Tuesday, August 18, 2009

King Kong was not that tall.

I make a habit of keeping up with Mark Hodgson's Black Hole DVD Reviews. His stuff is thorough, entertaining, spoiler-free and you could search the site for a week without coming across the same title twice (the pond is well stocked). In this particular entry over at Black Hole, Mark talks about buying a particular horror anthology magazine as a kid. Reading it brought back a few childhood memories of my own.

I grew up on classic mags like Famous Monsters, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, all suspiciously tolerated (at least the ones they knew about) by my even then concerned parents. [It's not HEALTHY for you to look at those kinds of pictures.... WELL, that vampire woman doesn't WEAR very much, does she...?]

And what was my own childhood Holy-Grail-of-print? Famous Monsters of Filmland #108 - the revered King Kong Special Photo Filmbook Issue. (i know!) I was about nine and my dad had treated me to a stop at "The Ft. Collins Comic Center" (a humble begining to what is now the "Mile High Comics" empire).

I got off to a rough start by mispronouncing "horror" to the woman working there, and asking where they kept the "whore" magazines. (She told me with a horrified look that they didn't sell anything like that, and I came back with "yes you do, I've bought 'em here before!") So she marched over to my Dad and gave him an earful on just what she thought of him exposing a kid my age to THAT kind of material.

But the three of us got the whole thing cleared up and pretty quick I was pawing through the stock on hand. And that's when I saw it - seared my neural pathways forever. An up-close-and-personal full color portrait of Willis O'Brien's King Kong, painted by the great Basil Gogos. Blew me away. (Not that I knew or cared who'd painted it right then and there, I was nine... but I knew it was beautiful.) So, I cracked the cover, and the inside was just FILLED with Mighty Kong.

One of my favorite photos from the mag was a publicity still with Kong standing next to eight "regular sized" gorillas stacked on top of each other. Now, even at nine years old, I knew Kong wasn't that tall in the film - I'd read he was scaled to be about three gorillas high in the jungle scenes, and four in the city. But the studio had been marketing Kong at 50 feet (like an 18-24 foot ape isn't cause for concern), so the photo was done with the up-sized-by-marketing Kong in mind. It wasn't acurate - but it was still a great photo.

Sadly, I lost my prized magazine during a move a few years later (or maybe Mom took the opportunity to down-size my magazine collection, who knows?). Now, back in the day - before everything on God's Green Earth was available on the internet (Internet, what's that?), losing something like this was a major blow to a kid. I wept. I pined. I prayed. I cursed. I never found another copy of the thing.

UNTIL I grew up and there WAS an internet, with eBay and specialty online shops and all the other wonderful things we geeky types get to enjoy today. So, now I own a beautiful copy that I reverently pull out on a regular basis: The first ever published photos of the lost spider pit sequence. Inside scoops on stop motion effects. How the life-size Kong bust worked. Behind-the-scenes, production and publicity stills.

And Kong with his eight little cousins. It's not accurate - but it's still a great photo.

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