King Kong: The Evolution, History, and Cultural Significance of a Legendary Motion Picture

By Steve Vertlieb: Here’s my look back at the three major motion picture productions of King Kong, encompassing the beloved original 1933 RKO classic, a primeval variation of “Beauty and the Beast” created by Merian C. Cooper; John Guillermin’s ill-fated 1976 remake from Paramount Pictures; and Peter Jackson’s massive, spectacular 2005 release. As Kong: Skull Island commences its own singular assault on movie theaters across the world, let’s take another affectionate look back at the evolution and history of…”Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

My article “’A Triple Life’ – King Kong’s Trinity of Reincarnation on Film” was a Rondo Award nominee. More than dry cinema history, it’s an energetic multi-media feast incl. film and music clips from the 1933, 1976 and 2005 films; audio commentary by Ray Harryhausen & Ken Ralston; archival video interviews, photos and more.

The GIRL in the HAIRY PAW
art by Dave Willardson
copyright Richard H. Childers Productions

“The Girl In The Hairy Paw,” edited by Ronald Gottesman and Harry M. Geduld, published by Avon Books in 1976, was actually the very first book ever devoted in its entirety to Merian C. Cooper’s immortal 1933 motion picture “King Kong.” “The Making of King Kong” by Orville Goldner and George Turner preceded it to the marketplace, but “The Girl In The Hairy Paw” had been in production and development since 1972 when it had originally been scheduled for release by Prentice Hall. A change in management at the publisher scrapped the then imminent release, and sent the book’s editors looking for a new publisher. Both Harry and Ron had seen my own series of articles concerning the evolution and production of King Kong in the premiere issue of the New York tabloid The Monster Times, and visited my home in Philadelphia to talk with me about adapting my work for a more formal inclusion in their forthcoming volume, which was to be the first book ever devoted exclusively to the immortal fantasy adventure thriller. Finally, Avon Books in New York City purchased the rights to publish the book with exclusive pictorial content largely derived my own collection of King Kong memorabilia, and the beloved volume reached book shelves at last in 1976.

The Monster Times Magazine #1 [1972] Monster Times Publishing corp. KING KONG COVER. The World’s First Newspaper of Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy! This issue: The Men Who Saved Kong! Mushroom Monsters! The End of the World! Bonus – Monster-Sized Color Poster Inside! Cover art by Gray Morrow. Cover price $1.00.

This was my first professional gig, writing the cover story for the premiere issue of The Monster Times, a then experimental bi-weekly tabloid newspaper, published in New York City by Larry Brill and Les Waldstein, edited by Chuck McNaughton, and devoted exclusively to horror, sci-fi, fantasy films. This was Gray Morrow’s spectacular cover art for the 1972 debut of the beloved tabloid, featuring the beginning of my series of articles (“The Men Who Saved King Kong”) chronicling the making and production of the greatest “Monster” movie of all time…the original 1933 King Kong. I later formalized and polished my essays on “Kong,” which became the lead chapter for Avon Books’ groundbreaking 1976 volume, The Girl InThe Hairy Paw.

Spent a delightful afternoon with Fay Wray in her Century City, California apartment in the summer of 1975, during which time we talked about everything related to her most cherished film, the magnificent King Kong. She delighted in recounting tales of the filming of her most famous motion picture and signature performance, and was quite willing to discuss both Merian C. Cooper and Robert Armstrong, but declined to talk about her romantic lead in “Kong,” Bruce Cabot. On a related note, Cabot was the only member of the starring team of performers not mentioned at the conclusion of the end credits for Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of “King Kong.”

One of the giants of cinema, and founders of early filmdom…the head of RKO Studios upon the departure of David O Selznick…Brigadier General in the United States Airforce…war hero…reporter for the New York Times…co-founder of Pan American Airlines…adventurer/documentary film maker…co-producer and partner of John Ford…and the creator, producer, author, and co-director of the original King Kong… Merian C. Cooper. “Coop” and I maintained an intense, intimate correspondence for the last eight years of his life. After his death, I shared a memorable afternoon with his widow, Dorothy Jordan, and son Richard Cooper, looking over rare “Kong” memorabilia, including his original shooting script for the picture cluttered with his handwritten notes and instructions, and the famous illustration given to “Coop” at Christmas, 1932, by the cast and crew showing the director in caricature yelling “Make It Bigger…Make It Bigger.”

A personal inscription from the creator, co-producer and co-director of the original King Kong in which he amusingly relates that he was, in fact, the “Old Arabian” who authored the legendary proverb which so tantalizingly opens the film…”And the beast looked upon the face of beauty, and stayed its hand from killing, and from that day forth was as one dead.”

A personally inscribed autograph from the great Merian C. Cooper, the creator of King Kong.

