King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson Paperback – 15 Nov 2005
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About the Author
Ray Morton has worked in Hollywood for the past fifteen years as a writer, script consultant, and story analyst.
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Above Kong '76, it just great to have a book devoted to ALL the King Kong films. Sure, we all love the original film and Mr. Morton does a spectacular job covering it, but I equally enjoyed reading about Son of Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Lives, etc. And a full chapter devoted Kong collectibles and the Kong movies that were never made...you gotta love that.
If you're a Kong lover, or just want one good Kong movie book on your shelf, Ray Morton's KING KONG, THE HISTORY OF A MOVIE ICON is the book to get.
Morton begins the book by providing brief biographies on Producer/Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoedsack, and sop-motion effects guru Willis O' Brien. Cooper was a true to life Indiana Jones who sought adventure around the world. A pilot, Cooper flew dozens of successful missions during WWI he was shot down and badly burned and captured by the Germans. After the war Cooper could volunteer with several other American pilots to assist Poland in their fight for freedom against the Bolsheviks, again flying numerous successful strafing missions as a squadron leader before again getting shot down and captured and sent to a prison work farm in Moscow. Cooper would later escape along with two Polish prisoners and would earn Poland's medal of bravery, their highest honor. Returning to the states and becoming a filmmaker, Cooper traveled to exotic locales around the world to shoot silent docu-dramas, all the while building ideas for Kong.
While Cooper originally planned the use of trick photography using real gorillas for Kong, O'Brien eventually was able to convince him that his stop-animation process would be the best route. Included in the book are some very rare concept paintings that O'Brien did to sell his ideas to Cooper. A name lost to time is Cooper's assistant Marcel Delgado. It was Delgado who actually built the two 18" armature Kong models. Author Morton then provides a month by month detailing of the shooting schedule. He also shares all of the state of the art techniques used for the various special effects in the movie, providing a back story to each one including the log scene, Kongs battle with the T-Rex, Kong's battle with the Pteradon, and his rampage through the native village. Also covered is the infamous, and excised pit sequence there the sailors who fell from the log are devoured by giant spiders and lizards.
Putting Kong into perspective, most "A" films of the day had a budget of $200,000. Kong's was over twice that at $500,000. A huge gamble for any studio and more so for RKO who would have gone out of business had the film flopped at the box office. As it was, the film opened to rave reviews and made over two million dollars in its initial release...a monumental figure for 1933. Samples of reviews of the period are included and the success of the film led to a very quickly produced and underrated sequel, "Son of Kong" which never has received the notoriety it deserves.
Morton goes onto cover the two Japanese produced films and while the sections are not nearly as long, they are still well-researched. A detailed synopsis of each film and full credits are provided. Morton then tackles the lackluster 1976 remake and the ill-advised 1986 sequel, "Kong Lives" before ending the book with a brief look at the Peter Jackson remake, soon to hit theaters.
For any fan of King Kong the book is a must have. Filled with dozens of color and black & white photographs from all the films, production drawings, story boards, even pictures of Kong collectibles from various eras, this book is a grand look at one of the movie's greatest characters.
Reviewed by Tim Janson
With the upcoming Peter Jackson movie, Kongmania has struck me again and I ordered this book along with the collector's edition of the 1933 film.
The book is chock full of pictures, many of which I'd never seen before, and fully detailed accounts of the making of the 1933 and 1976 Kongs, as well as the ill-conceived (but still likeable) Japanese Kong movies and Dino DeLaurentiis' King Kong Lives.
Definitely written with care about the subject at hand and not a quickie cash-in on the current interest in King Kong, this book is a must for anyone who's interested in Kong, moviemaking and action/fantasy films. I give it my highest recommendation.