Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Article #249 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-20-2001
Posting date: 4-5-2002

An entrepreneur discovers a giant gorilla and the girl who owns him in the wilds of Africa. He brings them back to star in his nightclub, but things go awry when some drunkards harass the beast, who goes on a frenzy of destruction.

John Ford was originally supposed to be a co-producer of this movie along with the masterminds behind the original KING KONG, but he pulled out of it, though his name still appears on the credits. This is another triumph for Willis O’Brien, who seemed to just love giving the title character a whole range of emotions and movements; it also feature Ray Harryhausen as one of his technicians. In many ways, this is another reworking of the ideas behind KING KONG, with Robert Armstrong playing a variation of Carl Denham, though I can’t help but notice that with each succeeding giant ape movie made by this time, they backed off from the savagery of the original. It is probably the closest that O’Brien ever got to making his Gwangi story, what with the cowboys taking on Joe in one of the early scenes. This is the only one of the three ape movies where the ape is allowed to survive at the end. As was always the case with Cooper and Schoedsack, this is roaring good fun, especially during the great nightclub sequences. And I love the tug-of-war!

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