Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 26, 2015)
After more than eight decades, 1933’s King Kong remains a classic. Its sequel, which also came out in 1933, a mere nine months after the release of Kong? Not so much.
Set a month after the end of the first film, The Son of Kong finds showbiz producer Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) on hard times. After Kong caused havoc in the original flick, all the injured parties hold Denham responsible. He faces multiple lawsuits and a grand jury investigation.
A destitute Denham reconnects with Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher), the skipper of the vessel that carted back Kong. Englehorn has his own problems and partners with Denham to run a small shipping operation.
In the middle of nowhere, they encounter Captain Helstrom (John Marston), the sailor who originally told Denham where to find Kong. A sleazy drunk, Helstrom clearly needs to avoid all sorts of authorities, especially when he accidentally kills two-bit circus man Petersen (Clarence Wilson). Petersen’s daughter Hilda (Helen Mack) knows what happened and plans to sic the authorities on Helstrom.
In need of a way out, Helstrom convinces Denham and Englehorn that they missed treasure back on Skull Island. The group heads there, but Helstrom foments trouble along the way and sparks a mutiny among the crew.
In the meantime, they discover that Hilda stowed away on the boat. The remaining crew and Hilda all continue toward Skull Island. There they discover a smaller relative of Kong’s, and the rest of the movie follows what happens to them.
The original Kong succeeded because it was a rip-roaring adventure. It used then-state-of-the-art visual effects along with an exciting story to combine into an action flick that still entertains more than eight decades later.
Everything’s the same for Son… except for the parts about “rip-roaring adventure”, “exciting story” and “action flick that still entertains more than eight decades later”. The effects continue to be good, at least. The same team that did Kong handled Son, so they were equally as convincing.
Too bad the movie makes such poor use of them. People act like cheesy sequels are a modern creation, but junk like Son proves otherwise.
This flick screams to us that it was made on the cheap to quickly capitalize on Kong. Story and characters are thin at best, and the action is radically less memorable. Don’t expect anything as exciting as the T-rex fight or the romp through New York in this tepid affair. Lil’ Kong battles a bear and a big lizard, but he never presents the same level of energy or presence as his pop.
Instead, Son comes across much more in the kinder, gentler vein of Mighty Joe Young. Lil’ Kong is no threat, as he’s just everybody’s pal. Smaller and nicer, he doesn’t offer nearly as appealing a presence as his Old Man.
Funny how such a short movie feels so padded. Son dallies on pointless scenes like those with the stage show run by Hilda and her dad. We get many minutes of those shots even though they do nothing to serve the story or character development.
They exist solely to flesh out Son to feature length, as otherwise it’d be too short for full ticket price. It’s hard to believe a movie that runs less than 70 minutes can feel so long, but that’s what occurs during the tedious Son.
Really, I can’t find much to recommend about The Son of Kong. The visual effects continue to look pretty cool, but the movie seems to serve no purpose other than to make a buck. It lacks drama, personality or excitement and does nothing other than slander the good name of King Kong.
Title footnote: Although everything on the disc’s packaging refers to the movie as Son of Kong, the title card seen in the actual flick calls it The Son of Kong. Because of that, I regard the latter as the proper title.