The most memorable bit of dialogue from any monster movie comes from the original version of King Kong in 1933. It’s an unexpected piece of poetry that, I think we can all agree, elevates the movie above and beyond genre.
Still powerful even today, the monostich finale continues to inspire thousands of movies and novels. “It was beauty killed the beast,” says Kong’s captor just before the movie ends and the credits roll.
Man-Beast from Deborah Sheldon is an example of a novel inspired by the poetry of King Kong. It’s a Beauty and the Beast-like story with a monster and a pretty girl and the tragedy they share.
Pearl Bennett is a young and petite woman. She’s a slip of a thing only 4 feet, 6 inches tall. Slender to the point of malnourishment, pale, wavy blonde hair and a pinched mouth like a cherry. Says the author: “She was a young and silly flibbertigibbet.”
Pearl is the cook for a troupe of pugilists who travel across Australia fighting and wrassling for the enjoyment of rural communities. There’s Big Stanley, a legitimate pro boxer, Mavis the Mauler, a kangaroo and a stable of complicit showies. The star of the show, however, is a Yahoo-Devil-Devil named Bluey.
For those of you who don’t already know, a Yowie is the equivalent of a Sasquatch in Aboriginal folklore. Described here, Bluey is nine feet tall and 500 pounds. He has the face of a gorilla but almost that of a man—and even though he’s an infant, he’s got muscles the size of watermelons and a chest as big as a wine barrel.
Bluey is the big moneymaker for the troupe. Everybody in Australia wants to see him spar inside the boxing ring. Caged, exploited and kept inebriated for safety concerns, the baby Yowie is a sympathetic monster just like King Kong.
Eventually, with the help of Pearl, Bluey escapes confinement and is reunited with his extended family in the bush. What follows is an unfortunate massacre of beast and man. Parallel to the woodland melee, the author also includes a smart stream of consciousness sidebar involving a pack of dingoes.
Like King Kong loose in New York City, the resolution to Man-Beast is predictably tragic (“Everything about this is shitty,” sighs one bystander). Bluey and Pearl share a strong bond but they cannot escape from the cruel consequences of what they begat. “Her actions had doomed them all,” says the author about Pearl. “Every death so far, and every death still to come, was on her own contemptible head.” It’s not poetic like the ending of King Kong, but it’ll do.
[Man-Beast / By Deborah Sheldon / First Printing: September 2021 / ISBN: 9781922551031]