I Shot Down King Kong
VOICE: Is anybody listening?!
VOICE: Is anybody listening?
(MUSIC ... THEME ... IN)
ANNOUNCER: Is anybody listening ... to this half-hour-long program designed to
bring you something interesting and unusual in the field of radio drama?
Well, if anybody IS listening, they'll hear something called "I Shot Down King
Kong" -- a radio play based on the short story by Richard Siegel. [The story
was originally published in Printed Poison # 4, October 2003.]
(MUSIC ... THEME ... OUT)
MARS: (FAST-TALKING, NOO YAWK ACCENT) I'm sure you've all heard the stories by
now, maybe even seen the movie that was rushed into theaters to cover up the
truth, but let me tell you folks something: it wasn't Beauty that killed the
It was me.
Well, me and my thirty caliber Vickers machine guns, twin-mounted on my
Anything else ya mighta heard about that day was a lotta hooey, nothing but
(MUSIC ... TO FLY A PLANE BY ... IN BG)
MARS: There wasn't a heckuva lot on the table in the beginning of '33 for me
and the boys. The Flying Circus had gone south for the winter. They'd loaded
our Jennys and Bleriots and left us high and dry in New York City.
See, after the Great War, we boys had pretty much stuck together. Even though
we hadn't clocked much action in the air with the AEF "over there," we had all
pawned our medals and "glory pay" to buy a couple of war surplus aero-planes
and, between the seven of us, we had barnstormed all through these here forty-
eight states more than once.
"Freelance aerial combat flight instructor" sounds good on a resumé but it
wasn't all it was cracked up to be, especially in those Navy Curtiss 02C-2
trainers. Often the money wasn't worth the risk, but still we put on quite the
show -- Immelman loops, Double Dutch and all those death-defying hijinks that
make flappers swoon and grown men gasp.
Somehow between the bathtub gin, the all-night rummy games, our predilection
for Asian dens of ill-repute and the occasional pinch of chandu, there was
never much more scratch to be had than what we had squirreled away in our
socks. And that, lemme tell ya, was not much.
(MUSIC ... ENDS ON A SOUR NOTE ... AND OUT)
MARS: For the past coupla weeks we were ensconced at Nick's Grill in New York,
whiling away the hours, listening to the wireless and teaching ourselves new
The big news that week in all the rags was the return of movin' picture
producer Carl Denham and the upcoming exhibition of some THING he had brought
back "alive." A cut-rate Frank Buck, Denham was.
None of us thought or cared much about Denham -- frankly, he was the biggest
windbag since Chester A. Arthur -- all ballyhoo about lost islands and weird
natives with shrunken heads and Nubian dancing girls. His last picture,
"Grasslands" was a real "floperoo," like they say in the trades. Some long-
winded yarn of Siberian herdsman starving to death in the frozen north. That
stinker went belly-up faster than the Lusitania.
I mean if we was to see a moving picture show, bring on the tomatoes, the jazz
babies -- the flora and the fauna -- if you know what I mean, chum.
So, none of us gave a hoot about Denham. What caught our eye was the gams of
some extra oomph who was showin' up in the newspapers with him.
(MUSIC ... DREAMY ... IN BG)
MARS: The gal's name was Ann Darrow, and she put the zip in zippidy-doo-dah.
She had more curves than Harlow and a million dollar smile that could power
all of Hackensack. Rag after rag had pictures of Ann and Ol' Carl and some
mook in a monkey suit.
Yeah, the "mission board" at Nick's had more black and whites of Ann than
"specials of the day." Heck, she WAS the special of the day -- all week long.
Needless to say, if that's what Denham had "brought back alive," our
estimation of him as a showman had risen a notch or two.
We were in love, and each morning and late into the night our talk was how and
why one of us would make time with the inimitable Ann. Since the level of our
good-natured camaraderie would make a viper blush, I won't be repeating it
here -- but you get the drift, don't ya, rube?
(MUSIC ... CHANGES TO RAUNCHY JAZZ ... IN BG)
SOUND: (DINERS & OTHER NOISE AT NICK'S GRILL)
MARS: On the morning in question it was still night -- our usual Saturday
night, in our usual booth at Nick's Grill, and we were about to order our
usual drinks -- when Nick himself comes rushing over. Nick's a swell guy but
his accent's as unintelligible as his signature's illegible.
