Nathan Juran’s “The Deadly Mantis” is the antithesis of every single monster movie ever made. It’s aggressively boring, tedious, and doesn’t even have any kind of camp to compensate for the obvious lack of the monster. Even worse, at almost eighty minutes in length, the monster never actually rears its face on camera until about twenty five minutes in. The rest is stock footage, stock footage, and even more stock footage!
1949’s “Mighty Joe Young” is almost a parallel universe retelling of “King Kong” except with half the menace and a lot more innocence. Rather than an overgrown ape being exposed to the cruelty of humanity dying for a woman, we’re given an equally touching tale of an overgrown ape and his loyal female caretaker. With beautiful and often fluid stop motion by Ray Harryhausen, “Mighty Joe Young” tells the story of a girl named Jill Young who decides to buy a baby ape from a pair of traders. Anxious to prove to her father she can manage a pet, years later her pet Joe transforms in to a fiercely protective overgrown ape who isn’t very kind of poachers and hunters. When hunters Max and Gregg go to Africa to catch animals to use for their show, Joe Young appears attempting to break the animals free and begins fighting off the intruders.
This is the classic love story of a man and a woman falling in lover under weird circumstances. And a pair of apes that also fall in love under odd circumstances. And their heart transplant that bonds them. Okay, so this isn’t a classic love story, but it is the premise for easily the silliest “King Kong” movie ever made. In a movie that was sort of kind of made to be a spoor, but also meant to be taken very seriously, “King Kong Lives” is kind of the movie that killed King Kong until 2005, and proved that this concept was never meant to go beyond the one and done tale of his experience with Fay Wray on the Empire State Building.