The untold truth of King Kong

King Kong is one of the most important kaiju movies of all time. While the 1933 classic certainly wasn't the first to feature a giant creature punching things, it's undoubtedly one of the most famous. King Kong has since left his humongous mark on films, video games, books — you name it. But there's plenty about the big lug a lot of people don't know about.

King Kong was created using the scraps of another film

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We might think of this as a new concept, but old Hollywood was a big fan. Movies are very expensive, after all, and for a long time, people who made them weren't always sure what they were doing. Movies hadn't been around that long, so they were kinda flying by the seat of their pants, and sometimes they flew right into a cliff.

Such was the case with 1931's unfinished Creation. It had some interesting ideas, but it was incredibly boring, at least according to the studio. It was a story of people going to an island populated by dinosaurs, and then terror ensued. While that sounds fun, it was apparently embarrassingly bad. But there were lots of good creatures and sets created for it, so why not reuse them? Out of the scraps of Creation, 1933's King Kong was born.

It was the first film with a real theatrical score

Aside from helping create the giant-monsters-punch-stuff genre, 1933's King Kong was also a pioneer in a bunch of technical ways. One of the things the original Kong did before any other film was to create a theatrical score. Think of John Williams' unforgettable work on Star Wars or Jurassic Park, or his rousing Indiana Jones theme. Doesn't it instantly conjure up Harrison Ford punching Nazis in the face?

Theatrical scores help the movie — they're not just incidental music playing while the movie is shown. But that's how music used to be, until King Kong. It was the first movie to have mood-appropriate music to enhance the narrative. Can you imagine how different movies would be without scores? At the very least, a bunch of people would be without jobs. And it's not just movies — television shows, plays, and video games would be wildly different without supportive musical scores, and it's thanks, in large part, to the King of the Apes.

A woman wrote King Kong

King Kong had firsts both in front of, and behind, the camera. The 1933 original had a ton of writers — as is pretty typical in Hollywood — but the last writer to work on it, the one who defined it, the one who wrote the words we ultimately hear, was a woman named Ruth Rose … because of course she would have a cool comic book name.

If you can't wrap your head around how cool this is, let's put this in perspective for you. The woman who wrote King Kong? She only gained the right to vote ten years before. She didn't stop at King Kong, either: she also wrote Son of Kong, The Last Days of Pompeii, and even King Kong-lite, Mighty Joe Young. So remember, kids: a woman essentially created the kaiju genre and science-fiction horror on the silver screen.

King Kong's legal rights were long disputed

Back in the 1930s, the film industry was still basically brand-new. All the rules for it hadn't exactly been sussed out, including the legal ones. When the OG King Kong was made, for example, no one knew who, technically, had the rights to the beast. The original creator claimed he created the character long before working for RKO Studios, so he was the one who owned it. RKO Studios countered, "Nuh-uh!" and sold the rights to Toho, who made King Kong vs Godzilla. Then a bunch of lawsuits were launched, at the end of which — guess what? — the huge company came out on top, claiming the rights to Kong.

Of course, the legal battle didn't end there. Years later, three different companies had the idea to remake King Kong, and the rights holder made a deal with all of them. Two companies went into production for the film at once, before finding out about the other, and just a huge onslaught of lawsuits were unleashed. To this day, there are still legal issues surrounding King Kong, as befitting the genre. You know the nightmare is never really over with these monsters.

King Kong pioneered the rear projection technique

Do you know what green screen is? If not, here's a basic definition: it's a screen (typically green, but sometimes blue) placed behind an actor or actors, onto which people can digitally paint an unreal background. But what about before CGI and green screen? What did movies do to create these kind of scenes? We know the creators of 1933's King Kong didn't really find and film actual dinosaurs attacking people, right?

What King Kong pioneered was the use of this thing called rear projection. Here's a really basic version of what it is: a literal projection is shown behind the actors, making it look like they're standing in a city, or that there are huge creatures in front of them, but in reality, all that's there is that screen. If it weren't for rear projection, dozens of films wouldn't have been possible, due to risk of error or ungodly cost. Do you know how much it costs to get real dinosaurs? The craft service cost alone is staggering.

King Kong was the first movie with an audio commentary track

King Kong created a bunch of amazing special effects, helped create the genre that gave us Godzilla, and it continued to do "firsts" even long, long after it was first made, including in 1984, with its LaserDisc debut. Remember LaserDiscs? They were these things like DVDs, but much bigger and worse. DVDs, if you've already forgot, were these things like Blu-rays, but worse. Blu-rays, if the name doesn't ring a bell, were these things that movies were on before digital took over the world. Got it?

Back in 1984, when King Kong came out on LaserDisc, it featured the first audio commentary track ever recorded, featuring a film historian named Ronald Haver telling stories about the film in, unfortunately, the driest and most boring way possible. It's cool that he broke ground, but did he have to do it with the dullest shovel ever?

King Kong vs Tarzan almost happened

King Kong vs Godzilla was about the two kaiju monsters meeting and punching each other a ton. It's basically the best. But the 1962 classic isn't the only King Kong vs movie that was supposed to be made. Before it came about, during the long years in which everyone and their mother thought they owned King Kong, and were bickering in court about it, the original director attempted to make a "vs" movie called King Kong vs … Tarzan. Can you imagine that? The King of the Jungle versus the King of the Apes? Wouldn't the movie be just one long screaming match between the two?

Or maybe it would've ended with them settling their differences after realizing both of their moms were apes named Martha — who knows? Although the film never saw the light of day, it eventually came to life as book, which isn't quite the same thing. We haven't read it, but literature is Tarzan's territory, so hopefully he has a huge home-field advantage. It's only fair.

King Kong had scenes censored after its release

Old, pre-Code Hollywood, believe it or not, was a lot more like Hollywood nowadays than you might think. There was a lot of sex, drugs, murder, and monsters, but no MPAA slapping ratings on flicks.. And so Hollywood let loose with a bunch of things that, in retrospect, seemed a bit too much. A lot of these movies were blacklisted, but some of them, such as King Kong, were too awesome and beloved to just blot out entirely.

After the film was released, it had multiple scenes censored. Some of these scenes involved Kong (and other creatures) eating people, ripping them to shreds, or stepping on them. Although others just involved Kong sniffing Fay Wray and ripping her clothes off. Eventually, the pendulum swung the other way, and now these scenes are considered to be completely fine. Even the one in which Kong grabs a woman he thinks is Fay Wray … and then drops her to his death. Such a gentle giant, really.

There's a legal battle over Skull Island

The King Kong series has had a rather tumultuous history — the rights were up in the air for a long time; it was ripped off by Nintendo — and that remains true with 2017's Skull Island reboot.

An artist named Joe DeVito claims he created the entire Skull Island mythology in comic book form, with the original creator's blessing and help, and had pitch meetings with Universal in which he laid out the origin of King Kong, his island, and his universe … but received no credit or compensation for the 2017 film. Once again, the battle over the ownership of King Kong rages on. Like the titular creature's quest for love, the legal issues surrounding the King of the Apes appear like they'll never, ever die.