Hollywood Lost and Found

"Kong: King of Skull Island"

I'd never heard of Kong: King of Skull Island (DH Press: 2004) when I was given a copy as a gift last Christmas; I don't even recall it being reviewed by Cinefantastique.  But if you are a dinosaur, or especially a Kong-phile, it's well worth checking out, especially you fans of H. Rider Haggard and E.R. Burroughs.  And if you were underwhelmed by the Peter Jackson version, this may make up for it.

Created and beautifully illustrated by Joe De Vito, written by Brad Strickland with John Michlig, it is both a sequel and a prequel to "King Kong" (1933), essentially ignoring "The Son of Kong" (1933), though both have the same point of departure.  It opens in 1934 with Carl Denham and Captain Englehorn returning to Skull Island on a secret mission disrupted by an attack by the island's creatures.  It then flashes forward to New York 25 years later.  It seems that in this version, Denham had a wife and son whom he was always leaving behind to go on his filmmaking adventures.  As a result, the son, Vincent, who was grown up to be a paleontologist, has issues with his father's memory and legend.  But when he finds the map, hidden behind an old photograph, he enlists the aid of Jack Driscoll, now owner of a successful merchant fleet, to seek the truth for himself.

Another encounter with an island beast puts Vincent in the care of an old native woman known as the Storyteller, and an entire intriguing history of the island is slowly told to him.  Clearly inspired by Haggard and Burroughs, as noted, and illustrated by De Vito with images conjuring memories of O'Brien, Larranaga, and Crabbe, these flashbacks bring back and enhance the ambience of the original film's island settings while blurring the line between archaeological reality and Victorian adventure fantasy.  I leave it to you to discover the wonders that await you in this novel on your own.  
- Rick Mitchell
13 July 2006

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