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King Kong

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Tempo, New York, 1976
(price: $1.95)

The blurb on the back:

An American Folk Hero Who Will Live Forever!
From the seething jungles of Skull Mountain Island, a land which time and civilization had forgotten, to the skyscrapers of teeming New York City, King Kong inspires terror and awe as his colossal saga of innocence, passion, and towering rage unfolds.
A tragic love story of gargantuan proportions - one you will never forget!

Hollywood, as any fule kno, has no respect for anything at all and will happily engage in auto-cannibalism if there's a couple of bucks to be made. Even so, the 1976 re-make of King Kong, with Jessica Lange blasphemously appearing in Fay Wray's screaming role, plumbed new depths of depravity. If the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague had been in existence at the time, director John Guillermin would have been up in front of it like a shot. However, amongst the cash-ins that emerged in '76 to accompany the re-make was the re-issue of this book and for that, I suppose, we should be grateful.

The provenance of the story and the novelization is confused. We start with the stated facts:

conceived by
Edgar Wallace and Merian C Cooper
novelization by
Delos W Lovelace

It is copyright 1932 by Grosset & Dunlap (a Filmways Company), with the copyright renewed and assigned to Merian C Cooper.

Merian C Cooper
Merian C Cooper

Cooper was one of the producers of the original film, and was the originator of the story. Edgar Wallace, the king of pulp fiction, was called in to develop the script, but died in early-1932 and according to Cooper, 'didn't write any of Kong, not one bloody word [but] I'd promised him credit and so I gave it to him.' The screenplay was eventually written by James A Creelman (who had earlier scripted Cooper's other classic The Most Dangerous Game) and Ruth Rose. None of which gets us any nearer Delos W Lovelace, or gives us any indication of when he entered the picture. And, to be honest, I don't know the answer to that.

All I know is that Mr Lovelace was a former hack turned short-story writer, whose work at the time was overshadowed by that of his wife, the children's author, Maud Hart Lovelace. What is unclear to me is whether this text was re-vamped in any way for the 1970s edition. If not, then it deserves some considerable credit for its depiction of the inhabitants of Skull Island: you might reasonably have expected a much more offensive tone.

And anyway the book's not bad at all. No substitute for the glory of the film itself, of course, but at least fairly faithful to it. Check out the lascivious tone, dude:

Ann screamed again. Kong snatched at her. His hand caught in her dress and the dress tore in his huge fingers. More whiteness was revealed. Kong touched the smooth revelation. He pulled again at the torn dress. Then, holding Ann tightly, he began to pluck her clothes away as a chimpanzee might clumsily undress a doll. As each garment came free into his hand, he felt it excitedly, plainly trying to find some connection between the frail tissue and the whiteness he had exposed. (p.164)

There are also, brags the cover, '16 pages of splendid new art!' If 'splendid' is perhaps overstating the issue, one should at least be grateful that they're drawings and not pictures of Ms Lange. Here's one:

Orville Goldner & George E Turner, The Making of King Kong (Ballantine Books, New York, 1975) p.59. The picture of Merian C Cooper comes from the same, highly recommended study.


see also...
more kong
The Creation of King Kong