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Game of Moans: Morbid Anatomy Museum to Screen Adventure Classic

the most dangerous game, morbid anatomy museum

Count Zaroff’s trophy room reveals his preferred prey in 1932’s “The Most Dangerous Game.”

Better Run Through the Jungle…
On Tuesday September 1, 2015 at 8pm The Morbid Anatomy Museum (MAM), one of Brooklyn’s most unique spaces, will present a screening of RKO – Radio Pictures’ The Most Dangerous Game. “Movie Mike” will project a 16mm print of the classic 1930’s jungle adventure with its lurid pre-Hayes Code themes of violence, sex and extreme (pre-Predator) big game hunting. Grab tickets here.

The film has an interesting production backstory that just happens to intersect with one of my favorite obsessions, RKO’s 1933 film King Kong and its debt to the art of 19th Century illustrator Gustave Doré.

Thanks to museum director Joanna Ebenstein I get to shed some light on those connections via an illustrated guest blog on the Morbid Anatomy website. This link will take you there.
morbid anatomy museumMourning Becomes Eclectic…
The Morbid Anatomy Museum and Research Library is a cabinet of curiosities focused on the parallel evolutions of the occult and medical sciences, with lots of side trips that include anthropomorphic taxidermy, gothic tropes, and religious reliquaries. Check out the museum’s calendar for future events including MAM’s Common Shade lecture series, presented in conjunction with the Green-Wood Cemetery Historic Fund, which has yielded two exceptional installments thus far.

Kong, We Hardly Knew Ye: Summerstage Theater Goes Ape

Tracy Jacks in Commercial Bondage as MC Kong in Hip-Hop Satire

Tracy Jacks in Commercial Bondage as MC Kong in Hip-Hop Satire

What It Is…

In this 80th anniversary year of RKO’s King Kong and 40th of Hip-Hop music, writer Randy Weiner and writer/director Alfred Preisser offer up a lighthearted jibe at the theme of outre culture blunted by mainstream acceptance and the enduring legend of “T’was beauty killed the beast.” In addition to Kong-o-philes, life long New Yorkers will get the insider jokes, as will (strangely enough) any recent viewers of the Adrian Brody/Beyonce Knowles film Cadillac Records.

Actors Matthew LaBanca, David Michaels and Sid Solomon play Moe, Hyman and Izzy, the Gold Brothers, whose failing record company – Gold Records – needs a boost of new musical blood. Secretary and would be socio-anthropologist Faye Wellington (Rhiannon Hansen) brings them a demo of MC “Kong” lurking in the deepest Bronx. The brothers’ ultimate goal is to sign the indigenous rapper to their label and collect the publishing royalties. The Gold Brothers’ quick fire tandem delivery plays like The 3 Stooges and Marx Brothers, with stances informed by Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Along the way they encounter mutant rats of unusual size, Thriller style dancing zombies, cops on the take, and spar with the Baron Samedi-like witchdoctor. Nothing is sacred or too puerile. For instance, one the Gold Brothers’ chronic flatulence equals the Kong subduing “gas bomb.”

Kong_Summerstage_004

The Kong character gets a gender flip via actress Tracy Jacks’ portrayal (a goof on “Queen” Latifah?) which triggers Faye to expound on the role of powerful women in male-less households, question her own sexuality, and leads to a loopy Barry White seduction scene in Kong’s lair.

Although the show is part of the 2013 Summerstage season’s “This is____Hip-Hop” series, it plays a lot more like Mel Brooks than Melly Mel. Wes Matthews’ compositions are show tune oriented, save one of the representations of Kong’s rap repertoire. Choreographer Ryan Kasprzak and associate Ellenore Scott give the characters plenty of kinetic range from Al Jolson Vaudeville gesturing to In Living Color fly girl cool and throw in some cartoonish slow motion chases for good measure. The graffiti emblazoned sets, designed by Isis Kenny were deftly maneuvered by the stage crew offering seamless scene changes throughout the intermission-less show. It was particularly fun to watch Jacks’ heartbroken Kong languishing at the top of the Empire State Building, while a rabble of sycophants, hucksters and nay-sayers mill about below.

