A funny thing happened on the way to the movies … um, well that’s an old joke introduction, but in this case very true.
It goes back to the early 20th century when some boys – Hannes Bok, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Forest J. Ackerman were off-and-on members of the Los Angeles Scientifiction Club. One day, a movie came along called King Kong. The boys had never seen anything like it, and they had seen plenty, and conjured up weird and wild in their own imaginations, but Merian C. Cooper’s creation given life by Willis O’Brien struck them to their core.
Well, Ray Bradbury could not be contained – not that he wasn’t already a ball of fanaticism – and began to write with a new freedom. Ray Harryhausen set out to master what he’d seen Willis do on screen. For a while these two men had separate careers, with Harryhausen eventually capturing the attention of Willis O’Brien and working on M
ighty Joe Young. Harryhausen went on the create a new style of stop-action animation creating his own jaw-dropping effects.
One day, Harryhausen and Bradbury were entertaining executives working on a new movie that would use Harryhausen’s animation. They were keen on getting Bradbury* to give them – probably free – advice. Bradbury took the script, paged through it, and was stunned.
It was his story.
He wrote The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and placed it in the Saturday Evening Post (23 June 1951) – then a veritable stalwart in American homes – and undoubtedly the script writers had purloined and expanded upon the story hoping not to be caught. The executives quickly made arrangements to pay Bradbury thus securing his story, his help, and getting extra publicity from his famous name.
The movie later helped the two Rays come full circle from their love of dinosaurs, horror, and science-fiction adventure, and in their own way paying a temporary homage to Kong as their monster began to crush, kill, and maim New York.
Many others have also followed suit, including the original Godzilla (with Tokyo a stand -in for NYC).
Oh and one more little item. A certain 2008 movie with jerky camera action seems awfully similar to this previous movie-beastie …
Original “20,000″ trailer with a lot of Cold War rhetoric mixed into it. Note the oblique reference to Bradbury’s story in typeface in part of the trailer.
Updated for the 21st centruy, and using CGI rather than Dynamation, it still follows a rather close format in methodically destroying New York and ating people.
*… of course one always has to take a Ray Bradbury anecdote with a grain of salt.