NICK: (FOREIGN ACCENT, EXCITED) Boys! Boys! You hear?! You hear?!
OMAHA: (MIDWESTERN) Yeah, Nick - we're here. Business is about to pick up.
NILES: (BRITISH) That's putting it mildly, Omaha.
WOODY: Gonna run up a large bill tonight, Niles?
NILES: No offense, Woody, but your Yank beer is quite inadequate and my rum
NICK: No! No - no! You hear? You hear about Kong?
SPACE: (SPACEY) Kong? From Hop Sing's Pagoda of Pleasure?
NILES: Hop Sing's what?
OMAHA: The local opium den. Leave it to Space to know the employees on a
NICK: NO! Kong! King Kong! King Kong!
WOODY: Good ol' Nick, always the master of understatement. (TO NICK) Who's
Kong and what's he king of?
NICK: Denham's monkey -- big, big monkey - escaped!
BOYS: (ROAR OF LAUGHTER)
NILES: (CONFUSED) "Denham's monkey"?
WOODY: Yeah, Carl Denham brought back some penny-ante baboon out of Java.
OMAHA: (DISMISSIVE) Eh, it's a publicity stunt.
SPACE: What a showman...
OMAHA: Nick - that's all very nice, but look, I'd like the eggs and swine over
easy. What are you having, Woody?
WOODY: Pig in a poke and a side of--
NICK: No, you chumps! Big monkey - forty stories tall - escaped - on a
OMAHA: Forty, Nick? That's kinda big for a chimp, ain't it?
NICK: Yeah - yeah, big monkey - the biggest! And he's got Ann Darrow!
BOYS: Ann Darrow?!
(MUSIC ... HUGE EXCLAMATORY ACCENT ... THEN OUT)
NICK: Yeah - big monkey got her - in his big, hairy paw. He smash buildings,
eat people -- no good that Kong!
SPACE: Yeah. No good at all.
OMAHA: Nick, get behind the counter and crank up the wireless! Come on, boys!
This I gotta hear.
(MUSIC ... FOR A BRIEF, DRAMATIC TRANSITION ... DURING WHICH WE HEAR:)
(SOUND: RADIO STATIC ... UP AND DOWN THE DIAL ... IN AND OUT)
(MUSIC ... CONTINUES IN BG ... AGREES WITH NARRATION)
MARS: (NARRATES) News was sketchy and, we discovered later, wildly inaccurate.
Kong was pretty big all right, but not THAT big.
Forty feet high - not forty stories.
A gorilla - not a monkey.
And he didn't sink the Staten Island ferry.
Nor did he eat Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
But he HAD wrecked the Third Avenue El...
SPACE: That was uncalled for.
MARS: Gathered around Nick's radio, we slowly pieced together the news from
the jumbled broadcasts.
Evidently Denham had originally booked Yankee Stadium for his big show but the
Yanks were in the Series again. He tried the Polo Grounds but they were
inadequate and Ebbets Field was out of the question. No one puts on a big show
and charges twenty ducats and expects 'em to go to Brooklyn. What would the
fur and penguin set say?
So he leases the Roxy on the Great White, just north of the Deuce, and fills
"Eighth Wonder of the World" was the billing but everyone assumed he was
talking about Ann Darrow's gams. Most are expecting a picture show but the
build-up in the press has everyone jumping about a "personal appearance" by
"the tallest, darkest leading man in the world."
(MUSIC ... A QUIRKY ACCENT ... THEN OUT)
SOUND: (THEATER CROWD BUZZES)
MARS: So all the swells are scratching their bottoms when Denham comes out in
front of this enormous curtain and is all set to break into some long-winded
yammer when he changes his mind and invites Ann to join him on stage.
NILES: (CRISPLY) She was "resplendently clad in an opulent shimmering gown,
translucent in its splendor."
NILES: (CASUALLY) Well, that's how the Times put it in THEIR account, old boy.
MARS: Mm, they would.
So then Denham invites all the photogs from the Fourth Estate to join them
onstage, too, so they can get some swell shots of Kong and his captors.
So now ya got some dame, a lug in a tux, and about twenty newshounds ready to
flash their bulbs wild. Yawn-a-rooney. If I had been in the audience then, I
would've been seriously thinking about getting a refund.
