The Son of Kong is a 1933 American Pre-Code adventure monster film produced by RKO Pictures. Directed by Ernest Schoedsack and featuring special effects by Buzz Gibson and Willis O'Brien, the film starred Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack and Frank Reicher. This film is the lesser-known sequel to King Kong and was released just nine months after its predecessor.
Despite her pleas, Carl Denham refuses to take her with him when he leaves Dakang. Shortly after they put out to sea, however, Hilda is found stowing away on board.
Helstrom talks Hilda into silence and incites a mutiny on board the Venture, but the sailors want no more captains and throw him overboard alongside Denham, Englehorn, Hilda and the cook, Charlie. The five land on Kong's Island where they discover the natives blame Carl Denham for the destruction of their village and they are forced to move to a different part of the island. There, Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen meet and befriend an albino gorilla just over twice the height of a man. Carl Denham assumes the ape to be Kong's son and names him "Little Kong". Meanwhile, Captain Englehorn, Charlie and Helstrom are attacked by a Styracosaurus which chases them into a cave. Denham and Hilda are attacked by a giant cave bear but Little Kong fights and fends it off by swinging a tree branch. Carl Denham bandages Little Kong's injured finger in return. Despite the fact that Helstrom made up his story out of desperation, Carl Denham finds an authentic treasure. Shortly afterwards, Little Kong, Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen are attacked by a dragon-like Nothosaurus which Little Kong kills, while Helstrom tries to escape in the lifeboat but is killed by an Elasmosaurus. Hilda Petersen, Captain Englehorn and Charlie run to the lifeboat, but an earthquake strikes the island and it begins to sink into the ocean. Little Kong has his foot stuck on the top of a mountain of the island, and he sacrifices his life by saving Carl Denham by holding him above the water until he can be rescued. The film ends with Carl Denham and Hilda Petersen throwing their lot in together, as the treasure will make all four of them (including Captain Englehorn and Charlie) wealthy.
The film was produced and released in 1933, immediately following the success of King Kong (1933), and was a modest success. Script writer Ruth Rose intentionally made no attempt to make a serious film on the logic that it could not surpass the first. She stated "If you can't make it bigger, make it funnier." For his part, Denham's actor, Robert Armstrong, preferred the second film, saying that the sequel offered more character development for Carl Denham.
The script/screenplay featured scenes of tribal warfare and a climactic dinosaur stampede during the massive cyclone/earthquake that sinks Skull Island at the film's end. The stampede was going to utilize the models that had been built for Creation (1931) (most being used in the earlier King Kong). However these sequences were never filmed due to the film's tight budget and shooting schedule.
Helen Mack's character is never referred to as "Hilda" in the film. The name "Hilda" is used in the credits and her father refers to her as "Madame Helene" during the show. Denham just calls her "kid".
Little Kong was referred to as "Kiko" during production, but this name is never used in the film or in publicity materials.
Several models which were used for King Kong were also utilized for the production of The Son of Kong. The "long face" Kong armature, from the log bridge and Tyrannosaurus fight sequences, was also used for "Little Kong". It is the only known model of Kong still in existence and is currently owned by film historian and collector Bob Burns. Also, the same Brontosaurus model used for the raft scene in King Kong can be glimpsed in the sea as the island is sinking. The stop motion animation in the film (done by Willis O'Brien who also did the effects in King Kong) is not as extensive as in the original, but included is a sequence where a Styracosaurus chases the explorers through the jungle. Today, the original Styracosaurus model is owned by director Peter Jackson, who remade King Kong in 2005.
The film received poor reviews. In the New York Times review of the film, they described it as a "low melodrama with a number of laughs" that were deemed to be satisfying, though they added that the vision of comedy by the producers would be open to discussion. Variety described it as "fair entertainment" Among modern critics, it holds a rotten rating of 36% on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes. It made a profit of $133,000.
The Son of Kong was released on VHS by Nostalgia Merchant in the 1980s and again in 1991 by Turner Home Entertainment.
In 2005 it received a DVD release and was available both by itself and as part of a collector's set alongside King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949), with commentary by Ray Harryhausen. In the UK and in Italy it was released on DVD in 2010.
In 2014 it was featured on Warner Archive Instant, a streaming service dedicated to the classic films and animation properties owned by Time Warner, Inc.
Warner Bros released a Blu-ray version in October 27, 2015.