Kong Tempted Into Signing on the Dotted Line

Kong Tempted Into Signing on the Dotted Line

SkeletonPete Says…

The card carrying politically correct will need to leave their inhibitions at the door as no ethnic or New York City stereotype is spared. It is important to remember that successful satire points out the absurdity of its targets. King Kong succeeds while taking good natured swipes at everyone from Moses to Robert Moses. Though there are no fall-down-the stairs laugh moments, the play sustains itself with continued chuckles, elicited by a series of sight gags and nudges and winks for those who lived through New York City’s “Pre-Disney” grind house years, or maybe tried to make a living in the music industry. I’ve done both. At the end of the presentation I realized I’d been smiling – knowingly – for its entire length.

Kong_Summerstage_025

Where It’s At…

The free presentation, produced by the City Park Foundation’s Summerstage and sponsored by Time Warner, has up-coming dates at the following locations.

August 7 & 10, 2013 at St. Mary’s Park, Bronx, NY

August 13, 14 & 17, 2013 at Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan, NY

August 20, 21 & 22, 2013 at East River Park, Manhattan, NY

Check the Summerstage Website for more details on show times and directions.

Click Any image To Launch the Gallery

SummerStage 2013 Calendar Released

Alabama Shakes were one of the bands that shook SummerStage last year.

Alabama Shakes were one of the bands that shook SummerStage last year.


Sittin’ In the Park Waiting for You…
A peak point in Once Upon A Dream, The Young Rascals’ reunion show now playing at the Richard Rogers Theater, comes mid-show when the sound of chirping birds and conga beats herald the beginning of their 1960’s Top 40 classic “Groovin’.” As the band slides into this pean to the lazy hazy days of summer the fuzzy image projected behind them becomes sharper until it reveals a scene of Central Park lawn loungers soaking up the rays. It’s a perfect picture of the idyllic side of summer in the city that is headed your way again.

Yep, it can be a pain living in a metropolis as big as New York, but that is all the more reason to take advantage of the special events being offered. Just so you can’t say no one warned you, here are a host of reasons to get off the couch between now and September. Get out your calendars, dumb pencils or smart phones and start marking the dates for all the wonderful and mostly FREE doings the City Parks Foundation has planned for SummerStage 2013. Presented by AT&T SummerStage events are not limited to Central Park, there are shows in every borough. Use the City Parks Foundation’s interactive calendar to find Summerstage and a bazillion other happenings.

We’ll Keep On Spendin’ Sunny Days This Way…
The choices span every cultural aspect of NYC, classical, rock, jazz, folk, with a fortieth anniversary focus on Hip Hop this season. Genre keystones like DJ Cool Herc and Rock Steady Crew are on board. Foundation President Alison Tocci notes, “Audiences have come to expect the highest-quality, arts programming from SummerStage and we intend to continue that tradition. With the introduction of the new “Forewords” discussion panels and the “This is __ Hip-Hop” series, we hope to present programming that is not only entertaining but further pushes the bounds of what the festival offers and celebrates the spirit and history of all performing arts genres.”

SkeletonPete Says…
On my personal radar are two theater pieces, a Hip-Hop reworking of King Kong in this 80th anniversary year, and Diablo Love writer Mando Alvarado’s play interpolating the songs of seminal American blues artist Howlin’ Wolf. If you’ve yet to see Liane La Havas don’t miss the chance.

Rumble in the Jungle: A Safari Photo Fantasy

king kong, safari good luck minis

SkeletonPete’s Photo Fantasy: Sarfari Ltd Good Luck Minis Prepare for a Rumble in the Jungle to Honor King Kong’s 80th Anniversary

Convergence…
The original 1933 King Kong – toys and miniatures – close-up photography. These are a few of my favorite things, and a bit of serendipity helped me mash them all up all into this one image.

Let Me Explain…
In the process of preparing continuing coverage of the 2013 American International Toy Fair I opened the little bag of goodies Safari Ltd offered to press folks reporting on their product line. Low and behold out fell a Tyrannosaurus Rex and great little gorilla, both part of Safari’s Good Luck Minis collection.

Since this coming weekend marks the 80th anniversary of RKO’s King Kong, I thought I’d have some photographic fun with the two Minis and a Polaroid close-up lens kit I purchased recently. I wanted to see how far I could push these simple screw-on adapters before shelling out for a “real” macro lens. I’ve also been contemplating what my first posting to Flicker’s Toy Photographers Group might be and this seemed a perfect opportunity to create a table-top tableau mimicking the thrilling battle between Kong and the T-Rex.

What It Is…
Using mostly household items, I did my best to recreate the mise en scene of Gustave Dore’s etchings which inspired the art direction of Kong 33’s Skull Island.