With beloved King Kong historian and American Cinematographer journalist George Turner when George and I were the invited guest speakers at the sixtieth anniversary King Kong retrospective held at The Gateway Theater in Chicago during the Winter of 1993. Co-sponsored by Turner Entertainment, the well-publicized event drew some five hundred fans to the anniversary screening and presentation. George was a truly lovely man, and brilliant film historian. We shared the stage that day so very long ago in 1993, answering questions about “Kong” from the enthusiastic audience, and screening a wonderful print of the movie on the giant Gateway Theater screen. George and I stayed at The Chicago Hilton over that memorable weekend, just days after Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, and the crew of The Fugitive had departed the hotel.

With the new big budget re-imagining of King Kong opening across the country, here’s an early drawing by artist Tim Johnson which accompanied an article I’d written for a 1977 issue of George Stover’s Black Oracle Magazine, concerning Paramount’s disastrous 1976 Dino De Laurentiis remake of “Kong.” Tim was kind enough to illustrate the striking cover art for my tongue in cheek critique of the ill-advised film, which I so aptly titled “Twas Dino Killed The Beast.” Tim’s stunning portrait, specially commissioned for our magazine those forty years ago, was a spectacular precursor of the talent and career that this gifted artist would become recognized for over the ensuing four decades.

 

Pixel Scroll 3/11/17 It’s Always In The Last Pixel You Scroll

(1) VAMPIRE DIARIES GOES GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. As the series goes off the air, The Guardian asks “Better than Buffy? Spare a thought for the Vampire Diaries”.

The eight-season run of the Vampire Diaries ended quietly on Friday night, without a hint of the outsized media fanfare so liberally bestowed on series finales in television’s so-called golden age. The glossy adaptation of LJ Smith’s young-adult novel series, even before its latter-season decline in form and ratings, never did inspire the type of sophisticated critiques reserved for the major-network or cable darlings. But even amid a landscape that’s only been further crowded by the emergence of Netflix and Amazon, there is a place for the pure concentrated entertainment that was offered up for years by the CW’s deliciously pulpy supernatural soap opera. Television will be poorer – and a less fun place – without it.

(2) HUGO REMINDER. Worldcon 75 sent members an alert that the deadline to nominate for the Hugos is only days away.

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections as long as the nomination period continues. But we recommend that you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

You may make changes to your nominations until 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Greenwich Mean Time, 08:59 in Finland, all on 18 March), by using the following link to sign in again:

(3) FOLLOW THAT CAT. Timothy the Talking Cat has stolen the keys to Camestros Felapton’s blog and posted his own “appalling” Hugo slate

Remember that this year the rules have changed! The social justice witches have put their broomsticks together and decided that you can no longer just vote for Dune over and over again. But no fear! As a grandmaster of non-euclidean hyperbolic  7-dimensional chequers, I can adjust my plans accordingly. See below!

(4) DEEP POCKETS. The Deep Space: Nine Documentary by Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone and Adam Nimoy hit 420% of its Indiegogo goal. The extra money will be used to add 50% more latinum minutes to the video, and lots of bonus features. Space.com has the story — “’Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Doc Warps Way Beyond Crowdfunding Goal”.

 After nearly quadrupling their Indiegogo goal to produce a new documentary on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9), the creators are busy trying to figure out how to best deploy their newfound wealth.

Today (March 10) is the final day of the campaign to produce “What We Left Behind,” and backers on the crowdfunding site have raised more than $575,000 for the film. The show is co-led by DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, produced by David Zappone and directed by Adam Nimoy. Zappone and Nimoy are known for the 2016 documentary “For The Love of Spock,” and Zappone also produced the 2011 “Star Trek” documentary “The Captains.”

In an interview with Space.com, Behr and Nimoy, who is the son of the first “Star Trek” series’ actor Leonard Nimoy, said they are reconfiguring their plans for the now 90-minute documentary, which is 30 minutes longer than their original vision, because of the extraordinary response to the crowdfunding effort.

(5) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. Naked Security analyzes “How online gamers use malware to cheat”.

“We typically think of malware as something used to steal data from corporations or knock down websites in politically motivated attacks.  But if you’re a gamer, sometimes it’s simply a tool for winning. “SophosLabs threat researcher Tamás Boczán has been studying this trend, and recently gave a talk about it at BSides Budapest.  This article reviews his findings and offers us a chance to share some of his presentation slides.”

…As cases of cheating have risen, so have the examples of anti-cheat technology from various companies. As various sides have upped the ante, both sides have drawn in people of greater skill. He said:

Hacking an online game is not that easy any more. In the old days, script kiddies could to do it, but now hacking is a serious game that requires a skilled attacker. So why would a skilled attacker waste their time and skill on a video game?

He mapped out the sequence of events this way:

  • All this was originally about having fun.
  • Then the gaming industry grew.
  • The games went online.
  • People began to cheat for profit, just as hackers often do when targeting companies.
  • In response, an anti-cheating movement has sprouted up that mirrors security companies….

(6) FORGEHAM OBIT. John Forgeham (1941-2017): British actor, died Friday, aged 75. Best-known for a long-running role in the UK soap Crossroads, other screen appearances included The Avengers (one episode, 1965), The Stone Tape (1972), Sheena (1984), T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus (one episode, 1991).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is published

(8) LE GUIN’S NEXT BOOK. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection No Time to Spare comes out December 5.

