Movie Review: Son of Kong (1933)

Son of Kong (1933)

Premise: The men who captured the giant ape King Kong return to Skull Island and find his likewise gigantic but far more friendly son.

A month has passed since Kong wreaked havoc on New York City, causing severe structural damage, loss of life, and untold mental anguish. In the wake of that death and destruction Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the adventurer and filmmaker who brought Kong to the Big Apple, is having a rough time. The media is hounding him, he’s facing nearly a dozen lawsuits, and a pending indictment by a grand jury. Worst of all, he’s broke! He has some slight remorse, but it’s nothing compared to the anguish of his empty pockets.

So begins Son of Kong.

Son of Kong is a light-hearted, hastily made sequel to King Kong released just a handful of months after its predecessor became a massive success. It continues the story of Carl Denham, but since the tone is much more jovial, the character beats don’t mesh well with the established backstory. The movie lazily attempts to make Carl a more sympathetic character, but the effort is so low that it’s too much to ask the audience to meet the movie halfway.

There are contrivances abound as the minimum effort was made to bring the characters back to Kong’s island home. Even less effort was made in introducing Kong’s offspring, referred to as Little Kong. He shows up and Robert Armstrong helps prop up a weak script with his acting. However, the movie does nothing with the dramatic effects of Carl’s actions in the first movie. He brought Kong to civilization with tragic consequences. Yet, Son of Kong asks us to find redemption in the character because he bandages Little Kong’s hand after a battle. It’s weak and something I couldn’t buy into.

On the supporting role side of things, there’s one dramatic element that gave the movie a lot of potential but ultimately squandered it. Helen Mack’s Hilda learns that John Marston’s Haelstrom is responsible for a heinous crime. Circumstance brings them together on the trek back to Skull Island with Carl. There is some lip service paid their their predicament and history, but it’s by no means a driving force of the narrative or even attention grabbing.

The change in tone to a more comedic, light-hearted adventure movie compared to its predecessor wasn’t a bad idea. In fact, it kind of works when you see Little Kong all but smiling and winking at the camera as he eavesdrops on Carl. If Son of Kong was produced today, it surely would retain its comedic tone in order to sell cute Little Kong merchandise. However, whether a movie is made today or over eighty years ago, cute merchandising doesn’t mean the movie is good or compelling.

Son of Kong‘s light-hearted tone, while enjoyable, does little to elevate the weak script. Little Kong’s action sequences do get the job done fairly well. Ultimately though, the lack of substance to the storyline of this sequel is its downfall. You’ll find little to latch onto and even with a short runtime (an hour and ten minutes), the lack of a clear plot drags the movie to a crawl. There are more complete monster movies available. Son of Kong leaves little to admire.

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About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

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