The latest movie to bring the super-sized simian Kong to the big screen, Kong: Skull Island, comes out today. Kong is a very well-known movie monster, but there are some things you probably don’t know about the Eighth Wonder of the World. Here are seven bits of trivia about King Kong.
1. Despite popular belief, the name “Skull Island” was never used in the original King Kong. For decades, people have used that name to describe Kong’s island home. The new movie uses “Skull Island” in its title. But the fact is, that name was never used in the classic first version. When the characters in that version reach the island, they know they’ve come to the right place because they see “Skull Mountain”, so-named because it’s shaped like a skull. However, the island itself is never named—only Skull Mountain is.
2. The very first Japanese Kaiju movie was a little-known, low-budget King Kong rip-off from the early 1930s. Long before Godzilla was even an idea, Sochikuh Studio quickly filmed and rushed out Wasei Kingu Kong in 1933, the same year as the original King Kong and Son of Kong came out. The first giant monster movie ever made in Japan, it was only given a domestic release within Japan to avoid an inevitable lawsuit from RKO Pictures. It was basically a blatant copy of the American version. No known copies of this shameless film remain.
3. The 1933 version is ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest Fantasy/Sci-Fi films.
4. Special Effects pioneer Willis O’Brien, who is known as “the man who created King Kong” (because he created the model and SFX for the original film), once wrote a script called King Kong vs. Frankenstein, which he tried to sell to Japan’s Toho studio, after failing to sell it to Universal Studios. He managed to arrange for Toho to get the film rights for a trilogy of Kong films. While Toho passed on the idea of Kong vs. Frankenstein, they ultimately made FIVE films out of the idea. Firstly, they took advantage of the fact that they now had access to King Kong in order to make the dream-monster-fight of all time, King Kong vs. Godzilla. After that, they made the solo Kong movie King Kong Escapes. When that film didn’t do well, Toho gave up the idea of their planned third Kong movie Operation: Robinson Crusoe, and rewrote the script for the more surefire Godzilla, which led to Ebirah: Horror of the Deep (AKA Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.) As for the Frankenstein part, they took aspects of the script and made Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965). The sequel to this movie was War of the Gargantuas (1966).
5. The first King Kong grossed $90,000 on it’s opening weekend in 1933, which was the biggest grossing weekend ever at that time.
6. The footage of the deleted ‘Spider Pit’ scene from the 1933 film has been lost, but Peter Jackson recreated it from original story boards and released the recreation as a bonus Easter Egg on the DVD for his 2005 version of King Kong.
7. Original star Fay Wray, who played Anne in the 1933 movie, was asked to make cameos in both the 1976 and 2005 versions. She turned down the 1976 version because wasn’t happy with the idea of updating the story to modern times. She had agreed to appear in the 2005 Peter Jackson version but passed away at age 96 before she could film her scene.
8. There have been eight movies about Kong…King Kong (1933), Son of Kong (1933), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), King Kong Escapes (1967), King Kong (1976), King Kong Lives (1986), King Kong (2005) and Kong: Skull Island (2015). Aside from that, there was a 1966 animated King Kong TV series. Plus, Kong was one of the monsters that appeared in the ‘Supermarionation’ kid’s movie Mad Monster Party (1967).