Did You Ever Catch A Monkey?

Deadly Movies Reviews  | ‘The Son of Kong’ (1933)

Whipped out almost before the credits for King Kong (1933) had finished this same year sequel is a calorie and sugar free version of its predecessor; it feels lighter, light on content, cast, atmosphere, tone, and a lot lighter on monkey. It’s a diet movie if you will. Diet movies are common amongst the monster community, with high profile suffers like Jaws 2 (1978), Halloween 2 (1981), and Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997). They feel the same, they look the same, they sound the same, but they’re just not as satisfying as those full fat originals.

The Son of Kong is a redemption tale. Carl Denham (the brilliant Robert Armstrong reprising the role he owned in the original) is in a whole heap of trouble back in New York, owing millions of dollars in damages and lawsuits as a result of Kong’s rampage. Luckily he is given a way off out of his trouble and strife by Captain Englehorn (again played by Frank Reicher) who rather bizarrely offers Denham a chance to go into partnership with him as a goods trader in the Far East. On their travels they learn that there was treasure, no less, buried somewhere on Skull Island.., it’s a narrative miracle. Along the way there’s a new damsel picked up and a mutiny carried out. Arriving back on Skull Island the reduced crew find the film’s namesake who is a bit of wimp, much smaller than Kong, and a lot less angry. Herein lies Denham’s aforementioned redemption, by befriending this mini Kong he wipes his conscious clear of kidnapping and causing the death of the big Kong.

Like Roy Sceider returning as Brody in Jaws 2, It’s Armstrong that anchors this film as a Kong film. Reicher’s Englehorn is promoted up the cast list a few notches, and there’s also a couple of returning background characters like Charlie the ship’s cook and the Witch King of Skull Island. Fans will also notice a couple of nice tie-ins to the first film. We meet Captain Helstrom, the man who sold Denham the mysterious map that took us to Skull Island in King Kong. The original theatre poster for Kong’s appearance on Broadway is seen framed on the wall of Carl Denham’s apartment. There’s also some neat characteristic links between Kong and Son, with junior beating up a dinosaur like dad famously did, breaking its jaw and giving it a wiggle afterwards. The director producer team of Cooper and Schoedsack return, as do Max Stiener for the score and Willis O’Brien for the special effects. However the new cast and characters are less engaging, the new settings less interesting, and the new monsters less threatening.., although I did dig the giant bear.

King Kong was full of iconic image;, the Skull Island wall, Kong’s first appearance when he takes Fay Wray, Kong’s fight with the T-Rex, Kong’s bursting through the great wall, the scaling of the Empire State Building, and Armstrong’s closing line ‘It was beauty killed the beast’. These moments act like a weight around The Son of Kong’s neck, acting as a dangled carrot it can never reach. Subsequently the son is doomed to linger in his father’s ample cinematic shadow. However, saying all that, there is one inescapable ingredient to relish. When Carl Denham steps back aboard the S.S.Venture and captain Englehorn asks him if their latest adventure ‘is a go?’ Denham replies ‘Get back aboard this old ship again? Be out of all this? Say you bet it’s a go!’. Denham’s response brings a broad smile to any movie lovers face. Why? Because it’s the sense of adventure that this creative team instils, and when Denham says yes to Englehorn he’s saying yes for all of us as we get ready to take one last trip aboard the S.S.Venture. Even if it’s not quite the movie trip we went on previously it’s still a trip monster fans wouldn’t miss for the world.

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