THE SON OF KONG

(1933)
With Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher --- and Little Kong
Directed by Ernst B. Shoedsack
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

"Doh! Forgot to get bananas!"     Necessity may be the mother of Invention, but Cheap Exploitation is the bastard son of Originality.  RKO had such phenomenal success with their innovative and groundbreaking KING KONG, they decided to use the same crew, some of the same actors and rush a sequel, THE SON OF KONG into production on half the budget as the original.  Expectedly, this "less is more" attitude yielded disappointing results.

     The story finds Carl Denham still in New York, besieged by lawsuits for the chaos left behind by his rampaging Kong.  Eager to hightail it out of the Big Apple before he is indicted by a grand jury, Denham hooks up with his old captain (Frank Reicher) and sets sail for the South Seas, picking up a young brunette singer (Helen Mack) along the way.  Inevitably, they all wind up back on a newly streamlined Skull Island where they discover that Kong left behind a son who is immediately dubbed "Little Kong". When Denham saves the "boy" from a pit of quicksand, Little Kong becomes his benefactor and protector

     The detrimental effect of the lower budget is evident everywhere in THE SON OF KONG.  The film features a handful of stop-motion sequences with Little Kong fighting various prehistoric denizens of the island, but the some of the models used are not up to the original film's standards, with a giant bear looking particularly silly.  The sets on which the prehistoric creatures cavort also lack the layers of detail found in KING KONG.  On the audio side, the sound effects are undistinguished, and while there is some new music, many of Max Steiner's musical themes and cues seem to be cherry-picked from the original film.  No single sequence in THE SON OF KONG comes close to equaling the excitement of the T-Rex battle or the majesty of the Empire State Building scene from the original film, and what's more, the filmmakers don't even try.  KING KONG gave us 40 minutes of semi-tedious exposition, but compensated with a full hour of nonstop action and thrills capped by an unforgettable ending.  THE SON OF KONG gives us the same 40 minutes of semi-tedious exposition, but follows it with a mere 30 minutes of Little Kong being sweet and fuzzy, interrupted by an occasional mini-battle with some equally sized creature.  Just when you start asking "Is anything ever going to happen?", things suddenly end with a conveniently timed earthquake that sends the entire island to the bottom of the ocean.

     On the bright side, Robert Armstrong is more ingratiating here than he was in the original film, and Little Kong himself is an endearingly cute creation who is played for laughs rather than for the terror his father invoked.  If you ignore the "take the money and run" attitude of the film, and its status as a sequel to one of the greatest movies of all time, THE SON OF KONG is an inoffensive little fantasy-comedy with a couple of clever touches, still worth watching every once in a while, mainly for Willis O'Brien's stop-motion work.  ½ - JB

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