Released nine months after the original — perfect timing for the son of King Kong to spend in the womb, when you think about it — this sequel ran every Thanksgiving on WOR and by the end, I was emotionally devastated. I still have difficulty watching it in my late 40’s and have no idea how young Sam made it out of repeated watches of this without permanently drying his tear ducts.
Scriptwriter Ruth Rose — who Ann Darrow was based on — made no attempt to make a serious film because she felt that there was no way that a sequel could be better than the first movie. She said, “If you can’t make it bigger, make it funnier.”
She has a funny sense of humor.
This film had a tight budget and an even tighter shooting schedule, which meant that the original ending — in which audiences would have seen a dinosaur stampede during the weather-related chaos that sinks Skull Island. Instead, they were left with the emotionally crippled conclusion.
It’s director by Ernest B. Schoedsack, who also made Mighty Joe Young, The Monkey’s Paw, Dr. Cyclips, The Most Dangerous Game and was the uncredited director for the actors on the first film, with Marian C. Cooper taking the credit.
No, I am not overstating the hyperbole.
A month after Kong destroyed New York City, filmmaker Carl Denham and Captain Englehorn leave behind the lawsuits and prosecution waiting for them by going to the Dutch port of Dakang, where Denham again falls for a lady, this time a singer named Hilda Petersen.
Of course, he’s also willing to buy a map to Skull Island from the man who kills her father in a drunken argument over monkeys, so there’s that.
Things don’t get any better on the ship — a mutiny forces everyone in the main cast into a lifeboat — or on the Island, where the natives blame Denham for everything that’s gone wrong since he left, including the destruction of their village and the many prehistoric animals that now run free in the absence of Kong.
By the end, a flood takes over the island and despite Denham being more on the bad side of the equation, the young Kong saves him again and again, eventually ending the movie by sacrificing his life to ensure that the humans make it. Damn dirty humans.
This didn’t do anywhere near as great at the box office as the original, so RKO stayed away from apes until 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, another WOR turkey day regular.
There’s an even worse tragedy than the end of this movie and it’s a real-life one. During the making of Son of Kong, Kong animator Willis O’Brien lived through his wife killing their two sons and their committing suicide. He finished the film, but refused to ever discuss it, even with his student Ray Harryhausen. The memories were just too painful to relive and one wonders of the poignant end of this film was the true result of O’Brien trying to process such a horrific life event.