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.