Commentary: King Kong’s Special Features

King Kong Special Features Disc 5Blackstone Audiobooks‘ release of King Kong, from way back in 2005 (read our review of it HERE) is something I’ve just now finally got my grubby mits on. I was especially excited to get a hold of it because of last disc in the 5 CD set – it contains the “special features” – and they are, quite possibly, the most special of features ever to have been added to an unabridged audiobook. The narrator/producer, Stefan Rudnicki, has tracked down some of the biggest names in Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction and asked them to give their opinions of the original King Kong. The resultant disc is some of the most interesting and insightful film commentary I’ve ever heard. The creators of the Peter Jackson King Kong DVD were utter fools not to have hired Rudnicki to produce just this sort of material for the bonus features. Not only does “disc 5” give fond memories of an absolutely iconic fantasy film, it also dispenses deeply insightful criticism and sharp commentary from those who were influenced by the film. There are even some funny related real-life stories. Harlan Ellison, for example, talks about his overwhelming need to watch the original film whenever it airs on TV – as well as his hatred for remakes of ‘perfect movies’ in general. Stop-motion animation god Ray Harryhausen steps in to talk of how the original character of Kong became the tipping point for his amazing life’s work. And Orson Scott Card boldy dismisses the original film as irrelevant to his life and work. Indeed this is perhaps the finest collection of commentary on Kong ever collected – and that it could be recorded in the commentators’ own words, and in their own voices (except for Williamson) makes this a true treasure for the ages. Kudos to Blackstone Audiobooks, they could have just cashed in on the Kong-kraze but instead they kicked it up a notch, creating something worthy of its own page in the first printing of The Encycolpedia Galactica (publication date 2362).

Well played Blackstone, truly well played.

Jesse Willis

Review of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong by Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland

Horror Audiobook - Merian C. Cooper's King KongMerian C. Cooper’s King Kong
By Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland; Read by a Full Cast
6 CDs – 6.75 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1933322497
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Movie making / Gorillas / Dinosaurs /

Full Cast Audio has really perfected their style. The first audio I listened to by them was back in 2002 – I reviewed it for SFSite, and you can find it here. Their Full Cast style of audiobook narration was new to me, I was a little put off by it, though I enjoyed the book (as did my son).

Here we are in 2006, and Full Cast Audio presents Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong, during which I marveled at the expert production. The skillful acting, the flawless editing, and the classic story make this a title not to be missed. Nobody does Full Cast Unabridged narration better than Full Cast Audio.

The story is familiar to nearly all of us. Carl Denham is a recklessly ambitious filmmaker in 1930’s New York City. He gathers a crew and an actress (Ann Darrow) to sail to a secret destination where he can film his masterpiece. The crew finds the mysterious island, where they find King Kong in an adventure that turns dangerous in a big hurry.

I haven’t seen the original King Kong film for many years, and it didn’t have the effect on me that it did on so many others, including Peter Jackson. I have seen Peter Jackson’s version, though. This version of the story is not a novelization of the Peter Jackson script. It is an expansion of the original novelization of Cooper’s original Kong story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of King Kong by Edgar Wallace and Merion C. Cooper

SFFAudio Review Header

Science Fiction Audiobooks - King KongKing Kong
By Edgar Wallace and Merion C. Cooper; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
5 CD’s, 5.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0786175362
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Movie making / Gorillas / Dinosaurs / Commentary /

This audiobook has two phrases emblazoned on the cover: “Special Blackstone Collector’s Edition Audiobook” and “The Greatest Horror Story of All Time!!” (both exclamation points are there…) Of the first phrase I can say that this audiobook is certainly special. Not only does it include the unabridged audio version of the novelization of the original King Kong film, but it also includes a bonus disc containing commentary from Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro, Harlan Ellison, Jack Williamson, and Marc Scott Zicree. Is it the greatest horror story of all time? Not in my eyes, but the words fit nicely on this gorgeously packaged audiobook.

The original King Kong film (1933) holds a special place in a lot of hearts. I don’t share those feelings, possibly because the film predates me by 35 years. I recall more details about the 1976 remake starring Jessica Lange than I do the original. I was 10 in 1976 and, since that version of King Kong was mediocre, it stirred little in me. News of Peter Jackson’s remake didn’t excite me.

But this audiobook has awakened my interest in a big way, for two reasons. First, the story itself. Engagingly read by Stefan Rudnicki, the story of Kong, Denham, Ann Darrow, and Jack Driscoll is really a good story. The filmmaker Denham’s recklessness, actress Ann Darrow’s willingness to go along, and Jack Driscoll’s love keep things very interesting. Kong, of course, is the character around which the story revolves, and his journey from island to New York City and from beast to human-like ape fascinates.

The second thing that sparked my interest is the commentary. I loved the commentary included here. All of the people I mentioned above had a different and interesting take on King Kong, from Harlan Ellison’s declaration of the original film’s perfection to Catherine Asaro’s discussion of power unused. After listening to this, I’m now eager to see the new film, and even more eager to watch the original.

It would be an excellent thing if other books are given similar treatment. Unabridged classic science fiction novels with commentary would add a new and greatly appreciated dimension to the audiobook experience. Kudos to Blackstone for giving us this Special Edition.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson