Movie Review: Son of Kong (1933) BONUS #AtoZChallenge


Here is special BONUS A to Z Challenge movie review to tie in with King Kong.

I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: Son of Kong
Release Date: December 22, 1933 (
Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures
Synopsis:

A month after King Kong ran rampant in New York, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is hiding from reporters and process servers in a guest house.  With word of an indictment coming down, Denham reunites with Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) and they sail of to the East Indies hoping to pick up some cargo trade.

They stop in Dakang, where they watch a mediocre show of performing monkeys followed by a song by Hilda Peterson (Helen Mack). That night, Hilda’s father is drinking with Nils Helstrom (John Harstrom), and the two men get into an argument.  Helstrom kills Hilda’s father with a blow to the head and sets fire to their tent.  Hilda rescues the monkeys from the fire and drags out her father’s body.

Helstrom meets Denham and Englehorn, and it’s revealed that he was the captain who gave Denham the map to Kong’s island.  Seeking to escape justice for murdering Hilda’s father, Helstrom makes up a story of treasure on the island and the trio set off to recover it.  Hilda also asks to go with Denham, and when he turns her down she stows away on the ship.

Helstrom stirs up mutiny in the crew and they put of Denham, Englehorn, Hilda, and the cook Charlie (Victor Wong) on a boat to Skull Island.  When Helstrom tries to appoint himself new captain, the mutineers throw him overboard as well.  Helstrom, Englehorn, and Charlie are separated by a dinosaur attack, and now 2/3 of the way into the movie, Hilda and Denham meet and befriend a smaller and younger giant ape.  Denham also discovers that there really is a treasure.

The film ends with a sudden earthquake causing the island to sink. Helstrom is eaten by a sea creature while trying to escape.  Baby Kong saves Denham by holding him above the water until Englehorn, Hilda, and Charlie can get him in the boat, sacrificing himself in the process.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

This movie was also the second installment for WWOR’s trilogy of great ape movies on Thanksgiving afternoon.

What Did I Remember?:

I remember Hilda tearing off part of her slip to make a bandage for Baby Kong, and I remember Baby Kong holding up Denham as the island sinks.

What Did I Forget?:

I forgot most of the film, including the fact that only about a third of it involves the titular character.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

This is a good movie for Armstrong as Denham as it shows some character development with him feeling regret for bringing Kong to New York.  Hilda is a great character who has a lot more agency and adventure than Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

The movie introduces numerous subplots that have potential (such as Denham’s legal struggles in New York, the tension between Hilda and the man who murdered her father, Denham’s redemption arc with Baby Kong, et al), but fails to follow up on any of them.  Script writer Ruth Rose said about the rushed sequel “If you can’t make it bigger, make it funnier,” but there are really only a handful of moments of good comedy.  The brevity of the movie (69 minutes) works to its advantage since you don’t have to invest too much time on it, but if they’d made a longer movie they could have developed the plots and characters better.

Is It a Classic?:

No, this is a mildly-entertaining cash grab.

Rating: **

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