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Saturday, May 3 • 9:45am - 11:15am
Mighty Joe Young (1949)

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Here’s the NY Times review from 1949:

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

'Mighty Joe Young,' Featuring Giant Gorilla, Stars Terry Moore and Ben Johnson

T. M. P.

Published: July 28, 1949

Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, who merged their talents as producer and director to scare the daylights out of movie-goers with the fabulous "King Kong" (1933), have fashioned another fantastic show in "Mighty Joe Young." But in the new picture, which was presented yesterday at the Criterion, the producers are endeavoring to make all the world love, or at the very least feel a deep sympathy for, their monstrous, mechanical gorilla.

The emphasis is on comedy and the huge Mr. Joseph Young of Africa, to give the star of the film full credit rating, can be screamingly funny and appealing at times, it must be admitted. But the mighty Mr. Young also has a streak of ferociousness that is every bit as awesomely terrifying as was the fury of his first cousin, Mr. Kong. Let that remark stand as fair caution in cases where younger members of the household may have a leaning toward nightmares.

We first meet Joe as a baby when he is adopted as a pet by the young daughter of a trader in Africa, who bottle-feeds the ugly black duckling and rocks him to sleep in a cradle to the strains of "Beautiful Dreamer." Ten years later, the full-grown gorilla and his friend, Jill Young, are brought to Hollywood by a nightclub impresario as the stars of an incredible jungle floor show.

The gorilla is a sensational attraction, holding Jill and a piano on a platform above his head; playing tug-'o-war with a dozen mighty athletes, including Primo Camera and Man Mountain Dean, and generally putting on a good show until a trio of drunks ply him with liquor and torment him into a frightful rage.

Poor Joe goes berserk, wrecks the nightclub, lets a herd of lions out of a glass-enclosed jungle behind the bar and is sentenced to be shot for his disregard for the laws of man. Jill, Max O'Hara, the nightclub owner, and a cowboy who is in love with the girl, concoct an elaborate scheme to get Joe safely on a boat to Africa. Their wild flight in a moving van halts as they reach a blazing orphanage where Mr. Joseph Young, in a brilliant, darling feat, helps rescue a trapped child.

It is this spectator's opinion that "Mighty Joe Young" is not nearly as consistently funny as the producers hoped it would be, but it certainly is a most unusual show. For sheer, incredible make-believe there is nothing to quite equal the comic scramble of a group of O'Hara's cowboys attempting to capture the jungle giant by lassoing him. On the other hand, the rampage in the nightclub is violent action, unrelieved by any genuine comic inventiveness, which is what this part of the picture desperately needs.

The wonder of "Mighty Joe Young" is the mobility of the mechanical star, but even that novelty wears thin after a while. The human actors are, considering the circumstances, quite adept. Terry Moore is the girl; Robert Armstrong the nightclub owner and Ben Johnson, the cowboy. Johnson is a personable newcomer with a heavy Oklahoma drawl.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, based on a screenplay by Ruth Rose; technical creator, Willis O'Brien; directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack; produced by Merian C. Cooper; an ARKO production; distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. The players: Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Douglas Fowley, Denis Green, Paul Guilfoyie, Nestor Paiva, Regis Toomey, Lora Lee Michel, James Flavin and Mr. Joseph Young.


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Saturday May 3, 2014 9:45am - 11:15am
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