A great deal happens to a script in its passage to film, but little of that finds its way onto the pages of Delos W. Lovelace’s “novelization” of King Kong, which must have been produced not from the film but from the screenplay; it was published in 1932, the year before the release of the film. Sticking to the basics, Lovelace contents himself with broad characterizations, spare descriptions, and furious action. The terrific cover was painted by Frank Frazetta for this 1976 Ace edition, and it’s infinitely more evocative than anything Lovelace provides.
Most disappointing, for me, was the book’s inattention to atmosphere. Lovelace gives us the fog surrounding Skull Island, he gives us the ancient fantastic wall, he gives us the altar on which Ann Darrow is to be wedded to Kong, and he gives us the jungle with all its wonders waiting to be discovered; what he doesn’t give us is any sense that he appreciates the rich vein of awe and mystery and horror that lies within these details. He’s turned the novelist’s page into the two-dimensional surface of the movie screen.
So I’m trashing this book, right? I don’t mean to. It is what it is. And that is a competent, if superficial, narrative of the people and events of the King Kong story (which is a story I’m assuming all of you know). On the other hand, I’m not recommending it, either. Why would anyone read this? Why did I?
I’ll tell you why. To provide this sidebar to what I’m going to do next: watch the three King Kong movies.
I’m going in.