With Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh --- and Mr. Joseph Young
Directed by Ernst B. Schoedsack
Black and White

"Hey, you with the smokes... pull my finger.. no, really, this'll be funny!"     Although technically not a sequel to KING KONG, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, the third in the Cooper - Schoedsack trilogy of "giant ape" films, feels like one.  This ape, Mr. Joseph Young, is even smaller than Little Kong from THE SON OF KONG, but that doesn't stop his movie from being the most fun of all three.  It's no KING KONG, but it is the film that SON OF KONG could have been.  

     Joe Young is an amazing stop-motion creation.  Sixteen years after the original KONG, the ape animation is much subtler and smoother, and provides for a wider range of facial expressions. Throughout the film but especially during a chase scene close to the end, Joe gets the laughs that the filmmakers reached for and failed to get in SON OF KONG.  Joe is animated with such confidence, by a team headed by KING KONG's Willis O'Brien and a young Ray Harryhausen, that the whole film winds up with the same sense of self-assurance.  This group of filmmakers, including executive producer John Ford, know they have made a supremely fun little movie that is guaranteed to entertain and have no pretensions about it being anything else.  

     It helps that they cast Robert Armstrong in the Carl Denham-like part of a shady showman who travels to Africa to bring back wild animals for his new Hollywood nightclub.  Armstrong is funnier than he was in his two Kong films and is helped out by Frank McHugh as his equally shady publicist.  Terry Moore as the innocent girl who raised Joe in Africa and Ben Johnson as a country bumpkin rodeo star provide the requisite love story.  But the real star of the film is, of course, Mr. Joseph Young as Himself, as brought to life by Willis and Harryhausen.  ½ - JB

Fantasy     The Secret Vortex


Mighty Joe Young (1998)