In Africa, the girl Jill Young trades a baby gorilla with two natives and raises the animal. Twelve years later, the talkative and persuasive promoter Max O'Hara organizes a safari to ... See full summary »
When the Maharaja is ousted by an intruder, his wife and two sons, Badal and Jingu, flee. Badal gets separated while Jingu and his mother survive in near destitute conditions. Years later, ... See full summary »
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After the disastrous results of his last expedition, Carl Denham leaves New York aboard a ship to escape all the trouble. After a mutiny, he and a few companions are left behind on Skull island, where they meet a smaller relative of King Kong and make friends with him. Written by
Michael Zolk <email@example.com>
Merian C. Cooper's enthusiasm for this movie was curtailed when he was told he had less than half the budget of King Kong (1933) to work with, and he had to have it in theaters within six months, for Christmas 1933 release. See more »
When Little Kong fights the Nothosaurus in the cavern following the discovery of the treasure they are both reflected in the glass used in the process shot superimposed on Denham and the girl in the background. See more »
[after little Kong has broken the rifle]
Now look what you've done, you big dummy!
See more »
The cast credits in the opening titles identify the character played by Helen Mack as "Hilda", but nowhere in the story itself is she given a name other than her stage billing of "La Belle Helene". See more »
King Kong is the benchmark against which all the monster films for the past 70 years have been measured. Some- like Gorgo, and the Godzilla series, have certainly exceeded Kong in terms of mayhem and carnage, while others, like the Jurassic Park franchise have used the latest CGI technology to, (technically at least) surpass the painstakingly crafted models brought to animated life by Willis O'Brien. However, Kong himself has defied the ages.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for The Son of Kong. This film has been much-maligned, and some of the criticism is justified. Still, The Son of Kong is an entertaining, if not magnificent film. Son has the distinction of being the first monster movie sequel: probably, ironically, this is the reason it could not live up to its predecessor. Since the plot has already been discussed at length in other comments, I won't rehash it here.
Considering the phenomenal financial success of King Kong it seems incredible RKO did not allocate a bigger budget for The Son of Kong. In this day of multiple movie franchises, the opposite is often true: each sequel gets a bigger and bigger budget (though in most cases an inferior script). In 1933 however, despite King Kong's huge profits, RKO was still floundering, and the front office considered Kong's success a fluke. They weren't willing to invest more money for a bigger sequel; instead they believed the first film's popularity would 'sell' it, no matter what the quality. Thus, only about half of King Kong's budget was allotted for the sequel. To make matters worse, only about eight months was allowed for its production! Under such circumstances, the Son of Kong was virtually sabotaged from the start. Even so, the film had elements of style and technical polish that salvaged it from being a total loss. The Son of Kong can be considered a legitimate (if not auspicious) heir to his mighty father.
What I find interesting is that the film was promoted back when first released as a 'serio comic phantasy' though little of it was intentionally funny. Robert Armstrong (once again as Carl Denham) was allowed a wider range of emotion, and had some humor imbued in his character, even allowing the formerly hard-boiled Denham to 'crack up and go sappy' for the dark haired Hilda (played by Helen Mack). Likewise, Frank Reicher (as Captain Englehorn again) and Victor Wong (Charlie the cook) got a lighter treatment than the original film, but for the most part the actors played it 'straight.' Likewise with the prehistoric denizens of Skull Island- the Styracosaurus was a definite, if brief, menace, as were the cave bear, the quadruped dinosaur that enters the treasure cave, and the sea monster. In fact the only real comedian was little Kong himself- and sadly, that's the part that jars me the most. In a film that looked as carefully crafted as the original, complete with impressive glass paintings, miniature jungle sets, and even improved compositing, the almost cartoonish style in which Kong Jr. was animated undermines what could have been. Willis O'Brien, who'd labored so hard on King Kong, had reservations over the sequel and script, and supposedly did not contribute that much to the overall picture. Also, tragedy struck during production when Obie's estranged wife shot and killed their two sons, then attempted suicide. It's small wonder Obie had little enthusiasm for the Son of Kong, and for the rest of his life he was reluctant to discuss the film. Instead, it was Obie's assistant Buzz Gibson who completed much of the stop motion. It's possible both Obie and Gibson animated different scenes with Kong Jr., for the ape's animation is smoother in some sequences (for instance, when Denham bandages Kong's over-sized middle finger) than in others, possibly due to Obie's ability to handle more 'subtle' gesture and performance.
Max Steiner, King Kong's composer, created an original (if not quite as memorable) score for the Son of Kong, although during the climatic submersion of Skull Island, much of King Kong's score was inserted, probably due once again to budgetary restrictions. One interesting note about the score; whether it was intentional on Steiner's part or not, he derived a three-note motif for the conniving, cowardly Helstrom (portrayed by John Marston) that is an exact reversal of the famous three-note theme for King Kong. Musically, this unconsciously underscores the fact that indeed, Helstrom is Kong's opposite: while Kong was ferocious, fearless and yet chivalrous and tender with Fay Wray, Helstrom is full of human failings. As the bad guy of the picture, Helstrom isn't a larger than life villain; just an inept drunk who konks his drinking companion with a bottle of booze, killing the man unintentionally. He lies, incites mutiny, and finally tries to abscond with the castaways' only means of escaping the doomed island. He basically represents someone nearly all viewers may have known at one time or another. In other words, Helstrom is a loser.
Overall, the Son of Kong is something of a missed opportunity. There is much of King Kong carried over into this film, due largely to most of the first film's crew (from director Ernest B Schoedsack on down) having worked on this sequel. Considering what little budget and time was allotted, it's a wonder what sumptuous and engaging visuals they were able to deliver. On the other hand, had Willis O'Brien's personal fortunes been kinder, perhaps little Kong would have been given a little more dignity. Next time you decide to view King Kong, try to follow it up with his nearly-forgotten offspring. You may not be as awed, but as sequels go, it's a fine way to spend an hour and some minutes. As a moderately-scaled adventure, and as a footnote to an enduring classic, it's worth taking that extra journey back to Skull Island.
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