Son of Kong (1933)
SON OF KONG
Notes: RKO Pictures, 70 minutes.
Carl Denham: Robert Armstrong
Hildy: Helen Mack
Englehorn: Frank Reicher
Helstrom: John Marston
Charlie the Chinese Cook: Victor Wong
Red: Ed Brady
Mrs. Hudson: Kathrin Clare Ward
Directed: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Story: Ruth Rose
Executive Producer: Merian C. Cooper
Associate Producer: Archie Marshek
Chief Technician: Willis O’Brien
Summary: The film begins with a King Kong poster, but Carl Denham, a month after the death of Kong, is harried by lawsuits and cannot sneak out of his apartment without his landlady, Mrs. Hudson, running interference. A woman from the “News” gets in, and Denham acknowledges the swamping by propoerty owners suing him. He’s “flat broke.” Why are newspeople still hounding him after a month? The woman says that Kong was “on the spot,” unlike the First World War. Denham has grown a small conscience by now: “I thought I had him safe. Don’t you suppose I’m sorry for the harm he did? I wish I’d left him on his island. Old Kong, I’m sure paying for what I did to you.”
Charlie from the ship brings a message from Captain Englehorn. Mickey, a summoner disguised as a ragman, brings Denham another lawsuit from damage done on 39th Street. But since Denham is such a boon for business, Mickey helps Denham sneak out of his building and to a subway station. Denham has dinner with Englehorn, who is or expects to be hounded also. Before he can pitch his plan, Mickey brings more bad news: Denham is indicted by a grand jury. Denham laments: Kong “did a lot of damage, got killed; that’s that.” Since Englehorn also wants out, he gathers a skeleton crew and they set out.
Colombo, Singapore, Semarang, Makassar, Lombak, Dakang. They need to do some business to make some money to pay the crew. Appropo of nothing, Denham wonders aloud how far they are from Kong’s island. “1753 miles,” pipes in the Captain. He supposedly glanced at an old chart last night, and remarks that the Bosun is a troublemaker. Seeking some “half-caste traders,” Denham and Englehorn see posters for a show tonight in the village. Though sneering, they attend, and see a monkey act, with small monkeys playing cymbals, drums, and violin, while one jumps up and down. Then comes La Belle Helene singing “The Runaway Blues.” Denham remarks, “She’s got something.” Englehorn replies, “It certainly isn’t a voice.” Denham thinks she’s got “personality,” maybe for musical comedy, but the crowd seems unimpressed.
The master of ceremonies rejects the objections of his daughter “Helene” to the regular visitor and drinking buddy on the grounds that at least he’s “a white man.” The men get drunk and daddy remarks about some shady matters regarding the visitor’s shipboard career. A scuffle breaks out, and a fire. “Helene” rescues her unconscious father from the fire, but he dies in her arms and their home burns down.
“Helene” tries to recapture her monkeys from the trees. Denham comments in a way that attracts the question, “Did you ever catch a monkey?” “Lady, you’d be surprised.” She explains that she had to let the monkeys out last night. She’s a failed ballerina, but Denham gives her advice about self-promotion. Too bad Denham doesn’t have a show. Later the drunkard encounters “Helene” and she accuses him of murder. The magistrate will be here in a few days. He’s worried.
“Maple Leaf Rag” plays at the local bar. The drunkard is Captain Helstrom, who recognizes Denham, and Denham tells Englehorn this is the guy who gave him the map to Kong’s island. Denham may owe him, but he can have a share of the eleven lawsuits and indictment by the grand jury. Helstrom wants to get out of Dakang. He seems to be ad libbing, but Helstrom asks about the treasure on the island. Of course, Denham and Englehorn want to know more. They decide they will get this guy out of town and journey to the island again.
“Helene” begs to go along with Denham too, but is turned down. On board, Helstrom spreads dissent among the crew with allusions to the past crew, killed on the island. He seems to hope for mutiny and to become captain of this ship. “We must be in Russia. Here comes a committee of the workers” snarks Denham. But it turns out they found “Helene” stowed away. “You ought to be beaten to a pulp.” Naturally, Helstrom is dismayed to see her. She won’t promise Helstrom to keep quiet, but she says nothing to Denham while she makes goo-goo eyes at him.
The mutiny takes place. “Because you pay us your dirty money you think you own us.” They don’t want to land on the island. “Helene” blurts out the murder accusation against Helstrom. Denham suggests they agree to turn back and not report the mutiny attempt, but they don’t bite. Charlie joins Denham, Englehorn, and “Helene” in the lifeboat. The men laugh at Helstrom’s notion of being captain. “We’re through with captains on this ship.” They throw him in the water and Denham reluctantly hauls him into the boat.
On the island, the chief recognizes Denham and, naturally, is hostile. They shove off and enter the island through a cave. Denham and “Helene” explore and see a giant gorilla. “If it isn’t a little Kong!” He’s caught in quicksand, and “Helene” wants to get logs to him to help him out. “Animals always know when you’re trying to help them.” Denham pushes over a tree, and the gorilla gets out. Denham tells Englehorn of the beast. “I felt I owed his family something.” They find evidence of a temple and wonder if the treasure would be stored inside.
Englehorn, Helstrom, and Charlie encounter a charging triceratops. Denham shoots at a giant bear. When “Helene” screams, the gorilla comes and fights the bear. He ends up clubbing the bear with a tree, but hurts his finger. Denham and “Helene” tend to “little Kong’s” wound. (He was called “Kiko,” short for King Kong, in production, but never is referred to by this name during the film.) “I’m the guy that knocked out your pop with a gas bomb…. The poor old geezer got shot at the finish…. This is sort of an apology.” “Helene” want a coconut and Denham can’t shake the tree, so the gorilla does, bringing down a rain of them. “Helene” is tired at the nighttime campfire, and the other men are separated from them. Denham apologizes for getting her “in all this mess” but she accepts responsibility. The gorilla appears, unseen by Denham, and appears benevolent and thankful.
The next morning brings “No sign of the skipper.” Denham fires a shot and frightens “our guardian angel” — the ape. He helps Denham break through a wall where Denham claims to have found “the treasure of the island!” “Kong” hands down some enormous diamonds and picks up the gun, shooting it and breaking it. A vicious dinosaur enters the cave and little Kong fights and subdues it. Englehorn and the others arrive, and Helstrom confesses he lied about there being treasure, not knowing Denham found some. Helstrom tries to escape in the boat but a sea creature kills him. Then an earthquake quickly tears apart the island, sinking it into the ocean. While “Helene,” Englehorn, and Charlie row away, Denham and little Kong go the the highest remaining point but also sink into the ocean, the gorilla holding Denham above water in his hand as long as possible. The hand reemerges and Denham is able to get into the boat, but little Kong drowns.
Some time later, a ship rescues the human survivors. “Helene” anticipates Denham saying good-bye to her. Denham plans to split the treasure four ways. She suggests three ways: “one third … to us?” Hugs.
Commentary: For extensive background material on this film, see Iain McLachlan’s page:
The Son of Kong.