Years before those airplanes attacked a big monkey as he clung to the Empire State Building, filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack traveled to exotic climes in their roles as documentarians. This week, Milestone Film & Video released new DVDs of two of their silent masterpieces, and anyone who cares about film history will be excited to get another look at them. In Grass (1925), Cooper and Schoedsack accompanied the Baktyari tribes of Iran and their cattle herds as they migrated over snowcapped mountains and across plains in search of new pastures. Beautifully photographed, the film is an enduring study of man and nature. Two years later, the filmmakers made Chang, a dramatized documentary about a Thai family facing the challenges of growing rice, raising animals and, in one memorable scene, fending off a herd of rampaging elephants. "What Nanook of the North is for snow, Chang is for the Asiatic jungle," one contemporary of the filmmakers said.
The release of Grass and Chang coincides with the first appearance of the original King Kong (1933) on DVD. It was, of course, the Hollywood adventure film that immortalized Cooper and Schoedsack in the American imagination. For information on the Milestone catalogue, log on at www.milestonefilms.com.