There And Back Again: A Geek's Adventures In Middle-Earth!!! CHAPTER 10!!!!
Published at: Dec. 25, 2000, 12:34 a.m. CST by staff
The morning after… ugh… head hurt… body hurt… too much partying. Ugh!!! Kiwi people try kill me with good time.
Damn telephone rings to deliver my second wake-up call… my rudimentary simian brain acknowledges that it has only been three hours since I first shut my eyes. My calves ache from tossing my girth about on the dance floor… my bicep is in agony from throwing back all those brews… brain hurts from being used…
It is 7am New Zealand time… that’s like 2pm yesterday in Austin. At 10am I’m to magically appear at Peter Jackson’s house with all of my stuff… ready to get to the airport by 1:00pm to leave the country.
And nothing was packed… 9 days of clothes spread about… ugh… no fun…
Pack pack pack… Look out the window at Wellington… Pack pack pack… Look in mirror, tell self that I’ll return…. Pack pack pack… why did I bring all of this? Pack pack pack… this book rules! Box of stuff from WETA rules too! Pack pack pack… Staring at socks scattered all over the hotel room…. Thinking, "Do I need them?" Pack pack pack…
Grabbing everything to haul down… CHRIIIIISTTTTT THIS IS HEAAAVVVYYYYYY!!!! OH SHEEEESHUSSSSSS!!!!
MUSSSST PRESSSSS ELEVVATOR BUUUUTTTONNNNNN
I check out…. Hop in the cab… hand the guy a slip of paper with Pete’s address on it, and away we go… through the mountain, past the para-sailors, beyond to red blossomed trees into the hills and down again to a patch of beauty beyond compare… in a nice little brick home… where Derek and his kind reside.
The driver drops me and my 400 tons of luggage at a wall. I look at the wall, there seems to be no way over or through it. There is one ill-colored brick… I press it, suddenly I see a camera staring me into the face… a female voice (sounding a bit like Jamie Lee Curtis’ voice from the opening of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) beckons out to me, "IDENTIFICATION PLEASE"
I dug through my luggage for my necklace… I wave it in front of the camera… suddenly the wall gives way!
"You have Twenty Seconds To Enter!"
Eeeeeeeeeeeeek! I grab my luggage and like a Time Bandit leaving Napoleon’s theater, I lug my way through before the wall closes in on me.
And suddenly there are children!
Where did they come from? Where am I? They take my luggage… suddenly there is Peter… Inviting me into his abode… I made a careful examination of the foundation to see if it lifts off like some of the Peter Jackson houses I’ve seen… Seems sturdy enough.
I enter to find Philippa and Fran and children of all sorts… really quite amazing… must be kids auditioning for some sort of project… Hmmmm… We sit down in the kitchen for some nice New Zealand Tea with milk… and butter/sugar Christmas cookies.
Normal kitchen, nice and neat… the fridge covered with family photos and finger-painting/construction paper paintings/etc…
In the hallway is a painting of one Jackson kid as Wendy from PETER PAN… and the other Jackson kid as Peter Pan… I notice my Tea glass has a scene from PETER PAN (Disney version) on it.
WHAT IS THIS? Peter Jackson and his progeny… and DISNEY!?!?!?!? Where’s the gore? The severed heads? The the the… autopsy saw?
I thought people that made and watched violent cinema were degenerates that lived a pagan and hazardous lifestyle… This house isn’t at all like I was expecting… no innards… no bones… All really warm images… including a beautiful Christmas tree with presents all around it. Dang, that reminds me… I must do my Christmas shopping when I get back to Austin…
Over tea we talk about all manners of strange events, including a mutual nuisance we once had to purge… he in New Zealand, me here in Austin. Weird small world sometimes.
Suddenly we get up and Peter sets out to show me the Jackson Home Theater….
Well, I’ve been in a couple of these private cinemas in the world… Quentin Tarantino’s is equipped all manners of film… from 35mm all the way down to video. He can run full digital this that and another.
Peter’s however is the complete state of the art video and digital format theater… and while he lacks the Film formats… the actual physical design is just spectacular! The ceiling is one of those old Moorish quilted looking chamber ceilings like you find in the oldest of baroque buildings, theaters and castles… There are DVDs and Laserdiscs and videos lining the walls of the theater. From a distance I made out the Kubrick set and the James Bond sets… but I never went over for a look see.
After that, we leave up this passage way that the door led us through… up into the ether of Peter’s world… the toy world.
We all know that Peter Jackson is a Famous Monsters of Filmland nut… we all know that he worships the ground that Ray Harryhausen walked upon. And we also know how much he loves KING KONG. What I had never heard about… what I knew absolutely nothing about… was Peter’s affinity for World War I Flying Combat and planes and such.
