My First Monster Movie Begins A Lifelong Love Affair
It was the summer of 1970. Or maybe it was 1971. I was 4, maybe 5, years old. My little brother had just been born and my mom, like all parents of newborns with school-age siblings, was looking for anything and everything to get me out of the house and out of her hair. Enter summer movies at the public library and my first exposure to monster movies. Not just any monster movie, mind you. That was the summer I first saw King Kong.
My Origin Story
Now for a pre-schooler with a mad love for dinosaurs, this movie had me hooked from the start — adventure on a lost island full of prehistoric beasts. Throw a giant ape into the mix and have him fight the dinos and I was a goner! I can’t recall the other movies I saw that summer, which leads me to believe they were not monster movies. I’m sure I enjoyed them, but King Kong sticks in my memory like it was last week. It was exciting, full of adventure- and dinosaurs. It was a bit scary at times but it was also sad. Like every other kid, I felt bad for Kong and knew from the start he wasn’t really the bad guy. he was scared and probably home-sick. The bad guys were the men who captured him and exploited him to get rich. As a kid, adults control your world–parent, teachers, babysitters…and you can relate to getting in trouble because you’re out of your comfort zone, for not fitting in, for being scared and feeling alone.
For me, Kong was personal. I understood the plight of the monster. It was the first, but certainly not the last, time that I found myself rooting for the ‘monster’ and being sad when he, inevitably, would lose.
From Dinosaurs to Classic Monsters
I don’t know if that was the same day I discovered that they wrote books about movie monsters, but it wasn’t long after seeing Kong on the tiny library television that I was scouring the library for any and everything I could find about the monsters of the movies. And the 1970s were a time when kids books about classic movie monsters were plentiful.
Meeting the Classic Monsters
By the time school started that fall, I was well versed in the classics of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla and the Wolf Man. In some cases, seeing these movies was still years away, but I checked those books out over and over again that summer–reading and re-reading the movie synopsis and memorizing every frightful picture. That was the summer I became a Monster Kid.
I’m sure my story isn’t unique for kids of the early ’70s or for generations before me. My wife remembers seeing King Kong at her local library as well. It must have been pretty common fare in those pre-Star Wars days of the early 1970s. For most kids it is a fond childhood memory. For monster kids, it changed everything and started us down the path of a lifelong love for fantastic creatures and worlds of the imagination. The public library was the gateway, but King Kong was the drug.
What is your Monster Kid origin story? How did King Kong effect you and when did you first see this iconic film?