Her next book, No Time to Spare, will be a collection of recent essays. It comes with an introduction from Karen Joy Fowler, who, like Le Guin, knows a thing or two about writing across genres.

As Fowler notes in her introduction to the collection, Le Guin is currently enjoying a moment of mainstream cultural appreciation: Filmmaker Arwen Curry recently raised funds on Kickstarter for a documentary on the author, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, and back in October, The New Yorker ran a profile on Le Guin and her enduring influence.

You can read an excerpt from Fowler’s introduction at the linked post.

(9) BURIAL IN SPACE. At Krypton Radio, Thaddeus Howze reviews the long history of Star Trek, then dares to ask: Is it time to retire the franchise?

My point of all of this review is this: Since Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the three Kelvin Timeline Star Treks, (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Beyond) we have stopped looking to the future. Star Trek has become as lame as the political rhetoric many of us despise in our real lives…

“Make America Great Again” is the rallying cry used to talk about the past as if it were some great thing to be reclaimed and returned to. When the truth of the matter is the past is never as good as it seems and to seek refuge in the past is to deny the present and refute the future altogether.

CBS’ latest television series Star Trek: Discovery also takes place in the past (presumably the original timeline past, not the Kelvin Universe past) some time after Archer but before (or maybe during Kirk’s Enterprise) period. What we do know is this is not a far future Star Trek.

It is not an extrapolation of all we can be. It is not a look at the future of Humanity at our best and our worst. It is a remix of Treks, mashing costumes, designs, ships, and probably stories.

(10) SHADOW CLARKE DOINGS. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest activity includes two reviews and a FAQ.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season casts a long shadow on the Clarke submissions list, having won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and having been shortlisted for almost everything else. Thousands of words have already been spent praising it, critiquing it, speculating about it online since it came out in the US in 2015 and I imagine few people reading this are encountering it for the first time. In spite of its pedigree I was sceptical going in. The only other book by Jemisin I’d read – The Killing Moon – wasn’t a highlight. I thought its excellent world-building came at the expense of almost everything else. Then there was the thorny issue of eligibility and whether or not The Fifth Season conforms to the Clarke requirement that books be science fiction rather than more broadly speculative. When I shortlisted it I did so partly because it offers an opportunity to wade into the eligibility question and partly as a test for myself, to see if I would admire it as much as everyone else. I almost hoped I wouldn’t because, let’s be honest, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t work in fiction than what does.  Also, dissent prompts debate and this project is all about that. But, sorry folks, I’m afraid I’m about to tell a familiar story. The Fifth Season is just as good as everyone said it was and the genre controversy is dead in the water. It’s perfectly eligible for the Clarke Award.

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

What is the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury?

An initiative developed by Nina Allan and hosted by the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in 2017, the Shadow Jury is a panel of talented, passionate members of the SF community who come up with their own personal shortlists and winners for a given year.

(11) CRITICAL MASS. Charles Payseur analyzes the nature of book reviewing and his own reasons for doing it.

Let me say that there’s a great many reasons why people review. Some want to become authorities on a particular form or genre. They want to be engaged in creating a canon or they want to help determine the boundaries of genres or any number of other things that essentially boil down to gatekeeping. They want to be able to say what is and what is not, what should and what should not be considered when talking about science fiction or literary fiction or horror. When they review they might refuse to look at certain works because they don’t cleave close enough to what they expect and enjoy. This is not the kind of reviewer I hope to be. And there are reviewers out there who just want to express their opinions as honestly as they can. They want to go onto Goodreads and Amazon and rank what they liked good and what they didn’t bad and concentrate mostly on their immediate reaction to a story or work. This is actually much closer to what I do but it’s not quite what I aim for….

(12) KONG KILLED AGAIN. Reader’s Digest version – Locus film reviewer Gary Westfahl says the new Kong movie sucks little black rocks – “Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not achieve – namely, a King Kong film that recaptures the charm and élan of Merian C. Cooper’s classic 1933 production. Unfortunately, the film devolves into an iterative, and increasingly unpleasant, series of variations on the two basic set pieces observed in all giant monster movies: humans vs. monster, and monster vs. monster; and the only suspense involves which character will next be dispatched to a gory demise….

 (13) RED PLANET RADIO. It’s Mars Season on BBC Radio 4, with fiction, interviews, documentaries, and quizzes.

William Shatner introduces the “We Are The Martians” series, which explores the Mars of imagination, science and history.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, and David K.M.Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling, Keep Those Pixels Scrolling, File-wide….

(1) ON THE MARCH.

(2) GRAPHIC NOVEL WINS DIVERSE BOOKS AWARD. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles says that Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin have won the Walter Dean Myers Award (or “Walter”) for Outstanding Children’s Literature for March: Book Three.  The award is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, which promises to buy 2,000 copies of the graphic novel and donate them to libraries.