(MUSIC ... A FANFARE ... THEN IN CONTINUES IN BG, MATCHING THE NARRATIVE)
MARS: But then the curtain raises. The crowd gasps - and suspended high above
the stage is this big ape in chains - like I said, about forty feet tall. And
most folks who were there that night say the big guy was not enthralled with
bein' there either.
SOUND: (KONG ROARS ... CHAINS CLANK)
MARS: He's roaring and straining at his stainless steel shackles and chains.
Denham assures the audience that Kong's been doped but good and everything is
just peachy keen. That is, until the newsboys start clicking away...
SOUND: (FLASH BULBS CLICK ... KONG FREAKS OUT AND BREAKS LOOSE)
MARS: Kong goes nuts -- flat out bonkers! He thinks they're attacking the
girl. He rips out of those chains like they were Turkish taffy, leaps off his
podium and starts wrecking everything in sight.
(MUSIC ... TO WRECK THINGS BY ... FILLS A PAUSE)
MARS: Ann gets away but he rips apart half of Manhattan looking for her. He's
stomping on cable cars, chewing on folks plucked at random, smashing taxicabs
and squashing a whole bread line full of hoboes into hash for the meat wagons.
Kong is the biggest brouhaha to hit town since Gentleman Jimmy's last
(MUSIC ... TAKES A DARK TURN ... IN BG)
MARS: Now they can't find the big guy anywhere. He's disappeared somewheres in
the stone canyons of the great metropolis. How in the heck do ya lose a monkey
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT ... THEN OUT)
SOUND: (ANNOUNCER'S VOICE ON RADIO DRONES ON INDISTINCTLY IN BG)
MARS: The boys and I are clustered around Nick's wireless, completely
spellbound. Every other minute some silver-tongued announcer would say, "This
just in!" and read another crazy bulletin.
By now, even Space has come out of his usual narcotic-induced haze and is
standing at rapt attention. Woody's chaining Pall Mall after Pall Mall.
Omaha's stopped guzzling his joe. And I hadn't said a word all evening, which
is totally unlike me.
Kong had grabbed Ann Darrow and was just finished making a soufflé out of the
elevated on Third and Thirty Third.
NILES: Well, you Yanks really do have a flair for the dramatic, don't ya? This
show's a lot better than what we have on the Beeb -- much more vivid.
NICK: This ain't no damn radio show!
NILES: Certainly it is, Nick. Who'd ever believe such fantastic nonsense?
SOUND: (PHONE RINGS IN BG ... NICK MUTTERS AS HE MOVES OFF ... WE HEAR HIM
ANSWER THE PHONE WITH, "Nick's Grill!" AND THEN CONVERSE INDISTINCTLY UNDER
NILES: (CONTINUES) Apes the size of buildings, damsels in distress. Lurid
carnage. Fiction, pure and simple.
SPACE: You think it's a radio play, Niles?
NILES: Or at the very least a hoax. I remember, back in '26, the BBC did a
satire about Parliament being blown up and Big Ben falling down -- and some
people actually believed it.
OMAHA: Well, some people would believe it if you told 'em Martians were
invading New Jersey. What do you think, Woody?
WOODY: I think Niles may be right.
SPACE: I don't know. A lot of strange things been happening recently.
OMAHA: Like what, Space? Giant albino rats in the sewers?
SPACE: (STUNG) Hey! A fella what frequents the Pleasure Pagoda gave me the
inside dope on that.
OMAHA: Dope's the right word for it.
SPACE: Okay, Omaha, but how about all those murders in the zoo? Or the bodies
from the morgue that turned up in that new wax museum?
WOODY: Well, I don't think a giant monkey had anything to do with any of that,
OMAHA: Maybe a pink elephant.
WOODY: No, Denham's made his own mulligan and now he has to wallow in it.
SPACE: I feel bad for the girl.
WOODY: Feel bad for Denham. If this IS for real, he's well on his way to some
of the world's biggest lawsuits--
OMAHA: Lawsuits? Hell, he'll be clocking some time up river, the chump.
NICK: (RETURNS, EXCITED) Boys, boys!
WOODY: What's wrong, Nick?
NICK: That was Colonel Lamont at the field! He wants you over there and in the
WOODY: What for?
NICK: For Kong! He's climbing the Empire State Building! And - and he's still
got the girl!
