MIGHTY JOE YOUNG
Review by Michael Jacobson
Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Mr. Joseph
Young of Africa
Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: November 22, 2005
Joe Young was
the film that brought the fun back to the giant ape picture.
It came from the same creative minds that gave us King Kong, as
well as one of the main stars, and it also introduced a young stop motion guru
named Ray Harryhausen to the scene.
more comedic than Kong, with a more loveable and heroic character, and a
more upbeat ending. The effects,
while not showing anything as spectacular as Kong's battle with prehistoric
monsters, are improved, making it even easier to believe that Joe is taking up a
large amount of physical space next to his human compatriots.
starts when a little girl living in Africa makes a dubious transaction: buying a
baby gorilla from a pair of natives. She
raises it despite the obvious concern of her father.
But this is no ordinary simian.
forward twelve years, and the teenage Jill Young (Moore) and her friend Joe,
who's grown to such enormous size that he'd be in front of a Senate committee
today, have a misadventure when hot-aired nightclub owner Max O'Hara (the always
great Armstrong) encounters them while he's trying to round up beasts for his
new jungle-themed hot spot back in California.
Joe is a little too much for him to handle, so he makes Jill and her
furry friend an offer they can't refuse: he
wants them to be the stars of his show.
think Robert Armstrong would have learned by now the dangers of taking
gargantuan apes back to the big city, but no matter: Mr. Joseph Young of Africa indeed becomes a star, though the
poor fellow really has no clue what he's doing or what's being done to him.
does spectacular feats for his enthusiastic audience, but soon he and Jill's
biggest adventure will be trying to get back home. This culminates in two of the picture's most memorable
sequences. One is where some unruly
patrons feed Joe some liquor and he goes berserk, literally bringing the house
down. The second is the climax
where an on-the-lam Joe has to rescue some helpless children from a great
all light, to be sure, but very entertaining.
I've always found Mighty Joe Young a more-than-worthy companion
piece to King Kong. With the
legendary Willis O'Brien serving as technical creator, Ray Harryhausen stepped
up with extraordinary visuals, some of which still have fans wondering some 50
years later how it was all done. I'm
still not sure how Joe played tug-of-war with a team of musclemen in shots that
show them all on screen at the same time. Other
shots are easier to figure out, but that doesn't make them any less impressive.
may not be a Fay Wray this time around, but Joe is big enough and charismatic
enough to carry the film squarely on his hairy shoulders.
He may have retired from the business after one movie, but he made enough
of an impression that his star will never fade away.
I like to picture him watching the remake back in Africa and going on and
on about how they did it in HIS day.
is one of the best transfers I've seen for a classic black and white film.
The print is in top-notch condition; very little in the way of aging
effects is visible. The deep blacks
and clean whites make for startling contrast, and images are very crisp and well
detailed throughout. The orphanage
fire, presented with its original color tinting intact, is simply stunning.
mono track is more than serviceable, with pretty good dynamic range offered by
the action sequences and the musical score.
It's a clean offering; not a lot in the way of noticeable hiss or pops in
the audio. Most impressive for a
film of its age.
is a good group commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Ken Ralston and Terry Moore,
plus two new featurettes: "A
Conversation with Ray Harryhausen and the Chiodo Brothers" and "Ray
Harryhausen and Mighty Joe Young". The
special effects maestro discusses how the movie was made, and even shows off an
original skeleton for Joe. Rounding
out is a trailer.