Responding to the news that he had won the Walter, Lewis said via email: “I am deeply moved for our book to receive this award. It is my hope that it will inspire more people to read and to use their pen to inspire another generation to speak up and speak out.”

(3) BREAKTHROUGHS. Barnes & Noble SF/F blog has listed “20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice”.

From the Time Machine to Kirk and Uhura‘s unprecedented kiss, speculative fiction has often concerned itself with breaking barriers and exploring issues of race, inequality, and injustice. The fantastical elements of genre, from alien beings to magical ones, allow writers to confront controversial issues in metaphor, granting them a subversive power that often goes unheralded. On this, the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider 20 novels that incorporate themes of social justice into stories that still deliver the goods—compelling plots, characters you’ll fall in love with, ideas that will expand your mind. Let’s imagine a day when the utopian ideals of Star Trek are more than just the stuff of science fiction.

(4) SEER. Nature profiles Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his 100th birthday (last month).

In 1945, Clarke inadvertently launched a career as a futurologist with his outline for a geostationary communications satellite. In a letter (‘V2 for ionosphere research?’) published in February’s issue of Wireless World and inspired by the German V2 rockets then landing on London, he made a revolutionary proposal:

An ‘artificial satellite’ at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.

Clarke realistically concluded: “I’m afraid this isn’t going to be of the slightest use to our postwar planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.” He followed up with a more detailed piece in Wireless World that October, envisioning “space-stations” that relied on thermionic valves serviced by an onboard crew supplied by atomic-powered rockets.

(5) SCIENCE THE SH!T OUT OF THIS. Is dome living worse than dorm living? Six simulated Hawaiian Martians will find out — “Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome”.

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods — with a rare treat of Spam — and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The simulated stay on Mars with a carefully selected crew of researchers embarked on a mission Thursday to gain insight into the psychological toll a similar real-life voyage would have on astronauts. It’s part of a NASA-funded human-behavior experiment that could help the space agency send humans to the red planet in the next 20 years.

The man-made dome that the four men and two women call home is outfitted with futuristic white walls and an elevated sleeping platform on the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii. The vinyl-covered shelter spans 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom house.

A video released by the group shows the six scientists in matching red polo shirts arriving and entering the dome to farewell handshakes from program associates

(6) THE WORST. AlienExpoDallas forwards its picks as the “Top 5 Villains of Sci-Fi”.  Did they get it right?

Just like the clothes make the man, the villain makes the hero! (Unless you’re Batman — then you make the villains… in any case, I digress.) Today we live in a world where the villain gets his due — specifically villains of the sci-fi variety. Villains in sci-fi have a special gravitas where no matter how evil the scheme or horrid their actions, you somehow find yourself rooting for them. So with that, here are our top 5 villains of sci-fi!

Number 5 is Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

(7) VISITED BY THE MUSE. Amanda Palmer posted this photo on Instagram yesterday.

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

 

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

A post shared by Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) on

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 — First American novel, The Power of Sympathy, published in Boston

(9) PEER REVIEWED. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, co-authored a paper on AI/machine learning, based on a short film she directed.

The Twilight actress recently made her directorial debut with the short film Come Swim, and in it used a machine learning technique known as “style transfer” (where the aesthetics of one image or video is applied to another) to create an impressionistic visual style. Along with special effects engineer Bhautik J Joshi and producer David Shapiro, Stewart has co-authored a paper on this work in the film, publishing it in the popular online repository for non-peer reviewed work, arXiv.

(10) FIFTH OF KONG. There’s a new series of TV spots for Kong: Skull Island. In keeping with Scroll tradition, I picked #5.

(11) F.U.D. People are getting pretty good at recognizing fake news. Like Brian Niemeier’s insinuation about this year’s Worldcon supporting membership rate.

Worldcon 75’s supporting membership rate was fixed when the four rival bids for 2017 set the cost of a site selection voting membership in the summer before the 2015 Worldcon. It’s not a recent decision.

And have a look at the supporting membership rates for the five most recent Worldcons.

  • LoneStarCon 3 (2013) supporting membership: $60
  • LonCon 3 (2014) supporting membership: $40
  • Sasquan (2015) supporting membership: $40
  • MidAmeriCon II (2016) supporting membership: $50
  • Worldcon 75 (2017) supporting membership: $40

A $40 rate is a typical rate, not a cut rate.

(12) DEE GOOTS. In Andi Gutierrez’ The Star Wars Show episode “Rogue One Secrets Explained”, she interviews Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, delving into Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs, production details, and much more.

(13) THE COOLEST PROJECT. Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator! Do you want one badly enough to make it yourself?

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that’s not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the Star Wars replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

 

(14) INSTANT CLASSIC. Camestros Felapton wove together several recent memes as replacement lyrics for an Otis Redding tune.

Oh the Gorn may be weary?
Them Gorns they do get weary
Wearing those same old metallic shorts, yeah yeah?
But when the Gorn gets weary
Try a little pixelness….

