Friday, January 27, 2017

Will Murray's KING KONG vs. TARZAN: Two Icons for Price of One

The Lord of the Jungle has bested some mighty tough critters over the course of his long career. The King of Skull Island, meanwhile, has kicked a whole lot of dinosaur butt, in addition to whupping (at least in the American film version) a big booger called Godzilla. So when these titans finally clash, you know there will be fireworks.

And that’s exactly what we get in Will Murray’s new epic, King Kong vs.Tarzan. And how it all comes about is told so convincingly that this unlikely meeting comes to seem inevitable.

If you’ve seen the movie recently (and I’m talking the 1933 version), you may recall that an hour and twenty-four minutes into the film, after Kong is subdued by a gas bomb on Skull Island, movie producer Carl Denham says, “Why, in a few months it’ll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong! The Eighth Wonder of the World!” – and in the next scene we see the Broadway marquee, proclaiming just that.

The film leaves a slew of questions unanswered. How did they get Kong to ship? How did they restrain him on the voyage? What did the big booger eat? Could they really keep him alive for months without him destroying the ship? How did the principle humans, Captain Englehorn, First Mate Jack Driscoll and would-be starlet Ann Darrow (that’s Fay Wray to you) resist tossing the demanding and conniving Carl Denham into the ocean?

King Kong vs. Tarzan answers all those questions, and many more, including the big ones: How the heck did Kong meet up with Mr. T, what kind of hell broke loose, and who came out on top? I’m not telling you any of that stuff. You’ll want to read it for yourself.

But I’ll reveal this much: There are 455 pages full of great fun and adventure. There’s plenty of grisly action as Kong squeezes natives like grapes, munches on a hippopotamus and scarfs down oodles of crocodiles. There’s all the fury and majesty of Tarzan of the Apes, ably assisted by his trusty companions Nkima the monkey and Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion, and his reserve corps of great apes and elephants. It all comes down a battle royale that would have been admired by both Edgar Rice Burroughs and King Kong producer Meriam C. Cooper.

One of the more intriguing characters is a very old crone named Penjaga (aka The Storyteller) who is sort of Kong’s nanny and guardian. She was introduced, I believe, in Kong, King of Skull Island, the 2004 illustrated novel conceived by this book’s cover artist, Joe DeVito, and returned in Mr. Murray’s epic Doc Savage adventure Skull Island (reviewed HERE). Since Penjaga has now made the acquaintance of both Doc and Tarzan, we know they occupy the same Murray universe. Can a meeting between those two titans be far behind?

A new film, Kong: Skull Island (featuring Tim Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman) is slated for release this year, and a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla is planned, but Hollywood would be much wiser to bring us a screen version of King Kong vs. Tarzan. I’m thinking J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon. And whichever guy does it, he should be sure to give Will Murray a cameo.

In the meantime, you should rush to your favorite bookseller’s website and buy this book. It’s two icons for the price of one, and a hell of a lot of fun.

You can get it from Altus Press right HERE.


George said...

I have KING KONG VS. TARZAN on order. I'm also cautiously looking forward to the KONG movie that opens in March. Like you and Bill Crider, I love the Old Days.

Oscar Case said...

I'll think about buying it later. Have too much on hand.

Lohr McKinstry said...

According to an old article on deleted scenes from "King Kong," they towed Kong back to NYC tied down on a huge raft behind the ship.

Evan Lewis said...

Howdy, Lohr. Good to hear from you. Liberty or death, and all that. I had a vision of a raft in my brain, too, but in this tale they find another way.

Will Murray said...

Nice review. Thanks! In the 1933 novelization, it is made clear that a ship's hold was enlarged and lined with steel for this purpose. A raft would be impossible to keep stable during the 3-month return voyage, never mind the issue feeding and hydrating Kong.

TC said...

IIRC, they towed Kong on a raft behind the ship in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Also in the 1960's TV cartoon show.

I read somewhere that RKO considered doing a Tarzan Meets Mighty Joe Young movie ca. 1950, but the project was quickly abandoned.

A team-up with the "real" Tarzan and Doc Savage would be cool (their stand-ins, Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban, met in stories by Philip Jose Farmer). And no one could be better qualified to write it than Will Murray.

Anonymous said...

Why just two? Murray has already written a Doc Savage meets The Shadow novel; so, why not a trio?