On November 22, 2005, Turner Classic Movies premiered a version with a four minute overture added. This increased the run time to slightly over 104 minutes. This is also the U.S. two-disc DVD collector's edition version. Note, however, that the overture was not part of the film's original exhibition. According to John Morgan's notes on the score's re-construction, the overture was not written by Max Steiner. Morgan writes, "Another rumour has recently surfaced that Steiner composed an Overture for the film's world premiere opening in 1933 - there was even a recent recording claiming to be this long-lost Overture. Hearing the recorded "proof" of this Overture confirmed our suspicions: it was merely those same few acetates that have been floating around for years, professionally edited into a short Suite and called an Overture. In conversations I had with people who attended and remembered this opening, there was no music from the film used in any of these shows." Source: John Morgan, "Reconstruction Notes by John Morgan," Steiner: King Kong. Marco Polo (8.223763), 1997, pg. 21 (near bottom).
The original version was released four times between 1933 and 1952, and each release saw the cutting of additional scenes. Though many of the outtakes - including the censored sequence in which Kong peels off Fay Wray's clothes - were restored in 1971, one cut scene has never been found. It is the clip in which Kong shakes four sailors off a log bridge, causing them to fall into a ravine where they are eaten alive by giant spiders. When the movie - with spider sequence intact - was previewed in San Bernardino, CA, in late January, 1933, members of the audience screamed and either left the theater or talked about the grisly sequence throughout the remainder of the film. The film's producer/director Merian C. Cooper said, "It stopped the picture cold, so the next day back at the studio, I took it out myself." Recently, there have been rumors that the reason why the scene was cut was because it slowed down the film too much and didn't tie into the main story of Kong pursuing Ann. Peter Jackson and the crew at WETA "reconstructed" and re-shot the scene for the Warner R1 DVD using duplicates of the original stop motion models, the shooting script, and various storyboards. The sequence also includes the sailors running from an enraged triceratops.
Other than the sequence where Kong pulls Fay Wray's clothes off, here are the other scenes that were cut in the late '30s, and not restored until the '70s:
- All scenes of the Brontasourus biting sailors, including the sequence where a sailor climbs to the top of a tree, and soon, a dinosaur comes and takes him away in his mouth.
- Kong biting and chewing natives when he breaks through the gate on Skull Island, and squashing one under his giant foot.
- Kong biting a New Yorker when he escapes from the theater.
- Kong picking a sleeping woman from her hotel room, inspecting her and upon deciding that she's not Ann throwing her to the sidewalk several stories below. Though these scenes were fully restored in 35mm to the 1972 re-release, some prints in the 1960s used 35mm blow-ups of an old uncensored 16mm print to restore the shots, creating a noticeable drop in quality. The 1972 restoration gets the censored shots that were discovered in an uncut British 35mm print from 1933.
Also available in a computer colorized version.
Also scrapped from the film at the same time as the spider sequence (it is unknown how much of it was filmed) was a scene involving the search party encountering a group of triceratops right after the brontosaurus attack. Kong stumbles upon the creatures and a battle ensues. He hurls a giant rock at one of them, causing one of its horns to break off. Another triceratops chases the sailors further into the jungle and stabs one of them to death with its horn. This sequence was scripted but never filmed. Cooper felt a scene such as this would take too long (and too much money) to film, as well as slow the film down. The triceratops chasing the sailor was filmed, however (minus the impalement). Actually, it was a test shot from the canceled CREATION (1932) film that O'Brien was working on before KING KONG. He shot test footage of a triceratops chasing a sailor and goring him with its horn after the sailor had shot and killed its baby. The sequence of the triceratops chasing the sailor was to be grafted into the film of KING KONG. This is why the men are still running long after the brontosaurus had stopped chasing them, because a triceratops (only one) had sprung from the jungle and chased after them. The sequence was never used because it didn't match up well the King Kong footage and thus left out of the finished picture. The CREATION test footage can be found on the Warner R1 King Kong DVD released in 2005.
- Also cut was a long sequence of Ann and Jack fleeing from Kong after they jump off the cliff into the river. This sequence featured an enraged Kong climbing down from Skull Mountain after the pair. It was cut because Cooper felt it was too long and wanted to keep the pacing of the film quick, with the couple making it back to the village with an unseen Kong behind them keeping the pace of the film flowing fast.
- Another scene cut from the New York sequence had Kong peering into a window and breaking up a poker game. This sequence was cut because a similar scene had appeared in the THE LOST WORLD (1925)
- An alternate shot of Kong falling off the Empire State Building was filmed but discarded due to less than perfect special effects - with Kong falling he looked "transparent." While the scene was scrapped, a still of this exists and can be found in a book about the making of Kong.