Friday, July 6, 2018


John Lemont

Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough) has gone missing in Africa and is presumed dead. He reappears one year later, a little unhinged, but now possessing the secret of a formula that can make plants and animals grow to enormous size. He uses this formula to turn a baby chimp named Konga into a vicious killer. He sends the animal to murder those scientific colleagues who mocked him in the past. A spurned lover, Margaret (Margo Johns), gives Konga an overdose of the serum and that’s when things really get out of hand… or into hand as Konga grabs Dr. Decker and rampages through London.

Michael Gough as Dr. Charles Decker drenches the screen with cartoon villainy, he can be found cruelly unloading a revolver into a cat, hypnotizing killer apes, and feeding people to giant venus fly traps. Gough is single saving grace of the movie. The rest of the actors try and make all the ridiculous goings-on feel serious, but it never works as well as it should.

Michael Gough's reaction to Batman & Robin reviews.
If King Kong (1933) taught us anything it’s that apes are great, but giant apes are even better. Konga gleefully cribs from King Kong in several ways, but instead of placing the cause of destruction on humankind’s hubris, we find the public faced with a menace that was birthed from common human jealousy. It is novel in that respect, but it could have worked better by tying Decker's rage to the animal fury of Konga. Well, at least it will be cool to see some buildings get smooshed by a giant ape, right? Right?

The ape attacks and giant plants are fun but the story is too slowly paced to keep up much interest. Two-thirds of the movie is essentially a revenge movie as Decker uses his mind-controlled ape to kill off the people who have mocked his work. When things finally get completely out of control and we are treated to Konga stomping around London, it’s too late and too brief to save the rest of the movie.

Konga's reaction to Konga reviews.
The less said the better about the fact that Decker’s serum transforms Konga the chimpanzee into Konga the ape. I feel like you could get away with that nonsense in the 1930s but by the 1960s people were well aware that chimps and apes were different animals (Well, they should be aware anyway.) The actual Konga ape costume isn’t terrible, but Paul Stockman, the actor inside, just kind of shuffles around like a guy in a costume rather than an animal. The only part of the costume that emotes are the eyes, but Konga only projects a perpetual ‘What the fuck is going on?’ stare. However, having Konga carry around Dr. Decker as his on personal Fay Wray is a delightful change-up.

Konga isn’t a good movie, and it’s not enough of a misfire to enjoy as a noble failure. The ingredients are there, a lurid plot, hammy acting, and questionable special effects, but the movie is never able to overcome its leaden pace. In the end, when (*spoiler*) Konga, and Decker lie dead in the street, there is no soliloquy or line uttered by anyone to bring the story to a close. Everyone just stands there silently staring at the corpses in the street. It is, perhaps, the perfect way to close this film.

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