Drawing upon recent reception and cultural theories as well as production and archival documents, Tracking King Kong examines the King Kong figure in a range of cultural contexts and institutional settings. The recent successes of Jurassic Park and The Lost World have refocused attention on the films of the prehistoric monster genre, the most ...
Drawing upon recent reception and cultural theories as well as production and archival documents, Tracking King Kong examines the King Kong figure in a range of cultural contexts and institutional settings. The recent successes of Jurassic Park and The Lost World have refocused attention on the films of the prehistoric monster genre, the most famous of which is the 1933 classic, King Kong. From that film emerged the beast who has become a virtual icon in American and world culture, repeatedly reanimated in advertisements, parodies, political cartoons, sequels, musical theater, and other texts. Cynthia Erb contends that King Kong's enduring cultural value has derived from his difference from standard white male heroes. Among Hollywood films, King Kong is rare for its invitation to identify with a powerful beast standing at the borders of the monstrous and the exotic. King Kong stages an ethnographic encounter between a nature film-maker and exotic beast, then enfolds this encounter in codes of horror: in his last stand, King Kong uses his power to dismantle the ethnographic spectacle that ensnares him, then unleashes his monstrous fury against the forces of modern civilization. Chapters cover the production and release of King Kong in the 1930s; King Kong and the expeditionary-documentary tradition of the 1920s and 1930s; postwar revivals and spinoffs; and camp and black parodies of the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to King Kong, Erb offers detailed analyses of other films including Grass, Tarzan, The Ape Man, Trader Horn, Mighty Joe Young (remake to be released in 1998), Godzilla (1998 remake also to be released), Son of Ingagi, and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde. The theatrical productionsGorilla Queen and King Kong (a legendary South African musical) are also analyzed. In addition to providing the most complete scholarly account of King Kong's original production and release available, Tracking King Kong offers an examination of King Kong's ongoing influence in American and international culture, emphasizing a history of alternative reception in which gay, black, international, and feminist artists, critics, and viewers have amplified King Kong's status as social rebel and minority figure of identification. The first scholarly work to examine the King Kong phenomenon in an international perspective, Tracking King Kong looks at the uses of Hollywood films beyond conventional production and exhibition contexts, as a means of accounting for the complexities of creative and viewing agencies operating "from the margins".
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