When I think of King Kong (who is celebrating 80s years this week), my first thought is sadly not of the 1933 film. At least not exactly. Instead, it is of the King Kong volume of the Crestwood House Monster Movies series.
The cover didn’t use the classic Kong, but some other version. I think that’ was a mistake.
I’ve talked about this series several times on the Retroist, and King Kong is a big part of it. Not only did he have his own volume, which covered not only the 1933 original but every other version of King Kong that had been made to that point, as well as relatives like Mighty Joe Young, but he was kind of the mascot of the series, appearing on the back covers and the “other titles” page.
They returned to the real Kong for these, and the images have been emblazoned on my mind every since.
Had it not been for the King Kong Crestwood House book, I would not have known much about Kong. I might not have known him at all. So this book is just about as important to me as the movie is to film history.
In an amazing confluence of retroism yesterday, Vic posted about the classic Universal monster movie Werewolf of London and mentioned the Crestwood House book that references it while I, hours earlier, had checked out that book for no other reason than nostalgia while at the library with my daughter.
Vic was right; though the book is called “The Wolf Man” a la the Lon Chaney film, it has Henry Hull’s picture from “Werewolf of London” on the cover. The book covers both films and several others.
I thought I had already posted about the Crestwood House Monster Series, but apparently I haven’t. I’ve only alluded to it in a couple of posts. So it’s time to make up for that. The Crestwood House Monster Series was a set of juvenile books about the classic old movie monsters, including not only the Universal standards (Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy) but also King Kong and several other spooks. They were filled with b&w photos and their covers had a black and orange scheme.
King Kong “suggests” you read about his friends. I don’t think it’s really a suggestion.
There were two types of these books. Some, like The Blob merely recapped one movie. Others, like Dracula, The Wolf Man, and King Kong, cover several movies as well as bits of related information. The Dracula book not only recaps the Bela Legosi Dracula film, but talks a little about Bram Stoker, Vlad Tepes, Translyvania, and other films like Dracula’s Daughter, Hammer’s Dracula, and Blackula.
The line about “the clever Japanese” is one that has stuck in my head since I first read this book in the school library. This is one of the lines that I love to find today, because I know I read that exact phrase all those years ago and so know that this must be the exact book I read back then.
Today, these books seem quite light to me, their information nowhere close to being indepth or authoritative. But as I read these books in the pre-VCR days, they were my only link to such films and my chief source of information about these monsters. And for that reason, they still have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.
King Kong seems to be the unofficial mascot of the Crestwood House Monster Series. I’m not sure why that is, but I like it.