Thanks to Variety and a report that Spirit Pictures has picked up the rights to Joe DeVito (artist) and Brad Strickland’s illustrated novel Kong: King of Skull Island, sites across the net are enthusing over the idea that a new Kong frenzy is in the making. The story behind the novel is being described as a “prequel” to Merian C. Cooper’s classic giant monster flick King Kong (1933), though the dust-jacket’s description of the book is more suggestive of a sequel:
In 1933, American showman Carl Denham returned from a mysterious, hidden island with a priceless treasure. A treasure not gold or jewels, but the island’s barbaric god, a monstrous anthropoid called “Kong.” The savage giant escaped and wreaked havoc among the man-made canyons of Manhattan, but within hours of the giant ape’s death his body – and Carl Denham – disappeared. Twenty-five years later, the son of Carl Denham makes a shocking discovery that leads him back to the site of his father’s greatest adventure and to the answers that will unlock the century’s greatest mystery and history’s greatest miracle. (Amazon)
The rights to the original King Kong story are owned by Cooper’s family, as are the rights to his famously unmade War Eagles, and both have apparently been optioned by Spirit Pictures.
Back in May 2008, it was Fantastic Films International who was making the film, as I wrote about here, and their site still lists a Kong film, but one referred to as King Kong — The Beginning. Is FFI now making a different Kong prequel? Have the franchise rights changed hands, or is Spirit Pictures related to Fantastic Films International? If anyone knows, give us the goss. In the meantime, consider this image from Kong: King of Skull Island artist DeVito’s website:
This is a creature named Gaw, one of the non-simian inhabitants of DeVito’s Skull Island, here seen smashing his way through the gates that Kong would later (?) pulverise. Hopefully this is indicative of the sort of thing that will be making its way into the new production.
It will be even more exciting if Spirit Pictures is actually going to make War Eagles, which IMDb is still listing as due for 2010 release by Ray Harryhausen Presents, which I suspect is related to Spirit Pictures in some way.
For those readers of this site who’ve been living under a rock — or the big toe of a giant ape — and aren’t aware of War Eagles, it’s a project that Cooper planned as his magnum opus follow-up to King Kong. Kong SFX guru, Willis O’Brien, had been working on the project, which was aborted by the War. Read about it here. The story went :
Modern adventurers discover a lost tribe of Vikings in a secluded valley. These vikings have survived amidst some pretty fearsome wildlife, including dinosaurs and giant prehistoric eagles. As they reacquaint themselves with the modern (1930s) world, they learn of an imminent invasion of New York by Nazis in zeppelins and altruistically take to the skies on their tamed War Eagles to engage in a huge airbourne battle over the streets of Manhattan.
Anyway, there have been lots of rumours, reports and copyright acquisitions relating to War Eagles over the years, and as far as I can see, a degree of uncertainty still reigns. You know the film industry — for every successfully completed project there are a thousand developmental non-starters. But I seriously look forward to what will come from these new reports. If nothing else, they sound convincing, with Spirit Pictures’ Steve Iles and Arnold Kunert (who has produced other Ray Harryhausen Presents films) being named as producers, and Andy Briggs assigned the writing job on both the Eagles and Kong films.
- Sources: Variety; IMDb; Arrow in the Head; Bloody Disgusting; via a few correspondents, but let’s give the credit to Kaiju Search-Robot Avery, who got in first.
- Undead Backbrain on War Eagles
- Undead Backbrain on Kong: King of Skull Island last year
- Kong: King of Skull Island artist Joe DeVito’s website