He loves this stuff. And it’s way cool… He bought out one guys photo collection of actual World War I flying aircraft shots… and they rule…it is book after book of aerial combat shots… all original photos mounted into gigantic photo albums. You can just hear the props propelling about as the deadly kites of the sky shot at one another.
Then I notice all the toys… he has all of the McFarlane stuff… like Ash and THE THING and stuff…. He has the sideshow toys… like Nosferatu, Caligari, Cesare and so on… but also has the original Sideshow endeavor kits of the Circus freaks… LIONEL the Lion Man…. Randion the Human Worm and Schlitze the Pinhead Girl! OH MAN… JEALOSY!
These models are IMPOSSIBLE to get… I bought the Lionel one built up to give my sister (she loves the old sideshows as does my whole family). Peter is a massive collector of garage model kits… he has many classic ones… in particular, his collection Harryhausen kits was enough to nearly kill me. Specifically the YMIR taken straight off the original Ymir… I WANT IT BAD! Then I notice all the old Airfare Pulps… and I ask if he has the EC series ACES HIGH, Peter disappears around the corner and pulls out an entire EC story illustrated by George Evans from ACES HIGH… Fantastic piece. A lot of people collected the Horror and Sci Fi stuff… but the WAR comics from E.C. were equally and sometimes superior to those. Oh man… the opening splash page is glorious… Evans’ penwork and draftsmanship is very well known, this piece is gorgeous.
Suddenly my back is to the 9 foot bit of shelving holding TONS of models… Peace from WIZARDS, Kali and the Centaur from GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, Hoggle from LABRYNTH, 2 or 3 versions of Talos and the Hydra from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, Joseph Young and the Boxer from the original MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, Cyclops and Dragon and Kerwin Matthews with the Skeleton on the spiral staircase from 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and much much more…. And Peter gestures for me to follow him.
He has picked up a wood shipping case. Simple box really… put together with screws… the words FRAGILE on the outside. He opens it up gingerly… and…
You know the look on peoples’ faces in PULP FICTION when they look into the briefcase? When you see something wondrous to you personally? For some they only experience this moment on their wedding night… the moment the child screams after birth… Well, for us geeks… for people like me there are moments that you never ever ever will forget in your life.
Moments where the words leave you and your eyes shine with the moisture of discovery and awe… when you are allowed to handle something so engrained into who you are… that it…
Inside the box is the only known version of KING KONG that was used in the original 1933 KING KONG that has it’s original fur… Specifically, this is the Kong you see from the top of the Empire State Building as he falls down the side of the building to his death… in one of the most absolute stunning moments in film history…
KING KONG, along with THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, is my favorite all time movie. My first memory in my life is of Kong breaking through the forest and Fay Wray’s bondaged screams and fears.
I watched as Peter picked KONG up… barely the size of a McFarlane ASH action figure… I can’t hear Peter talking… I’m like Costner in FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME… everything about me is out of focus save for me… and KONG… Kong is getting closer… Peter is seemingly going to HAND ME HIS KING KONG ORIGINAL ON-SCREEN FIGURE!!!!!!!
As he places it in my hands… tears begin to form… Kong’s fur is soft… like the breast of a parakeet perched upon your index finger. His body is limp… lifeless… his arm dangling along the side of my hand… KONG is the size of Fay Wray in Kong’s Hand in My Hand… I can’t describe this feeling… I once held the Gas Bomb that Robert Armstrong tosses at Kong to knock him out… that was a powerful vibe… But this… this is KONG!!! THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD!!!
Oh Christ… I was holding Kong like you would the most fabulous object in the world… I moved his head side to side… stood him upright in my palm… only to see him return to his limp lifeless state as I let him down easy in my hand. Peter’s mouth was continuing to move… I think mine was too… I don’t remember… I vaguely remember the blur that had become Peter looking at me with this gleeful look that you only get from seeing someone appreciate something sacred to you in the same manner that you do.
MY GOD… This is KING KONG…. 1933… Right here… in MY HAND! The fur was a slight honey-ish color… a soft soft light brownish color… Has the color faded… or was that what it looked like in 1933? If it was what it looked like… was it because they needed a higher contrast color than the dark brown or black that you’d think his color was?
MY GOD IT’S KING FREAKING KONG!
I’m hearing the last sounds of Max Steiner’s score… Fay has her hand to her mouth… the aeroplanes are flying away… the final thump of the drum signals the end of KONG…
Why am I a geek? Because it makes me feel like this with this sort of thing in my palm. A glorious soaring of my spirit… a connection all the way back in time to the film that inspired so many to pursue the life they chose. The path I chose.
There are very few Holy Relics like this in cinema. The thought begins racing through my head… I must haves it. But I realize that there is no human way Peter would let me get 4 feet away… he has that same look I have in his eye. He loves it everybit as much as I.
Do you know how Peter and I met the first time? How our paths came together?
