Review: Son of Kong / The Most Dangerous Game, The
4.5 / 5 Stars
King Kong is without a doubt a classic film, with an equally classic and celebrated film score by Max Steiner. When William Stromberg and John Morgan set out to re-record the complete score to King Kong a few years ago, the result was an excellent recording that blew me away. So imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a new album out of their reconstruction of The Son of Kong, the not-so successful sequel to King Kong (in fact, done the same year) as well as the classic film version of The Most Dangerous Game.
The Son of Kong plays off the success of its predecessor, and the score reflects that by quoting bits and pieces from the original score. The main three-note Kong theme is evident, as well as some new themes for his 12-foot son. Some of the cues contain more tribal ethnic themes, such as "In Dakang" and others contain a lighter more upbeat jazzy theme, heard in the "Main Title" and "Memories" (but a bit slower). It's thematic and smooth, and contrasts well with the more dramatic action cues that Steiner does so well. "Fire!", "The Styracosaur" and "The Black Bear" all feature classic Steiner action cues, and the tension really heats up. As with most of Steiner's score from King Kong, there are lots of bold brass moments interweaved with more satiny string work. The "Finale" is a tender cue which reprises the main jazzy theme, and ends the film on a softer note, which is a relief considering the heavy action we've been put through!
Also included on this album is the score to The Most Dangerous Game, a film adaptation of the classic short story about a deranged hunter who lures shipwreck survivors to his castle, and then gives them a chance at freedom if they can survive his hunt. Filmed just before King Kong, not only were many of the jungle sets reused in both Kong fims, but some of Steiner's action cue structure bled over in to King Kong. The "Main Title" is dramatic, and contains the main theme from the film, a ten-note fanfare that shows up throughout the score. This theme also showed up in the film as source music, as heard in "Russian Waltz". It's a simple yet memorable theme, and works not for the theme itself, but for the variations and orchestrations in the score. There are dramatic chase cues ("The Chase", "The Chase Continues") where the orchestra goes off, but keeps the main theme in mind. While there are some short tender moments between the two leads (Fay Wray and Joel McCrea) in the film, the score never really underscores those feelings. Instead, there is always a sense of dread, and the film comes to an exciting climax at the end, with the main theme triumphantly restated.
As with the King Kong album, a lot of time and effort went into the reconstruction of these two Steiner scores, and it truly shows. The timing and performance by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is dead-on. I would rank this up there with Monstrous Movie Music as some of the best re-recording work I've heard in a long time. While I wasn't very familiar with these two scores before getting the album, I don't think that should matter when deciding whether or not to get it. With a running time of almost 77-minutes, and a 35-page booklet filled with valuable and insightful information, you really can't go wrong. I can only wait with anticipation to see what Stromberg and Morgan have next on their plate.