On the Brevity of Behemoths
by William Alan Rieser
Page 1 of 1
"On the Brevity of Behemoths"
Before 1938, all you had was the French fairy tale, Beauty and the
Beast. Then, almost without warning, a film hit the public's eye that
started an unlikely trend, one that has never really been surpassed in terms of
stunning impact, visual imagery, cunning dialogue or its haunting, effective
musical score. I refer, of course, to King Kong and its derivative,
Son of Kong. These movies were made at a time when most people were
quite ignorant about apes in general and totally devoid of facts about
dinosaurs and other beasts from past ages. I would point out that mammals did
not exist when tyrranosaurs, pterodactyls and stegosaurs roamed the world, but
Hollywood didn't care about that.
Then, in 1953, almost as if it was trying to silence such criticism, a
coelacanth, a fish that was supposed to have died off 70 million years ago, was
actually caught off the coast of Madagascar. Several others have been seen
since. So we have to at least accept the possibility that dinosaurs have
survived to mingle with mammals. The controversy of Loch Ness is another
anomaly that supports this reasoning, allegedly a plesiosaur family trapped in
a deep lake. Reinforced with such arguments, the literary and film worlds have
tried earnestly to respond with their insights.
Flushed by its enormous success with Kong, Hollywood gave us Mighty Joe
Young, going for the large pet scenario in a big way and incidentally
launching a flood of embarrassingly unsuccessful monkey movies. None had the
flair or longevity of Kong nor could they find another female to scream as much
as Fay Wray. With the advent of Japanese film making, those intrepid copy cats
thought to spring a fast one on the English speaking people with a behemoth of
their own, a dragon of course, namely Godzilla, and they even managed to
snare Perry Mason before he got his law degree. Being new and different, aside
from its impossibility, it generated some moderate attention, enough to spur
remakes and imitations.
But then we were visited with a long list of short reigning incorrigible
monsters that had no staying power at all. These included Rodan,
Gamera, Mothra, a host of similar entities and quite naturally
some mechanical android versions of them. There were also some resurrections of
Kong in these films because the Japanese know not to let go of a good thing.
Thus we've been subjected to almost everything imaginable that can swallow us
in a single bite.
America responded with the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, a giant
octopus. Natural earth denizens tried to muscle their way in on the act with
Moby Dick and the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea via
Disney. There have been numerous oceanic monsters since then, not the least of
which was the Kraken from Greek mythology in Clash of the Titans. But
dinosaurs were simply too attractive for Hollywood to ignore for long. There
were a couple of implausible films about humans living among dinosaurs, like
One Million B.C. with Raquel Welch and Journey to the Center of the
Earth with Pat Boone. Perhaps the most famous, though still not able to
achieve the brilliance of Kong, has been the Jurassic Park series. Here,
for the first time, Hollywood attempts to approach the problem with a
reasonable answer, plausible inanity, though it still doesn't work.
There have been numerous small fry and I won't waste our time with them. The
point is, Kong still reigns. Granted, the WTC has fallen which negates the
remake. The best thing about that travesty was when Kong squashed Charles
Grodin into the ground. So far, in spite of the persistent attempts to usurp
the crown, no other monster comes close to the King, regardless of superior
technology, greed or foolishness. The best that our fantasy writers have been
able to conjure up as competition seems to come from outer space and they have
been lame in comparison. I suppose the only thing that could make a dent would
be Osama hanging from the Empire State Building. Until then, there are no other
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 William Alan Rieser, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.