Mighty Joe Young

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95%

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Total Count: 19

63%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,771
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Movie Info

Hoping to make the magic of King Kong happen again, the production team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack came up with the 1949 special-effects smorgasbord Mighty Joe Young. Robert Armstrong reprises his Kong portrayal of Carl Denham as hot-shot showbiz entrepreneur Max O'Hara. While in Africa looking for authentic decorations for his new night club, O'Hara makes the acquaintance of Mr. Joseph Young, a ten-foot-tall ape. Unlike King Kong, Joe Young has a heart of gold, thanks in great part to his owner, a lovely lass named Jill Young (Terry Moore). Against her better judgment, Jill allows O'Hara to bring Joe back to the States as a nightclub attraction. Joe proves to be a smash as he participates in Jill's musical act (he lifts her grand piano while she plays "Beautiful Dreamer") and performs a tug-of-war routine with an imposing lineup of professional wrestlers (including Tor Johnson, Man Mountain Dean and Primo Carnera). But when the patrons go home each night, Joe is unhappily relegated to his cage. When a group of obnoxious drunks begin teasing Joe, the disgruntled ape breaks loose and goes on a rampage. Slated to be put to death, Joe redeems himself by rescuing a group of screaming children from an orphanage fire. Featured in the cast are Ben Johnson as the nominal romantic lead, Frank McHugh as Robert Armstrong's assistant, and an uncredited Irene Ryan as a cocktail-lounge patron.

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Critic Reviews for Mighty Joe Young

All Critics (19)

Audience Reviews for Mighty Joe Young

  • May 10, 2013
    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.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 13, 2013
    King Kong cash-in, but still watchable.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 05, 2012
    And in this corner: Mighty Joe Young! Come on, don't sit there and tell me that when you heard that title, you weren't picturing this big fur ball stepping into a ring, dukin' it out with Kong Kong... who also has a really boxer-y name. Wow, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack must have been "ape" about boxing. Okay, that's enough pun-ishment, now let's get to talking about this classic... that not a whole lot of people have heard of. I mean, I guess it's doing well, but if it wasn't for Disney coming along in '98 and the fact that people kept going to see that movie to wash the taste of '98's "Godzilla" out of their mouths, this would have just been "that" other giant ape movie that Ernest B. Schoedsack did, because Cooper kept taking the credit for directing "King Kong". Hey man who's been dead since 1979, maybe the a reason why your co-director's getting almost all of the credit is because he knows more about how giant ape movies are done. No, this film isn't at all that bad, but it's certainly no "King Kong", and for several reasons. This film came out at the last breath of the '40s, and yet it is so startlingly '30s, and I know that sounds like I'm being overly contemporary, but just because this film had limitations, that doesn't mean that it wasn't a product tainted by cheese, as well as some looseness in the editing department. Hey, I don't know about y'all, but if my only means of editing was cutting little frames with tedious carefulness, I probably wouldn't be a big fan of tightening things up either. Of course, the tedium of trimming that footage can't be any more intense than the tedium found in the looseness of, well, another film, because this film is not at all dull in its looseness and slowness, but it does lay a heavy blow to the atmosphere and pacing, rendering everything very dry and leaving the film to rapidly lose speed until you finally fall out when there are no giant gorilla going around, destroying everything. Well, that will grab your attention, as will the dialogue, which, as I said, is very '30s, being pumped with cheese and melodrama that is exacerbated by the fact that our "leads", Terry Moore and Ben Johnson, are awful. Again, I know it's a 1949 film that thinks that it's a 1930s film, but this gets inexcusable, and every time, and every time we have to hear Johnson deliver his lines with bone stiffness or sit through Moore hamming it up and - so help me - dramatically staring off into the distance, the film gets a little less sufferable. However, just because she and other missteps dilute the palatability of the film, that doesn't mean that the film ever loses you. Sure, it's a film all but buried in the sands of time, because it isn't terribly memorable, but at the end of the day, you'll find yourself having a grand ol' time, partially because, even though it had been 16 years since "King Kong", this team's taste in production had not gone rusty. It doesn't matter if it was 1933 or 1949, Willis O'Brien knew his special effects, and while the none-Joe Young effects are really dated, our main ape is as top notch as Kong. Sure, there's no getting around the fact that it's still a big stop-motion gorilla, but for what it is, the mechanics are almost seamless in their movement and blending into the environment to where even the emotion of Mr. Joe Young is palpable, which isn't to say that the effects don't come into play quite nicely when action flares up. Now, if you want some hardcore, awesome, giant ape action sequences the likes of you couldn't even imagine, then, well, you should probably be watching Pete Jackson's "King Kong", but if you don't want to get too much action, then this film will do, and very much so, with plenty of the action being surprisingly tense and thrilling to keep you on the edge of your seat. Still, when you're not getting thrills, you're getting charm, certainly not from Ben Johnstiff and Terryble Moore, but from, well, Robert Armstrong, who was always a real charmer, but I didn't expect him to make this good of a charming anti-hero. Granted, by 1949 alone, that type of sleazeball anti-hero was so overused that weren't so much tired of him, but seemingly programmed to like him, because we were so used to him, but man, Armstrong still plays that part well. Still, even he wasn't in the film, the subject matter and story alone would be enough to win you over, because this isn't another "King Kong" like you would expect. It's a unique story with conventional themes, but themes that Ernest B. Schoedsack still explores with such tenderness and charm, and for every moment the film loses you, it quickly wins you back, regardless of the high cheese factor in the script, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Overall, it would seem as though no one told Ernest B. Schoedsack that it was almost the '50s, because this film falls into thematic conventions, as well as cheesy writing, loose editing and bad acting that were all tired after the '30s, yet if you don't mind that, then feel free to sit back, relax and enjoy then-stellar special effects - that remain respectable today - and thrilling moments that break up the consistent charm that ultimately makes Schoedsack's "Mighty Joe Young" a generally entertaining minor classic. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 25, 2011
    This was the best movie ever growing up, I must have watched it a 100 times on WPIX and WOR. If it was on I was watching it and to see it on DVD brought back enjoyable memories. A fantastic movie when you consider it was made in 1949 the special effects are incredible. About a young girl who is discovered with a gorilla, a very large gorilla and is brought to America for shows. Not as big or crazy as King Kong, but more enjoyable. The only disappointment in the film was near the end when the filmed turned an awful brown color, my guess original film was damaged, and that's a shame. I'm giving this one 5 stars how could I give it less. The commentary film was an added bonus.
    Bruce B Super Reviewer

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