31 Days of Oscar: “Mighty Joe Young (1949)”

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When it comes to the classic film, there’s not much you can do. Watch it and then decide. Do you like it? Did it teach you anything? Did you finish the film the first time or need two or three more attempts? What’s there will never change, and unfortunately what may have looked great at the time, can’t look like anything more than bad.

The RKO Pictures film “Mighty Joe Young” is hardly worth anyone’s time at all. No matter how much you tell yourself you can learn from it, you can’t. Not really. It’s the nicest painful experience you’ll have with an older film, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I for one, am still pretty baffled as to why I even wrote this film down in my schedule of films to watch during Turner Classic Movies (TCM) “31 Days of Oscar” celebration. I watched it last year, ironically during last year’s celebration, but due to time and several other things that I can’t recall, I never got around to this point. I guess I thought maybe I was wrong. Well, as it turns out, I wasn’t. It just sucks that it’s taken two viewings, in as many years, to discover this. I think two times is enough. I’m moving on from this film.

Special Effects May Vary

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The biggest problem, like with the original “King Kong” from 1933, which is going to be something of a theme itself with this piece, is that the special effects used to bring Joe Young to life, look like shit today. That’s really the quickest and simplest way to phrase it.

Making things worse, which shouldn’t have been as problematic as it ended up being, is that I couldn’t put this thought out of my mind. I could with “King Kong”, which I’m not sure how that is, but not here. Maybe it’s the fact that I watched the other two remakes of the giant ape who falls for a beautiful woman, and figured out the order and level of watchable they take on. Or, it’s even simpler than that. The special effects just don’t hold up after 68 years. I can imagine all day long why it is that this film amazed people and could go on to win the Academy Award for best special effects, but beyond that, I can’t really appreciate them. I tried while watching. I tried afterwards. Hell, I’m even trying right now and it’s pretty pointless. They just don’t do anything for me. Ultimately the only thing these effects managed to do was make the viewing experience painful. At some point too, things seem to take on a laughable quality. You really cannot take this film seriously on any level. It’s supposed to be a drama and adventure film, but nowadays, it’s more like a comedy.

Something else that doesn’t help the film at all, that I was reminded of because of the special effects, which I initially thought and just learned a few moments before typing this, it’s that it looks too much like the classic 1933 monster film and with good reason. This film was created by the same team who brought Kong to life. That explains so much and makes it harder to enjoy this film. In the end, all I found was that this film was like some lesser version of the other film, and therefore infinitely inferior. It would also, along with my favorite element known as time, explain the next biggest problem with this film being almost 70 years old.

If He Only Had A Heart And Soul

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This film has no heart or soul or anything that should allow for you to even slightly care or pretend to care about these characters. It’s just a film going through storytelling motions. “King Kong” (any version) has more life in its veins than this film does and possibly ever did. I’m actually wondering if anyone really thought this film was worth it.

Because of the lack of these two elements, I couldn’t get interested in this film. I could see where the writer attempted to infuse this with dramatic and moving moments, but they didn’t work. Perhaps I’m incapable of feeling. I highly doubt that that’s the reason, but I was disappointed when I just shrugged my shoulders at what was going on at any given moment. Eventually, during the big finale, and arguably one of the bigger “emotional” moments, I just sort of tuned out the film. I knew how it was going to end and I also just wanted the film to end.

This problem are for the film creates an even bigger problem for me. I can’t view this film as redeemable in any capacity. It’s barely watchable. You can’t learn from it. You don’t care what happens or to whom something does happen to. There’s just nothing here for you to like or somewhat enjoy. I want to appreciate what this film achieved, but because it’s so awful, I can’t. I’m deeply saddened by that. What good is an older film if you can’t take away at least one thing from it?

Originally released: July 27, 1949

Director: Ernest B Schoedsack

Writer: Ruth Rose (Screenplay) and Merian C. Cooper (Story)

Starring: Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Douglas Fowley, Denis Green and Paul Guilfoyle

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