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Lost in the African jungles for over a year, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough, Horror Hospital) has returned to England with Konga, a baby chimpanzee. Disappearing into his lab, the mad botanist begins work on what he believes will be his greatest achievement. Having witnessed a Baganda witchdoctors use of a rare carnivorous plant to produce accelerated animal growth, Decker injects Konga with the same serum. Using the gorilla-sized chimp to brutally murder his enemies, Decker himself soon becomes victim to Konga's uncontrollable rage. Grabbing the scientist, the berserk chimp who's grown to monstrous size breaks out of the lab and rampages through London, a city whose salvation rests with the military, who's been ordered to destroy Konga at all costs.
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1. MICHAEL GOUGH - If you only know Michael Gough's work as that one scientist that briefly showed up in "Top Secret" or as Alfred in the Batman movies from the late 80's through the 90's, you're in for quite a treat. I can't think of a single better mad scientist than Gough's Charles Decker in this film (Donald Murphy comes close in "Frankenstein's Daughter" but he's still got nothing on Gough). Decker is arrogant, amoral, and completely blind to the ridiculousness of his own actions (more on that later) and Gough is clearly having a wonderful time running wild with the role, chewing the scenery like a madman. Its truly a wonder to behold. My favorite moment is when we get a long shot of him deliving a fast and vicious tirade to the dean of his college and throughout the whole shot you actually can see the vein in Gough's forehead grow bigger and bigger. He's truly an incredible ham in this movie, and I mean that in the very best possible way. No actor living or dead could've played Decker and made this movie any better than it is with Michael Gough in the lead role.
2. THE PACING - This is a movie that just keeps on moving. Unlike a lot of other monster flicks where the first two acts are mostly just talking leading up to the big, monster-y finish, the action in "Konga" is spread out in good size bursts throughout the film, with the plot moving briskly inbetween. Speaking of plot...
3. THE CHARACTERS KEEP DOING RIDICULOUS THINGS - Dr. Decker, boiling his serum that grows animals into bigger animals, doesn't keep his eye on the pot, where it boils over on the floor and his housecat starts lapping it up. His response? He immediately grabs a revolver (!) from his desk drawer and SHOOTS THE CAT!!!
Upon testing his serum on Konga, turning him from a baby chimpanzee into a full sized guy in a gorilla costume, Decker insists on testing Konga's obedience, what does he do for a test? He has the gorilla MURDER THE DEAN!
When Margaret, his assistant, connects the dots and figures out that Decker is responsible for the murder of the dean, what does she do? She uses her knowledge of the murder to LEVERAGE DECKER INTO MARRYING HER!
Later, Decker, having developed less than honorable intentions with Sandra, one of his students, takes Sandra to his greenhouse where he basically tries to rape her (I say "basically" because this movie was made in 1961 so Gough pretty much just grabs her and mashes his face into her neck in a manner so ridiculous its laugh-out-loud funny). What does Sandra do when this happens? She wrestles free from his grasp, acts surprised by his actions, then CONTINUES TO STAND TWO FEET AWAY FROM DECKER. Decker and Sandra repeat this pattern THREE TIMES IN A ROW and she NEVER ONCE TRIES TO LEAVE!
Margaret, upong seeing Decker's advances toward Sandra and working herself into a jealous rage, goes down in the basement where Konga is with the intent of using Konga to kill Decker. What does she do when she gets there? Well, despite the fact that Konga is a massive gorilla that responds to verbal commands and has already easily killed three adult men, she injects him with MORE GROWTH SERUM, causing Konga to grow to tremendous size, where he kills her pretty much instantly. Whoops!
4. THIS MOVIE HAS NO "GOOD GUYS" - Decker is evil, which should be obvious by now. He also has three times more screen time than any other character, not that any of those people are good either. Margaret condones his murders, the Dean of Decker's college cares more about the schools reputation than he does about the fact that Decker is making giant murderous apes in his basement, and Sandra's a useless victim who gets her arm eaten by a plant for basically no reason. Sandra's boyfriend Bob is the most likely candidate for this movie's protagonist, but he sticks around just long enough to bicker with Sandra, yell at then kinda beat up Decker and have a dinner with his folks before Konga kills him in his front yard. Heck, even in the King Kong rip-off ending, none of the bystanders gathered around the dead chimp even spout off some kind of last minute, moral-of-the-movie one-liner, all they do is stand and stare. All in all, a pretty misanthropic film. Kinda a nice change of pace from most monster movies, don't you think?
5. THE MANY DELIGHTFUL "LOW BUDGET" MOMENTS - This movie was not made for a ton of money, and plenty of other people have commented on the crummy ape suit Konga wears or the super funny moment where Konga is supposed be carrying Decker in his hand but its clearly a Ken doll (the doll they use for Margaret is even worse, as they used one of those dolls where the head is really big so it couldn't look LESS like a real person in Konga's hand). But there are many other moments where "Konga" shows its low budget in ways that warm the heart of B-movie lovers everywhere. I can't be the only one who grinned ear to ear at Decker's paper-mache' meat-eating plant garden, right? Or how about the one scene in Decker's living room where in the background the seam of an entire wall is peeling right off?
Or how about Konga's rampage through London, isn't Konga the most polite giant monster you've ever seen? The only two buildings he broke were Decker's home and greenhouse, and I assume the other miniature buildings he was so careful to step by or reach around had to be used for another film, since Konga took great pains not to damage a single building during his climactic, giant monster rampage.
