Hollywood special-effects magician Ray Harryhausen died this week at 93, recalling an era of cinematic creatures that were not just built out of zeroes and ones and were at once cheesier and more captivating because of it. Harryhausen in his turn was inspired by the original King Kong movie, with its stop-motion animation by Willis H. O’Brien.
In the song above, Daniel Johnston retells the tale of Kong, O’Brien and Harryhausen in an a capella recitation vaguely smelling of the blues. In the version below, Tom Waits pays tribute to Johnston but also fulfills the song’s potential by bringing the full blues ape-stank, just as R.H. built upon W.H.O’B.
When I was a kid I thought King Kong was pretty much the saddest movie ever, so I preferred the later Mighty Joe Young, which O’Brien also designed, but which gives the ape a happy ending.
One response to “Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “King Kong” by Daniel Johnston (and cover by Tom Waits)”
“When I was a kid I thought King Kong was pretty much the saddest movie ever”
me too. it’s funny and oddly touching to discover from time to time that some things you assumed were merely personal and unremarkable are, in fact, neither. in the spirit of full disclosure, however, the affecting zoetropic marvel that made a ten year old me drip quiet, salty sadness in the back of the paramount theatre in halifax in 1976 came courtesy of dino de laurentiis (though the big ape was no less moving for being so). that was also around the same time that my father took me to see a saturday afternoon matinee screening of “the 7th voyage of sinbad”, a movie that rocked my l’il world very *very* hard. after the following weekend’s matinee of “the golden voyage of sinbad”, i was a harryhausen fanatic for life (despite not actually knowing who he was or what ‘stop motion animation’ might be at the time). it’s not just pixar animators or animation fans that owe harryhausen a great debt – it’s every person who was first submerged in wonder in the dark watching a giant cyclops roasting a sailor on a spit or an impossibly dashing jon phillip law fencing fiercely with a terrifying but hypnotically beautiful and rather mysteriously blue-tinged six-armed hindu goddess. this was such stuff as dreams were made on when i was a kid (and, of course, long before that) and the later realization that *one* man and not a team of artists, animators and technicians conceived, crafted and shot every freaking one of those amazing and wonderful creatures is still just crazy stupid inspiring. such passion.