Son of Kong
|Son of Kong|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ernest B. Schoedsack|
|Produced by||Ernest B. Schoedsack|
|Screenplay by||Ruth Rose|
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Edited by||Ted Cheesman|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
Son of Kong is a 1933 American Pre-Code adventure monster film produced by RKO Pictures. Directed by Ernest Schoedsack and featuring special effects by Buzz Gibson and Willis O'Brien, the film starred Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack and Frank Reicher. This film is the lesser known sequel to King Kong, and was released just nine months after its predecessor.
The story picks up about a month after the dramatic finale of the previous film and follows the further adventures of filmmaker Carl Denham, now implicated in numerous lawsuits following the destruction wrought by Kong. Carl Denham leaves New York City with the captain of the Venture, Captain Englehorn, who is certain it is just a matter of time before he is similarly served. Their efforts to make money shipping cargo around the Orient are less than successful. In the Dutch port of Dakang, Carl Denham is amused to see there's a "show" being presented, so he and Captain Englehorn attend. It turns out to be a series of performing monkeys, capped by a song ("Runaway Blues") sung by a young woman named Hilda Petersen.
That night, Hilda's father, who runs the show, stays up drinking with a Norwegian skipper named Nils Helstrom, who had lost his ship under questionable circumstances. The two men fight and Hilda's father is killed, their tent burns down and Hilda releases all the monkeys. Carl Denham and Englehorn run into Helstrom, who was the man that sold Carl Denham the map to Kong's Island, and he convinces the two that there was a treasure on the island. Carl Denham and Captain Englehorn agree to go back and try to retrieve it. Later, Denham meets Hilda while she is trying to recapture her monkeys and tries to cheer her up. Despite her pleas, Carl Denham refuses to take her with him when he leaves Dakang. Shortly after they put out to sea, however, Hilda is found stowing away on board.
Helstrom talks Hilda into silence and incites a mutiny on board the Venture, but the sailors want no more captains and throw him overboard alongside Denham, Englehorn, Hilda and the cook, Charlie. The five land on Kong's Island where they discover the natives blame Carl Denham for the destruction of their village and they are forced to move to a different part of the island. There, Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen meet and befriend an albino gorilla just over twice the height of a man. Carl Denham assumes the ape to be Kong's son and names him "Little Kong". Meanwhile, Captain Englehorn, Charlie and Helstrom are attacked by a Styracosaurus which chases them into a cave. Denham and Hilda are attacked by a giant cave bear but Little Kong fights and fends it off by swinging a tree branch. Carl Denham bandages Little Kong's injured finger in return. Despite the fact that Helstrom made up his story out of desperation, Carl Denham finds an authentic treasure. Shortly afterwards, Little Kong, Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen are attacked by a dragon-like Nothosaurus which Little Kong kills, while Helstrom tries to escape in the lifeboat but is killed by a Elasmosaurus. Hilda Petersen, Captain Englehorn and Charlie run to the lifeboat, but an earthquake strikes the island and it begins to sink into the ocean. Little Kong has his foot stuck on the top of a mountain of the island, and he sacrifices his life by saving Carl Denham by holding him above the water until he can be rescued. The film ends with Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen throwing their lot in together, as the treasure will make all four of them (including Captain Englehorn and Charlie) wealthy.
- Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham
- Helen Mack as Hilda Petersen
- Frank Reicher as Captain Englehorn
- John Marston as Nils Helstrom
- Victor Wong as Charlie
- Ed Brady as Red
- Noble Johnson as Native Chief (uncredited)
- Steve Clemente as Witch Doctor (uncredited)
- Clarence Wilson as Hilda Petersen Father (uncredited)
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The film was produced and released in 1933, immediately following the success of King Kong (1933), and was a modest success. Script writer Ruth Rose intentionally made no attempt to make a serious film on the logic that it could not surpass the first. She stated "If you can't make it bigger, make it funnier." For his part, Denham's actor, Robert Armstrong, preferred the second film, saying that the sequel offered more character development for Carl Denham.
The script/screenplay featured scenes of tribal warfare and a climactic dinosaur stampede during the massive cyclone/earthquake that sinks Skull Island at the film's end. The stampede was going to utilize the models that had been built for Creation (1931) (most being used in the earlier King Kong). However these sequences were never filmed due to the film's tight budget and shooting schedule.
Helen Mack's character is never referred to as "Hilda" in the film. The name "Hilda" is used in the credits and her father refers to her as "Madame Helene" during the show. Denham just calls her "kid".
Little Kong was referred to as "Kiko" during production, but this name is never used in the film or in publicity materials.
Several models which were used for King Kong were also utilized for the production of The Son of Kong. The "long face" Kong armature, from the log bridge and Tyrannosaurus fight sequences, was also used for "Little Kong". It is the only known model of Kong still in existence and is currently owned by film historian and collector Bob Burns. Also, the same Apatosaurus model used for the raft scene in King Kong can be glimpsed in the sea as the island is sinking. The stop motion animation in the film (done by Willis O'Brien who also did the effects in King Kong) is not as extensive as in the original, but included is a sequence where a Styracosaurus chases the explorers through the jungle. Today, the original Styracosaurus model is owned by director Peter Jackson, who remade King Kong in 2005.
- "Little Kong": Kong's albino son who is half his size and much friendlier. He drowns when the island is destroyed, but saves Denham first.
- Archaeopteryx: Seen flying around Skull Island.
- Styracosaurus: chases Charlie, Englehorn, and Helstrom into a cave and destroys their gun. Same model used in the original film. Escaped when the island sank (offscreen).
- Triceratops: Seen in a deleted scene.
- Cave bear: chases Denham and Hilda before being driven off by Little Kong. Escaped when the island sank (offscreen).
- Nothosaurus: reptilian creature that attacks Denham, Hilda and Little Kong after they uncover the treasure, only to be killed by Little Kong. It seems to resemble a large Protorosaurus. The strangling was similar to the snake-like Elasmosaurus strangling from King Kong.
- Cetiosaurus: devours Helstrom when he attempts to escape in the lifeboat. The part of the Cetiosaurus snapping jaws was similar to the Brontosaurus snapping jaws from King Kong. The beast also reappeared during the storm.
The film received mixed reviews. In the New York Times review of the film, they described it as a "low melordama with a number of laughs" that were deemed to be satisfying, though they added that the vision of comedy by the producers would be open to discussion.  Variety described it as "fair entertainment" Modern critics holds a rotten rating of 40% on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes. It made a profit of $133,000.
In 2005, it received a DVD release and was available both by itself and as part of a collector's set alongside King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949), with commentary by Ray Harryhausen. In the UK and in Italy it was released on DVD in 2010.
In 2014, it was featured on Warner Archive Instant, a streaming service dedicated to the classic films and animation properties owned by Time Warner, Inc.
Warner Bros released a Blu-ray version in October 27, 2015.
- Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931–1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p55
- Props and Artifacts: The Original "King Kong" Armature
- Dalton, Tony. A Century of Stop Motion Animation. London, Aurum, pg 110.
- "Son of Kong Review". IMDb. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
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- Son of Kong at the Internet Movie Database
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- Son of Kong at the TCM Movie Database