Saturday, July 12, 2014

Son of Kong (1933)

So King Kong did pretty well and they apparently fast-tracked this sequel.  Fay Wray refused to reprise her role, but they did manage to get some of the original cast to sign on for a second outing. 


Including Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham!  He brought King Kong to New York, remember, and now everyone's mad about property damage and killings, etc.  Denham is hiding out in a cheapo boardinghouse of sorts, but he is still comically beset by journalists and process servers.  This whole schism of wacky antics and angsty regret about Kong-caused genocide runs through the whole movie.


It was going to be difficult to pull off a Kong postscript no matter what, but I think I would have liked either a remorseful approach or an lol approach to prevail throughout the movie.  The mixture of the two sometimes doesn't gel well.  Although it's hard to fault scenes like the one below, which is Denham escaping the boardinghouse by wearing a bashed tub as a mask.


Denham's an interesting character in this film.  The movie totally utilizes Armstrong's comic timing, but, in a lot of ways, Denham's a sour jackass.  When he finally gets one lawsuit notice too many, he up and leaves New York for the high seas.  Through a series of circumstances, he meets former ballerina-cum-guitar gal Hilda (Helen Mack).  He wins her heart by berating her, a technique he later applies to the Son of Kong.


More circumstances lead a portion of our cast back to Skull Island, where they encounter said Son, trapped in quicksand.  Note that the "son" of Kong is white, so we might need to get Maury on the case here.


Henceforth, the film plays pretty much like a retread of the first Kong.  Monster fights, romance, all that.  The effects are well up to par and everything's executed well, but it does feel a little tedious and unnecessary at times.  Remember how Ghostbusters II was pretty much Ghostbusters again, but less fun?  Same thing here.


One thing that is noticeably different is that Son is way more kiddied up compared to the first movie.  The Kong we have here is cutesy and goofy and makes "Aww, geez!" faces directly at the camera.  He pounds down on a cave bear, but otherwise lacks a lot of the menace that his dad brought to the screen.  Denham is responsible for most of the aggression here, calling Lil' Kong a "dummy" and a "half-wit" when coconut accidents occur.


It would be a big stretch to consider this a horror film (one could say the same about King Kong, but at least it had deliberately frightening scenes).  Son is far more of a light adventure film.  How light?  Well, one character's recently dead parent is dismissed in the dialogue with, essentially, "Aw, that's too bad.  Well, keep your chin up!"  Granted, we've already fled from the consequences of all the people the first Kong killed, but it's still quite glib.


Overall, pretty fun, if a serious step down in quality compared to the first Kong.  This is really more reminiscent in tone of Mighty Joe Young or something, if not a Rankin-Bass cartoon.  It feels like something you'd see on Saturday morning, sandwiched between cartoons and "Solid Gold".

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