When I very first put the site up… a looooooong time ago on a very different internet… On the background to one of the pages was a picture of me with several of my Holy Relics… Things like AMAZING FANTASY 15, a HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES original movie poster, and… per chance… my original 1933 KING KONG 1-sheet.
My father and I had, up until that point in our lives, been dealers in Movie Memorabilia, and the Kong poster was our jewel… the thing that made parting with everything else tolerable.
Peter wrote me a letter telling me how much he liked the site and… Ahem… would I possibly be willing to part with my old funky KING KONG poster for a reasonable sum.
I told Peter he could not possess it at any price and to not ask again and that it was mine… MINE MINE MINE MINE MIIIIINE!
Peter then wrote me back explaining his love of Kong… that he was making a new KING KONG film… Needed the poster.
I wrote him back, explained my love for KONG and why I wasn’t going to ever let anybody get my Kong poster. Peter then told me about this thing I had in my hands… that he possessed the only known furry original KONG from the original production.
Instantly I wanted it. He was not willing to sell either. The bastard (and I was sure the feeling was mutual… hehehe)!
Since then, Kong… Ackerman and Harryhausen have been the spark of our friendship… and on this particular morning in Wellington on my last day of life in New Zealand… Our mutual passion for KONG ignited the next 2 hours of mindless geek babble… Trading of stories… back and forth… Tales of Ackerman and Harryhausen… John Severin and such… Then we went to his closet with all the World War I uniforms and Peter pulls out a bag… He reaches in and pulls out the BAD TASTE alien head!!!! With tons of cables hooked up to it! The actual head is actually quite wonderfully detailed! I commented about how it was never lit in such a way to make out the detail… Peter begins laughing… "Well we didn’t ‘LIGHT’ them at all… I didn’t have the chance to"
Watching Peter holding the head, I was just in a geek bliss state… the geekgasm from Kong was leaving residual spasms of glee through me, when suddenly I ask if the cables controlled bladders that made the head move… Peter says, "Oh, I don’t know if they still work," then places the head on some boxes… grabs the ends of the cables and begins moving them…
THE EYEBROWS moved up and Down!!!
"THAT’S SO FUCKING COOL!" I exclaimed… Peter begins giggling… I’m just staring as the Alien head snarls… and Peter makes the Alien voice noises and voice…. I’m literally beside myself with glee… Peter operates all the cables all at once… haaha, this is great… this is what being a geek on your best day is like… this rules!
I then remember something a friend of mine told me… that there was a script for BAD TASTE 2… So I ask, "Peter, I heard that there was a script for BAD TASTE 2 that you had done."
Peter comments, "Oh no, no, I had a treatment that I submitted to the New Zealand Film Commission… I’d love to do a BAD TASTE 2"
I break in to say, "That’d rule… something like Derek goes to the planet of the BAD TASTE Aliens!"
"Well, yeah, that’s the idea. I’d love to do it, though I’d want to do it on weekends and on a very low budget if I ever did do it."
I egg him on… "BRILLIANT IDEA! YES!"
Next he takes me over to his posters… and then his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines… There’s the trolley from BRAINDEAD (aka DEAD ALIVE) and the crown from HEAVENLY CREATURES… Sigh… this is Ssooooooo cooool! Pete has got to come to my house and play… He agrees…
At some point when Peter is doing the junket stuff for NEW LINE in the States for LORD OF THE RINGS… we’re gonna hook up so I can reciprocate the geekgasms… and show him some Harryhausen on the Big Screen!
The time becomes short, and soon it is time for me to get to the airport. Peter and Fran take me, and at the end of the whole thing we agree that I must return to New Zealand… that we must get together again… in less frantic times… when we can just get together and well…. Geek out.
You see folks, this is who Peter Jackson is… He has the same toys that we all have… He has the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and the YELLOW SUBMARINE figures… He has the funky LORD OF THE RINGS figures that came out… He reads the same comics we do. He isn’t wiped out by making these three films… he is very very vibrant… this isn’t Coppola with APOCALYPSE NOW… this is someone that knows where he’s headed and how to get there… and he loves doing it.
He’s dying to see the Hughes Brothers’ FROM HELL… we had a long discussion about the various theories about Jack the Ripper… I describe the WHITE CHAPEL set that the Hughes Brothers had built for FROM HELL…. Peter is beyond envious that he didn’t get to see that. Also mentions he’d love to do a Victorian Horror film some day.
Sigh… As I leave with hugs and kisses from Fran and Peter… I realize my flight from New Zealand is going to be much much longer than the one coming. For I am not wanting to leave at this moment.
This brings this chapter to a close, and I realize that I must do yet another chapter as there is quite a bit more to discuss… conclude… etc… I need to read the past chapters… see what all I missed and also address some of the concerns that people have with the films… their potential for success and what, if anything, is going wrong or could be done better.
This will take a couple of days I imagine.
Till then my friends, Merry Christmas and y’all come back now ya hear?