Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Ah, the neverending delights of YouTube.  For many years, ever since I read about the film in Denis Gifford's A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (one of the seminal books of my boyhood), I've yearned to see Walter Lantz's 1933 King Klunk, which marvelously lampoons Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's same-year masterpiece King Kong.  Now, praise the gods, here it is online.  This nine-minute Universal cartoon was the first animated picture to receive an "A" (for Adult) Certificate in the United Kingdom, a country whose British Board of Film Classification enjoyed--and, alas, continues to enjoy--periodically banning horror movies, such as Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), outright.  (An "A" rating, in case you're curious, required that all children under sixteen had to be accompanied in the cinema by an adult; meanwhile, films receiving this rating were "notified to the Home Office as being, in the Board's opinion, horrific in character."  An "H" [for Horrific] Certificate was instituted in 1937; it was changed to a more tantalizing "X" in 1951.  Klunk, incidentally, was one of five 1933 films to be "awarded" an "A.")

This little gem is the twelfth of thirteen Pooch the Pup shorts produced by Lantz, only two of which have made it to home video.  Klunk appeared on Disc One of Universal's 2007 three-disc The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection, and I am deeply grateful to the kind soul who posted it on the Internet.  The plot follows Kong's storyline fairly closely, as intrepid cameraman Pooch and his female coonhound companion sail to Africa in search of Klunk, "the 6 7/8 Wonder of the World."   There they encounter the "Hotcha" chimpanzee tribe, Klunk himself (who, pierced by Cupid's arrow, falls passionately in love with the lady hound), and a sea serpent.  A crashing blow from the serpent's fist knocks Klunk into orbit around the old Universal globe logo, but he literally squashes his opponent when he plummets back to Earth.  The gorilla, after being immobilized by the yolk of a giant dinosaur egg, is brought in chains to New York, where he escapes to wreak havoc.  He scales the Broken Arms Apartments, a structure which appears to be as every bit as tall as the Empire State Building, and is finally toppled by fighter pilot Pooch to his doom, winding up on the pavement as a colossal skeleton (which must certainly have startled the sensitive souls on the British Board).

The picture is a joy to watch, especially in this pristine print.  Its slapstick tone actually anticipates the "serio-comic phantasy" of Schoedsack's The Son of Kong sequel (also 1933) in what was a memorable year for silver screen simians.  I sincerely hope, dear reader, that King Klunk will bring you as much pleasure as it has brought me.  Goona-Goona!


Gifford, Dennis.  A Pictorial History of Horror Movies.  London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1973.