Along with the two Safari LTD. miniatures – which measure 7/8’s of an inch tall – there are brown and green bath towels as the foreground, plastic Christmas flowers that didn’t get stored away yet as the canopy, and a few slate drink coasters are the middle ground. A small acrylic painting of the Sedona, Arizona landscape I did twenty years ago is the distant background and some twigs from my front yard complete the effect. A frosted glass candle holder and a clear plastic bag were used to modify the output of a battery powered 126 LED light source.

Shot on a Nikon D300 with 50mm lens and +2 close-up adapter. I think the super-shallow depth of field produced by the adapter helps convey the look of an other worldly jungle. Aside from a slight crop the image is posted as shot, there’s no Photoshop post production.

Calling All Scream Queens…
Along with other “Kong-o-philes”, I’ll be celebrating the king’s birthday at NYC’s Film Forum screening this Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11AM. The event includes a Fay Wray “scream-a-like” contest which should be a highlight.

What’s Up Doc…
Also see my recent post about Altus Press’s soon to be released pulpy pairing of Doc Savage and King Kong on Skull Island.

Walk On The Wild Side: Doc Savage & King Kong at 80

doc savage and king kong

Octogenerian Birthday Babies Doc & Kong

2013 marks 80th anniversaries for two icons of adventure, Doc Savage and King Kong.

My love for King Kong stems back to the 1950’s when the RKO Pictures catalog first came to television. That group of films was relentlessly screened by WWOR Channel 9 in New York as part of their “Million Dollar Movie” format. It offered proto “monster kids” like myself an opportunity to see the great gorilla trilogy of King KongSon of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young as many as 7 times in one week! What a wonderful way to imprint young brain cells forever.

My early 1970’s film writing professor’s cringed at my glowing critiques of Kong, a film they clearly considered high camp but the ensuing years have looked on it with a kinder skew. The world at large seems now more likely to agree with my view that it is as an elemental example of cinema where unfettered imagination and technical talent converges.

Alternately, I became a fan of Doc Savage fiction back in the 1960’s when Bantam Books revived the series in paperback format adorned with spectacular James Bama cover paintings. At the time I had no idea they were reprints of pulp books from thirty years earlier. Much like the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars and Earth’s Core novels I was devouring concurrently, they were exciting and timeless stories aimed pretty squarely at a boy my age.

Two On An Island…
To celebrate these fortuitous 1933 births Altus Press will publish a pulp inspired tale bringing the two titans of American pop culture together. Scheduled for release in March Doc Savage: Skull Island will be the fifth installment of the company’s Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series and will be penned by neo-pulp and comics author Will Murray (aka Kenneth Robeson). Murray has been the leading legacy author of Doc Savage stories since he completed several of Lester Dent’s outlines for Bantam books.

Cover art will be rendered by Joe DeVito who is no stranger to the octogenarian characters. DeVito previously illustrated Kong:King of Skull Island, which is available for your iPad or Nook tablet, and has supplied art for Altus Press’s previous Doc Savage extrapolations.

The new story will take place in flashback after Kong’s fall from the Empire State building which also serves as Doc’s NY headquarters. Doc relates his first encounter with the outsized gorilla in the 1920’s which Murray notes will interconnect with Savage’s familial backstory. “I knew it had to be written with reverence for both of these immortal characters. So I used the locale of Skull Island to tell a larger story, an untold origin for Doc Savage. It all started back on Skull Island….”

Bama – Lama – King – Kong…
It’s interesting to note that Bama also illustrated the cover of Bantam’s first paperback edition of the Kong novelization. I still treasure my well worn first printing, purchased off the local newsstand back in 1965.

Should you not already own it, Brian M. Kane’s book James Bama – American Realist pulls the artist’s key works (including his art for the classic Aurora monster model kits) under one cover. It’s beautifully printed and offers a look at some of the photographic model poses Bama worked from for the Doc Savage paintings. I was fortunate enough to grab a signed and numbered deluxe slip-cased edition (with DVD) when it was first published in 2007, but hardcovers are still out there for a reasonable price. Highly recommended to say the least.

SkeletonPete Says…
This mash-up of two of my favorite adventure characters is an irresistible lure and I’m personally hoping it’s a grand slam rather than an offbeat footnote in their histories. I will admit to a bit of wariness based on the need to keep the power and mystique of these archetypes unmarred. Nonetheless this is one of the few books in recent memory I can say I’m eagerly awaiting.