FOUR-LETTER WORD BEGINNING WITH `F'
Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Galaxy, Writer's Digest, Black Gate, Cemetery Dance, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, In Laymon's Terms, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories (DAW Books).
Collections of his fiction include Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, and Pickman's Motel from Delirium Books; At The Foothills of Frenzy (with co-authors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight) from Solitude Publications; and Twisted Tales For Sick Puppies from Skullvines Press. GravesideTales.com is the home of his blog, Time Machine of Terror! Also, he is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.
With collaborator Michael McCarty, he has written Monster Behind the Wheel (Delirium Books/Corrosion Press), Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster (Skullvines Press), All Things Dark and Hideous (Rainfall Books, England), and Professor LaGungo's Delirious Download of Digital Deviltry and Doom (Darkside Digital).
To find out more about McLaughlin's work, visit www.myspace.com/monsterbook, www.myspace.com/phantasmapedia, www.skullvines.com, and www.Horror-Mall.com (enter McLaughlin into the Mall's search engine).
The Apes of Wrath:
Or, Was King Kong Inspired By Cthulhu?
Welcome once again to my online monkeyhouse of madness, where we discuss the various ways in which Fear (the four-letter word in the column's title) is manifested in the cinema of the macabre.
As I researched this installment's theme -- fear of primates, yetis, sasquatches and other hairy humanoids -- I made an observation of a chronological nature.
I learned that the movie King Kong was released in 1933. The novelization came out in late 1932. If you'll recall, the movie states that Skull Island, Kong's abode, is a secret realm and word leaked out about its whereabouts when a lone sailor returned from an ill-fated voyage and told the tale of his adventure.
Those of you who have read the works of H.P. Lovecraft will recall that in his story, "The Call of Cthulhu," knowledge of the secret island of R'lyeh also came from a lone sailor, returned from an ill-fated voyage. "The Call of Cthulhu" was written in 1926 and published in 1928.
Also, "Call of Cthulhu" and King Kong both have that alliteration thing going for them. Interesting! I wonder if the creators of King Kong had been inspired by Lovecraft's story. The story first appeared in the widely available magazine Weird Tales, so it's certainly possible.
Of course, Cthulhu never carried Fay Wray around in his tentacles... to my knowledge!
Speaking of King Kong, 1933 and Fay Wray: the movie spawned remakes and sequels and even improbable adventures with Godzilla, but the original is still the best, thanks to leading lady Fay. You get the feeling she is well and truly in awe of the big hairy lug.
The 1976 Dino De Laurentiis remake is lush and lavish, like every Dino De Laurentiis presentation, but leading lady Jessica Lange wasn't enough of a seasoned actress at that time to deliver the goods, emotionally. She did get better with time: she's wonderful in Tootsie.
In the original King Kong, we see Kong as Fay's character sees him, every step of the way. When he first meets her and ogles her lasciviously, we wonder -- like her, no doubt -- what exactly he has in mind. But when he saves her from the island's prehistoric horrors, we decide -- again, like her -- that deep down, he is a gentleman.
Make no mistake: he is a devil, too. He still chews people up and grinds other folks into the ground with his feet. When he plucks a woman out of a building and realizes it isn't Fay, he nonchalantly tosses the stranger to her death.
I like to imagine Fay Wray watching these antics and saying, "Yeah, he's a bastard, but I love 'im!"
King Kong Lives from 1986 -- the sequel to Dino's version -- brings Kong back into action after his 1976 fall from the skyscraper by installing an artificial heart.
Does this even make sense? He didn't have a heart attack -- he fell off the top of a skyscraper. Surely all of his bones would be shattered. But hey, I'm no veterinarian, what do I know?
Other movies have tried to scare the masses with their own brands of monkey fever. The Planet of the Apes movie series took us to the far future when intelligent apes have gained control of Earth. In my favorite installment, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), the apes run afoul of badly scarred, subterranean mutants who worship a nuclear bomb which can destroy the planet.
Well, ain't that just like humanity? Don't we just adore the very things that can destroy us? Smokers are ever so fond of tobacco, and alcoholics and drug addicts will go to get lengths to score new doses of their chosen vices. Those darned apes! They caught us humans in the act ... of being ourselves.
But in The Manster (1962), a journalist glugs down a formula which brings out the evil in him -- as a simian creature growing out of his side. So primates can also represent the wicked, bestial side of being a biped.
Is there a middle ground between men and monkeys? Yep, just take a look at the missing links: yetis and sasquatches. They usually combine the worst qualities of BOTH humans and animals (with the notable exception of the lovable, towering furball in 1987's Harry and the Hendersons, which later became a sitcom).
Yetis and sasquatches are a favorite with horror directors -- just cram a big guy in a fur-suit and let the hair-larity begin! Let's take a look at various missing-link movies from over the years:
Abominable (2005): A nervous, middle-aged man in a wheelchair and a ditzy coed fight a huge, ravenous sasquatch in a secluded forest. This movie packs a punch: the main performers are great and the monster's appearance is wonderfully strange and horrific. It actually resembles a demonic Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French from TV's Family Affair)!
Primal (2007): This looks like it was put together by a dozen friends with video equipment. It's a cheapie: the rubber-monster-mask yeti drags down the suspense, understandably. But the production has some fine stylistic touches that show that these folks can really do a lot with a small budget. I look forward to seeing what they'll do in the future ... hopefully with more money behind them. Hollywood, are you listening?
The Snow Creature (1954): This overly talky black-and-white production couldn't decide if it wanted to be a horror movie or a documentary. In the end, it turned out to be a never-frightening, sometimes-mildly-amusing yawn-fest.
Snowbeast (1977): This tepid little made-for-TV movie about a Colorado sasquatch does have one great thing going for it. It stars Yvette Mimieux, who was threatened by ape-like Morlocks in 1960's The Time Machine (the poor dear has dealt with more than her fair share of subhumans). Yvette Mimieux, like Fay Wray, is an actress who always lights up the screen with her talent, beauty, charm and personality. Both of them shine from within.
Some folks still argue about whether or not humans evolved from monkey-like creatures. After watching and re-watching these movies -- I am sure of it! FYI, I also read the tabloids, and those also convince me that humans and monkeys are just a few chromosomes apart. Monkeys love to fling their poo at each other -- and us humans do exactly the same thing. Except we call it "gossip."