Friday Night Sci-Fi: Mighty Joe Young (1949)


A Thanksgiving Day Tradition in our house, the Simian with a Heart of Gold:

From Celluloid Heroes:

It took them sixteen years, but they finally made a real sequel to the original King Kong. Okay, Mighty Joe Young is not technically a sequel to the 1933 classic, but they definitely share the same DNA. Like Kong, Joe Young was produced by Merian C. Cooper and directed by Ernest B. Shoedsack from a screenplay by Ruth Rose. Stop motion animation pioneer Willis H. O’Brien is still around, supervising his young protégé, Ray Harryhausen. From the cast, Robert Armstrong is back as nightclub owner Max O’Hara, who has a lot more ideas than sense. While he’s not playing Carl Denham, it’s easy to imagine O’Hara as Denham still living under an assumed name to evade the lawsuits stemming from the problems he had with the last big ape he ran into.

O’Hara discovers Joe Young, a huge mountain gorilla, while on safari to capture lions for his Africa-themed night club back in New York (think Rainforest Cafe for the night life crowd). Joe is the pet/guardian of Jill Young (Terry Moore), the owner of a large ranch. O’Hara offers to bring Joe back to headline the new night club. Robert Armstrong, bringing a giant ape back to New York in a Cooper/Schoedsack production? This can’t end well.

In reality, Mighty Joe Young is a much different film from Kong, mostly a comedy about an innocent abroad than a monster on the loose. The titular character is shown as a heroic protector, not a destructive force. Even when some drunken patrons of the night club sneak into Joe’s cage and get him drunk, provoking a rampage that destroys the club, Joe shields the people from the lions set loose from the cages.

November 28, 2008. Tags: , , . Entertainment, Film, Popular Culture, Sci Fi.

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