WOODY: The girl?
OMAHA: She's still alive?
SPACE: Oh, that's swell.
NICK: Yes! Yes! Come on - the aero-planes! You have to fly! You have to fly
your aero-planes and shoot down the Kong!
NILES: Surely this is some sort of a joke.
WOODY: Or a heck of a way to meet Ann Darrow.
OMAHA: Come on, Niles! Don't be a ponce! Let's go! Kaiser Bill's up a hill and
we need your chops, right now!
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT ... THEN UPTEMPO IN BG)
MARS: (NARRATES) The boys grabbed Niles and threw him into the back seat of
Omaha's Stutz Bearcat.
SOUND: (CAR DOOR SLAMS SHUT)
MARS: Woody and I jumped onto the running board and the Stutz reared back and
exploded down the dusty road.
(TRAVELING MUSIC ... FOR A TRANSITION ... THEN OUT)
SOUND: (STEADY DRONE OF AERO-PLANE ENGINES)
MARS: In the east, dawn was slowly looming over the vast expanse of Manhattan.
From the west, seven aero-planes came barreling in out of the clouds.
Seven veteran aces made their way across the Hudson from Jersey, high above
the Palisades -- each one of us in our own Curtiss bi-plane with a Navy
gunner. My gunner's name was Ernie Schoedsack, a fresh-faced swabby if there
ever was one. I gave him the thumbs up as we checked our guns one last time.
And then we saw him.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG, MATCHING THE NARRATIVE)
MARS: You know, in the motion picture, they brought Kong to life through a
combination of what they call "stop-motion" animation and trick photography.
But that movie monkey was actually a model that stood only eighteen inches
tall. The real thing was a hell of lot bigger, I can assure you!
The closer we dove in, the bigger that ape appeared, a behemoth against the
urban jungle. I looked over on my right and saw Niles shaking his head - he
couldn't believe his own eyes.
Kong held the tiny figure of a tattered blonde Ann Darrow in his grasp. With
his other paw, he clung to the dome of the building, maintaining a precarious
balance atop the tallest structure man had ever built. If he wanted to get at
us with a free hand, he'd have to put Ann down.
SOUND: (ZOOMING AERO-PLANE ENGINES WHINE)
MARS: Woody buzzed him - Omaha circled him - Space swooped in at a forty-five
degree angle. We all took turns narrowly brushing the ape's massive head.
Yeah, it was careless derring-do and reckless showmanship, just our style.
This wasn't some fairground performance at Podunk, Iowa but the real McCoy and
the specter of death incarnate was barreling down upon us.
Or, rather, we were barreling down upon IT!
Back and forth we flew until Kong's eyes grew swollen and red and his fury
intensified. These flying gnats were really getting on monkey boy's nerves.
I had looped around, jockeying for a higher altitude, when my gunner tapped me
on the shoulder. The big monkey was taking the bait. He gingerly laid the
unconscious girl on the roof and started to swat at us with his huge, hairy
This was it! We fingered our guns and made ready. Between the pilot's front-
mounted dual-action Vickers and the rear gunner's single, that big furry
galoot was about to taste some hot lead.
SOUND: (ZOOMING PLANE ENGINES ... MACHINE GUN FIRE)
MARS: Omaha went first, followed by Niles. White hot bullets spat out their
siren song of death.
Kong swiped at the aero-planes as they streaked by. For somebody so big, that
ape was plenty quick!
I came in hard and fast out of the west, letting a volley rip right into his
SOUND: (MACHINE GUN FIRE ... KONG ROARS)
MARS: As I buzzed him, Kong unleashed a million-year-old roar of primordial
rage into the cool morning air. His fetid breath almost made me retch - the
foulness of it indescribable.
Wasn't long before we could see the blood slowly oozing out of Kong's wounds.
But instead of crumpling and falling, he just got madder. Madder than I had
ever seen anyone, or anything, get -- something so savage and black and
unnamable that I can't even bear to recall it.
And then, it happened.
Swooping up from below, Space was ripping into Kong with a full-frontal head-
on assault when the monkey's paw suddenly slashed at his struts, ripping them
asunder as his wings collapsed.