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Rob Thornton, Gregory Benford, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

“King Kong” Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration in Chicago, 1993

By Steve Vertlieb: Here’s an advertisement for the 1993 sixtieth anniversary King Kong celebration at Chicago’s famous Gateway Theater. Writer and Kong scholar George Turner shared the giant Gateway stage with me as we spoke lovingly of the big gorilla’s legacy. Linwood Dunn was scheduled to share the spotlight with George until illness forced him to cancel his appearance. At the last moment, the organizers scrambled to fill his substantial shoes with a suitable replacement. Sadly, all that they could get was me.

vertlieb-kong-1

The Girl In The Hairy Paw was the very first book ever conceived or published about the immortal motion picture fantasy masterpiece King Kong, and my own singular participation in this legendary volume was instrumental in its eventual inception, style, and design. Editors Ron Gottesman and Harry Geduld visited me at my home in Philadelphia, and asked if I would allow my series of articles from The Monster Times (1972) on the making of Merian C. Cooper’s adventure classic to lead off their forthcoming volume for Avon Books in New York. I also supplied the authors with much of the photographic material which ultimately graced their joyous, wonderful 1976 volume about the legendary film classic.

vertlieb-kong-2

The premiere issue of The Monster Times from 1972 with original cover art by Gray Morrow, and featuring my cover story on the making of King Kong (1933) which I later re-wrote as the lead chapter for Avon Books’ legendary 1976 volume, The Girl In The Hairy Paw.

vertlieb-kong-3

Famed “Kong” scholar George Turner and I were the invited guests at this memorable 1993 sixtieth anniversary remembrance of King Kong held at the renowned Gateway Theater in Chicago. We shared both the stage and our own personal recollections of the classic film’s production and influence before a live audience of some five hundred fans.

vertlieb-kong-4

With beloved King Kong historian and American Cinematographer journalist George Turner when George and I were the invited guest speakers at the sixtieth anniversary King Kong retrospective held at The Gateway Theater in Chicago during the Winter of 1993. Co-sponsored by Turner Entertainment, the well publicized event drew some five hundred fans to the anniversary screening and presentation.

vertlieb-kong-5

Pixel Scroll 7/23/16 I Tasted The Pixels In The Scroll Of The Universe, And I Was Not Offended

(1) TRAFFIC. How do you get more pageviews for your blog? Talk about politics. But, of course, these things must be done delicately. Notice the daft, er, deft touch in Camestros Felapton’s post “Well, He Kept That Quiet”.

The local newspaper reports:

In a surprising move, presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, has chosen local vermin catcher Timothy the Talking Cat as her Vice Presidential pick….

(2) SPACE, THE FASHION FRONTIER. Mayim Bialik of Big Bang Theory did a Star Trek-themed photo shoot. There are six pictures in the gallery, with Bialik costumed as a series of characters from classic Trek.

Mayim Bialik and fans everywhere geek out over Star Trek at 50. To celebrate, we boldy go where no man—or woman—has gone before, with a little help from this Trekkie pinup girl and The Big Bang Theory star. “I watched a lot of Star Trek when I was a kid, and being able to not only dress up like some of the most iconic characters from that universe,” Mayim Bialik said, “but be made up by some of the original innovators who created these looks, was personally so meaningful.”

trekkie1

She also appears in a two-minute “making of” video.

(3) LEGO SPACEWOMEN. LEGO has been asked to do a Women of NASA project about five female scientists and astronauts:

Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program, a.k.a. NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

This proposed set celebrates five notable NASA pioneers and provides an educational building experience to help young ones and adults alike learn about the history of women in STEM. The five Women of NASA are:

Women of NASA 2562129-o_1anriledce9i1qm5hpeki28vo1u-full

Margaret Hamilton, computer scientist: While working at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s, Hamilton developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo missions to the moon. She is known for popularizing the modern concept of software.

Katherine Johnson, mathematician and space scientist: A longtime NASA researcher, Johnson is best known for calculating and verifying trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs — including the Apollo 11 mission that first landed humans on the moon.

Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist, and educator: A physicist by training, Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. After retiring as a NASA astronaut, she founded an educational company focusing on encouraging children — especially girls — to pursue the sciences.

Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer: One of the first female executives at NASA, Roman is known to many as the “Mother of Hubble” for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope. She also developed NASA’s astronomy research program.

Mae Jemison, astronaut, physician, and entrepreneur: Trained as a medical doctor, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992. After retiring from NASA, Jemison established a company that develops new technologies and encourages students in the sciences.In addition to a desktop frame that displays these five minifigures and their names, the set includes vignettes depicting: a famous photo of the reams of code that landed astronauts on the moon in 1969; instruments used to calculate and verify trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions; a microscale Hubble Space Telescope and display; and a mini space shuttle, complete with external tank and solid rocket boosters.

The idea has gathered 2,513 supporters as of this writing – with 541 days left (that’s what it says). It needs 10,000 supporters to qualify for an official LEGO review.

