DVD REVIEW The Son Of Kong
A chimp off the old block?
1933 * PG * 70 mins * £9.99 * 23 August 2010
Distributor: Odeon Entertainment
Director: Ernest B Schoedsack
Cast: Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher
One of the more unsung sequels in screen history, this fast-tracked follow-up to 1933’s all-conquering King Kong has none of the showstopping, skyscraper-scaling ambition of the original. But it’s far from a terrible disappointment to its father.
We’re a month on from the iconic finale of Kong. Wittily, showman Carl Denham – the man who paraded the ape as the Eighth Wonder Of The World – is facing a litigation nightmare for property damage to Manhattan. Fleeing yet another summons he returns to Skull Island, where a shifty seadog claims tribal treasure is waiting. Also waiting on the eerie isle is Kong Jr, the altogether cuter fruit of the Fay Wray-botherer’s mighty loins.
As screenwriter Ruth Rose knew, “If you can’t make it bigger, make it funnier.” So the sequel’s tone is considerably more playful, bringing us what the tagline called “A human, loveable, laughable beast.” Little Kong is certainly a sweeter creation than his plane-swatting papa, prone to Stan Laurel-style head-scratches and the occasional cross-eyed bout after bashing his head. The work of stop-mo master Willis O’Brien, he’s an endearing and characterful title star, very much a dry run for 1949’s Mighty Joe Young.
Given that it was a blatant buck-chaser, it’s commendable how many of Kong’s cast and crew are reunited on this picture. There’s no Fay Wray, but Robert Armstrong gives a warmer, deeper turn as Denham, while Max Steiner delivers another score of lurid grandeur. O’Brien, meanwhile, summons another prehistoric bestiary, from sea serpents to great bears. The FX work may even be more polished than Kong.
Charming but slight, lacking the final-reel punch of its predecessor, The Son Of Kong is ultimately a shack in the shadow of the Empire State.
Photo gallery, trailer.