Continuing my argument why SON OF KONG is a really great movie.
Everything Thanksgiving I rewatch KING KONG and SON OF KONG-- and by rewatch I mean binge them one after the other for several hours while I work. It's in honor of the tradition of WOR-TV in New York which used to do this very same thing from 1976-1981 ish.
I've always dismissed SON OF KONG as a weak sequel to KONG, and it is. You can't compare the two, because KONG is like the Thanksgiving Meal itself-- it's big and grandoise while SON is the Turkey Sandwich you make the day after. Same ingredients but mostly leftovers.
SON OF KONG picks up about a month after KING KONG ended with a shot of King Kong up close and as the camera pans back you realize this is a poster for Kong's Live Show on Broadway that went wrong and we're in the rooming house room of promoter Carl Denham, the man who made it all happen.
Denham's life is a wreck, he's being endlessly served with summons and lawsuits by all the thousands of people who suffered damages during Kong's trip to New York City and he's forced to hide out in his room with his landlady faithfully trying to keep everyone away from him.
It's a brilliant continuation of the story and Denham, now desperate, accepts an offer from Captain Englehorn (who captained the original trip to Kong Island) when he makes him an offer to join his new shipping business with an offer that the two of them will deal with cargo in the South Seas, far away from the jurisdiction of the authorities in New York.
The sequel features only Denham, Captain Englehorn and Charlie the Chinese Cook from the first film. Charlie is your racist stereotype of a chinese immigrant but he's played by a chinese guy so please sit down. The three of them end up in a remote area and come across a poster for a show being put on by an aging performer and his daughter.
The poster advertises PETERSEN'S FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL SHOW! Which includes Music, Musical Monkeys, Sagacious Seals and La Belle Helene as an added attraction, and promises New Songs, New Dances, Laughs and Thrills!
Denham is genuinely happy for the offer of any kind of entertainment;
Denham: Hey look, skipper-- there's a show in town!
Englehorn: I'll bet it's terrible.
Denham: Oh don't be a crab, skipper, it's a show we ought to see it.
The show is as bad as you can imagine and the audience, which seems to be made up of South Seas sailors who speak no english is not sure what to make of it. Charlie and Denham are the only ones who applaud, although Englehorn joins in when Denham pushes him.
It's these kind of genuine interactions that make this movie work.
It's at this port that Denham and the Skipper run into the Norwegian Captain Helstrom who sold Denham the map to Kong Island in the first place and who himself is pretty down on his luck, although we soon learn a lot of that is due to his being a pretty sketchy individual who tried to cash in on the insurance after deliberately wrecking his own boat.
Helstrom is excited to run into Denham because he heard he hit something big on Kong Island and suggests Denham cut him in on the rewards. Denham agrees and says that amounts to half of a dozen lawsuits, subpeonas and an investigation by a grand jury.
Helstrom is desperate to get out of port and convinces Denham that there was not only Kong on the island but a huge treasure so they agree to take him along and head back there.
On the ship with the sketchy crew that Englehorn and Denham had to throw together to quick exit New York Helstrom starts telling the mates that Denham is leading them all to certain death and that the crew he took there last time ended up losing their lives, so they mutiny and toss Denham, Englehorn, the young woman from the show who has come along and Charlie the Cook (who voluntarily goes) overboard before turning on Helstrom and sending him along where they all arrive back on the island.
After a chilly reception by the natives they soon encounter Kong Junior- who for some reason is an albino gorilla (actually one of the original models painted white). I'm all for interracial marriage so I have no objection.
Now here's where the screenwriters made a wrong turn. Rather than make Little Kong a chip of the old block they go the Scooby Doo route and make him a happy go lucky little buddy which causes the final 1/3 of the film to go from solid action programmer to schlocky almost kiddie fair.
I get why they did it, they wanted to counter Kong's ferocity with KiKo's gentle nature. Kiko befriends Denham and protects him as he makes his way on the island.
Despite this, it's a good film. It could have topped the original KONG if they'd stayed truer to the monster element but as it is we have a movie with really good performances, I dare say better in fact than the original because the leading man of that film, Bruce Cabot, was pretty wooden while Armstrong and Frank Reicher as Englehorn give us really solid performances throughout.
My favorite line in the movie is after Denham has discovered KiKo and he goes to tell Englehorn about it;
Denham: Skipper! There's a little Kong!
Englehorn: A little....HOW little?
It's a solid, well acted, fast paced 70 minute B sequel to a classic.