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  Son of Kong, The Following In His Father's Footsteps
Year: 1933
Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Stars: Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston, Victor Wong, Ed Brady, Noble Johnson, Steve Clemente
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: One week after a gigantic ape rampaged through New York City, the promoter who brought it there, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), is hiding out in his boarding house room trying to avoid the process servers intent on landing yet another summons on him. He cannot stay here much longer, so contrives to escape under the noses of the men from those suing him and the reporters looking to interview him and ends up on a ship once more. He joins up with the Captain (Frank Reicher) of the previous expedition and heads out on the high seas, not intending to return to the island where it all started at all...

For the sheer speed that this sequel to King Kong was released - the same year as its parent made cinema history - Son of Kong deserves some notice, though inevitably the result was a far lesser work. The title character does not appear until the last half of a film that is barely over one hour in length, and yet it still feels a long wait until we get there, unlike the tension building introductions of the original. Scripted by Ruth Rose, wife of director Ernest B. Schoedsack and writer on the first instalment, this was pretty lightweight throughout.

There are some elements of drama and social comment, however, mostly centering around the female interest: King Kong had blonde Fay Wray, so for contrast Son of Kong had a brunette, Hilda, played by Helen Mack who failed to achieve the same iconic status, probably because she is not the love interest to the ape, but to Denham instead. Well, there were more reasons than that, which was no reflection on her performance which is fine, but everything here felt second hand: the plotline, the characters, and even the action and thrills.

In the earlier scenes, Denham finds himself in the port of Dakang, and visits a low rent musical act which Hilda and her father show out with trained monkeys, presumably to illustrate that she is good with animals. Tragedy strikes when the father is accidentally killed in a drunken brawl with the disreputable Helstrom (John Marston), who Denham knows and is taken in by his tales of treasure on Skull Island where Kong was found, so agrees to go back. However, not only does Hilda stowaway, but Helstrom whips up the crew into mutiny so he can claim the ship for his own.

There's an undercurrent of Communism to the crew's rebellion, although it's difficult to see if we're meant to take this seriously or not, but Denham and his companions, including the shunned Helstrom, end up on the island and before long have met another, smaller Kong. Willis O'Brien was back to provide the special effects, and they are as captivating as ever, but the tone is far goofier with "Little Kong" acting more like a cartoon than any real threat. Hilda introduces the theme of wondering whether humans can communicate with animals on any meaningful level, and the film seems to endorse that with some sentimentality, but mainly this is about the special effects. For a cheap cash in, there's worse out there, but as far as the multitude of Kong rip-offs go this has the official backing in its favour. Plus it got there first, of course. Music by Max Steiner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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