DVD Review: Son of Kong

Even on its own without comparisons to its predecessor, Son of Kong doesn't work. It's obviously cheap, quickly slapped together, and created for the sole purpose of using the Kong name. It lacks the intensity of the original, and the slapstick comedy provided from the younger beast is almost embarrassing.

It's nice to see a returning cast, especially Robert Armstrong reprising his role of Carl Denham, now ruined by lawsuits brought on by Kong's trek through civilization. From the start, there is far more comedy, and it's obvious that's where this sequel is headed. Fay Wray's character Ann Darrow is absent without reason, and Helen Mack (now the leading lady) is no Fay Wray.

Where the early exposition in the first film served a purpose, here it's drug out until it's almost unbearable. Audiences could learn all they need to about the lead characters with a few lines of dialogue, and instead the fact that Denham is in financial trouble never seems to leave the film. Maybe it wouldn't be such a problem if it wasn't obvious how cheap this production is, and that's the sole reason human dialogue continues to go on: to avoid costly special effects sequences.

While the animation that is here is easily on par, little Kong is just too playful and accepting of humans. The locales are few in number, and there are scene transitions in the midst of brutal action that stop the film cold. When half of the crew is attacked by a dinosaur and become trapped in a tunnel, the film fades and we're taken to more human interaction on another side of the island. The few struggles between beasts are fun romps, just nothing that offers the needed tension or danger.

Once on the island, Denham never leaves a small hill that contains a treasure that was far too easy to find. Another Max Steiner score that is perfectly appropriate accompanies Kong, dressed in a non-threatening white fur. It's a shame the film around it isn't anywhere near as strong, and it's just over an hour, far too short to offer some real drama.

The only truly memorable sequence is the finale, one that both excites and prevents a future sequel. Anything before it just bores or clashes with the tone set in the previous film. Not even the original writers, directors, and actors can work their way out of a time constraint. (** out of *****)

Presented on DVD for the first time, Son of Kong looks amazing. The clarity offered by the format is surprising, especially considering how disappointing the first movie looked after years of restoration. There are certainly moments of grain and plenty of scratches at a few points, but nothing to ruin the picture significantly. The special effects can be appreciated here, and sequences with the actors look even better. (*****)

While a slight step up, Son of Kong is still too scratchy in the audio department. The 1.0 mono keeps the sound in the appropriate format for purists. It's possible to date the film just by listening to it. It's admittedly remarkable any of the dialogue is understandable given the age, but in this era of digital audio, expectations are raised. (**)

The only extra is a theatrical trailer. It's not a film that deserves some deep, involving documentary, but anything would be appropriate given how little information is available anywhere on the movie. (No stars)

It would be 15 years before the team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack returned for another giant ape film. A hiatus was necessary if Son of Kong is any indication. If you're desperate for a Kong follow up, head straight for Mighty Joe Young.

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