SOUND: (PLANE BREAKS UP, GOES INTO DEATH DIVE)
MARS: Space went plummeting down the side of the Empire State, erupting into a
ball of fire as his plane exploded over the heads of the teeming onlookers
SOUND: (DISTANT EXPLOSION)
MARS: Space was one of the best we had before the junk took hold of him and
now that big mook had sent him careening to Saint Pete's Gate in a fiery
Well, I was determined to send this killer to Hades - if there WAS a Hades for
big overfed chimps.
I lit up into the sun, hoping to blind Kong as I dove in.
The wind tore at the struts and I could feel the fuselage buckle from the
velocity of the descent.
The ape pawed the air in vain.
The aero-plane twisted as I maneuvered her into a full double Immelman loop
and swept by his groping paw.
Like a Walter Johnson fast ball in the noonday sun, I whisked by and unloaded
the double-barreled salvo, all the intensity of my hatred, into his exposed
Hanging there for untold seconds, I expended every cartridge I had. And then
Kong was out of position as we swerved into a tailspin.
SOUND: (PLANE DIVES)
MARS: Straining mightily at the control stick and chanting half forgotten
hosannas from my forlorn youth, I finally righted her.
As we leveled out above Herald Square, narrowly missing the Gimbel's sign, my
gunner smacked me on my head and gestured wildly.
I looked up to see Kong, the eighth wonder of the world, grasping his throat
as huge red geysers of blood spurted through his black, furry fingers.
He looked down for a moment at Ann Darrow who cowered in the shadow of the
I swear you could almost see a kind of longing and despair in the big guy's
eyes as he swayed silently in the breeze.
For a second I almost regretted what I had done.
Kong reached out to her but then fell backwards - and down, down, down the
long escarpment of steel and concrete - to the street below.
The crowds parted in a sea of bloodied fur and viscera as King Kong heaved his
final primeval breath.
(MUSIC ... FOR KONG'S DEATH ... THEN MORE UPBEAT, IN BG)
MARS: Afterwards, we all had our brief moment of fame and notoriety.
I had plenty of pictures taken with a very grateful Ann Darrow but no luck in
the two-step department.
Naw, I never saw her again. Last I heard, she'd moved to Hollywood and changed
her name to Fay Wray or something.
Carl Denham, in a sea of lawsuits and possible criminal charges, fled to the
South Seas with his skipper. There were a lot of rumors that they had found
the son of Kong - a kinder, smaller, more agreeable sort of simian.
Supposedly, they brought him back to civilization to star in the sequel to the
motion picture biopic of his late lamented dad. But the son was never as
famous as his old man.
Yeah, fame's a funny thing. Sure, the boys and I saved the city but, a week or
so later, the newspapers basically forgot all about us. They moved on to the
next big thing like they always do. Amateur hours and things like that.
We didn't really care, of course. We scraped up what remained of Space, and
then Woody and Omaha left town to drop his ashes over Manchuria.
Me, I stayed behind -- and right away I was broke and jobless, just like I
usually was. Times being what they were, a lot of hungry folks were standing
in bread lines waiting for a bite to eat. And I was one of 'em.
Fortunately, I was able to get a job working at a soup kitchen, dishin' out
the grub to other guys like me. And here's the funny part. I was spooning out
potatoes and beans not more 'n a few blocks from where I shot down ol' King
(MUSIC ... A WRY ACCENT ... THEN OUT)
MARS: Which reminds me.
The one thing they never mentioned in that movie, or in the press for that
matter, is what became of Kong's carcass.
Well, lemme tell ya. For about three weeks running, all the soup kitchens and
food pantries around the city were handing out an awful lot of what was called
Don't believe me?
Well, I know that for a fact -- 'cause I was there.
You see, I not only shot him down -- I served him up.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... IN)
ANNOUNCER: You've been listening to "I Shot Down King Kong" -- a radio play
based on the short story by Richard Siegel. [The story was originally published in
Printed Poison # 4, October 2003.]
The man who shot down King Kong was played by ____________________.
Others in the cast included: _________, ___________, _____________,
_____________ and ___________.
Music was by ______________________________________________________ .
And ____________ handled the sound effects.
Next week, if anybody's listening, they'll hear something called ________.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... OUT)
VOICE: (WHISPERS) Is anybody listening?
SOUND: (HEARTBEATS ... FADE)
[The above script is © copyright 2005 by Richard Siegel and "whoever did the