Also, I can only assume most British universities in the 1960's had better methods of transporting their students around for fieldtrips besides cramming ten adults in the back of a black work van, then taking off with the door hanging wide open, as we see Decker do here. But this isn't the kind of movie where the filmmakers pay for school busses, so a work van with an open back door is what we get.
It probably sounds like I've seen "Konga" dozens of times, and am completely obsessed with it, but in all honestly I've watched this film twice so far. Its just that rewarding of an experience if you happen to be one of those B-movie kind of guys. Its not the amazing mountain of ineptitude that "Plan 9 From Outer Space" or "Robot Monster" is (I do completely adore those films, don't get me wrong), but its got all the right features in all the right places to be the kind of trashy monster movie that can transform the ordinary person into a B-movie nut. And its even in glorious Eastman color!
Its not a good film, but it is tremendously entertaining, which is all my ratings count for when I review movies. Watch and enjoy!
The DVD here is superior to the MGM Midnite Movie release as this one is anamorphic 16 x 9. At the moment there is no HD master for this movie and since Yongary is getting a blu ray release, this MOD is the one to get - for SD quality its really good
I highly recommend this film for anyone who enjoys the old movies like King Kong, The Abominable Snowman, and Mighty Joe Young.
As the film begins we see a small plane crashing into the African jungle, one carrying famed, English botanist Dr. Charles Decker (Gough), thought to have perished in the accident. Well, turns out Decker didn't die, and has spent the last year in Uganda, assisted by friendly natives, making some incredible discoveries (plants with human characteristics and growth properties), ones which he is now bringing back to England, along with a chimpanzee monkey named Konga. Decker returns home, finding his affairs still in order thanks to his assistant/secretary/housekeeper (I wonder if three jobs means three paychecks?) Margaret (Johns), who obviously has a bad case of unrequited love for the professor. Anyway, Decker begins growing his own, meat eating, mutant plants, extracting their juices, which he laces with some obedience seeds, and then injects into the pint-sized Konga causing him to grow from a small ape to a slightly larger ape, and then later into a full size gorilla...more aptly, a full sized man in a gorilla suit, obedient to Decker's commands. Decker has a bit of a falling out with the dean of the school where he teaches, to which he let's the hulking Konga settle the dispute, along with later instructing Konga to deal with a scientific rival, whom Decker, the glory hog, feared would beat him to the punch with his own findings. Also, Decker seems to have taken an unhealthy, lecherous interest in one of his students, Sandra (Gordon), much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Bob (Conrad). Things get out of hand, a scorned woman exacts her revenge (at terrible cost), and soon a 50 foot man in a gorilla suit is terrorizing London, destroying a few miniature sets along the way, leading to mayhem of the wackiest kind as the Brits find themselves up a ginormous monkey creek without a banana paddle...
All in all I thought Konga was a blast...yeah, it tended to get a bit talky at times, but there was enough of the insano to keep me interested. My favorite aspect was seeing Michael Gough, a normally reserved British actor, taking it over the top, an opportunity which he seemed to relish when appearing in numerous Cohen features. His character here was intriguing in that he first appeared the altruistic sort, interested in the advancement of knowledge for the betterment of all mankind, but this was soon polluted with dreams of self aggrandizement along with his wanton desires towards his comely student Sandra, a naïve blondie with a huge rack. He's condescending, misogynistic (a common theme in Cohen's films), manipulative, and completely unsympathetic, perfectly illustrated in the scene where his cat gets into his serum, resulting in a swift dispatch of the feline for fear the affected animal would tip his scientific hand before he was ready. As far as the rest of the cast, they do well enough, but all seem background players against Gough's character. The story itself is fun, albeit containing a number of rather large plot holes including the aspect of the serum turning a chimpanzee monkey into a gorilla, especially since it seemed the only properties it was supposed to have were to embiggen creatures, not transmute them into different species. Another element that stood out was Konga's subservience to Decker...did the serum also allow for the primate to understand the English language? In terms of the special effects, some were quite good, like near the end when the giant Konga was roaming the city streets, while some quite ridiculous, specifically Konga himself. The ape suit wasn't the worst I've seen, but it did look pretty funky, and was very droopy in the drawers, often appearing as if Konga sported a perpetual load in his furry pants. The unintentionally funniest scenes are near the end, as Konga grows to a staggering degree, almost as tall as Big Ben. At first, when people on the street witness the behemoth their demeanor hardly changes, but then the expected, uncontrolled panic finally comes, as does the trigger happy army, who begin blasting away despite the very obvious fact that Konga is carrying Decker in his shaggy mitt. Oh well, what's the life of one compared to many? Well, perhaps they saw as I did, that Konga did, in fact, have only a poor looking doll, made up to look like a person, in his paw rather than a real human being. Another really goofy part is Konga just stops at Big Ben, and stands there for about five minutes, allowing for the military to get set up. The ending sequence is hardly a battle, but more so target practice as Konga seemed to have little will for retaliation.
The fullscreen (1.66:1) picture on this DVD is excellent, looking very sharp and clean, looking better than any video release I've previously seen, and the mono audio comes through very clear. There are no extras included, except for a couple of previews for the films Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and MirrorMask (2005).
If you're interested in some other, cheaply made, good for laughs, giant simian films I'd suggest the following...The Mighty Gorga (1969), Ape (1976), Queen Kong (1976), Mighty Peking Man (1980), and King Kong Lives (1986)...all are available on DVD in some form or another.
What's not to love and enjoy?