Hastily rushed movie sequels are nothing new, but in 1933, there was no such thing as straight to video. Most follows up to a successful film these days seems to get a budget hike, but in depression era Hollywood, squeezing every penny was essential and so The Son of Kong had to be made on half the money of the original and be ready in six months. Evidently realising it wasn't going to be a great film, the producers decided to turn the visceral original on its head and make almost an adventure comedy with Kong Jnr providing some amusing pratfalls and, before the writer's imagination and budget ran out, Skull Island is suddenly destroyed in an earthquake, taking Son of Kong with it. Tough luck. Naturally, Max Steiner was on board for the sequel, but the composer also had his budget and time slashed, although Steiner was the master of the last minute scoring job, just as well for the producers.
As with the film, The Son of Kong is very light hearted compared to its predecessor. Although a couple of the original themes are back - Kong's three note motif, the melody for the unfriendly natives of Skull Island - but these are fleeting references rather an extension of the first score. The most notable new theme is Runaway Blues, which suggests George Gershwin style Americana and sets the rather playful tone. It is the dominant force in the first two thirds (before they step foot back onto Skull Island) and is certainly very attractive, even if it doesn't exactly scream jungle adventure. Kong Jnr's own theme is similarly playful, but curiously unmemorable. The final third is a bit more dramatic and The Black Bear brings back some of the excitement of King Kong, but otherwise, Son of Kong is a distinctly lightweight follow up.
Although The Most Dangerous Game seems like an unconnected piece of filler, it was an integral part of the King Kong production tapestry. Given the budget constraints imposed on Hollywood at the time, the creation of the jungle sets for The Most Dangerous Game were a ruse so they could be recycled for King Kong. The film itself was apparently a taut, well paced thriller (although I suspect these days it would seem rather sedate) and Steiner's score reflects that. At least it does when it gets going for The Chase and The Chase Continues (such imagination!), with edgy strings and typically booming brass. The first half is considerably more low key and suspenseful, but includes a delightfully dark waltz for the evil Count who engineers the chasing that occurs later on in the picture. The Fight and Escape are suitably exciting; Steiner was never the most subtle of composers, but there's rarely a dull moment. Naturally, the only moment of triumph is reserved for the instantly upbeat Finale.
As with all of Morgan and Stromberg's albums for Marco Polo, the production values are faultless. The liner notes about both films are extensive and make for a fascinating read. The playing of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is generally fine and well recorded. Despite being well crafted and enthusiastic, neither The Son of Kong or The Most Dangerous Game have that something special that sets King Kong apart from the rest. Although it has plenty of its own merits, the visceral excitement and impact of the original Kong simply evaporated for the sequel. However, fans of the composer or the Golden Age in general will find much to relish here, although I suspect more casual listeners will get more out of Morgan and Stromberg's recording of the original King Kong in preference.