Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Starring Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Douglas Fowley
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
(actor & director credits courtesy

A producer of stage shows brings back from Africa a giant gorilla and the girl who can control him to star in a new nightclub he's opening.

The creators of King Kong deliver another giant ape tale, and though it's not the grand adventure Kong was, it's a charming film with impressive technical wizardry in its own right.  Willis O'Brien returned to supervise the special effects and employed a young Ray Harryhausen, on the cusp of his own brilliant career, as his first technician.  Together with other animators, they create a living breathing character with his own personality, and although the film borrows several elements from Kong, including star Robert Armstrong, its comes into its own with a fiery climax that shows off the ape's heroism.  The reddish-tinted shot of Joe Young clinging to a tree with a vivid fearful expression at the peril Moore faces atop a burning orphanage is one of my all-time favorites.

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