The Son of Kong (1933) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Son of Kong (1933) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on May 16th, 2022 | Movie Review | Classic Thriller, Creature, Classic Creature

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It’s a movie about the son of King Kong (obviously!).

The Son of Kong was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (Dr. Cyclops) and stars Robert Armstrong (The Mad Ghoul), Helen Mack (She), and Frank Reicher (The Mummy’s Ghost).

Can Kong’s kid save Carl Denham (and a new damsel in distress) from an earthquake?

Son of Kong (1933)

Son of Kong's tagline tells you most of what you need to know: “The Twelve Foot Ape Befriended them on the Island of King Kong!”

The contrivance of Carl Denham returning to Skull Island after the fiasco of his first trip involves him sneaking out of Manhattan to escape the lawsuits arising out of the King Kong catastrophe. He immigrates to Lombok (in present-day Indonesia) to get back into cargo shipping. He seems ready to lead a quieter life until he bumps into a Norwegian skipper who describes a secret treasure on Skull Island.

With that, Denham is off for another adventure and sails to Skull Island. Initially, Denham doesn’t find treasure, but he does discover a 12-foot gorilla caught in quicksand. He rescues him. They become best friends. (Luckily, Son of Kong doesn’t know how badly Denham treated his dad. That might have soured things between them. Instead, they’re pals.)

After having been befriended by Son of Kong (named “Kiko” during production, but not in the film), Denham robs a temple, a dinosaur eats the Norwegian, and there’s an earthquake.

Helen Mack plays the damsel. She is no Fay Wray. Nor is a young Ray Harryhausen yet up to the stop-motion animation level of Willis O’Brien. (O’Brien withdrew from the production after his estranged wife killed his two sons.)

The film has its imperfections. Carl Denham’s stale self-criticism about how badly things went one film ago are tiresome. Also, Son of Kong is white (he has white fur, anyway) which further exacerbates the worrisome racial undertones of the Kong films.

Son of Kong might be the ultimate cash-in-quick follow-up given how hastily it was produced, released later the same year as King Kong. But it was a smart move; it proved profitable.

But despite all of that, it’s actually a fun little film – cheesy and lighthearted. It doesn’t attempt to re-create the large-scale smashing of the first film. It doesn’t introduce a new love interest for a gorilla. It’s a smaller, cheaper, shorter film – the gorilla is shorter, too – but by implicitly acknowledging its own limitations, it performs rather adequately. Even 89 years later.

Worth Watching?

If only to see that a decent film can be scripted, shot, edited, and distributed in under nine months’ time, sure! 

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