Sinister Cinema: Kong

Pulps in the Movies. On Sale Every Wednesday.

Today the noted pulp expert John Locke takes us back to the days of 1933 via the digital magic of 2005 — the days when newsstands selling pulps populated the big cities, and if you want to recreate the scene you’ve got to insert those mini-markets for magazines.

John even drags a bridge into the discussion.

But he kicks it off with the big ape himself:

Here’s a shot of Kong emerging from an alley next to a news agent shop. More mags.

Peter Jackson went for max detail in his 2005 King Kong remake. That included building a digital model of Manhattan as it looked in 1933, the release date of the original film and the year Jackson chose to set his retelling. The model was perhaps the most detailed yet built, rivaled only by Kong himself.

The big model allowed panoramic shots and flyovers, but the level of detail extended to street scenes as well. Those shots are rich in every way. Relevant to our interests, there are numerous shots of newsstands, featuring a variety of magazines, including pulps.

And they’re in color. I can’t recall seeing any other color photos of actual 1930s newsstands.

This example uses the Manhattan Bridge tower as a background. The newsstand is in the lower left:

Note the yellow taxi down the street. The next shot zooms in on the taxi, revealing another nicely-stocked newsstand:

The actual location of the shot is a bit of a mystery, but there are only two choices. The first is a south-looking view from Pike Street, Manhattan, at the Henry Street crossing, as shown in this Berenice Abbott photo from 1936 — the angles and location of the tower match the King Kong photos:

The second choice is the view north on Washington Street, Brooklyn, at the Water Street crossing, as shown in this Google Street View image — ignore the tourists with cameras:

The mystery arises because the tower is centered on the street and the angles don’t match, but I can’t match current views from Pike Street to the Abbott photo. The area is considerably altered from what it would have looked like in 1936.

The Brooklyn view was definitively used in Once Upon a Time in America (1984):

I suspect that the Abbott photo has a misidentified location.

This entry was posted in Film, Lit and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.