(4) GHOSTBUSTER TOYS. Meanwhile, some toy shelves have become ghost towns due to strong sales  – “Mattel Reports ‘Ghostbusters’ Toy Sales Have ‘Exceeded Expectations’”.

Mattel is reporting strong early sales for its line of toys based on the female-led “Ghostbusters” — from both boys and girls.

In keeping with the tagline “Everybody wants to be a Ghostbuster,” Mattel’s retail strategy was to sell the female-led Ghostbusters action figures in the boys’ toy aisle. The sales figures at the top retailers in the country have exceeded expectations, the toymaker reported Friday.

(5) PULP STUDIES. James Madison University will host the 1st Annual Pulp Studies Symposium on October 7-8. One of the speakers is today’s Munsey Award winner, Laurie Powers.

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, James Madison University’s Special Collections hosts one of the finest publicly accessible collections of pulp magazines in the United States, including a recent acquisition of over eighty issues of Street and Smith’s romance pulp Love Story.

Speakers

David M. Earle

Associate Professor of Transatlantic Modernism and Print Culture at the University of West Florida

David M. Earle is Associate Professor of Transatlantic Modernism and Print Culture at the University of West Florida. He is author of Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form (2009) and All Man!: Hemingway, 1950s Men’s Magazines, and the Masculine Persona(2009). More recently, he has published on pulp magazines and modernism for The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Volume 2; the influence of pulps on William Faulkner for Fifty Years after Faulkner; and pulps and the modernist genre novel for The Cambridge History of the Modernist Novel (2016). His online projects include the Digital Newsstand, an online re-creation of a newsstand from 1925.

Laurie Powers

Laurie Powers, an Ada Comstock Scholar graduate of Smith College, developed her interest in pulp fiction in 1999 when she discovered that her paternal grandfather, Paul S. Powers, (1905–1971) had been a successful writer of stories that appeared in magazines such as Weird Tales, Wild West Weekly, Western Story Magazine, Real Detective Tales, Thrilling Western, and many more. Since then, Laurie has been very active in the community of pulp fiction historians, writers, and collectors. She wrote the prologue and epilogue that appear in her grandfather’s memoir, Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street (University of Nebraska Press, 2007), has published several collections of her grandfather’s stories, and has spoken to a variety of audiences on the history of pulp fiction. Laurie is now writing a biography of Daisy Bacon, editor of Love Story Magazine, and has written articles and book introductions about Bacon and the romance pulps

(6) ONE WRITER’S PROCESS.

(7) KISS ANOTHER HISTORIC HOUSE GOODBYE. According to Los Angeles Magazine, “The Home Where Walt Disney Founded His First Studio Is Set to be Demolished”.

New owners have requested a demolition permit for Walt Disney’s first home in California. The well-preserved 1914 Craftsman bungalow at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Los Feliz belonged to Walt’s aunt Charlotte and uncle Robert Disney, who in July of 1923 invited their young nephew to board in their home (at a rate of $5 per week) as he pursued his dream of becoming a film director. The 2-bedroom, 1458 square-foot home would stay in the Disney family for 30 years. Charlotte moved next door in 1955, spending five decades on Kingswell. When it was sold again in 1977 the owners described it as having “lots of wood trim, fireplace & cheery breakfast room.” The home exhibits tremendous architectural integrity, with the same porch, gables, shingles, windows, and beveled glass door that greeted 22-year-old Walt Disney.

According to the Los Angeles County Assessor the property was sold two months ago to Sang Ho and Krystal Yoo of Studio City, who submitted plans on Friday for a new 2-story, 1 or 2-family home they plan to build on the site. In November, the City of Los Angeles Survey L.A. program declared the property eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its role as Walt Disney’s first studio in California. The same city planning department is now considering issuing a permit for its destruction.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 23, 1982 — Actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed when a helicopter crashed on the movie set of The Twilight Zone.
  • July 23, 1999 — Disney’s Tarzan became the first all-digital film.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 23, 1989 – Daniel Radcliffe

(10) WISE CRACKS. Ethan Mills at Examined Worlds reviews “Tectonic Fantasy: Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin”.

N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is a difficult, complex, and engrossing tale.  Let me focus on the plot structure, the worldbuilding, and the major theme of living within unjust social structures….

Building a Volatile World The worldbuilding is amazing.  The Stillness (the sarcastically-named continent where it all takes place) is on a world of intense geological activity, which every few hundred years creates a “Fifth Season” that wipes out a lot of the life on the planet.  Worldbuilding aficionados will love the historical appendix that tells the history of each Fifth Season going back several thousand years.  There’s also a glossary for more general terms, which is helpful for forgetful readers like me (although most of the terms can be understood in context as you read the novel).  It’s obvious as you’re reading that this is the first book of a trilogy, so while I look forward to learning more about the characters, I’m most interested to learn more about the world.

(11) HUGO CHANGES. Steve Davidson gives “A 3SV Endorsement” at Amazing Stories.

