It's taken me decades to recognize that SON OF KONG isn't a failed sequel to one of the greatest movies ever made, it's in many ways superior to it. Hold your tomatoes for a second while I try to explain this;
KING KONG (1933) is a masterpiece of movie magic. The first time a major studio relied on Special Effects to carry a movie. Compare that to today when the average blockbuster is little more than a CGi video game. KONG was done using stop motion animation which is more familiar to most of us as Hermie the Elf who wanted to be a dentist in RUDOLPH or WALLACE AND GROMMET and something that would never be done in a major studio film today. Stop motion creates a sort of other-worldly feel to the footage because the characters don't move in a natural way. The work was done by a true pioneer of the craft, Willis O'Brien.
If your only knowledge of KING KONG comes from Peter Jackson's bloated 2005 remake I shed a tear for you. The Original KONG is a tightly told sci fi/fantasy epic in 100 minutes (that's UNDER two hours folks. There's no Jack Black in the original, instead you have real life tough guy Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham, wild life film maker based on the film's producer Merian C. Cooper who actually did stand in jungles and film charging rhinos and lions and bring the films back to thrill audiences in the early years of the 20th Century.
Denham hires a ship to take him to an island he discovers after buying a map from a Norwegian ship captain reputed to have something pretty spectacular on it. He's going with the intent to film whatever this thing is and because his film distributors have convinced him that his movies need a woman in it he finds one in the bowery and brings her along.
Once there they discover an island overrun with prehistoric beasts and a giant gorilla. The gorilla is fed a woman every so often by the natives on the island to keep him from busting out of the giant gate they've built and when they get a look at the woman with the golden hair they decide to kidnap her and offer Kong a special treat. Denham and his crew attempt a rescue after she's taken by Kong and succeed, but Kong comes for her and Denham decides to capture him alive.
I've always wondered why Denham went for the giant ape rather than trying to bring back a Brontosaurus which is a lot easier to handle and a vegetarian, but the ape it is and he does what any showman would do in 1933 to make the big bucks he puts him on stage in a Broadway theater in New York City and then charges $10 a head for people to come and see what he's brought back. A pretty good price considering movie tickets were 25c on average at the time.
You know the rest, Kong escapes, wreaks havoc on the city, finds his golden girlfriend and is soon shot down after climbing to the top of the Empire State Building.
As the body of Kong lies on FIfth Avenue Denham has the last word; "Twas Beauty who killed the beast."
And that's a movie.
Only it was such a hit a sequel was ordered immediately. This was an equally unique thing at the time if you can imagine it, and they managed to get the film done and in theaters THE SAME YEAR.
That's an incredible feat for any movie, but even more so when you are making a movie with Stop Motion Animation for the SON OF KONG. It's also worth noting that while making this movie, O'Brien suffered the tragedy of having his estranged wife murder his two sons yet he still got this done.
PART TWO TOMORROW: WHY SON OF KONG IS UNDERRATED