Friday, 10 May 2013

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Here beginneth my Ray Harryhausen review homages.

16 years after the world got a glimpse of the mighty King Kong, once again the sight of a huge gorilla amazed audiences around the world. In a completely different approach but sharing similar plot highs and lows 'Mighty Joe Young' rode on the success of Kong, unfortunately the film did not do as well but still managed to impress with better sharper special effects.

Its not hard to see why this film may not have done so well really, I must admit to never really liking this film as it always did feel like a Kong rip off. The entire plot including many sequences are virtually scene for scene remakes of Kong. The main difference being in this film the huge gorilla is a pet of sorts to a female human, they both live in harmony in their native Africa and 'Joe' is voluntarily handed over to the money grabbing businessman.

Throughout the film the friendship between Joe and his female owner is never broken, she is always there to guide and help him. But this still doesn't really alter the fact the film follows very closely to Kong. Joe is brought to NY and used in a show, almost a gimmick, for the roaring crowds. In time he grows tired and angry of his daily grind, some drunken humans pester him, push him and he cracks, going (excuse the pun) ape shit and destroying the club.

From this point on the film veers away from Kong and takes it own path. Naturally this path is pretty predictable and offers a sappy heroic crescendo for the ape, you do think the film will go the way of Kong, but uniquely it doesn't.

This of course being a rather old film I can't really yak on about plot issues and silly ideas...but I'm gonna. The whole thing is fantasy of course but there are still daft plot ideas, the whole fact that Jill decides to allow Joe to go to New York to perform in a club is ridiculous, as if he would prefer that to roaming the wilds of his home country Africa. The actual club is gigantic!!! a feat of engineering in itself! plus the fact they have real wild animals in there behind glass seems a slight health n safety risk no? Should I mention how convenient it was for the escaping humans and Joe to just stumble across an orphanage that was burning down with lots of innocent little kids in desperate need of saving? nah.

Yep this is a black n white film from the 40's so yes it will be incredibly corny with terrible acting (saying Ben Johnson, the male love interest, was wooden is an understatement), ludicrous plot moments, reckless use of real animals along with disregard for them in the plot (poor old lions) and that good old fashioned male chauvinism as the blokes go around merrily threatening the dames.

As an upgraded sequel of sorts to Kong this film is great for the effects, Harryhausen's animation and Kong model constructor Marcel Delgado work wonders. The new gorilla model is a much slicker flashier piece showcasing more facial gestures and detail. Even to this day its amazing to see the switch from live action to the models as they interact together. As for the rest...well its a bit of a rehash really, nothing too special as we saw it all with Kong, so really it feels a bit late.