3SV would insert an additional vote between nominations and final voting.  (Nominations > 3SV > Final Vote.) Up to the top 15 nominees in each category are presented to the voters, who in effect have an opportunity to preemptively vote No Award for each of the 15 nominees.  Based on the criteria of the proposal (here), nominees that receive above a certain threshold of “reject” votes during this round are removed from the list of 15 and the remaining top 5 nominees – based on the original nomination counts – are then placed on the final ballot.

Nominees of questionable origin, undeserving nominees and nominees gamed onto the ballot can be removed at this second stage, which will prevent bad actors from acquiring a “Hugo Award Finalist” designation;  voters will not have to choose to vote for something reprehensible or No Award the entire category;  the effectiveness of slate voting will be seriously reduced, if not eliminated.

The bar for rejection is high – 60% – so it is unlikely that anything but those works generally perceived as having arrived on the ballot through unfair means will be eliminated during the process.

(12) FANTASTIC BEASTS. There’s been an inundation of trailers tailored for showing at the San Diego Comic-Con. I’m including several in today’s Scroll.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Comic-Con Trailer

(13) JUSTICE LEAGUE. Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment showed footage of Zack Snyder’s Justice League in Hall H.

(14) KONG. SciFiNow has a good intro: “Kong Skull Island trailer crash-lands in modern day”.

The first trailer for Kong: Skull Island has come rampaging in…

Letting us know that this is brought to us by same folks who created Godzilla, this should have given us a hint of what to expect from Kong: Skull Island. We’ll be honest though: we weren’t prepared for this.

Leads Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson don’t get a single line of dialogue. Instead, co-stars Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman get their time to shine in this modern-day reimagining of the King Kong mythos.

 

(15) MARVEL AND NETFLIX AT SDCC.

San Diego Comic Con Sizzle presented by Marvel and Netflix

A look back at Daredevil and Jessica Jones as we get ready for Luke Cage. All episode of Daredevil and Jessica Jones now streaming on Netflix. Luke Cage premieres on September 30.

 

Marvel’s Iron Fist – SDCC – First Look – Netflix [HD]

Marvel’s The Defenders – SDCC Teaser – Netflix [HD]

Marvel’s Luke Cage – SDCC – Teaser – Netflix [HD]

(16) MARCHING DOWN THE AISLE. Elaborate cosplay at SDCC.

(17) SOME DARE CALL IT ACTING. Hello Giggles really likes Margot Robbie.

This brand new “Suicide Squad” trailer ONLY features Harley Quinn and thus, it is awesome

Is it too early to start an Oscar campaign for Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad? This is a very serious question. She shouldn’t just with an Oscar for her role in the upcoming DC movie, but maybe like, four. And also probably an Emmy, and a Tony, and let’s just give her a Pulitzer and a Nobel Peace Price, why not. All the awards for Robbie, who is about to make WAVES as Harley Quinn.

 

(18) EVERYBODY NEEDS A CRISIS. Time Magazine explains “Why Aliens Are So Important to Star Trek” – but are they right?

“Gene was very big on not wanting to create conflict among the characters on the show,” says Rick Berman, who led the Star Trek franchise after Roddenberry died in 1991 until 2005 and produced several series and feature films. “He felt that humans, especially Starfleet humans, had evolved to a point where he didn’t want to see conflict between them.”

Yet conflict is at the core of all great storytelling. So if the Enterprise crew couldn’t squabble with one another, Star Trek writers had to find friction elsewhere. Aliens came to the rescue. “Often we were telling stories of how humans had progressed, or not, in the far reaches of space,” says longtime Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana. “But sometimes the theme of the tale was better told by demonstrating how aliens approached or solved problems, or how they failed.”

(19) ROGUE ONE. JJ says, “They’ve done a great bit of spot-on casting for this character, whose original actress is now 83.” Movie Pilot has the story: “Mon Mothma Sure Has Changed Since We Last Saw Her”

While the original Mon Mothma, Caroline Blakiston, is now 83, and thus a little too old to play the Rebel leader in a prequel, it seems that Star Wars: Rogue One has still managed to find a way to go old school with its Mon Mothma-related casting.

Our new Mon Mothma is the same Mon Mothma we (kind of) saw in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Genevieve O’Reilly.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

On the Friday After Thanksgiving: Enchanting Chances, And Cosmic Dances

AmericasBestComics COMPBy James H. Burns: There was a special television treat for youngsters, at Thanksgiving weekends during the 1960s and, if memory serves, some time beyond.

To be sure, many families began their holiday Thursday with the Macy’s Parade from Manhattan (and broadcasts of the processions from other cities).  I’ve written about some other fun traditions before, such as WOR-TV’s annual King Kong festivals, and WPIX’ long-time broadcasts of Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers (aka Babes in Toyland), which began many years earlier.

But almost forgotten today is the fun the ABC network fostered nationwide, on the Fridays after Thanksgiving.

For years, ABC would run an extra edition of their Saturday morning schedule!

Those were great days for fantasy fans, and particularly the youngest of that set.

The super hero boom of 1966 inspired many animated renditions across the airwaves.

