Director: John Lemont
Cast: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad
If Konga was King Kong's British cousin, i'd have to assume he was the black sheep of the family. Producer Herman Cohen, who was r responsible e for several lurid and imaginative shockers in the late 50s and early 60s, jumps on the King Kong bandwagon, a few decades too late with this absolutely ridiculous cheapie, produced in Britain and starring Michael Gough at his hammy best.
I remember seeing stills from this movie as a kid, including one famous one of the giant gorilla holding a screaming Michael Gough in front of London's Big Ben, and was always fascinated by it. When I eventually did discover this film, like many before and after, my hopes sunk, or rather, plunged, dramatically, with nary a hope of recovery. Konga is a very bad movie. It's one of those types that Mystery Science Theater 3000 chooses to lampoon and for good reason. I'm not saying it was not entertaining, but it was a curiously bad film, just the same, so let me begin by warning that if you are indeed interested, be well aware that this is one chronically dumb film. Want proof? Read the plot, or if you don't have the time, just take a gander at the images below, as i'm assuming that might seal the deal for you.
Michael Gough, a horror movie veteran and one of the genre's maddest doctors, portrays another crazed scientist, Dr. Charles Decker(and when I mean "crazed," I mean enough to make Vincent Price blush) who has been missing in some African jungle for the better part of a year. He returns with a cute chimp and a great discovery, which he does not choose to reveal until a later time. Well, it turns out that he has found a link between plants and animals, and can replicate a accelerated growth in mammals! He obtains most of his information from some bizarre, meat-eating plants that he stores in a greenhouse, outside of his home.
Decker gives virtually no attention to his attractive nurse/secretary/surrogate wife, Margaret(Margo Johns, who is quite sympathetic here) and it's a wonder why she stays with him, but isn't that the nature of so many relationships? Even after shooting the pet cat at point blank range and ranting like a lunatic about his findings, she stays by her man.
Well, Decker also teaches at a nearby college, and has his eyes set on a buxom blonde(Claire Gordon) who he wants to be his "new" secretary, despite plans for marriage with Margaret. When Decker arrived home, he was asked about his experiments by reporters and the Dean finds this offensive and the two get in an argument and it's clear that Decker is crazy, even though no one else suspects(just one of several plot holes). In fact, he's so crazy, that he injects his little chimp named "Konga" with his growth serum and miraculously, Konga becomes that same cheap man in a gorilla suit that we've seen since the 30s. Like in some Mummy movie, the gorilla/chimp is sent out to murder those who stand in Decker's way, starting with the dummy Dean.
Despite all the fun, Margaret becomes a party-pooper and demands that Decker marry her, which the good doctor promises...at the end of the semester. Meanwhile, he holds a party, where George Pastell from Hammer's The Mummy(1959) is present, and he reveals that he has been working on the same thing that Decker has as well. This upsets Decker, so he has Konga kill the former High Priest of Karnak, and the doctor continues his experiments. He then takes his class on a field trip in a small van, where all the kids ave to sit in the back, which looks very dangerous. Decker is after the blonde again, and this prompts a fight with her boyfriend that nearly kills Decker. Of course, the hot-headed youth pays the price, getting strangled by Konga as he gets on his bad motor scooter and attempts to ride.
Margaret worries that all these murders will arise suspicion, and Decker agrees and plans to move to Africa and have Konga destroyed. What he doesn't tell Margaret is that he plans on taking the cute blonde with him and leaving her. After catching Decker violently smooching with the girl in the already heated up greenhouse, dumbbell Margaret proves the old adage, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" by taking revenge in the stupidest way possible, by giving Konga the growth serum and setting him loose. Predictably, the big ape gets loose and kills Margaret and damn near destroys Decker's house in the process. Now Kong-sized, he spies Decker in the greenhouse and steals him away, as Decker screams hundreds of times on the soundtrack, "Put me down, Konga!" much to the amusement of the audience, i'm sure. Meanwhile, the blonde gets her arm stuck in a Venus flytrap, her fate left up in the air.
After a stroll through downtown London(literally, as the ape creates no havoc, whatsoever) the military arrive and shoot him with Bren guns and rockets, as he just stands there and takes it, before collapsing in one of the most pathetic monster deaths ever. This, not before, he tosses Dr. Decker to the ground. Upon death, Konga turns back into his chimp-form, and the onlookers appear as bewildered as the audience as the film comes to a merciful conclusion.
Konga is one ridiculous movie. All the ads compared it to King Kong, but very little of that epic film can be glimpsed in this sorry low budget affair. For one thing, Konga remains a normal(at least by b-movie standards) gorilla for most of the picture and by the time he goes on his "rampage" it's a complete wash-out, as it's too short, too late and unexciting. Anyone expecting any carnage, like in a Godzilla picture or even like in Britain's own giant monster classic, Gorgo(1961) will be left disappointed.
One thing that this inane picture has going for it as it's most meager distinction, is the absolutely bonkers performance by Michael Gough. This horror veteran had provided many memorable genre turns, notably in Horror of Dracula(1958) and Horrors of the Black Museum(1959, also by Herman Cohen), but this one takes the cake. He's marvelously over the top as he exclaims(more than once) about his stupendous discovery and his growing madness as he becomes more and more paranoid is admittedly fun to watch. Of course, no one in his right mind would ever think he could be evenly passably sane, but I guess, that's half the fun.
My favorite parts involve the unexpected rants of Mr. Gough, like when he tries to talk to the Dean about the importance of his work, by shouting and raging, because that always gets the point across. And how about that scene with Claire Gordon(remember the hot blonde?) in the greenhouse? Talk about a method actor! He appeared very into that scene and it's not hard to see why, considering the appearance of Ms. Gordon. Though, again I have to wonder, did she really think he was interested in her mind?
Margo Johns is sympathetic in the part of Decker's long-suffering assistant, even though he character must be a few bananas short of a bunch, like everybody else in this movie. That scene where her and Decker pull a double blackmail on one another is priceless, though one has to wonder what she sees in him, considering how violent and cold the guy is. Also, why did she inject Konga at the end? It's probably too late to call sloppy screenwriting, but jeez, one a ditz. Maybe that was the point? Kinda sad to see her meet such a cruel fate, though, being tossed by Konga. And I thought he liked her.
Konga is enjoyable in that empty-headed sort of way that only vintage b-movies can pull off. Ever notice that, by the way? B-movies today really don't have the same clout, I guess. There's something so innocent and fun about seeing practical effects and the occasional professional actor(along with a serious script, before everything became ironic and forced) that made these things bearable. A bad movie today is just wretched and warrants no discussion. Yet, here I am, discussing this bad movie from over 50 years ago and wrote a whole review about it. I just spent an hour writing about Konga. That may sound kind of depressing, but Konga beats the hell out of what passes for B-cinema today. Where Sy-Fy(God, that's a stupid name) tries to be funny, films like Konga don't care, nor try. They are just entertaining, if stupid, and that's more than I can say for the majority of today's genre output.