiered in New York City on March 7, 1933. Hot on the heels of its general release, the April, 1933 issue of POPULAR SCIENCE magazine contained an article entitled, "Prehistoric Monsters Roar and Hiss for Sound Film". Written by Andrew R. Boone, the article details the creative and painstaking methods used by Spivack and his crew to attain the sound effects for the various reptilian and saurian beasts, not the least of which was the "voice" of Kong himself. This historically-important article gives us a rare glimpse into an aspect of monster movies of the day that was rarely revealed or discussed in detail.

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