In 1967, for example, ABC’s lineup included The New Casper Cartoons Show (this was the terrific series, also often overlooked, that had stories featuring many of the great Harvey Comics fairy-take like characters, in “The Enchanted Forest,” and not simply the theatrical shorts that seemed to recycle the same plot, continually!); Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (the first from Hanna-Barbera, the second from Grantray-Lawrence Animation and Krantz Films,  the same studio that produced the previous season’s syndicated, daily Marvel Super Heroes Show);Journey to the Center of the Earth (one of Filmation Associates’ (Lou Scheimer, Norm Prescott and Hal Sutherland) first major network sales; King Kong (from Rankin-Bass, set in the same fictional universe as their live action King Kong Escapes! theatrical feature film); and another season of The Beatles cartoon!

As others have noted, Saturday mornings, on television, seemed to belong to us, when we were children. Our parents, and grandparents, may have had a day at the movie theatre, featuring cartoons, shorts, serial chapters, and a couple of feature films….  But with the flip of a switch, we could watch all these great comedies, and adventures, with ease (and often in our pajamas)!

After a day filled with turkey and family festivities, there was something delightful about several hours of entertainment designed specifically for us…  (Indeed, an extra Saturday!) There was disappointment when the episodes were sometimes repeats of segments we had already seen.

15330526536_32e4a8e5e3_b COMP

One particular treat was one Thanksgiving–or perhaps another holiday week afternoon–when ABC ran a special daytime screening of their hit Batman television series. There was an extra pleasure in having the dates of one of our family friends sitting and watching with me, particularly as she resembled Wende Wagner, the female lead on the contemporary Green Hornet TV series!  The young lady kindly helped me spell out the fight-scenes’ sound effects “words.” (I wonder if it’s generally realized that the 1960s Batman TV show helped a bunch of us toddlers learn how to spell?)

Video cassettes and DVDs and now downloadable media have substituted for this special kind of fun. Kids and their families, of course, can watch whatever they want to see, virtually whenever they want to view it. (The phenomenon of kids wanting to watch the same movie or TV show over-and-over still strikes me as a mystery. When I was a child, my friends and I were annoyed by endless repeats!)

There was some kind of unique fun in knowing — even if one didn’t consciously realize it — that you were united with millions of other youngsters around the nation.  Once upon a time, we sat together in the greatest matinée theatre in the world — living rooms and bedrooms and dens, separated only by walls, and neighborhoods, but not by the smiles and laughter that endure in memory….

Or even when one pops in a disc, or scans the titles on You Tube!

The Celebrated Thanksgiving Ape

Lot464 King Kong

Intro by James H. Burns: For a generation of New Yorkers and indeed, folks all around the country, Thanksgiving became not just about family and friends, and the Macy’s parade (and football!), and early dreams of mistletoe, but a journey alongside Carl Denham, and Ann Darrow, and Captain Englehorn, through what remains one of the finest celluloid fantasies….!

(Besides, it’s also a chance to remember, again, my good friend, Chris Steinbrunner, who helped program that Thanksgiving wonderment, and was responsible for all so much else in the worlds of imagination!)

A Trilogy of Kong by Mike Glyer: James H. Burns’ trilogy of fine articles at The Thunder Child recalls the era when a New York City TV station persuaded whole families to park in front of the set on Thanksgiving and watch King Kong for the zillionth time.

King Kong in the City: A Thanksgiving Tradition: Burns tells about his father’s affinity for the famous ape movie, and his personal memory of discovering the film on Saturday morning TV in the Sixties. The station was New York’s channel 9 (the former WOR-TV) and in the next decade it broadcast the movie every Thanksgiving, before long adding the sequel, Son of Kong, and 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, another stop-motion animation picture from Kong’s creators. The annual tradition lasted until 1985.

Chris Steinbrunner: A Renaissance of Fantasy: Chris Steinbrunner, an executive with WOR-TV, is according to Burns “one of the great unsung heroes of fandom, who helped run many of his era’s conventions, was an Edgar-award winning author, wrote one of the very first books on science fiction and fantasy movies, published many books (with Centaur Press)… and produced what may well be a lost 007 special!…”  Burns says, “My old pal was a pretty neat guy, and a while ago, I was stunned that save for a short Wikipedia entry, there was virtually none of Chris’ history on the web.” Articles like this surely will keep him from being forgotten.

One of the great times Chris and I were together came early one morning in 1983 when we ran into each other high atop the Empire State Building, gathered on the Observation Deck for a special press party commemorating King Kong’s fiftieth anniversary. With the men in suits and the ladies elegantly attired, champagne was poured as we looked towards the bi-planes in the distance, booked especially for the event, that buzzed as though in a dream, above the shores of Manhattan.

When someone asked Chris about Kong Thursdays, he replied, as he almost always did, with a quick pause, a sudden smile, and said:  “King Kong on Thanksgiving…? Whoever would have thought of such an odd idea?”

Meanwhile, At the Empire State Building: The third installment is about the Empire State Building and Fay Wray.