With the revitalization of the King Kong and Godzilla franchises going on with Kong: Skull Island coming out last year and a Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie coming out soon, it’s time to go all the way back to the beginning. The original King Kong came out in 1933 and was a smash success. The story of a giant ape being brought to New York City and wreaking havoc grossed $90,000 in the first four days of its release, which was right in the middle of the Great Depression. There have been several remakes and crossovers with Kong fighting Godzilla, but the original 1933 film still stands up today. Written by Ruth Rose and directed by Merian Cooper, King Kong paved the way for not only successful monster movies, but sequels as well. This brings us to another 1933 Kong film, Son of Kong, which was released on December 22, 1933.
Less than a year after King Kong, Ruth Rose teamed up with Ernest Shoedsack to create with Son of Kong. In this tale, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is on the run following the destruction caused by and the demise of King Kong. Lawyers and reporters are chasing him all over New York City, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s thrown in jail. By his side is Skipper Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher), who also feels the need to go on the run because he thinks that after NYC is done with Denham, he’ll be next. Denham is being housed by the feisty Mrs. Hudson (Kathrin Clare Ward) with food being brought by Charlie the cook (Victor Wong), along with the ultra funny Mickey (Lee Kohlmar), who pops up constantly to hand Carl his summons and tips of future indictment.
Eventually, the Skipper gets the idea of shipping cargo all over Asia to make some money and get the hell out of New York. While Denham, Charlie, Englehorn and their skeleton crew are stopped over in Dakang, they meet Captain Helstrom (John Marston), the skipper of the crew that originally found the map of Skull Mountain. Unbeknownst to Denham, Helstrom is a liar, thief and a drunk. He’s the drinking buddy of Peterson (Clarence Wilson) and his daughter, Hilda (Helen Mack). The two of them run a small circus show featuring animals and monkeys, which to no surprise, Denham taking an interest in.
Helstrom accidentally kills Peterson in a drunken skirmish and the circus act goes up in flames… literally. Knowing he’s screwed when the authorities find out, Helstrom comes up with a cockamamie story that there’s treasure on Skull Mountain to convince Denham to get him out of Dekang. Denham and his crew head back to Skull Mountain and that’s where the fun begins. Without spoiling the rest of the plot, Denham and Hilda eventually run into Kiko, the son of Kong. Denham is going to need Kiko’s help in order to escape the Mountain and end the legacy once and for all.
Was Son of Kong a success? In a sense, yes. It came nowhere close to the smash that King Kong was, but it wasn’t a bomb, either. It did manage to gross $133,000 in the middle of the Great Depression. The movie’s writer, Ruth Rose, tried to make this one a comedy because she figured there would be no way to top the original movie. I agree with this because the lighthearted nature and smaller cast gave the characters more character development, and it fit the antics of the Son AKA Kiko Kong. Unlike the legendary Kong, Kiko is only 12 feet tall and is a big goofball. He frequently drives Denham crazy with his bumbling, but can still fight like his father. Unfortunately, the New York Times didn’t think much of the movie and gave it poor reviews.
The comedy factor in Son Of Kong is prevalent, but it doesn’t bombard the audience. One of the funniest moments was the goofy Kiko breaking a rifle and Denham calling him a “Big Rummy.” It should be noted that the original Kong was neither a hero nor a villain because he wiped out anyone in his path, human or monster. But Kiko is a full-fledged hero from the beginning and all the way until his heroic end. Another funny moment has Denham making an exaggerated face and sarcastically saying Hilda “should be beaten to a pulp,” which may not be politically correct these days, but his deadpan style made it funny by 1933 standards.
The special effects were the bread and butter of King Kong with stop motion animation for Kong and the dinosaurs. This movie is no different, but at least they had different monsters this time. The dinosaur list includes an angry Styracosaurus, a giant bear, an Elasmosaurus (look out, Helstrom!) and a hungry Nothosaurus. The funny thing is the Styracosaurus was eventually proven to be a plant-eater, but in 1933, it was portrayed with razor sharp teeth, much like the Stegosaurus in King Kong. If you can look past the technical inaccuracies, the dinosaur fight scenes will be fun for all.
All in all the movie is inferior to the original King Kong but that’s for the better. If you’re looking for a fun way to kill 90 minutes then this is the movie for you. Son of Kong can be watched by anyone and I suggest you do.